Tuesday 8 December 2015
"The trend in Hamilton CMA total housing starts increased slightly in November 2015, marking the sixth consecutive monthly increase. This month's increase in the trend was mainly due to a high number of apartment starts, offsetting the decline in single-detached housing starts. Employment, particularly full-time, has grown this year for young adults (aged 25 to 44)," said Abdul Kargbo, CMHC's Senior Market Analyst for Hamilton and Brantford CMAs. "Combined with relatively low mortgage rates, this has increased confidence among young adults about purchasing big ticket items such as a house."
CMHC uses the trend measure as a complement to the monthly SAAR of housing starts to account for considerable swings in monthly estimates and obtain a more complete picture of the state of the housing market. In some situations, analysing only SAAR data can be misleading in some markets, as they are largely driven by the multiples segment of the markets which can be quite variable from one month to the next. The multiples segment includes apartments, rows and semi-detached homes.
The standalone monthly SAAR was 2,424 units in November, down from 4,248 units in October. Contrary to the previous month, November's decline in the SAAR measure was broadly based among all dwelling types. This highlights the general slowdown in residential construction across Hamilton, as builders continue to manage a high level of new home inventory.
Preliminary Housing Starts data is also available in English and French at the following link: Preliminary Housing Starts Tables
As Canada's authority on housing, CMHC contributes to the stability of the housing market and financial system, provides support for Canadians in housing need, and offers objective housing research and information to Canadian governments, consumers and the housing industry.
(1) All starts figures in this release, other than actual starts and the trend estimate, are seasonally adjusted annual rates (SAAR) - that is, monthly figures adjusted to remove normal seasonal variation and multiplied by 12 to reflect annual levels. By removing seasonal ups and downs, seasonal adjustment allows for a comparison from one season to the next and from one month to the next. Reporting monthly figures at annual rates indicates the annual level of starts that would be obtained if the monthly pace was maintained for 12 months. This facilitates comparison of the current pace of activity to annual forecasts as well as to historical annual levels.
Thursday 3 December 2015
[Read the full report from RAHB here (PDF)].
Wednesday 2 December 2015
Understanding the Basics
Fixed interest rates are predicated on the bond market. Where the bond market goes is where longer term (4yr – 10yr term) fixed rates follow.
Over the past few weeks the bond market has seen new life, and thus rates have risen slightly. This is partly due to speculation around the new federal government's expensive commitments to inject many billions of dollars into the economy. These will be good for business, and in turn should further fuel a recovery in the bond market, making investors happier.
For those seeking longer-term fixed-rate mortgages there will be less happiness, although to be fair, for some time yet interest rates are likely to remain quite close to the record lows we have enjoyed. An increase from 2.59% to 2.79% is hardly cause for alarm.
Variable-rate mortgages, and to some extent 1, 2 and 3yr fixed-rate mortgages, are predicated on the Bank of Canada’s Prime rate, which saw two 0.25% cuts earlier this year. It's currently at 2.70% with lenders, who passed only a 0.15% reduction on to the mortgage market.
(Side Note: When the Bank of Canada increases rates by 0.25% again, will lenders increase their Prime by only the 0.15% they cut, or will we get two partial cuts, but the full lump on an increase? Time will tell.)
The Bank of Canada has repeatedly said that what happens in the real estate market is not a significant part of their decision-making process; instead movement in the Prime lending rate is more of a large lever designed to guide the nation's economy as a whole. The manic goings-on in two cities' housing markets (Vancouver and Toronto) do not play a material role and are instead, to some extent, a by-product, not a basis for decisions.
Most notable were recent comments by our new Minister of Finance, Mr. Bill Morneau, in his Fall Fiscal Update which referenced a ‘stalling economy’ and a reduction in expected economic growth from 2% to perhaps 1.2%. These are clear indications that the Bank of Canada is unlikely to increase Prime any time soon.
Consider that the idea of the Liberals' commitment to infrastructure spending is an attempt to step on the gas pedal and power up the economy. Then, equally, consider that a Bank of Canada increase to Prime would be akin to stepping on the brake pedal of the economy. It seems reasonable to expect some degree of volatility in the bond market and thus longer-term fixed rates — and equally reasonable to expect stability when it comes to Prime — and thus stability for variable-rate mortgages and shorter-term fixed-rate offerings.
Low rates are here for some time to come, albeit in a different form than we have grown accustomed to.
Paying your mortgage down faster
The best way to prepare for potentially higher rates is to have a lower mortgage balance come renewal time. If you truly want to take advantage of today’s low rates, there are many ways to pay down your mortgage sooner to save you thousands of dollars in interest payments.
Most mortgage products, for instance, include prepayment privileges that enable you to pay up to 15% or 20% of the principal (the true value of your mortgage minus the interest payments) per calendar year. This will also help reduce your amortization period (the length of your mortgage), which, in turn, saves you money. Few of us have such lump sums, mind you.
A more reasonable and highly effective approach is to increase the frequency of your mortgage payments by opting for accelerated bi-weekly payments. Not to be confused with semi-monthly mortgage payments (24 payments per year), accelerated bi-weekly mortgage payments (26 payments per year) will not only pay your mortgage off quicker, but are guaranteed to save you a significant amount of money over the term of your mortgage.
Even just adding extra, e.g. $25.00, $50.00 or if you can $100.00, to your mortgage payment each passing year will have a powerful cumulative effect over the term of your mortgage. As always, if you have any questions about refinancing, reducing debt or paying down your mortgage quicker, I’m here to help!
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