Photo: Kasey Eriksen/Flickr

BC home sales were in a freefall last year, with the number of residential properties changing hands down 24.5 percent compared to 2017 — and the main reason for this was mortgage stress testing.

At least that’s how the British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA) sees it.

“The sharp decline in affordability caused by the B20 mortgage stress test is largely to blame for [the] decline in consumer demand last year,” writes Cameron Muir, chief economist at BCREA who reports sales totalled 78,345 units last year.

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The B20 guidelines, which were created by banking-system watchdog the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, were introduced by the federal government at start of 2018.

The guidelines expanded mortgage stress testing, which meant that moving forward borrowers needed to qualify at a higher rate than they were signing on for, even if they were able to cobble together a 20-percent downpayment for an uninsured loan.

Some buyers rushed to get approved before the new rules kicked in, and it’s easy to see why. A July 2018 report from Mortgage Professionals Canada, an industry association, suggested 18 percent of potential homebuyers — who could otherwise afford their preferred purchase — would fail the stress test.

“We estimate that to this point (July 2018), about 100,000 Canadians have actually been prevented from buying a home as a result of stress testing now required by the federal government (even though they could have afforded to buy based on their actual circumstances),” writes economist Will Dunning, who penned the report.

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