Thursday, December 20, 2007

Are rates going up or down?

In the past couple of days, several lenders have announced mortgage rate increases including CIBC, Firstline, President’s Choice Financial and TD. Other’s may soon follow suit. Why are rates going up you ask? Weren’t they supposed to be going down?

Earlier this month, the Bank of Canada reduced the overnight rate by a quarter of a percentage point. The overnight rate immediately impacts the prime rate, which impacts the rate you pay on a variable rate mortgage. This move was largely precautionary. The very high dollar we were experiencing in the Fall was taking it's toll on our manufacturing and export, and inflation had eased off -- so it made sense to reduce the overnight rate.

Since August, when the U.S. subprime crisis first hit, Canadian banks have been acknowledging that they have some exposure to ACBP's (asset backed commercial paper) -- ACBP's are investments that represents baskets of consumer loans which include U.S. subprime loans. The Canadian government froze trading of ACBP's to avoid panic selling but the problem has not gone away, and it has quietly been putting upward pressure on lending rates. To compensate for losses, banks increase lending rates.

So what does this mean to you? If you are in the market for a property, get a preapproval/rate hold in place good for 120-days to protect you against possible further increases. Even if you would like to go with a variable rate mortgage, the spreads on variable rates could change too, so it's wise to get something locked in as soon as possible. If your mortgage rate is coming up for renewal soon, ask your lender for an early renewal.