Monday, June 10, 2019

The Ongoing Stress Test Debate

By Mark Kerzner,
President, TMG The Mortgage Group

The controversy over the mortgage stress test continues. Banks, economists, mortgage lenders, Realtors, mortgage brokers, and its association Mortgage Professionals Canada (MPC) are urging government to make some changes, not to get rid of the stress test altogether, but to consider some variables, such as income growth and mortgage repayment which may not have been factored in.

So it was curious to hear Evan Siddall, CEO of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), imploring the Standing Committee on Finance to “..look past the plain self-interest of [mortgage brokers]… Apparently, the MPC [Mortgage Professionals Canada] is content to see home builders, real estate agents and mortgage brokers receive short term benefits while Canadians bear the long-term costs.” 

I am not sure where this personal attack is coming from or how this advances his agenda. As an industry we have provided a valuable sounding board and meaningful suggestions for tweaking rule changes to ensure a healthy and stable housing market today, and for the future.

When many industry experts support the position that a stress test could consider other factors such as principal repayment and income growth, for example – and such support also coming from very credible bank economists -- some of whose employers choose not to deal with brokers directly-, then it's uncertain why Siddall would personally attack an Association  representing the broker channel.
In addition, the Chief Economist of MPC, Will Dunning, just published a report further detailing reasons why the stress test should to be tweaked, along with market commentary by various economists and their positions on the subject.

The stress test was introduced without consultation from industry insiders and stakeholders and now the Government has a locked-in position they seem unwilling to change. The stress test is having a negative impact on the housing market and could very well affect the economy in the long term.
However, the story is not one side advocating for the all-out removal of stress tests against the other side locking into an unchangeable position.

Let’s look at the entire story. When the February 2010 stress test was introduced on mortgage terms less than 5 years, and on variable-rate products, it was done seemingly to protect a consumer’s ability to handle payments in an increasing rate environment at the time of renewal.

This time around it appeared as though the stress test was introduced for different reasons. The overall amount of sovereign debt was considered too high as it approached $700 billion.  There was concern about runaway prices in Toronto and Vancouver.

However, the stress tests introduced in October of 2016 by CMHC and then extended to conventional mortgages by the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) in January 2018, was ostensibly to reduce future debt burdens. 

The result has kept an estimated 40,000 would-be homebuyers on the outside looking in, according to an April TD Report.  According to the Globe and Mail “The government [was] responding to concerns that sharp rises in house prices in cities like Toronto and Vancouver could increase the risk of defaults in the future should mortgage rates rise.”

From my perspective, if we are going to be heavily relying on a Benchmark rate in qualifying applicants, then the way the Benchmark rate is determined should also be changed.

It is currently set from the mode of the big banks’ posted rates. It should be determined either by a market-driven rate (perhaps as a delta to bond yields), have an established floor (say 4.25% for example) or relate specifically to the contract rate itself.

We have seen interest rates drop over the first two quarters of 2019, yet bank posted rates and the stress test have not. As interest rates were rising last year the banks chose to increase their posted rates, and the Benchmark rate was correspondingly increased. 

When the 2016 stress tests were introduced, the Benchmark rate on which it was calculated was 4.64%.  At the same time the discounted 5-year fixed rates were in the 3.69% to 3.99% range. Today, 5-year fixed rates can be found in the 2.89 to 3.19% range and the Benchmark rate is 5.34%.
For clients renewing their mortgages AND who have made their contractual payments as agreed, to qualify them at a rate higher than their contract rate if they want to transfer their mortgage is simply anti-competitive.

The mortgage industry supports high underwriting standards to ensure a buffer exists in our collective ability to withstand higher interest rates.

Instead of creating animosity and adversity, let’s work together to create an environment that encourages qualified and responsible First Time Homebuyers in accessing the market.

If you are a mortgage customer looking to access the market make sure to use the services of a mortgage broker who can help you navigate the rules, options and opportunities to align with your long term goals and objectives.

Monday, June 03, 2019

Canadian Housing Affordability Improves – Really! Here’s Why

Housing affordability has been big talk in the country for a few years now. We’ve had rising interest rates and rising house prices, to a point where government felt it had to intervene to mitigate any negative impacts on household debt. To guard against that, and to perhaps force house prices to come down, the mortgage stress test was introduced, whereby borrowers needed to qualify at a higher rate than the actual contact rate.

Conventional wisdom is that falling prices should improve housing affordability but the stress test resulted in a percentage of the population, mostly first-time home buyers, getting priced out of the market.

Over the past six months we have heard anecdotal evidence that the situation is improving, and now we have some hard numbers that explains why. National Bank’s latest study of 10 major Canadian housing markets found that income growth was the reason, and that it had outpaced home prices -- and it looks as if that trend will continue. Rising incomes along with lower home prices, and relatively low interest rates, are a good start on the road to affordability.

National Bank measures affordability by looking at how much household income is spent on mortgage payments. Experts suggest that households should spend no more than a third of their income on housing costs. In the first quarter of 2019, the amount needed to pay mortgage payments on a average Canadian home was lower than the last quarter in 2018.

This is the case even in Vancouver, in both condo and non-condo markets. For example, in the condo market, a typical Vancouver household in the first quarter of 2019 the income needed to service a mortgage was down half a percentage point, quarter-over-quarter. And, it’s the first improvement in 15 quarters in the condo market.  The improvement was even better for a house at 2.5% lower.

In Toronto that measure dropped a full percentage point but consumers still need a substantial chunk of their income to cover housing costs on an average Toronto home. However, more buyers are looking outside these larger areas where homes are more affordable. These include Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Regina Winnipeg, Saint John, Halifax and St John’s.

The National Bank’s two economists, Matthieu Arseneau and Kyle Dams, were quoted as saying, “…mortgage rates were not a drag on affordability for the first time in seven quarters.” They remain confident that more relief is on the way.

Even the Bank of Canada expressed growing confidence that the country’s economy is rebounding. Interest rates remained unchanged for a fifth straight time and said recent data has “reinforced” their view a slowdown at the end of 2018 and early 2019 was temporary.

However, we’re still not out of the woods yet --there remains the issue of the stress test. There has been a concerted effort among lenders and the real estate and mortgage broker channels to lobby government to consider making changes. The mortgage brokers channel’s association, Mortgage Professionals Canada, (MPC) has been campaigning aggressively to modify the mortgage stress test.

Many economists have added their voices to the campaign against the current stress test, pointing to the negative impact it’s had and/or will have on the housing market and on the economy – reduced housing activity can have long term impacts.

 One of the core issues in their arguments is that the government didn’t take into account rising incomes.  MPC chief economist Will Dunning makes a good case in his recent report titled, “The False Binary” that to take into account the future growth of borrowers’ incomes, the stress tests should be set at 0.75 percentage points above the actual contracted interest rates – they are currently at a minimum 2 percentage points above contracted rate.

The economy may be gaining strength; incomes are rising and affordability is easing in many areas. What home buyers and the housing market needs now is a little help from government. No one is advocating to remove the stress test, but perhaps they might consider lowering it. 






Monday, May 06, 2019

Buy a House Now or Wait?


There are a lot of questions surrounding affordability in the housing market. There is some uncertainly as to whether the housing market will continue to slow down, with prices starting to decline in some regions, which may make buying a house a reality for first-time home buyers. A common question is: Should I buy now or wait until later. Let’s take a look at a few factors.


Market Slowdown and the decision to buy

There is no doubt the market has slowed down compared to what it was doing two years ago, prior to the introduction of the B-20 rules and the mortgage stress test. It appears that the dire warnings from industry insiders about the impact the stress test would have on the housing market has played out as predicted. While some welcomed the stress test, it may have worked too well, to the point of inertia.
When housing prices and sales steadily rise, buyers and sellers feel confident about their decisions, but confidence in markets takes a dip when prices or sales fall or rise rapidly. Buyers and sellers want to know if the market has hit bottom or if it will decline further. Prospective buyers’ question when they should jump in.

Also, buyers can have different motivations: They may be transitioning from renting, switching homes, or looking for an investment property. Family make-up is another factor – some will have school-aged children, others may have extended family arrangements, still others may be downsizing. The right decision for a buyer or a seller depends on their circumstances and motivations.
A buyer may want to hold on to see whether prices will drop further over the summer, which may or may not be an effective strategy.  For others, especially parents of young children, a move during the school year can be challenging.

Sellers usually want to wait for prices to rise, or at least stop falling, before they list their properties.

Spring Market

The Spring buying market is late due to weather conditions across the country but there are some signs of improvement. The most recent data shows slow but steady activity in home sales across the country, with prices dropping in some regions – it’s all very fluid.

The Economic Big Picture

The Bank of Canada (BoC) has taken a new position on interest rates and is leaving them comparatively low. In fact, there are rumblings that rates could go down in the near future. Our economy is closely tied to the US economy where the Fed has stopped raising rates – Canada’s interest rates can’t really deviate too far from US rates.

At its latest interest rate announcement, the BoC left its rate unchanged, at 1.75%. More importantly, the Bank removed any reference to future rate hikes and instead acknowledged that “monetary policy needs to maintain a degree of accommodation … until the economic outlook improves.”

The Bank acknowledged that the slowdown in global economic growth in the latter part of 2018 was “greater than expected” and it attributed this in large part to uncertainty arising from “trade policy conflicts”. And once again, it predicted “that the economy will pick up in the second half of the year”.

There was no mention when rates would rise again, but did say, “it will closely monitor “developments in household spending, oil markets, and global trade policy to gauge the extent to which the factors weighing on growth and the inflation outlook are dissipating.”

What to do about the stress test?

The consensus seems to be to modify it. CIBC economist Benjamin Tal said in an interview recently that the stress test has had a broad impact on slowing down the housing market, affecting 50% of new mortgage originations. Because interest rates are not rising any time soon, Tal says the stress test may be too severe. The test also doesn’t take into account that over a 5-year mortgage term, incomes are rising while, at the same time, mortgage principal is getting paid down. By modifying it, more first-time home buyers may be able to get into the market.

There is a lot of pressure on the government from banks, mortgage broker and Realtor associations, as well as economists to consider modifying the stress test – we’ll see what happens as we head into the latter part of an election year.

So, do you buy now or wait and see?

The future is always uncertain. The best way forward is to get the facts about what’s happening, review your personal goals and work with real estate and mortgage brokers who can help you decide.


Monday, April 15, 2019

Yes, you can be a homeowner

The news is full of negatives about housing market slowdowns, mortgage stress tests that shut millennials out of homeownership, low inventory, a slowing economy – it goes on. Although it may seem gloomy to many, there are a few silver linings. The Canadian dream of homeownership is still alive, although it may look a bit different than the traditional idea of owning a home.

First of all, the make-up of home buyers has seen a distinct change from the more traditional trend of buying with a partner/spouse. According to the recent RBC Home Ownership Poll, 28% of those polled say they need help and are purchasing or planning to purchase with their family. That is almost as many as those who say they can purchase alone (32%).

When compared to past years, buying a home with a partner or spouse has been steadily declining (42% versus 49% in 2017), while non-traditional trends, like purchasing a home alone (32% versus 29% in 2017), are climbing.

It’s also clear that what’s happening in today’s market is having an impact on buyers with 56% of Canadians thinking it's better to wait until next year to purchase a home. Almost half  of those are prepared to push the purchase out two years or more (highest among 18-34-year olds, 55%). Of those waiting to buy, 54% have the expectation that house prices will come down (as high as 68% of British Columbians and 58% of Ontarians expect the price of housing to drop).

Here are some highlights in the poll:

  • Canadians feel it makes more sense to buy than rent (66%).
  • Canadians are well positioned to weather a potential downturn in housing prices (71%) or an increase in interest rates (63%).
  • Affordability (21%) and being in a safe neighbourhood (20%) top the list of what Canadians must have, while buying in 'the right' neighbourhood is less of a concern (6%, steady decline since 2015).
  • Canadians are most willing to sacrifice the conveniences of being close to a major highway (16%), dining and entertainment (13%), good schools (11%) and public transit (10%).


A new housing reality

In the poll, eight-in-10 Canadians say a home or condominium purchase is still a good investment (81%). When we look at the condo market, there is a lot happening. This year, a record number of condos are set for completion in the GTA, which will likely slow price growth.

The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA), in its most recent forecast said it expects the monthly trend for sales to improve slowly over 2019. Low interest rates and a strong job market is positive, with pricing projected to stabilize over the next two years, except in markets where there is a shortage of supply.

Non-traditional housing and co-owning arrangements are popping up across the country. The focus is on community is the key to cohousing projects that generally consist of individual homes, built around a common house with shared amenities. These amenities generally contain a kitchen and dining room and can have anything from kids’ playrooms and workshops to guest rooms and gardens.


Get ready

While it’s true that government policies have made it harder for some to qualify, the new ‘shared equity program’ and the RRSP withdrawal increase may help some of those people. 

As we head into the Spring market, listings will start to increase as buyers and sellers come out of hibernation. It’s important for homebuyers to educate themselves about mortgages, including how to qualify in this new stress-test environment. Working with a TMG mortgage professional will help you navigate the ins and outs of the mortgage process, from qualifying to approval and through to closing.

If you don’t qualify right now, your mortgage professional will show you ways to increase your likelihood of qualifying in the future.

Yes, you can fulfill your dream of homeownership.

Why a mortgage professional?

By working with a licensed mortgage professional, you have a trusted adviser and problem solver. Brokers take the time to first understand a client’s needs, both short term and long term, then recommend the right mortgage and present options. In addition to straight home purchases, brokers work with clients who refinance to consolidate debt, who are looking to purchase second homes, who are looking for the best options at renewal time, and brokers help clients make property-related investment decisions.




Friday, March 22, 2019

Anatomy of mortgage changes


There is little doubt that housing sales have slowed down in the past year, due in large part to stricter mortgage regulations. Part of those regulations is a mortgage stress test that requires borrowers to qualify for an interest rate that’s at least 200 basis points higher than the contracted rate. 
 Those in favour of the stress test saw it as a way to improve housing affordability by thinking it would result in falling home prices, as well as protecting homeowners from potentially higher interest rates at renewal.

While there were some house price reductions, there was also a major slowdown in house sales, which, one could argue, has helped fuel a slowing economy. 
History
The most recent round of mortgage rule changes came into effect in 2016, then in January 2018, more changes were introduced, including using the stress test to qualify for uninsured loans.  This had the greatest impact.   The next month, in February, sales declined in greater Toronto by 35% from those recorded in February 2017.  This past month (February, 2019) housing sales in greater Toronto were even 2.4% lower than a year ago. 
Housing sales in greater Vancouver were even weaker, with February 2019 sales 33% lower than the same month in 2018. In fact, February 2019 sales are 43% lower than the 10-year average for sales in February.
Evan Siddall, who heads Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), believes the stress test is bitter medicine that is working fine. Siddall credits the stress test for lowering housing prices. His comments were based on the stress test being introduced to lower housing prices; however, Carolyn Rogers, the Assistant Superintendent at OSFI, said something different in her speech to the Economic Club of Canada.
She explained, the stress test “was designed to target mortgage underwriting standards.” In her words, the test was intended to provide a safety buffer so that borrowers do not “stretch their borrowing capacity to its maximum.”
Is it plausible that OSFI and the CMHC had two different goals? Maybe.  OSFI’s goal did indeed lower high-risk lending somewhat as reported by the Bank of Canada. House prices did drop slightly.
It appears the government may have overshot its mark with the stress test, and the slowdown in the housing sales may have been an unintended consequence. 
Pushback
Many housing and mortgage industry voices started to lobby the government -- some believed the stress test was working fine, other’s say the impact has been devastating to home buyers, especially first-time homebuyers.
CIBC economists, Bejamin Tal and Royce Mendes predicted in November, 2018 that the housing market would be a drag on Canada's economic growth in the coming year. Residential investment accounts for 7.5% of Canada's economy.
"It was a good run while it lasted, but the sun has officially set on the days of heady housing market growth fuelling Canada's national economy," Tal and Mendes wrote. “And that could be bad news because housing investment is more important to Canada's economy "than at any other time on record," they added.
Proposed solutions
Two ideas emerged from various stakeholders and associations -- lower the stress test threshold that requires borrowers to qualify at least 200 basis points above the contracted rate; and/or reintroduce the 30-year amortization for CMHC insured mortgages.
Government response
The Liberal government introduced the following two measures in their recent budget announcement to address the issue of housing affordability and first-time home buyers.
Home Buyer’s Plan Withdrawal Increase. Effective immediately, first time home buyers can now withdraw up to $35,000 from their RRSP, tax free, up from $25,000, for a down payment. If you have a co-borrower, that total could be up to $70,000. 
A first-time homebuyer, as defined by the Canada Revenue Agency, allows repeat homebuyers to also be classified as “first-time” if they or their spouse haven’t occupied a home, they owned in the prior four years. 
Funds must be repaid over a 15-year period or the money gets added to your income for tax purposes. Starting in 2020, those who separate from a spouse or common-law partner will get to use the Plan, even if they’re not a first-time buyer.
First Time Home Buyer Incentive
Billed as a “shared equity mortgage”, the government will lend first-time home buyers’ money to buy a home. According to the budget document, this new incentive “enables homebuyers to reduce the amount of money required from an insured mortgage without increasing the amount they must save for a down payment.”
The government has earmarked $1.25 billion over three years, administered by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC), to provide up to  5 % of the cost of an existing home and 10% of a new home through what amounts to an interest-free loan to be repaid when the property is sold. 
Key points: 
  •  Borrowers must have a down payment of at least 5% -- but less than 20% -- and a household income under $120,000.
  •  The insured mortgage plus incentive, combined, cannot be greater than four times the participants’ combined annual household incomes.
  • Condo purchases are allowed.
  • The program is expected to start in September 2019 with further details to come this year. 
  •  If you use it, the government will share in price gains or losses when you sell. (The government hasn’t released many details on this yet) 
  • While the Department of Finance has not commented on this, the program is called a “shared equity mortgage”, so it may be safe to assume it will be a registered second.
  •  You must be a first-time homebuyer. (We don’t know whether the government’s definition of “first-time buyer” will be the same as with its RRSP Home Buyers’ Plan (see definition above)
  • Your mortgage must be default insured. Buyers may use any of the three insurers.
  • There are no monthly payments required on this incentive money
  • You have to pay the money back when you sell your home. There was no mention of what happens during a refinance but if similar programs abroad are any guide, a cash-out refi would trigger the repayment provision. 

Aftermath
Paul Taylor, CEO of Mortgage Professionals Canada, which represents the mortgage-brokerage channel, said in an interview with the Globe and Mail, he is disappointed that the government did not heed his organization’s calls to reduce the stress-test burden, which is keeping many home buyers from qualifying for mortgages.
But he said the new interest-free loan program will help the earners most affected by the stress test, so it may be a good alternative. The program requires more analysis to assess how successful it will be, he said.
His organization estimated that the stress test would compel about 200,000 potential home buyers to change their plans in the first two years of operation. If 100,000 are helped by the loan program over three years, “a good chunk” of people most impacted may be getting help, he said.
Many other key details, including precise repayment terms and maximum available loans, have yet to be addressed.  The government says CMHC will release full details later this year. That’s a long time, politically speaking and things could change again, given it’s an election year.
We will continue to monitor these announcements and update our readers as new information comes top light.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

What if thoughts were things? 

By Bud Jorgenson, Vice-President, Prairie Region
TMG The Mortgage Group

I was speaking with a mortgage broker recently who was struggling as their volume was down from previous years. 

They explained they weren't doing anything differently and just found themselves in a funk, and were asking for my perspective on what they should do. 

 Of course, we discussed all the reasons why things had changed for them. 

We talked about the changes in the market, the increased competition, the rate discounters, the underwriting rule changes etc.

My response was and is today that these changes have zero effect on your business and the only thing that matters is your response to these changes. 

I heard the concept of "thoughts are things" about 25 years ago and after testing it and seeing it in action with so many successful people throughout my professional life, I believe it to be the determining factor in our success or failure, in both our professional and personal life.  I also love that this is the one thing that I have complete control over.  How we can apply this in our everyday life as mortgage brokers is so simple. 

When walking into a first meeting with a client, take a moment to visualize how you would like the meeting to go, see it unfolding in a positive way and resulting in you completing a mortgage for them. 

When a cold call comes in asking for your best rate, it's so easy to consider this a waste of time. Instead, see it as an opportunity, and challenge yourself to turn that client from a discount shopper to a value client. 

When dealing with underwriters or speaking to realtors about partnering, or in every action, spend a few minutes setting the stage by visualizing the outcome in a positive way.  We all know people in our lives who seem to have that humble confidence that attracts people and opportunities that has helped them be successful. Let's be those people. 

I can't ever speak or write about success without throwing in a golf analogy.  I will finish with a quote from golfing great Jack Nicholas who is arguably the greatest golfer in history with 18 major wins.  When asked what he believed to be the most important factor in his success he said the following...

“I never hit a shot, not even in practice, without having a very sharp, in-focus picture of it in my head,” Nicklaus said. “First, I see the ball, where I want it to finish, nice and white, and sitting up high on the bright green grass. Then, the scene quickly changes, and I see the ball going there: its path, trajectory, and shape, even its behaviour on landing. Then there is a sort of fade-out, and the next scene shows me making the kind of swing that will turn the previous images into reality.”

Monday, January 28, 2019

The Canadian economy and the housing market

We are living in strange times, economically speaking. Mortgage stress tests have slowed the housing market and may be one of the reasons the Bank of Canada has signaled it may pause on increasing interest rates. 

Home sales fell sharply in Canada last year -- the largest annual decline since 2008, spurring predictions the country could face stagnant sales in 2019.  The decline was due in large part to slowing activity in British Columbia and in the Greater Toronto Area, both hit hard by new government measures and higher interest rates.

The Canadian Real Estate Association has forecast little improvement in 2019, predicting 0.5% growth in national sales this year, over 2018.

Christopher Alexander, regional director for Re/Max in Ontario and Atlantic Canada, said the mortgage stress test has been the biggest factor keeping buyers out of the market, especially in Vancouver and Toronto.

 “It’s a lot harder to get a mortgage now than it has been for the last 10 years,” he said. “Not only do you have the stress test, but the big banks are very particular in their criteria. It just seems that everybody is being very cautious.”

However, there are variations across the country. The average price of all homes sold in the Greater Toronto Area fell 3.4% in 2018, for example, while the average price climbed 3.7% in Ottawa and 5.8% in Montreal.

Bank of Montreal economist Robert Kavcic predicts little change in national sales totals or prices in 2019. He suggested the the housing market is going into a period of stagnation.

A Bigger Picture
Recently Statistics Canada released its third-quarter report on national wealth, which is the “value of non-financial assets in the Canadian economy.” Total national wealth hit $11.415 trillion in the third quarter, and at $8.752 trillion, real estate made up a 76% share of that figure. That was the highest that both figures had been, going back to the second quarter of 2007.

Data from both Canada and the US shows that real estate as a share of U.S. national wealth in 2007 was 75.3%, compared to 67.6% in Canada. That started to change with the 2008 recession when US real estate as a share of national wealth started to decline while in Canada real estate wealth started to grow.

BMO has estimated that Canadian benchmark home prices will grow by less than one per cent next year and two per cent in 2020, dragged by “tougher mortgage rules and higher interest rates so the share should continue to trend modestly lower.”

Economists have mixed feeling about this trend. Some say a flat housing market is not anything to worry about. Others, like CIBC’s Benjamin Tal said the Canadian housing market is more important to the overall economy than at any other time on record. Aalthough the Bank of Canada (BoC) argues that the worst is now behind us, and that housing markets are stabilizing, some economists find it difficult to agree.

The BoC’s workhorse model says that six quarters can pass before a rate hike can be felt in the economy but according to Tal and others, only five quarters have passed since the first move of this cycle and “we’re already seeing a slowdown in housing-related indicators.” 

The Global Economy
There are growing fears about a worldwide economic slowdown.  Uncertainty with tariffs, ongoing trade wars, and even the US government shutdown (over for now) is all having a negative impact on the global economy as a whole. 

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) downgraded its expectations for the global economy, highlighting sharp declines in Europe and warning that the risks of a major slowdown have increased.

Already, at the annual World Economic Forum being held in Davos, Switzerland, there is worry about the global economy. Absent from the Forum is representation from the US. French President Emanuel Macron stayed home to deal with ongoing domestic issues. British Prime Minister Theresa May is home, desperately trying to eke out a bipartisan deal for Brexit.

In the United States, the shutdown has cut into growth. Early this month, consumer confidence slumped to the lowest level of Trump’s presidency, according to the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment survey.

While few see a recession as imminent, the number of risks is growing. As an economy slows, it’s easier for it to be knocked off track, many economists say.

 “After two years of solid expansion, the world economy is growing more slowly than expected and risks are rising,” said Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund in an interview in the Globe & Mail. “Does that mean a global recession is around the corner? No. But the risk of a sharper decline in global growth has certainly increased.”

Chief executives ranked a global recession as their No. 1 concern for 2019, according to a survey of nearly 800 top business leaders around the world. 

A survey of 1,300 chief executives released by PwC found that 30%  of business leaders believe that global growth will decline in the next 12 months, a record jump in pessimism to about six times the number who said that last year.

What happens now?
The “R” word has been bandied about lately. In economics, a recession is a business cycle contraction, a general slowdown in economic activity. Economic indicators such as GDP, employment, investment spending, household income, business profits, and inflation fall, while bankruptcies and the unemployment rate rise. While we are living in a slowdown, we are not seeing high job losses or increases in bankruptcies.

There is also some optimism. In a blog by TMG’s David Larock, he writes that core inflation has not increased and five-year fixed rates continue to settle in at slightly lower levels. Variable rates are holding steady. 

It’s a matter of waiting this through, as Canadians did in 2008. There may be an upside-- this projected slow period means buyers can take their time searching for a house and not worry about missing out on a sale. 

As always, Canadians are a resilient bunch – this is just one more challenge they will overcome.