In 2022, the Bank of Canada (BoC) has been raising interest rates at the fastest and most significant pace since 1998. In July, the organization increased the benchmark rate to 2.5 per cent for the first time since 2009, when the global economy was coming out of the financial crisis. Here’s what the Bank of Canada’s interest rate hikes mean for homeowners.
The central bank is trying to bust inflation, with the consumer price index (CPI) hovering around eight per cent. The Canadian economy has not witnessed inflation this high since the early 1990s, driven by a wide range of factors, from expansionary pandemic-era fiscal policy to surging commodity prices.
While inflation has eased this summer on the back of falling crude oil and gasoline costs, prices remain elevated across the board, be it for food or household goods and services. Can the institution achieve its objective of busting inflation and navigating the economy to a soft landing? Time will tell.
What is becoming evident, however, is that higher interest rates are weighing on the Canadian real estate market, impacting demand volumes and moderating price growth.
After a two-year frenzy, sales activity has slowed down, prices are not reaching the stratosphere as they once were, and the unfathomable trends in the broader market are diminishing. So, does this mean that the housing market is on the cusp of a crash or a sharp correction? Market analysts have presented their own insights into what is transpiring, but one thing is certain: higher rates are impacting homeowners.
What the Bank of Canada’s Interest Rate Hikes Mean for Homeowners
According to a recent survey from the Manulife Bank of Canada, 25 per cent of homeowners say they will need to sell their home if rates continue to rise. The same survey also found that about one-fifth of homeowners already find it challenging to afford their homes.
Suffice it to say, borrowers are going to be seriously affected by higher interest rates.
Indeed, a rising-rate environment reduces the purchasing power of prospective homeowners and increases the financial burden of current homeowners who have a mortgage. Add to this more stringent mortgage stress tests, and the number of homebuyers in the marketplace drops.
At the same time, homeowners who may have bought a home might have entered into a fixed-rate mortgage, which means they may not need to worry until about rising rates until their mortgage comes up for renewal in a few years.
“Canada’s major chartered banks are currently advertising five-year fixed mortgage special interest rates of around 4.81 per cent. Homebuyers can often negotiate the interest rate for mortgage financing based on their creditworthiness and the degree to which they do other banking business with the mortgage lender,” the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) wrote.
It is estimated that a one-per-cent hike in rates will add hundreds of dollars to mortgage payments each month. However, for a considerable number of Canadians who are contending with soaring inflation and a slowing economy, even an extra $150 a month in mortgage payments can be unaffordable and affect their overall personal finances.
And this could have been the unintended consequence of near-zero interest rates that allowed homebuyers to borrow more than they could afford down the road.
“Some Canadians made decisions to take their mortgages out based on what they could be approved for and maybe didn’t get some financial advice to say, well, ‘I know I can get approved for a mortgage at this particular level, but what can I actually afford?’” said Lysa Fitzgerald, vice-president of sales at Manulife, in an interview with CBC.
Put simply, rising interest rates will impact mortgages across the country and weigh on the Canadian real estate market.
How Might Canadians Respond?
Many trends could form over the next year.
The first is that homeowners may rush to sell their residential properties because they can no longer afford to carry the debt, especially if they were purchased at or near the top of the pandemic-era housing boom.
The second is that homeowners may be forced to refinance their mortgages.
Lastly, it could also lead to broader consequences for household budgets, such as spending less on groceries, leisure and entertainment, or the requirement to increase or supplement their income to help cover the higher mortgage costs.