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 There has been a sea change at the Bank of Canada. No longer are policymakers setting a specific monetary course. For the first time in more than a year, they have dropped any reference to interest rates eventually rising.

 

At the same time, they’re also taking a less-rosy outlook for the economic climate, in Canada and globally.

 

What hasn’t changed, however, is the central bank’s biggest policy lever – its benchmark lending rate, which has remained at a near-record-low of 1% since September 2010 and which has been locked in by lower-than-anticipated inflation and lagging growth.

 

Today, those policymakers – now under the leadership of Stephen Poloz, who replaced Mark Carney in June – again kept that rate as is. They also downgraded growth estimates for Canada, despite some positive economic signs coming out of Europe and Asia, tempered by ongoing uncertainty over budget crises in the US.

 

Click here for the full Financial Post article.

 

The lowest possible rate is how many define a good mortgage. But that’s like judging the “best car” by the one with the lowest monthly payment.

 

Anyone who’s had to cough up a mortgage penalty or deal with refinance limitations can vouch for one thing: Mortgage restrictions can easily outweigh small (eg, 0.10 to 0.15 percentage point) differences in interest rates.

 

It’s tough to predict your refinance needs three or four years out. Statistics show that well over half of Canadians with a mortgage renegotiate before their term is up. And the average five-year borrower changes their mortgage every three-and-a-half years.

 

That’s why it often pays to trade a slightly lower rate for more flexibility, unless you know you won’t change your mortgage during its term. A cheap rate can certainly save hundreds of dollars up front. Just be sure it doesn’t cost thousands after closing.

 

Click here for The Ultimate Mortgage Checklist courtesy of the Globe and Mail.

 

“The longer it (low interest rates) goes on, the more people can start to think this is normal and it’s not normal; it’s very, very far from normal.” – Julie Dickson, OSFI Superintendent, September 23rd, 2013 via MortgageBrokerNews.ca.

 

When people hear an authority – like the head of Canada’s banking regulator – make these statements, it compels many to lock in to a long-term rate.

 

At the very least, it gets a whole lot of people wondering, “What are normal interest rates?”

 

If you ask many economists, “normal” is an overnight rate that’s 2.00 percentage points higher than today. If you ask a lender, “normal” may be the 20-year average of 5-year posted rates (ie, 157 bps higher than today) or the 20-year average of prime rate (which is 207 bps higher than today).

 

Click here for more details from CanadianMortgageTrends.com.

 

“Double, double, toil and trouble.” Written over 400 years ago by the Bard, this phrase from Shakespeare’s infamously dark play, Macbeth, could just as easily describe Canada’s real estate market in recent years.

 

On one side, there are international economists – and their much publicized reports – declaring the market to be overvalued and due for a sudden, corrective crash. Then there are the local analysts who oscillate between doom-and-gloom predictions and the potential for a soft landing. Caught in the middle are prospective homeowners and real estate investors who are just trying to negotiate a good deal.

 

That’s where MoneySense can help. While we don’t believe anyone should rush into the real estate market, we do think there are still good deals to be found. To help identify those deals, we performed a ground-breaking analysis of the real estate market to find out which neighbourhoods are set to soar in value in five of Canada’s largest cities.

 

Click here for the best value neighbourhoods from MoneySense.

 

Buyers of new homes should do their homework and be wary of builders who promise too much, says the man overseeing Ontario’s regulator for home builders.

 

Tarion President and CEO Howard Bogach is touring the province to promote the corporation’s work and warn of illegal building practices. The Ontario government created Tarion Warranty Corp in 1976 to regulate the building of new homes. It licences builders of new homes and condominiums and guarantees warranties.

 

Registered builders must have the technical competence and enough financing to allow them to absorb any losses that could arise during a home’s construction.

 

Bogach said buyers should “make the phone call” to learn if the builder’s registered. Its website at www.tarion.com also has a directory of registered builders.

 

Click here to read more from the Trentonian.

 

Cars are a problem in personal finance, but they’ve been getting a free ride.

 

The surge in home sales in recent years and its impact on family finances has received non-stop attention in the past couple of years. But a similar jump in car sales has mostly been treated as a business story about rising fortunes in the country’s most important manufacturing sector.

 

Cars are a voracious wealth destroyer – they burn both gas and money. Behind houses, they’re a top contributor to today’s high personal debt levels and inadequate saving. Thinking of jumping into what is expected to be a record year of new car buying in Canada? Back up for just a moment and reconsider.

 

Of course, houses are a bigger financial strain than cars. The average house price in Canada was $385,906 in September, while new cars averaged $26,755 last year. But houses are at least an appreciating asset. If you buy today, you can reasonably expect to see your home post average annual price increases at the inflation rate over the next 10 to 15 years. Cars bought today will have marginal value a decade from now compared to the purchase price.

 

Click here for the full Globe and Mail article.

 

The CMP Canadian Mortgage Awards are back with a focus on charity and ready to honour this year’s leading industry players.

 

Online nominations opened earlier this month, giving nominees even more time to campaign before the event kicks off May 9th at the Liberty Grand in Toronto.

 

New this year, CMP has put together a how-to video on nominations to guide you through the process and ensure finalists are, once again, drawn from across Canada’s broker channel. That aid, along with much more on the event’s future and history are available on the CMA website. Click here to access the video.

 

And, once again, organizers are publishing the judging criteria for each award on the same web portal, inviting you to review that list before making your nominations. But above and beyond the nominations themselves, CMP is also identifying leading brokers in all award categories as deserving of a nomination and consideration by the judges – a collection of experts drawn from within and outside the industry. You can find the criteria for all 21 awards by clicking here.

 

Click here to make your nominations today!

 

Be sure to review this information early and encourage your clients, referrals sources, industry partners, etc to nominate you for your award(s) of choice! Being proactive during the nomination process is much more likely to result in you becoming an awards finalist!

 

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