Ottawa has ‘overtweaked’ housing market, says broker

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Government intervention has gone too far already, and the decision by the new Bank of Canada governor to keep the overnight rate unchanged is welcomed news for a housing sector still reeling from “too much tweaking,” says one industry vet.
 
“We’ve gone a little too far in the re-tweaking,” says Bruce Hale, the principal broker at The Mortgage Centre Hale|Grifa & Associates. “Rates should stay the same. We’ve been weathering these regulation changes the past few years – four tweaks over four years. It’s been ‘overtweaked.’”
 
Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz’s debut struck a chord of continuity last week, as he announced the overnight rate would remain at 1 per cent, carrying forward the “hands-off” policy of his predecessor Mark Carney. However, Poloz did hint that the long-term goal for the economy is the “gradual normalization” of rates.
 
Most brokers wish Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, who first intervened in the housing market by toughening the mortgage rules when the recession began to deepen in 2008, would adopt the same non-interference stance Poloz seems to have. In Hale’s view, Flaherty’s interventions to cool the housing market and avoid a U.S.-style housing collapse were really designed for only two markets – Vancouver and Toronto.
 
“They were way too Draconian,” Hale told MortgageBrokerNews.ca. “Now we have potential first-time buyers renting instead of buying. Ownership is better than non-ownership, better for the economy. These restrictions are creating a big problem for the future – especially when you consider 30 per cent of the economy is driven by the housing sector.”
 
The ticking bomb for Hale is the current state of affairs, and what may happen if interest rates begin to rise.
 
“It’s all uncharted territory right now,” he says. “Things will slow down even more with an increase in rates. I’ve been doing mortgages since the late 70s. I’ve seen rates when they peaked out in ‘81 at 22.75 per cent, and when property values dropped in the early 90s. These changes to the mortgage rules haven’t helped the ones who need the help – the legislation has just killed it.”
 
  • Paolo Di Petta | dipettamortgage.com on 2013-07-22 8:39:24 AM

    "Potential First Time Homebuyers"?

    Anyone who has never bought a home is a "potential" first time homebuyer, but that doesn't mean that home ownership is the right solution for them at this time.

  • M. Robertson on 2013-07-22 9:34:12 AM

    Spot on Paolo Di Petta!

    Those that continue to beat the drums about the changes… it is getting old and frankly makes the few brokers who do it sound like petulant little children who have had their toy taken away from them. The rules are what they were pre 2004 – we had about 5-6 years of good times and relatively easy lending guidelines. The government realized what was happening and they took steps to stop it.

    AS for just Toronto and Vancouver – do people really have such short memories when it comes to the market? Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, etc have all had sharp increases in valuation and several of them were in a bubble pre-2008 and that bubble burst. There are still a lot of people in Calgary that owe more than the home is worth.

    Sure it may still be cheaper to own homes there, but it is because demand is lower. More people want to live in Toronto or Vancouver, it is just a fact of life. Since of the 37 million people that live in Canada about 10 million live in the GTA or GVRD – well I would guess that the government, like any sound policy maker, looks at the worst case scenario and plans accordingly.

    People rented before owning a home for decades, it is not new or unusual, and it is not abnormal. Rentals are also good for the economy, they keep all those property investors from going bankrupt.

  • @kiltedbroker on 2013-07-22 12:43:37 PM

    As someone who targets First Time Buyers exclusively for business, I have to say that the rule changes have directly impacted my business. However, despite my reduced income, I believe these rule changes have had a positive impact on the Canadian economy. I have no problems with Minister Flaherty making the hard decisions to protect our country and the housing market.

    I still get inquiries from First Time Homebuyers - its just now my sales porch is a little longer. If these rule changes mean having a stable economy (and subsequently a job) in 5 years, I am good with them. Hopefully I can put my clients in a home at that time (when they qualify).

    As for further "tweaking" - I trust Mr. Poloz, Minister Flaherty and the others in charge have a way better grasp on how everything works compared to people like us who read the news they make.

    #ArmchairQuarterbacks

  • Farooq Lakhani on 2013-07-22 12:44:49 PM

    Why are lower interest rates the desirable option to maintain sanity in the housing market ? Even at higher interest rates, the housing industry can be sustainable if home prices adjust downwards to ensure debt payments remain affordable relative to household income. Somebody out there has a vested interest in higher home prices even at the expense of risking the financial well-being of ordinary families.

Broker news forum is the place for positive industry interaction and welcomes your professional and informed opinion.

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