BMO mortgage rate drop good news for Calgary homebuyers

The mortgage rate drop by one of Canada's big banks is good news for Calgary homebuyers.

Bank dropped 5-year rate to 2.99 per cent Thursday

The Bank of Montreal dropped their five-year mortgage rate to 2.99 per cent Thursday, even after being scolded for trying to do the same last year amid fears that people would buy homes they can't afford. (CBC)

The mortgage rate drop by one of Canada's big banks is good news for Calgary homebuyers.

The Bank of Montreal became the first big bank to lower its five-year rate below three per cent, pegging the rate at 2.99 per cent Thursday. 

The move was criticized last year by the federal finance minister over concerns it would lead people to buy homes they couldn't afford. But some believe there's not a huge risk of that actually happening in Canada the way it did in the U.S.

"There's other authoritative voices out there that say, 'Look, there's no big deal going on here,'" said Jim Fischer, chair of finance at Mount Royal's Bisset School of Business. "If you look at the Conference Board of Canada, they note that mortgage arrears are not a big number right now. They're less than one per cent of all mortgages, which is very manageable."

Calgary resident Angie Quesnell says BMO's lower rate will save roughly $14,000 in interest payments over the life of the mortgage she shares with her husband.

She says the lower rate won't tempt them into spending more than they had planned to, but will help them save money.

"I think we're still kind of hoping to benefit from it in terms of saving as opposed to spending more," said Quesnell. "We really weren't expecting it."

Tighter rules keep industry sound

Fischer says a lot of the concern over people buying and losing homes they can't afford goes back to the meltdown of the U.S. housing market six years ago.

But that crisis never spread to Canada because lending rules are much tighter than in the U.S.

Since the economic meltdown sparked by the U.S. housing crisis, Canada has further tightened rules around who can get mortgages.

In 2012, finance minister Jim Flaherty introduced new rules to tighten the mortgage industry.

Those rules included limiting mortgage amortization terms to 25 years from 30 years and limiting the value of home equity loans that could be leveraged against a property's worth from a maximum of 85 per cent to 80 per cent.

The move ended up forcing many first-time home buyers to put their plans on hold.


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