Are you getting nervous about the housing market?


Editor”s note: We apologize as the Friday issue of the newsletter was sent earlier today in error. Here is today”s newsletter. Enjoy!

The federal government’s new housing rules started to kick in on Monday, and that means growing speculation about what’s ahead for the residential real estate market. A few cities – Ottawa and St. John’s are examples – saw price declines last month, but Toronto, Hamilton, Calgary, Victoria, Montreal and Halifax were all up solidly. Meanwhile, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. is signaling that it will increase the risk rating on the country’s residential real estate market.

How’s your confidence in housing holding up? To find out how people are feeling, I asked members of my Facebook personal finance community to rank their anxiety about housing on a scale of one (not worried at all) to 10 (very afraid). At one extreme, someone described their anxiety level at 11 for the Greater Toronto Area.

Another person pegged her level at just one “because we sold and are now renting…” Still another said he’s not as concerned as he was when mortgage rates hit 18 per cent back in the early 1980s. As this chart shows, five-year fixed rate mortgages actually peaked at 21.5 per cent back then.

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Today’s featured reader comment: Where to retire
A recent edition of the newsletter looked at how to find an ideal city or community to retire in. It prompted this e-mail from a reader: “My wife and I returned to Canada after an absence of 14 years. We are originally Ontarians, and we decided to limit ourselves to our home province when selecting a town to retire to. Our criteria were: good communications, good transportation, good hospitals and a reasonable cost of housing. We quickly centred on Cobourg/Port Hope. We now live in Cobourg and are delighted with our decision. Close enough to Toronto if we need a fix, but far enough away from the hustle and bustle to be able to enjoy the lake and the people. Give this area a look when you are ready to make the big move!”

Ask Rob
The question: “There’s a lot of information out there about how to pay off your mortgage faster, but very little about what to do when you can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. What’s the best strategy when your mortgage is up for renewal and you have a small balance ($20,000)?”

My reply: I wrote a column not too long ago on the fees that lenders may hit you with if you try to pay off your mortgage in full before the maturity date. Use the built-in prepayment privileges in your mortgage if you want, but don’t get over-anxious and pay off the balance ahead of schedule. Also, spend some time thinking about how you can productively reallocate your mortgage payments once you have paid in full. For many people, re-directing mortgage payments to retirement savings makes good sense.

Do you have a question for me? Send it my way. Sorry I can’t answer every one personally. Questions and answers are edited for length.

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