Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Can you afford to buy a house?

With rising interest rates, overvalued real estate and a lackluster economy, are first time home buyers and average income households being priced out of the housing market. Perhaps. Now that five-year fixed rates have increased two-thirds of a percentage point or more – up from 2.89% to 3.79% -- in the past month, first time buyers may find their dream of owning their first home out of reach, for now.

It was getting tougher to qualify for a mortgage when the government made changes to the rules, but now it seems to have solidified with the recent rate increases. There are other challenges as well. When qualifying applicants lender look at ratios to determine the percentage of household income that is allowed to go towards housing costs – that ratio is approximately 32%. The average non-mortgage debt load is approximately $28,000.

So, let’s say you have an average income of $70,000, your credit score is in the 700s, which is good, and your debt load is $28,000. You are looking for a modestly-price home because you don’t want to be house poor and have managed to save $15,000, which is 5% of a $300,000 home.  At the current 5-year fixed rate of 3.59%, amortized over 25 years – you don’t qualify. If we could amortize over a longer period, which we could a couple of years ago, then your housing costs ratio would fit, but your total debt, which includes your housing costs and all your other debt would disqualify you.

What could you afford? A mortgage of $213,000.  Depending on where you live in Canada -- that may not be an option. An affordability review of the real estate market across Canada by RBC shows that, nationally, the condo market is affordable with housing costs approximately 28.1%. However, costs for two-storey houses eats up to 48% of household incomes, with Vancouver coming in at 87.2%, Toronto and Edmonton at 62.7%. The most affordable cities have housing costs at 34.4%. The most interesting finding is that these affordability numbers have been pretty much the same since1985. Although Vancouver and Toronto are above their long-term affordability averages, those averages have always been above 32%.

So what can you do? There are options – paying off debt is the big one. A mortgage professional will be able to guide you, offer you options and devise a plan to help you achieve your dream of home ownership.
What will happen next in the housing market? No one can predict that, but some analysts believe that prices will start coming down. They also believe the economy will start to grow again next year as the world economies finally emerge from a prolonged recession. That would be welcome news for Canada, where growth has stagnated. It would mean better job prospects and higher earnings and a thriving economy.

Mortgage rates may not go down, but higher earnings, and less debt means you will be able to afford the house of your dreams.

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