By Paul Vieiera, Financial Post
Published: January 14, 2010
OTTAWA -- Despite concerns about a Canadian housing bubble and high levels of household debt, a survey commissioned by the country's mortgage brokers suggests Canadians are exhibiting prudence when borrowing from a home.
The survey, released Thursday by the Canadian Association of Accredited Mortgage Professionals, indicated the vast majority of home buyers, at 86%, were opting for fixed-rate mortgages over variable products. Moreover, 70% of people surveyed opted for terms of at least five years or more -– a signal that buyers realize interest rates are headed upward and want to capitalize on the record-low borrowing costs for as long a period as possible.
"This new research shows that Canadians are assessing their abilities and vulnerabilities," said Jim Murphy, CAAMP's president and chief executive. "They are being prudent and the vast majority of Canadian mortgage borrowers are not taking on undue risks. They have factored rising interest rates in to their mortgage decisions."
The results emerge after senior officials at the Bank of Canada said that it was "premature" to talk about a housing bubble in the country. Still, the central bank has warned about rising household debt levels and consumers' ability to finance that debt once interest rates begin their climb back upward.
The survey is based on questions to members who issued more than 40,000 mortgage loans totalling $10-billion, which were funded during 2009 (the data is for home purchases only and excludes renewals or refinances of existing mortgages). CAAMP said the data represent about one-sixth of total mortgage activity for home purchases in Canada.
The findings also indicated that the majority of people who took out their first mortgage last year borrowed less than they could afford to, as their debt service ratios are below allowed maximums.
"The high share of fixed rate mortgages and low debt-service ratios for home buyers are contrary to perceptions that consumers and financial institutions are taking on more risk," CAAMP said.
In an updated economic forecast released Thursday, CIBC World Markets indicated that the red-hot housing market is set to cool down this year as listings increase and buyers back off once mortgage rates begin to climb