Toronto condo buyers scrambling to close deals

Something serious is happening in town …

Mortgage brokers have seen a surge in people who bought pre-construction condos a few years ago and are now “scrambling” to get financing to close deals.

Mortgage brokers, realtors and developers have seen a surge the last few months in people who bought pre-construction condos two to three years ago “scrambling” to get financing to close deals.

Some have had to walk away from deposits worth tens of thousands of dollars. Others have been forced to borrow from family — or against their principal residence — to come up with final payments on condos that lenders are no longer keen to finance, according to interviews with a number of players in Toronto’s condo industry.

Hardest hit have been the self-employed who had pre-approvals from lenders when they bought their pre-construction units. But now, with the unit almost complete and final payments due, they are being told they need 35 to 50 per cent down, instead of just 20 per cent of the purchase price, unless they want to rely on secondary lenders offering rates that can hit double digits.

Many investors who bought units intending to flip them on completion, or rent them out for a few years, have also been shocked to find they thought they had pre-approvals, but they are no longer being honoured in the wake of tighter lending rules imposed by Ottawa.

Toronto real estate lawyer Oksana Miroutenko has had two cases in the last few months where clients took interim occupancy of their new condos, only to find out weeks later, when final payments were due, that they couldn’t meet new, more stringent, financing conditions.

One worked contract jobs that didn’t bring in a steady enough income to satisfy lenders. Another, who forfeited $35,000 in deposits, became pregnant and her husband lost his job after they’d purchased and been preapproved, says Miroutenko.

“This is the hardest environment I’ve seen for borrowing money in the last 10 years,” says Toronto realtor and condo developer Brad Lamb.

Financial analyst and long-time housing watcher Ben Rabidoux believes these are just the first “cracks” in Toronto’s housing market and could worsen next year when a record number of new condos — estimates range from about 20,000 to almost 43,000 depending on construction bottlenecks — are expected to be completed.

“An estimated 85 per cent of condo units under construction in Toronto have been sold, but they’ve not (all) been sold to end users, and buyers have not yet been financed,” Rabidoux says in a recent note to investor clients. “Therein lies the problem.”

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