On January 17th, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced adjustments to the rules for government-backed insured mortgages that will come into force March 18th, 2011.
The new measures will:
• Reduce the maximum amortization period to 30 years from 35 years for new government-backed insured mortgages with loan-to-value (LTV) ratios greater than 80%
• Lower the maximum amount Canadians can borrow in refinancing their mortgages to 85% from 90% of the value of their homes
Additionally, on April 18th, 2011, the government will withdraw its insurance backing on lines of credit secured by homes, such as home equity lines of credit (HELOCs).
By paring back the maximum amortization from 35 years to 30, qualification will become harder for some borrowers – particularly first-time homeowners – as mortgage payments will increase. It’s hard to imagine that, not so long ago, Canadians could amortize their mortgages up to 40 years with zero down payment mortgages.
This is the second time in less than a year that the refinancing maximum was reduced – meaning Canadians can access less of their home equity. The first reduction from 95% of the value of your home to 90% came into force in April 2010. Now, as of March 18th, 2011, the second reduction will bring maximum refinance levels down to 85%.
This change will mean that fewer borrowers can consolidate high-interest debt such as credit cards and other unsecured loans into their mortgage at today’s low rates. This may force homeowners who are experiencing job loss, illness, separation, divorce or urgent unforeseen family crisis into having to sell their homes to gain access to their very own equity.
With these two reductions in the maximum refinance amount (totalling 10%) in less than a year, on a $300,000 home, that’s a difference of $30,000 homeowners can no longer access.
With interest rates sitting at all-time lows – with nowhere to go but up – and looming mortgage rule changes, now is the perfect time to purchase a new home, or refinance your mortgage to pay off bills or free up more cash flow.
Now more than ever it’s important for Canadians to practice financial responsibility, as options for reducing high-interest debt payments are increasingly being limited.