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23 Jul

New Qualifying Rate for the Mortgage Stress Test


Posted by: Michael Greene

For the first time in three years, the Bank of Canada, on Friday lowered the qualifying rate from 5.34 percent to 5.19 percent.

A typical mortgage application is tested against this five-year benchmark rate or the qualifying rate plus two percent, depending on which one is greater. This slight decrease could make a big difference for many Canadians applying for a mortgage.

So, what does this mean you may ask, well let’s see!

Let’s take an example; Sally makes $60,000 a year and she is putting 20% down payment. Stress tested at 5.34%, Sally would qualify for a mortgage of about $278,651 versus stress tested at 5.19%, she would qualify for a mortgage of about $282,716. As you can see, Sally would now be able to qualify for an extra $4,000 of mortgage approximately.

This certainly won’t have a huge impact on mortgage approvals but it will give some much-needed relief. This could be looked at as an added bonus for first-time home buyers, and combined with the down payment assistance – this is great news.

In February 2018, home sales dipped to their lowest levels since 2012, this was due to the introduction of the stress test that was introduced in 2017.

Although the new five-year benchmark rate is certainly good news from some prospective buyers, it hasn’t really changed the system that much, Samantha Brookes, CEO of broker Mortgages of Canada, told CBC.

“Consumers are in this wait-and-see pattern — it’s still difficult to get into the market because that stress test is there.”

It’s also something that’s sparked much debate among groups like the Ontario Real Estate Association, the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB), the International Monetary Fund, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), and even some economists.

On one side of the aisle are those like TREB who say that the rules need to be relaxed because so many are still locked out of the housing market as a result of the test’s strict qualification metrics. And on the other are those like the CMHC who say that doing so would be a “reckless myopia.”

The qualifying rate is used in the stress tests for both insured and uninsured mortgages, so this lower rate will make it easier for borrowers to qualify for a mortgage. These tests were set up to ensure the potential homebuyer can afford the mortgage payments.