How the Bond Market Affects Mortgage Rates
The Government of Canada, and all major nations, finance their activities and accumulated deficits, by issuing “bonds”. In the US they are known as “Treasuries” and in the UK “Gilts”. The duration and interest rate paid on new issues of these bonds depends upon the financial strategy of the Government in power. The accumulated outstanding amounts of these bond issues, past and present, is known as “the National Debt”. New issues are constantly required either to refinance maturing issues or finance current Government deficits, and a bond (say in $100,000 denominations) is considered a “commodity” by the market. Like every other commodity, its price can go up or down.
How Market Changes can Affect Mortgage Decisions
The single biggest dilemma for Canadian mortgage borrowers since 1992 has been whether or not to lock in to a long term mortgage or stay ‘short’. History has shown that, overall, it might have been better to stick with a short term or variable rate mortgage. That, however, is 20/20 hindsight, and many who locked in their mortgage at 6.75% in March of 1994 and then watched as rates zoomed through the roof when constitutional discord ravaged the Canadian dollar, would argue that they got the better of the deal. It remains to be seen what the next decade will hold. Let’s consider a few of the dynamics directly affecting rates, and then see how personal mortgage decisions might be affected.
- Stay ‘short’ with a 6 month convertible or variable rate mortgage, watching for indications that a long lasting upheaval warrants either a long-term lock-in or a ‘hedging’ strategy. This approach is for the ‘risk-taker’, or the borrower who can easily absorb significant rate hikes and is prepared to live with a reasonable average over the long haul.
- ‘Hedge’ your bets by either taking a protected variable rate mortgage with a ceiling at the current, 3 year posted rates; or a split-term mortgage with terms varying from 6 months to 5 years, in amounts which suit your risk tolerance level. This strategy is the best for those that are cautious, and possibly vulnerable to significant rate increases in the near term. or simply partners with different risk tolerances!
- Lock in now, after negotiating your best long term rate – as long as 10 years from some lenders. This dispels all concerns about the direction of the market, and gives the risk- averse borrower an opportunity to reduce their mortgage balance significantly before they are once again exposed to interest rate risk.