The Hamilton Spectator

Private mortgages jump 72% in 2021


More Canadians are taking out private mortgages and holding on to them longer, posing a risk to the real estate market, according to a recent report. Some mortgage brokers warn the trend could have serious repercussi­ons, including a possible wave of defaults as overextend­ed borrowers grapple with rising rates and expenses.

In Ontario, private mortgages soared 72 per cent to $22.4 billion in 2021 from $13 billion in 2019, according to the report from the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario.

“That’s an enormous number,” said Ron Butler, mortgage broker of Butler Mortgages. “It’s impacting how many homes default.”

Around 20 per cent of mortgages in Ontario are now through private lenders, said Ron Alphonso, president of Mortgage Broker Store. Of that group, he forecasts the default rate will be approximat­ely five to 10 per cent. A default is when a homeowner can no longer make their monthly mortgage payments.

The number of clients who are unable to renew their mortgage will be three to five per cent, he added.

“If you can’t renew you need to either sell your home or you’ll go into a power of sale,” he said — instances where homeowners are forced to sell because they can no longer service their mortgage

The most recent available data shows that in 2021, 10.6 per cent of new mortgages were private, which has likely increased in 2022 after the Bank of Canada raised the overnight lending rate, making it more difficult for prospectiv­e homeowners to borrow from the banks.

Around two per cent of mortgages default in the GTA, but the increase in private mortgages is pushing the number in the range of 3.5 per cent to four per cent, Butler estimates.

Typically, prospectiv­e homebuyers have turned to private mortgage lenders when they’re unable to qualify at a Canadian bank. It can be a more attractive option as private lenders don’t require a stress test, unlike federally regulated banks.

For a private lender, the central determinin­g factor to give out the loan is the borrower’s equity, or total assets — whereas banks evaluate equity, income and credit.

It’s easier to take out a mortgage with a private lender but it comes with elevated interest rates, meaning the mortgagee is highly leveraged and therefore, vulnerable.

In the GTA, around 50 per cent of power of sales listed come from the private lending space, Butler said.

The Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario recommends the loan should not go on for longer than two years, due to high interest rates.

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