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Ten ways the new mortgage rules will shake up the lending market

Globe and Mail ~ October 17th, 2017

T-minus 76 days and counting until Canada's banking regulator launches its controversial mortgage stress test. It'll be squarely aimed at people with heavier debt loads and at least 20 per cent equity – and it will be a tide turner.

Given where Canada's home prices and debt levels are at, this is easily the most potent mortgage rule change of all time. Here are 10 ways it's going to shake up Canada's mortgage market for years to come:

1. It's like a two-point rate hike: Uninsured borrowers can qualify for a mortgage today at five-year fixed rates as low as 2.97 per cent. In a few months that hurdle will soar to almost 5 per cent. If you're affected by this, you could need upward of 20 per cent more income to get the same old bank mortgage that you could get today.

2. Quantifying the impact: An OSFI spokesperson refused to say how many borrowers might be affected, calling that data "supervisory information" that is "confidential." But at least one in six uninsured borrowers could feel the blow based on the Bank of Canada estimates of "riskier borrowers" and predictions from industry economists like Will Dunning. Scores of borrowers will be forced to defer buying, pay higher rates, find a co-borrower and/or put more money down to qualify for a mortgage.

3. Why OSFI did it: Forcing people to prove they can afford much higher rates will substantially increase the quality of borrowers at Canada's banks. OSFI argues that this will insulate our banking system from economic shocks, and to the extent it's correct – that's good news.

4. A leap in non-prime borrowing costs: Many home buyers with above-average debt, relative to income, will resort to much higher-cost lenders who allow more flexible debt ratio limits. At the very least, more will choose longer amortizations (i.e., 30 years instead of 25 years) and take longer to pay down their mortgage. Non-prime lenders will also become pickier. Why? Because they'll see a flood of formerly "bankable" borrowers getting declined by the Big Six. That could force hundreds of thousands of borrowers into the arms of lenders with the highest rates. If you have a higher debt load, weak credit and/or less provable income, get ready to pay the piper.

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