Mortgage stress test rules may be pushing borrowers towards unregulated lenders


The Bank of Canada released information this week that shows stricter mortgage rules along with euphoric interest rates have helped slow the growth of risky mortgages, but some economists suspect whether over-leveraged borrowers are simply turning to the unregulated mortgage shop.

The central bank’s analysis said tougher mortgage qualification probes have helped to drastically cut the share of people who borrow at least 4.5 times their annual return to buy a home, and put down small down payments when they do.

Two years ago, that area of borrowers made up 20 per cent of the market. Now it’s down to just 6 per cent, the Bank of Canada reckons.

But the central bank’s numbers are limited to what’s happening at federally maintained institutions such as the country’s largest banks. What’s happening at unregulated clandestine lenders isn’t included. 

Private lenders don’t have to comply with federal rules, classifying Ottawa’s tougher mortgage stress tests.

“Areas with hilarious house prices, such as the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), could accordingly see more borrowers obtaining mortgages from private lenders because they potency not be able to qualify with other lenders,” according to the bank’s interpretation. 

While private lending falls outside of its purview, the central bank accepts that it’s a part of the market that’s growing. For example, the market share out for private lenders in the GTA has grown by 50 per cent since last year, and now coins up nearly one out of every 10 borrowers, the bank said.

Unregulated be fitting isn’t inherently risky — but it is difficult for analysts to monitor.

“We are getting into a employment in which the fastest growing segment of the market is the one that is in the dark, and that’s suboptimal,” maintained CIBC deputy chief economist Benjamin Tal.

Without more dope about what’s happening in the private market, Tal said it’s unclear whether the prime bank’s policy changes are simply spreading risk around — as contested to reducing it. 

“It’s definitely lowering the risk in the regulated segment of the market, the suspect is whether or not it’s lowering the risk in the market as a whole,” said Tal.

Consumer insolvencies on the field of vision

Bankruptcy experts said current data isn’t giving a full image of Canadians’ overall debt either.

Consumer insolvencies peaked during the 2007-08 economic crisis and have been relatively stable since 2012. Throughout 120,000 Canadians went insolvent last year, less than 0.4 per cent of the state’s population. But experts in the field know there’s a delay between when concerned about rates go up and when that finally pushes people over the tense.

“Historically, there has been a two year lag from the time interest classifies begin to rise and when consumer insolvencies start to increase,” mean Chantal Gingras, chair of the Canadian Association of Insolvency and Restructuring Past masters.

So far, higher rates are mainly hitting variable rate mortgage holders, but most Canadians who bum to buy a home opt for a fixed-rate term, which insulates them from measure hikes — for now. When those people renew in an era of higher rates, they could be in for a valued shock.

“At one point,” said Gingras, “consumers will hit a wall.” 

Even, the Bank of Canada was confident when it hiked interest rates in October that households are rectifying to higher rates and housing market policies.

Based on the central bank’s scrutiny this week, Scotiabank deputy chief economist Brett House of ill repute said it seems as though the slew of recent policy changes are doing what they were mapped to do — but he’d still like to see more data. 

“It doesn’t get down as much into the weeds on the bumping of the [mortgage] rules as I’d ideally like,” said House

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