Ottawa has announced new rules aimed at limiting foreign money into Canadian real estate and ensuring that borrowers take on mortgages they can afford.
They include a move to close a loophole in the tax laws that allows non-residents to buy homes in Canada, and then get a tax exemption to avoid paying capital gains when they sell the home by claiming it as a principal residence.
Starting now, “an individual who was not a resident in Canada in the year the individual acquired a residence will not be able to claim the exemption for that year,” Finance Minister Bill Morneau said.
Canadians who were legitimate residents at both the time of purchase and time of sale will still be able to take advantage of the principal residence tax exemption, the government announced.
In addition to cracking down on tax leakage by foreign money, another change is that from now on, all insured mortgages must undergo a “stress test” that ensures a borrower’s ability to make their mortgage payments at a higher interest rate.
Effectively, that means borrowers will be tested against their ability to pay their mortgage if actual rates were as high as the big bank’s five-year posted mortgage rates, which the Bank of Canada says currently average 4.64 per cent.
That requirement was already in place for many borrowers, including so-called “high-ratio” mortgages for people with small down payments, and borrowers who borrowed money on terms of less than five years.
But from now on, any insured mortgages will be tested against that higher bar. Anyone who already has a mortgage, or who has already applied for mortgage insurance, is exempt from the new rules, which will formally kick in on Oct. 17.
According to interest rate-comparing website RateHub, a hypothetical borrower with $100,000 in annual income and $40,000 to put down on a house today could qualify for a house worth $665,435 with a mortgage at 2.17 per cent, which three lenders are currently offering, according to the site.
But under the new rules, that same buyer could only qualify to buy a home for $505,762, or 24 per cent less than before the rules kick in. The lender is still willing to offer that lower rate, but the borrower would no longer be allowed to get it under the stricter rules, because his or her finances would be tested as though the mortgage rate is more than twice as high as it is in reality.