Canadians remain fiscally responsible, survey says: Unlikely to extend themselves when buying house

While increasing debt has raised concerns south of the border, most Canadians exercise caution when it comes to financing their homes, according to Mortgage Intelligence Inc., a GMAC company.

In a nationwide online survey of over 600 borrowers by Millward Brown, Inc., Mortgage Intelligence found the vast majority of Canadians at 95 per cent have financed primary residences. 

The survey also found 69 per cent of Canadians chose fixed-rate mortgages over variable-rate mortgages. 

Forty-eight per cent of primary mortgages held in Canada are under $100,000.

Nearly 50 per cent of Canadians took advantage of their prepayment options, choosing to make lump sum payments or increase payment amounts.

“These findings certainly paint Canadians in a positive light when it comes to fiscal responsibility,” said Karl Wondrak, president of Mortgage Intelligence. 

“Most Canadians are unlikely to overextend themselves when it comes to buying a home. 

“Peace-of-mind plays a major role in the purchase, as indicated by the preference for fixed-rate mortgages. Although, most lock in for a five-year term, longer terms of 10, 15, 20, and 25 years are increasing in popularity,” he added.

Low or no-down programs have proven attractive to Canadians, with 16 per cent placing five per cent or less down on their homes. Thirty-eight per cent of Canadians placed five to 15 per cent down on their homes.

“Given rising housing values, the ability to purchase a home with less than five per cent down has been a tremendous boon to many young buyers,” said Wondrak. 

“In the past, the ability to amass a down payment proved to be a substantial obstacle for many first-time purchasers, despite the fact that they more than qualified in terms of carrying monthly mortgage payments.

“Today, these homeowners are gaining equity on their homes at a rate that can outpace their ability to save five per cent down.”

Younger buyers have been a strong component of the mortgage market, with 27 per cent of borrowers under 32 years of age. 

Baby boomers also weighed in heavily, with one-in five-mortgagees between 49 and 59 years old.

“The rate of residential mortgage arrears in this country — hovering at approximately 0.25 per cent — is at its lowest level since 1990,” said Wondrak. “That’s significantly lower than our American counterparts.

“Caution has not been thrown to the wind despite a very favourable borrowing climate. Rather, most Canadians, financially speaking, remain firmly grounded. It’s doubtful we’ll see any sudden shift in that regard,” he added.

Although there were some slight regional differences in the data, most statistics were on par with national data.

Surveys of this size are deemed accurate to within four percentage points 19 times out of 20.