The mortgage industry has seen many changes on lending guidelines in the past five years that has made it tougher for prospective homebuyers to qualify. This summer, there are new mortgage rules heading our way.
The changes are intended to continue with the industry’s recent focus on risk management, as per the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) B-21 guidelines. OSFI is an independent agency of the Government of Canada that has a mandate to contribute to the safety and soundness of the Canadian financial system. It is responsible for supervising and regulating federally registered banks, insurers, trusts and mortgage companies, in addition to private pension plans subject to federal oversight.
Now the CMHC (Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation) is implementing three policy changes in accordance to OSFI’s B-21 guidelines. These changes will make it harder to get low-ratio insured variable-rate mortgages, mortgages for the self-employed and 100 per cent financing.
The changes are as follows:
Qualifying interest rate: The qualifying interest rate for all mortgages with variable and fixed terms of less than five years will increase from June 30. It will then be either the five-year Benchmark Qualifying Rate from the Bank of Canada (currently at 4.64 per cent) or the contractual mortgage interest rate, whichever is the greater. For fixed-rate mortgages, where the term is five years or more, the qualifying interest rate is the contract interest rate.
CMHC is allowing some flexibility to implement this change, which is to be implemented as early as possible after June 30 and no later than December 31, 2015.
What does this mean for you? Even if you are getting a lower interest rate on a term less than five years, in order to get approved for that rate you still have to qualify at the Benchmark Qualifying Rate (that is, you would be able pay the mortgage if it was at the qualifying rate). Previously, conventional mortgages could qualify at the lender discounted rate.
Cash back for down payments: In order to encourage borrowers to save for homeownership, lenders’ cash back programs (where the lender will give the borrower up to 5 per cent of the value of the property in cash after the mortgage has been funded) will no longer be considered an eligible source of down payment unless borrowers can come up with a 5 per cent down payment on their own. This change will become into effect on June 30.
This means that borrowers will need to get their down payment from traditional sources, such as savings, RRSPs (tax-exempt for first-time home buyers), gifts from immediate family, proceeds from the sale of another property, and so on.
Verification of income: Lenders will now be required to obtain “third party verification” of income from all borrowers. This means lenders will be more stringent on income and employment verification. All lenders will have to call the employer for verification of tenure, position and income. Many lenders have already started asking for this information for quite some time. Some lenders are asking for bank statements for the past three months showing the deposit of your pay cheque into your bank account if the payroll is not prepared and paid by a third-party company such as ADP or Ceridian. This change will be effective on June 30.
CMHC stopped insuring “stated income” financing for self-employed individuals. Genworth and Canada Guaranty are still offering this program. At this point, we don’t know if there will be any changes.
This means that borrowers are going to have to provide quite a bit more documentation in order to verify income.
Why are All These Changes Happening?
The reason why there have been so many mortgage rule changes, and more are on the way, is to ensure that all lenders follow policy and guidelines to include income verification and ratio qualification set up by OSFI. Previously, some lenders have been issuing mortgages without properly obtaining the proof of income. Insurers will be required to do their own due diligence and not only rely on what the lenders are telling them.
In addition, with historic low interest rates, the Government of Canada wants to minimize the risk once interest rates start going up and prevent what happened in the US with mortgage crisis.
While these changes are under way, many lenders have already made these changes on their lending guidelines and policies since last year in order to minimize their exposure and reduce risk. While Genworth and Canada Guaranty haven’t announced changes on the third-party verification, because many lenders have, this will be the new norm in the industry.
The good news is that there are still some lenders out there that haven’t adjusted their policies and will not do so until required to do so on June 30. For this and many other reasons, it is beneficial to use a mortgage expert who works with multiple lenders to find the best mortgage for your unique situation.