In March the federal government unveiled changes to the budget that included an interesting opportunity for prospective first time home buyers through an enticing program that they called a “shared equity mortgage”. This program could see Canada’s housing agency (CMHC) kicking in up to 10% of the purchase price of a home if certain conditions are met, therefore bringing down the mortgage load and monthly payment for first time home buyers.
In June, the federal government released further details for the new CMHC program. Under the fine print for the First Time Home Buyer Incentive Program, which will officially launch in September, the program is limited to first time buyers who earn under $120,000 annually. The CMHC would kick in up to 10% of the purchase price of the home, as long as the borrower comes up with the minimum down payment for an insured mortgage, which is currently 5%.
An additional stipulation is that the total value of the mortgage, plus the kick in from CMHC don’t exceed $480,000. According to government officials, this means the program will really only aid those shopping for properties worth a maximum of about $565,000, regardless of whether or not they have met the other requirements.
The “loan” from CMHC would be interest free, meaning no compounding costs to pay down, like a mortgage does. In exchange for its stake, the government says CMHC would get to participate “in the upside and downside of the change in the property value” – meaning they would be entitled to any corresponding increase in the value of a home when the buyer sells. On the other hand, CMHC would also be responsible for any share of the loss if the property depreciates.
This means on a home costing $500,000, if the buyer contributes $25,000 (5% down payment) and CMHC kicks in the same amount, CMHC would own 5% of the home. If the home were to appreciate to $600,000 when the home owner wants to sell, they would have to pay 5% of the sale price – in this case, $30,000 – not the original $25,000 CMHC contributed to begin with. Therefore, there will always be a bill to pay down the line. With that said, the kick in from CMHC would reduce the mortgage load and monthly payments, therefore making it easier for first time buyers to save over the life of the loan.
This table from CBC News shows the impact of a borrower of CMHC’s program. On the left is the cost if they went it alone. On the right shows how qualifying for CMHC program makes the same house more affordable:
Savings Over Time
While many are in support of the new program because it will help first time buyers and families across Canada, some financial advisers are not so sure. Rajiv Bissessur says “the program will likely help some people, but ultimately it amounts to just another form of debt for over leveraged borrowers.” It is an interest free loan, but a loan that will need to be paid back nonetheless.
Bissessur also said the cap of $480,000 won’t do much to help people who are shopping in more expensive markets, who are ultimately the people who need it the most.
The program must be paid back within 25 years, or whenever the buyer decides to sell. There is no financial penalty for buying CMHC out of its stake at any time, however homeowners will have to pay CMHC the fair share of the value of the home at the time.
We have yet to see if this program will prove to be “worth it” or if it is election promises.Mark Herman, top Calgary Alberta mortgage broker