HOMEFINDER: Some risks involved with new B.C. mortgage program

A new government program that can see first-time homebuyers become eligible for a down-payment loan may not be all it’s cracked up to be.

A new government program that can see first-time homebuyers become eligible for a down-payment matching loan may not be all it’s cracked up to be, warn some industry experts.

“It’s tough when you’re trying to get your first home,” said Cheryl Johns, a West Shore broker with the Dominion Lending Centres Modern Mortgage Group Corp.

While the government loan will allow some homebuyers to reach the 10-per-cent down level, she said, that loan will be considered debt and must be taken into account when determining how much home potential homeowners can afford. “It could just be giving (them) more debt … I don’t know how much it’s going to help at this point.”

Starting in 2017, first-time homebuyers in B.C. may apply for an extra loan, which will remain interest- and payment-free for five years. The government will match buyers’ down payment loan savings up to $37,500 on homes costing $750,000 or less, and buyers must live in the home for the first five years. After that the 25-year amortization loan will revert to a market rate mortgage and the homeowners need not maintain the property as their principal residence.

While lenders and mortgage insurance agencies have yet to announce how this new loan will affect the way they deal with clients, Johns said mortgage brokers are waiting to see how it will translate for potential buyers. “Every situation is going to be a little different,” she noted.

Other unknowns could see first-time buyers taking on more risk. If the market fell, Johns said, homeowners would have less equity in the home, which could affect their ability to purchase their next home. She did note that for anyone expecting to come into money – such as an inheritance or a bonus – who is able to repay the loan within five years, the program could be a great aid.

Asked whether the loan program could result in more buyers looking for homes under $750,000 – and potentially driving up prices at the lower end of the market – Johns wondered how much higher prices could go. “(But) there isn’t much inventory out there for first-time buyers or anyone.”

Between this latest announcement and other new mortgage regulations rolled out a couple months ago, she said it’s best to talk with a professional about the options. She encouraged individuals to set up an appointment, even if they are just considering whether to get into the market.

“There’s still some uncertainty. I want to believe it’s a good thing, but we’ll just have to see,” Johns said.

– with files from Katya Slepian/Black Press

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