The Bank of Canada (BoC) released its latest Monetary Policy Report (MPR) last week, and the outlook is optimistic. With the economy re-opening, vaccinations on the rise, and supply chains finding relief from the bottleneck they’ve experienced, the future looks promising.
What impact does the MPR have on you? What are the implications for mortgages? Let’s take a look at some areas of particular interest.
Some general points
While the economy may be starting to rebound, it hasn’t made a full recovery yet. To get back to pre-pandemic levels will take time, and the road may be winding. For that reason, the bank is maintaining its key policy rate at 0.25%. The historically low rate, which has been in place since the beginning of the pandemic, will only be raised when the economy can bear the weight of higher interest.
The BoC stresses that it takes time for monetary policy actions to affect the economy. They state that policy usually takes six to eight quarters for their full effects to be felt, so it’s always a question of playing the long game.
The MPR forecasts that the economy will grow by around 6% in 2021. This means that while the economy grew at a slow rate during the first half of the year, it’s anticipated that consumers are ready to start spending more, especially with COVID restrictions being lifted to various degrees nationwide.
While employment has been recovering, the rate has not yet returned to its pre-pandemic levels. That factor, coupled with the price of gasoline and the cost of services rising as business return, led the BoC to state that inflation will run at or above 3% through the year. The rate is projected to ease to the bank’s target of 2% in 2022, rising again then settling to the target rate by 2024.
Finally, the central bank currently purchases federal bonds at a rate of about $3 billion per week. These purchases are a means to help lower the rates on mortgages and businesses loans. Because these bonds have a guaranteed return on investment, they provide assurance for the federal government that they can balance their books with lower mortgage rates. That is, they will continue to see a return on investment, even if they aren’t recovering extra money from mortgages. The purchase of bonds will be reduced to $2 billion per week, as economic conditions have improved since the start of the pandemic.
What this means for mortgages and the real estate market
The good news for homebuyers is that with the Bank of Canada’s rate remaining at 0.25%, mortgages will continue to be low for the next while. If you’re looking to get a new mortgage or to refinance your current one, now is a great time to do so. You’ll be able to take advantage of the incredibly low interest rate, securing it for your next term. This is assuming, of course, that you’re able to pass the stress test, if it applies to your purchase.
If you currently hold a variable rate mortgage, it could be time to think about locking in at a fixed rate. While the interest rates will stay low for the next while, they are destined to rise. While this may not happen until 2022, you don’t want to be caught unaware by rising interest.
When interest rates do rise, homeowners will feel the effects across the country. While cities like Toronto and Vancouver already have higher real estate prices, places like Montreal and Halifax are witnessing increasing prices as well. This, coupled with the high demand for real estate brought on by the pandemic, means that home buyers are taking out bigger loans to pay for their homes. When the mortgage rate increases, people who have more costly mortgages will have to pay more in monthly costs. In some cases, the increase in interest might make mortgage payments unendurable.
Be advised: The housing market remains competitive, and with the workforce returning, more individuals could be looking to purchase a home. If you are considering buying a home, take time to carefully calculate what you can afford for a down payment and how much of a mortgage you can handle. Knowing what you can safely afford when all your expenses are taken into account ensures that you only look at properties that are within your reach.
How to prepare for higher interest rates
As the rise in interest rates are inevitable, here are a few tips to help you ready yourself for the event.
- If you are currently paying your mortgage on a monthly schedule, consider changing your payment plan to a bi-weekly one as soon as you can afford to do so. By doing this, you’ll be putting more money towards the principal of your mortgage and less to the interest.
- Set up a dedicated account and start saving any extra money that you can. Most mortgage contracts allow for a lump-sum payment at certain times. When your time comes, apply any extra money that you have to the principal of your loan. This way, you’ll reduce the principal you have left to pay, in turn lowering the amount of interest you have to pay as well. When the mortgage rates inevitably rise, you won’t feel the effects as much as you would if you had a greater principal remaining.
Remember, the BoC states that policy actions take time, and that policies must be forward looking. When thinking about your mortgage and loans, you should be considering the future as well.
Think of ways to save money on your mortgage both in the present and in the future. Speak with your mortgage broker or lender, as they may have advice about how to lower the cost of your repayments. If you’re in the market for a new home, consider the inevitable rise in interest rates when calculating what you can afford to spend on a home. You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you’re house poor, or even worse, having to foreclose on your mortgage.
Are you currently paying off a mortgage or looking at getting a new one? Let us know your experiences in the comments.
This is intended to be used as general information only and does not constitute financial advice. Please do your due diligence before making any financial decisions.
James Battiston is a graduate of the Canadian Film Centre’s Prime Time Television Program, and holds an honours BA in Cinema Studies from the University Of Toronto. James has written for shows as varied as CBC’s Shoot The Messenger and The Border, to the National Geographic Program Mayday and Fuzzy Tales for TVO Kids.