This article was written by the Vancouver Sun to counter the article written earlier by the Globe and Mail. The Globe and Mail article claimed that Canada has an evolving subprime mortgage problem due to reduced lending standards over the past few years. To read the Globe and Mail article click here. What do you think about this “subprime problem” in Canada, is it just a fear-mongering or is there some truth to these theories?
A foreclosure on a family home is a heart-wrenching human tragedy. As the recession takes its toll on household income, the number of foreclosures is increasing. Fortunately, they remain relatively rare, and pose no systemic threat to Canada’s financial system, in stark contrast to the subprime mortgage meltdown that ravaged the U.S. economy. Despite what you may have read elsewhere, Canada does not have a subprime mortgage crisis. An article in a Toronto newspaper this week carried the alarming headline, Canada’s dirty subprime secret, but it offered little evidence that loans to unqualified borrowers were a secret or dirty — or for that matter, subprime.
The article focused on extreme anecdotes of homeowners using their property as collateral to get loans, and taking new loans to pay off old loans, hoping to squeeze out a profit through repeated refinancing. That hardly supports a case that Canada is awash in subprime mortgages. In fact, its only statistical defence for the thesis was a misrepresentation of a 2006 report by CIBC World Markets economist Benjamin Tal. The article stated that Tal estimated that subprime loans were growing at a “meteoric” pace of 50 per cent and that more than 85,000 Canadian homeowners had subprime loans. He did no such thing. What Tal said was that the market for non-standard and subprime mortgages was growing at that rate and that, in that year, the growth of the non-conforming market enabled no fewer than 85,000 Canadians who would otherwise have been shut out of the market to become homeowners.
Non-standard, or non-conforming mortgages, sometimes referred to as Alt.A, are not subprime. They are given to borrowers with good credit histories and have low loan-to-value ratios. However, they do not meet bank guidelines for conventional mortgages (good employment history, credit score above 700, 25 per cent down, gross debt service ratio below 30 per cent.) Subprime mortgages, on the other hand, are given to borrowers with bad credit and little or no income, have high loan-to-value ratios and often a low asset base. In the U.S., some of these loans were dubbed Ninja mortgages — no income, no job, no assets. Tal estimated that, in the U.S., those with bad credit account for only 30 per cent of the non-conforming market, but two-thirds of total losses.
Non-conforming and subprime loans represented between five and six per cent of all mortgages written in Canada in 2006, 2007 and 2008, compared with 22 per cent in the U.S., and analysts put the maximum potential at no more than 10 per cent. The federal government’s reversal of its ill-considered loosening of insuring criteria governing the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. and the general credit tightening globally will likely keep the share of the market below that potential.
As the housing bubble inflated, U.S. subprime lenders began to aggressively market their services to Canadians, but they have captured only a tiny portion of the mortgage market, which is dominated by the chartered banks, with the vast majority of high-ratio loans insured by CMHC. The recession has curtailed the activities of non-bank lenders, although they may resume when the economy recovers. Individuals must take responsibility for their personal finances, not borrow more than they can afford, be wary of teaser rates and other sharp marketing practices, and understand the terms of their mortgages.
Last month, Prime Minister Stephen Harper told CNBC in New York that Canada has avoided the subprime mortgage problem that has bedevilled the U.S. He was right then and has not “grossly underestimated” the impact of subprime lenders in Canada, as the newspaper article claimed. While there has been a doubling of foreclosures last year over a year earlier, B.C. has the lowest rate of non-conforming mortgages in the country. And here’s another factoid to consider: The percentage of Canadian mortgages in arrears for three months or more was just 0.3 as of December 2008.
Like other nations, Canada is coping with the global recession. While it is better positioned than many others, it still faces job losses, falling exports, low resource prices, weak consumer spending, declining government revenue and rising debt levels. One problem it doesn’t have is a subprime mortgage crisis.
The Globe and Mail recently published an article detailing what they called “Canada’s dirty subprime secret”. They looked into over 10,000 Canadian foreclosure proceedings and uncovered a subprime mortgage problem that many (including PM Stephen Harper) claimed does not exist in Canada. Here are some of the main points of the article. Some readers claim the article is fear-mongering and exaggerating the situation while other readers claim that we haven’t seen anything yet. I will let you form your own opinions. I would love to hear what you think. You can view the entire article by clicking the link at the end of this post.
– Data from both B.C. and Alberta governments and two private companies that specialize in tracking foreclosure proceedings show that lenders are foreclosing on homes at an “alarming rate”. – More than half of foreclosures in 2008 were initiated by a number of subprime lenders who targeted riskier borrowers with poor credit histories. – Thousands of homeowners borrowed more than they could afford and lenders lent money too easily. – The number of unsold homes in Canadian cities is building which has ultimately depressed the value of homes of even people who haven’t overextended themselves. – Canada does not report court ordered sales or foreclosure numbers like the USA which uses the data to gauge it’s economic health. In Canada it is hard to get these detailed numbers. – In B.C. and Alberta private companies collect foreclosure data from the courts. Ontario handles their foreclosures through a process known as “power-of-sale which effectively removed the issue from the courts and shielded the scope of the problem”. – Canada’s real estate sector has not suffered as much as the USA. – It was common in the past couple years to hear companies who had relaxed lending practices state “We say yes when the banks say no” and “No income verification”. – We do have a subprime problem in Canada, lenders significantly reduced their lending standards over the past five years. – Vancouver courts are overwhelmed with the flood of foreclosure applications. It now takes six weeks to process an order vs. one day six months ago. – Subprime lenders “trashed the market”. These lenders gave loans that no sound financial institution would touch. – Many wealthy individulas offered private high-interest-rate mortgages to homeowners who already had high debt and are now foreclosing on the properties at lower values than projected. – Canadian government agencies don’t publish numbers on the scope of high-risk lending also banks and other mortgage lenders don’t disclose details about these loans know as “non-conforming” loans. – Until the early 2000’s: subprime mortgage lending was often done by private investors or mortgage lenders who would take a gamble and charge high interest rates to home buyers who didn’t meet conservative lending requirements. This was a very small percentage of mortgage lending. – Mid 2000’s: this small percentage mortgage lending changed into the fastest growing segment of the country’s mortgage market. This brought aggressive U.S. mortgage lenders to the Canadian real estate market which happened predominantly in the west. – The mentality was as long as real estate values continued to increase the lenders were not taking on a high amount of risk because they could always foreclose homes and sell at a profit. – Aggressive U.S. mortgage insurers that were approved by the Canadian federal government in 2006. These mortgage newcomers further minimized their risk by selling mortgages to entities that sold securities backed by mortgages to investors. – Benjamin Tal, an economist with CIBC world markets was one of the first to sound the alarm. He published a report in late 2006 that estimated subprime loans were growing at a “meteoric” annual rate of 50 per cent by the end of 2006, becoming the fastest growing segment of Canada’s mortgage market. – In 2006, Mr. Tal estimated more than 85,000 Canadian homeowners had subprime loans. – Late 2007 easy money and soaring real estate prices tempted many borrowers and lenders into viewing homes as cash machines. Numerous second and third mortgages at high rates of interest were taken out to fund a lifestyle that was not financially responsible.
Kamloops and area home listings including judicial sales and foreclosed properties click here.
The foreclosure process is a mystery to many people. There are many misconceptions about purchasing a foreclosure property. It is more complicated than making an offer on a home that is not in foreclosure. I want to shed some light on the process and what buyers can expect. Also, if you have found yourself in a situation where you are nearing foreclosure, this will help you figure out what to do to avoid a judicial sale or foreclosure.
Judicial process begins with a demand letter sent to the borrower which gives the borrower a short amount of time to pay off the mortgage. Once the demand letter is sent to the borrower a petition is filed in the BC Supreme court which starts an action called the Order Nisi that gives a redemption time to the borrower. The redemption period, which is usually six months, is given to the borrower to redeem the mortgage. This can be done by the borrower attempting to sell the property.
After the Order Nisi, one of two things will happen. The petitioner will chose to have the property listed for sale by the court by way of a Judicial Sale through a Realtor. At this time, the lender will receive an order approving sale where the borrower will be responsible for any shortfalls between the borrowed amount of the mortgage and the sale amount.
The second option for the courts is an order of absolute foreclosure. If the redemption period has expired and if: 1. The property is worth the same amount as the mortgage debt or more, 2. The respondent borrower is judgment-proof (i.e. no assets or money to apply towards deficiency) or 3. There are no offers under a judicial sale; the lender can seek an absolute order of foreclosure, under which the lender becomes the new registered owner and all borrowers are wiped off title. No further action can be taken against the borrower after the court has granted the order absolute.
Once a judgment is placed against a property it is placed on the market with a Realtor. At this point a buyer can make an offer on this property. The purchase process for a foreclosed property is not like a property that is normally listed that is not under foreclosure. What happens is: 1. The buyer makes an offer to purchase the property and there is a subject period where the purchaser removes subjects such as home inspection, title search etc. 2. The subject free offer goes to court. Once in court the vendor’s lawyer presents the offer to the judge. (known as the Master in Foreclosure proceedings) 3. The Master asks if there are any other parties in the courtroom who want to submit an offer. If not, and the offer is market value, the Master will approve the sale. If there are competing offers the Master will instruct all parties including the original purchaser to leave the courtroom and resubmit their final subject free offer in a sealed, envelope to the vendor’s lawyer. 4. After all offers have been submitted the Master reviews the offers and approves the best offer.
All offers made at the court level must be subject free offers. As you can see, buying a foreclosed property is not as simple as many think. Even if you have an accepted offer on a foreclosed property, there is a high likelihood that there will be other offers once you reach the court proceedings.
I have not seen many foreclosures or court ordered sales come on to the Kamloops market recently. I do believe however, that we will see an increase in foreclosures and court ordered sales in 2009 and into 2010. Many home owners are over extended with debt not only in their homes but also personal credit card debt, personal loans and loans on vehicles.
Kamloops and area home listings including judicial sales and foreclosed properties click here.
I found this article below that details foreclosures in B.C. We really have seen very little foreclosure action in the Kamloops housing market. It has been announced recently that B.C. is not immune to this recession and job losses, the drop in property values and the amount of debt carried by individuals is increasing. This extra pressure on individuals and families will definitely cause those who are highly leveraged to sell either on their own to prevent a foreclosure (where the lender will force the sale) or the lender will foreclose on the property. It is expected that we will see more foreclosures in Kamloops in the months to come, but nothing like we have seen in the U.S. due to many factors that are different with our lending system here in Canada. Read more below…
Media reports from the United States routinely list a litany of horrors about the number of foreclosures. According to an August 4 New York Times report, 8.41 percent of subprime-mortgage loans from 2005 were in arrears by 90 days or more or in foreclosure in the month of June. Of subprime-mortgage loans from 2007, 16.6 percent were delinquent, according to the report.
This is creating huge problems for U.S. real-estate lenders, who have to put properties in foreclosure and then find a buyer in a market that is already glutted with distress sales.
Fortunately, in B.C. there haven’t been nearly as many foreclosures, which are legal processes in court to extinguish all rights, title, and interest in an owner’s property so that it can be sold to pay a lien against it.
According to the Canadian Bankers Association, just 0.15 percent of B.C. residential mortgages were in arrears in April, the latest month for which figures are available. This is quite low when compared with other months dating back to 1990. The percentage of mortgages in arrears peaked in May 1999 at 0.66 percent—more than four times the most recent figure.
Vancouver real-estate educator and foreclosure researcher Kap Hiroti told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview that he expects the number of B.C. foreclosures to increase—but only because the numbers are so low. He noted that some high-risk borrowers who’ve previously relied on alternative-financing companies are finding themselves in trouble because those lenders have abandoned the market.
“What that means is that you’ve got people who’ve got a mortgage one or two years ago,” Hiroti said. “They’re coming up for renewal, and that company cannot renew because they pulled out of the market. Usually, they’re very highly leveraged loans.”
Those cases, however, are the exception to the current market norm here. Hiroti pointed out another difference between the U.S. and Canada when it comes to foreclosures: south of the border, information is readily available. In Canada, it’s much more difficult to find data on properties that are about to enter foreclosure proceedings.
ForeclosureList.ca, a Web site owned by Hiroti, does the legwork in digging up information on foreclosures. He explained that a foreclosure typically begins when a lender issues a demand letter to a property owner seeking repayment of a debt. If the borrower doesn’t respond appropriately, the next step is for the lender to file a legal document called a petition in B.C. Supreme Court.
The petition lays out the particulars, and normally asks for a court order quashing the owner’s rights, title, and interest in a property. At this point, the owner has a chance to file a response, which sets the legal wheels in motion. Prior to any judicial rulings, the owner still has control over the property and can usually sell it without obtaining permission from the lender.
Hiroti said his company compiles information from these petitions and distributes it for $99 per month to subscribers, most of whom are real-estate investors. He estimated that there are approximately 20 foreclosure petitions filed in B.C. Supreme Court each week. Doing this research isn’t cheap. In B.C., it costs $8 to research a court file and $1 per page to photocopy documents.
Ordinarily, a judge or a master of the B.C. Supreme Court will issue a decree nisi, which may require owners to pay down the debt within six months. Hiroti said the next step is for a judge or a master to issue an order for the conduct of sale. “That’s where they actually bring a realtor onboard,” he commented.
The agent has to list the property for market value on the Multiple Listing Service. Once an offer is made, the court must approve the sale. It can be a time-consuming process, which is why Hiroti thinks it’s useful for investors to find out about foreclosures much earlier in the process.
So can a buyer get a better deal by approaching a property owner who has just received a petition? “It’s a good question,” Hiroti responded. “There is the potential.”