With the markets anticipating central banks will lower interest rates next year, some fixed mortgage rates are the lowest they have been in months. But with all the economic uncertainty, new buyers and homeowners who need to renew still face some hard decisions.
Since the start of 2022, mortgage rates in Canada have soared amid the Bank of Canada’s interest rate hikes. However, for the first time since May, some lenders are now offering insured five-year fixed mortgages with interest rates below five per cent.
This is the result of lower bond yields, a reaction to the announcement from the U.S. Federal Reserve last week indicating three rate cuts in 2024, which could also mean rate cuts for other central banks around the world, like the Bank of Canada.
“The employment number is expected to rise in 2024, we’ve seen the inflation come down to 3.1 per cent,” Ottawa-based mortgage broker Frank Napolitano told CTV News. “As a result, the bond market has shifted their outlook to interest rates coming down in 2024.”
“I believe that first-time homebuyers have been sitting on the sidelines, and I believe that this is the optimism they were looking for with interest rates coming down,” he added.
Climbing mortgage rates have squeezed homeowners and become an obstacle for those looking to buy. Ottawa resident David Speakman has been waiting for two years to buy a home, but despite the rate reductions for fixed mortgages, he says he still plans to get a variable rate, anticipating further rate cuts.
“My sense is that the variable rates will fall faster than the fixed rates in the near future, and probably more than half of the term of my mortgage will be lower than the fixed rate, so in the long run I’ll be saving some money,” he told CTV News.
Most mortgage brokers anticipate rates will fall, but not to the lows of 1.39 per cent seen during the pandemic.
“I recommend all Canadians continue to save. Even if the rates drop by another quarter per cent or a half per cent, or a full percent, it’s still very unaffordable for many Canadians,” Victor Tran, mortgage and real estate expert with Ratesdotca, told CTV News Channel on Wednesday. Around 60 per cent of Canadian mortgages are up for renewal over the next three years, according to RBC, putting millions of homeowners at risk of shocking increases when their fixed-rate mortgages renew.
“Is four per cent a lot of relief for somebody that’s holding at 2.5 per cent fixed rate? You know, it’s better than six, but it’s not going to provide a ton of relief for those borrowers,” Vancouver-based mortgage broker Andy Hill said in an interview with CTV News. “There’s certainly going to be a renewal shock, regardless to how far rates go.”
And even though the bond markets are anticipating interest rates will go down, that doesn’t guarantee a rate cut. The Bank of Canada says it still needs months of data to ensure inflation is trending down. Meanwhile, a Tuesday report from Scotiabank economist Derek Holt says Canada’s inflation data “leans more towards a hike than a cut.”
“Everyone’s kind of starting to take that victory lap. But if inflation returns, that could mean rates are quite a bit higher for longer and I think that’s the big risk today,” Hill said.
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