Photo: James Bombales

BC home sales may have sharply declined since new mortgage rules were introduced last year, but lower mortgage rates are going to provide a shot in the arm for the Lower Mainland, a new report suggests.

In a Mortgage Rate Forecast published March 28th, the British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA) predicts mortgage rates are going to continue their descent in the coming months.

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BCREA predicts the average discounted five-year fixed-rate will remain between 3.30 and 3.44 percent over the next three quarters, below the current 3.60 percent level.

While Brendon Ogmunsdon, BCREA’s deputy chief economist, tells Livabl this will “boost” sales activity in the Lower Mainland through the spring and summer months, mortgage stress testing is going to remain a headwind for the rest of the year.

“We expect the B20 mortgage stress test to still weigh heavily on home sales for the remainder of the year,” writes Ogmunsdon in an email.

In January 2018, federal policymakers expanded mortgage stress testing to uninsured mortgages via Guideline B-20, which is the result of recommendations from federal watchdog the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions.

The change means that even homebuyers who put forward a downpayment of 20 percent or higher now need to qualify at a rate that is 200 basis points over the contract rate that their lender is offering. Before that, the testing only applied to insured mortgages (if a homebuyer can’t muster a downpayment of at least 20 percent, they require mortgage insurance).

BCREA recently charted how far provincial home sales have fallen since the stress testing was broadened.

In February, BC home sales were down 27 percent compared to the same time last year, while the average price was down 9.3 percent to $678,625.

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