Why the New Mortgage Rule Changes Won’t Have a Huge Impact

Yesterday was a very busy day as the Finance Minister finally showed his hand and outlined what mortgage regulation changes he is implementing in his efforts to try and cool down the housing market, after months of speculation.

However, it seems that these changes won’t have a huge impact on the mortgage market. Flaherty and Bank of Canada Governor, Mark Carney, were both concerned about the increasing personal debt levels of Canadians, and with the additional pressure of the big bank’s top brass going to Flaherty and saying they were concerned that the housing market is getting out of hand and that mortgage arrears could increase in the future, the Finance Minister had to be seen as taking action and make changes.

Here are the main reasons that each of the changes won’t have a huge impact when they come into effect on April 19, 2010:

1. All borrowers need to qualify for a 5 year fixed rate even if they choose a lower mortgage rate or term

Many of the banks have been qualifying applicants at higher rates anyways. So if you were applying for a crazy, low variable rate at 1.95%, they would make sure you could handle at least the 3 year fixed rate at 3.29% or a higher 5 year fixed rate. Genworth Financial‘s COO said they had been qualifying applicants for mortgage default insurance at at least 4% for the last little while.

This makes sense as the mortgage lenders don’t want to give people mortgage loans that they can’t pay back and qualifying people at higher fixed rates is a prudent control. So this change shouldn’t have too big of an impact on people qualifying for mortgages.

The big question that comes out of this is – which 5 year rate will you have to qualify for? Depending on which mortgage lender you apply with, if it’s a big bank, do you have to qualify for their 5 year posted rate (currently 5.39%)? Or do you have to qualify for their “special discounted rate”, or the actual rate where it depends on the amount of investments you have with them and how good your negotiating skills are? If the bank has a 4.09% 5 year fixed special (like RBC), but you can get, 3.99%, due to your other investments with them, which rate is the qualifying rate?

Let’s look at the differences on the monthly payments for various 5 year fixed rates versus a variable rate with a mortgage value of $300,000 and an amortization period of 25 years:

5 year variable rate versus 5 year fixed rate payment differences

Rate type


Monthly payment

to variable rate

% Difference
to variable rate

5 year variable rate



Bank posted 5 year fixed rate





Bank special 5 year fixed rate





Bank “negotiated” special 5 year fixed rate





Best RateSupermarket.ca 5 year fixed rate





As a result, the monthly payment difference for qualifying could be from $256.18 – $556.09 per month or 31%, which is obviously a huge discrepancy. So which 5 year fixed rate is the “qualifying rate”? And each mortgage lender could have a different qualifying rate, so this means comparing products from different lenders could become even more important in the future.

As a result, it will be interesting to see how each mortgage lender defines the qualifying rate and how this is implemented.

2. Lower the maximum amount Canadian homeowners can refinance from 95% to 90% of the value of their homes

This could impact people looking to consolidate higher paying debt into their lower mortgage interest payments, but 5% should only impact a small % of Canadians.

3. Minimum 20% down payment for house buyers looking to buy investment properties and to get government insurance through the CMHC

This may slow down market speculators and real estate investors somewhat, but for the average Canadian looking for a home, the impact could possibly be more supply, so properties on the market, and could tame house prices as well, with less investors buying up large amounts of properties.

So these are our thoughts, we’ll see what else comes out over the next few weeks as more of these questions are answered, and we expect there to be a big rush of pre-approvals before April 19. More to come.

Related Topics

Mortgage News / Mortgages

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