Mortgages and Condo Conversions
One of my favourite adages in the real estate business is they arent building land anymore. This is a great metaphor to explain the huge home price increases we have seen the past few years. Its also why I tell my clients in Toronto that buying a house with a backyard is a great investment! I point to this adage when explaining the boom in condo construction. Simply, there isnt enough land and not enough houses. People need a place to live close to work that has some transit options. If they cant find a house, than a condo may be a good viable option.
We Have seen lots ofactivity in Toronto over the years revolving around the conversion of rental apartments to condominiums. Its an investment strategy for those building owners to liquidate an assets at often times at a bigger profit multiplier than simply selling the building. This post starts to explore what does it mean when a building is converted and more importantly are there mortgage issues relating to these conversions?
A building is converted when the ownership is transferred to a condominium corporation. To do this in Ontario, the owner of the building must meet many requirements before the condominium structure is approved by the province. Im not going to go into the legal details, but one important step is the establishment of a reserve fund.
A reserve fund is a pool of money established for the future maintenance needs of the building. Mostly it deals the the costly capital expenditures required to keep the building in good repair. Think new roofs, re-surfacing of parking lots, upgrading of fire sprinklers, etc. Things that cost a lot of money - millions of dollars for big buildings! The reserve fund is established using calculations set forth by the regulators, and then part of your condo fees go towards the strengthening of the fund. Your condo fees arent just to pay for the security guard at the front door, and new plants outside!
Looking at how much the buildings condo fees is an excellent indication of the health of the reserve fund. These fees that are established/increased by the condo board are not only for day to day costs, but also future major capital fixes, like a new roof. High fees mean extra services, or more likely in older building a higher allocation to the reserve fund.
Condo boards on a semi regular basis hire engineers and contractors to look at the building and estimate the economic life of major systems and the cost to replace them. Using the roof example again, the condo board knows how much more life the roof has before it needs to be replaced, and how much its going to cost to replace it. They then will start budgeting for the repair many years before it needs to be done. Reviewing the condo board minutes (which tell you expected future repairs), and the value of the reserve fund indicates if there is enough money to cover these expected repairs. A healthy fund has enough money.. A fund that is in trouble is considered to be under capitalized, meaning not enough money has been set aside for expected repairs. Your lawyer will review these documents and let you know what kind of shape the condo board and its reserve fund are in.
When a fund is under capitalize this is a serious issue. What does it mean for an expected buyer? Expect higher condo fees in the future, or a one time assessment where all owners need to come up with an extra chunk of money. If a new roof is going to cost $500,000 and there is only $200,000 available in the fund, its you and your fellow owners that need to come up with shortfall. If there are 100 units, that and extra $3,000 cheque you will be writing! You can imagine how High these assessments can become when multiple things need to be fixed/replaced in a short time frame.
What does it mean for your mortgage lender? Remember they are lending on the security of the building, as well how easy it would be for them to sell the unit it they have to. A building with a bad roof isnt as valuable. A building with high fees wont sell as quickly. All in all, an under capitalized reserve fund is probably the riskiest thing for them. Expect to have some serious issues getting a mortgage.
So why is this so important with condo conversions? Simply put, older buildings need more repairs. More repairs mean higher fees, and a higher chance of extra one time assessments. They are simply less desirable and pose a higher financial risk. So why do people buy conversions? Price! Always remember that sometimes a deal that seems too good to be true probably isnt. Yes you can still buy a condo conversion in Toronto for $125,000! You can imagine the state of repair of the building, and the the health of the condo reserve fund. One recent example saw condo fees for a one bedroom unit being $820 a month. Pretty high for a $120,000 unit.
Im going to leave the question of is this building a good deal to the real estate and legal experts on your home buying team. However, as your mortgage advsior, I need you to know what to expect. As a general rule of thumb, I tell my clients two things when looking at a condo in Toronto. One, if the pice is under $250,000, this may mean there are issues with the overall value of the building and its fund. Second, any condo fee over $0.75 per square foot is going to give you problems. For conversions, the number in my experience is closer to $0.50. You get what you pay for.. Extra services like a concierge, guest suite, pool, gym, etc. will obviously mean higher fees. But if you see higher fees and no extra services, thats your indication reserve fund issues!
Lenders will really start to question high condo fees. Expect that they will want to review condo documents before an approval.
Here is a well know secret.. Our mortgage insurers in Canada (CMHC, Genworth, Canada Guarantee) review condo building on a regular basis, and keep detailed lists on buildings that have reserve fund issues. Banks have access to these lists and then come up with there own do not lend on lists of buildings.
When you are looking at a condo conversion to buy, the first thing I do is contact the insurers to see if they will insure that building. I will then speak to some banks to see if they will lend on that building. If we are good, I will tell you that. You still have to decide if the condo fees are worth what you are getting, and your lawyer still needs to review and approve the condo documents. If one of the insures says no we have concerns with that building, then options become limited. Expect that not all banks and lenders will lend on that building; meaning you may not qualify for the lowest rates out there. Also expect that you may need to come up with a higher downpayment.
Regardless of the building, you will get approved... But at what price?
Im one recent case, only one Big Bank was lending in a particular building. My client ended up paying a higher rate (extra 20 bps) because that bank knew there was no competition. In another case, no big bank was lending in a building. This meant my client had to go with a private mortgage with 35% down payment and a 9% rate. Was it still a good deal for them? Yes, because the mortgage payment and condo fees were still lower than there current rent.
The vast majority of condos in Toronto are perfectly fine. Just beware when you see high condo fees combined with a low selling price. Ask your realtor about the condo reserve fund. Speak to your mortgage professional about that particular building. Its always best to know if there will be any issues, and options to over come; before you put in that offer.
This is an exciting time looking for your home. Lets work together to make it a smooth process.
Bank of Canada maintains policy rate, continues forward guidance and current pace of quantitative easing
The Bank of Canada on September 8th held its target for the overnight rate at the effective lower bound of percent, with the Bank Rate at percent and the deposit rate at percent. The Bank is maintaining its extraordinary forward guidance on the path for the overnight rate. This is reinforced and supplemented by the Banks quantitative easing (QE) program, which is being maintained at a target pace of $2 billion per week.
The global economic recovery continued through the second quarter, led by strong US growth, and had solid momentum heading into the third quarter. However, supply chain disruptions are restraining activity in some sectors and rising cases of COVID-19 in many regions pose a risk to the strength of the global recovery. Financial conditions remain highly accommodative.
In Canada, GDP contracted by about 1 percent in the second quarter, weaker than anticipated in the Banks July Monetary Policy Report (MPR). This largely reflects a contraction in exports, due in part to supply chain disruptions, especially in the auto sector. Housing market activity pulled back from recent high levels, largely as expected. Consumption, business investment and government spending all contributed positively to growth, with domestic demand growing at more than 3 percent. Employment rebounded through June and July, with hard-to-distance sectors hiring as public health restrictions eased. This is reducing unevenness in the labour market, although considerable slack remains and some groups particularly low-wage workers are still disproportionately affected. The Bank continues to expect the economy to strengthen in the second half of 2021, although the fourth wave of COVID-19 infections and ongoing supply bottlenecks could weigh on the recovery.
CPI inflation remains above 3 percent as expected, boosted by base-year effects, gasoline prices, and pandemic-related supply bottlenecks. These factors pushing up inflation are expected to be transitory, but their persistence and magnitude are uncertain and will be monitored closely. Wage increases have been moderate to date, and medium-term inflation expectations remain well-anchored. Core measures of inflation have risen, but by less than the CPI.
The Governing Council judges that the Canadian economy still has considerable excess capacity, and that the recovery continues to require extraordinary monetary policy support. [The Bank of Canada] remains committed to holding the policy interest rate at the effective lower bound until economic slack is absorbed so that the 2 percent inflation target is sustainably achieved. In the Banks July projection, this happens in the second half of 2022. The Banks QE program continues to reinforce this commitment and keep interest rates low across the yield curve. Decisions regarding future adjustments to the pace of net bond purchases will be guided by Governing Councils ongoing assessment of the strength and durability of the recovery. [The Bank of Canada] will continue to provide the appropriate degree of monetary policy stimulus to support the recovery and achieve the inflation objective.
The next scheduled date for announcing the overnight rate target is October 27, 2021. The next full update of the Banks outlook for the economy and inflation, including risks to the projection, will be published in the MPR at the same time.
Source: Bank of Canada
Ontario weighs down residential permits nationally
The total value of building permits in Canada decreased 3.9% to $9.9 billion in July. All provinces except British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador posted lower values, with the majority of the national decline reported in Alberta (-23.4%). Building permits fell 3.1% in the residential sector and 5.6% in the non-residential sector.
On a constant dollar basis (2012=100), building permits fell 3.8% to $7.0 billion.
Seven provinces reported declines in the residential sector, led by Ontario (-10.5%).
Single-family permits fell 9.6% in July, with two provinces showing growth. Ontario (-9.1%) contributed the most to the decrease.
Construction intentions for multi-family units rose 2.7% in July. British Columbia posted an increase of 55.1%, which was driven by high-valued condo projects in the city of Surrey. In contrast, Ontario reversed strong growth in June (+67.6%) and fell 11.7% in July due to fewer high-valued condo permits reported for the census metropolitan areas (CMA) of Hamilton and Guelph.