The Government announced three changes to the standards governing government-backed insured mortgages.
LIMIT THE MAXIMUM AMORTIZATION PERIOD TO 30 YEARS
The amortization period is the length of time it will take to pay off the entire mortgage loan. It is usually much longer than the term of the mortgage. A typical mortgage in Canada may have a term of five years or less during which a specific fixed or variable interest rate will apply, and the mortgage can be renewed at the end of the term.
The measure announced today will reduce the maximum amortization period from 35 years to 30 years. For any given mortgage loan, a lower amortization period would result in a moderate increase in the monthly payment along with a significant reduction in the total interest paid over the amortization period. This measure is consistent with the principle of encouraging savings through home ownership.
According to the Canadian Real Estate Association, the national average price (based on Multiple Listing Service sales activity) for a home sold in November 2010 was $344,268.
LOWER THE MAXIMUM REFINANCING AMOUNT TO 85 PER CENT OF THE LOAN-TO-VALUE RATIO
Borrowers can refinance their mortgage and increase the amount of the loan secured against their home. The measure announced today will reduce the limit on refinancing from 90 per cent to 85 per cent of the value of the home. Refinancing lowers the borrower’s equity in their home. Reducing the maximum loan-to-value ratio on refinancing will encourage Canadians to keep equity in their home and save through home ownership.
As an illustration, for a home valued at $300,000, refinancing at 90 per cent would allow the homeowner to access up to $270,000, whereas refinancing at 85 per cent would allow the homeowner to access up to $255,000. The lower refinancing limit means homeowners will keep an additional $15,000 in the equity of their home.
WITHDRAW GOVERNMENT INSURANCE BACKING ON NON-AMORTIZING LINES OF CREDIT SECURED BY HOMES
Under the current rules, a line of credit secured by the borrower’s home, such as a home equity line of credit, is limited to a maximum of 80 per cent of the value of the home. There has been a substantial increase in the credit available to Canadians through this type of secured line of credit over the past several years, and it is an important factor in the rise in overall household debt. These loans are generally non-amortizing, which means that borrowers are not required to make regular payments on the principal amount of the loan. Moreover, these loans are almost exclusively variable rate products, which expose borrowers to the impact of rising interest rates. While regulated lenders are not required to obtain insurance on lines of credit secured by homes at the time of origination, they may choose to obtain insurance after origination through what is known as “portfolio insurance,” where secured lines of credit are pooled into a portfolio and then insured by a mortgage insurer. At the time of insurance, the benefit of the portfolio insurance is to the lender by facilitating funding, rather than to the individual borrower. Other options exist for lenders to fund their secured lines of credit.
Many lenders now offer multiple loans or a multi-segment loan secured against a borrower’s home. If a loan or a segment of a multi-segment loan is in the form of a revolving line of credit that does not amortize over time, it will no longer be eligible for government-backed insurance. However, with established scheduled principal and interest payments, a loan will continue to be eligible for government-backed insurance, provided it meets the underwriting standards set by the mortgage insurer.
Withdrawing government insurance backing on these non-amortizing products is consistent with the Government’s objective of supporting the long-term stability of Canada’s housing market.
MOVING TO THE NEW FRAMEWORK
The adjustments to the maximum amortization period and the maximum refinancing amount will come into force on March 18, 2011. The withdrawal of government insurance backing on lines of credit secured by homes will come into force on April 18, 2011. Exceptions would be allowed after the new measures come into force where they are needed to satisfy a binding purchase and sale, financing or refinancing agreement entered into before the corresponding coming into force dates.