Thursday, February 26, 2015

Big banks boost condo financing even as unsold units in Toronto hit 21-year high

Published in Business/
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TORONTO — The Bank of Nova Scotia is among lenders boosting loans to condominium developers as regulators become less vocal about housing-market risk, according to Canada’s third-biggest bank.

Scotiabank is financing as much as 75% of a condo project’s value and others are doing the same, according to Chris Milne, vice-president of real estate lending at the bank. That’s up from about 70% in the past, when banks were concerned “there may be a meltdown” and regulators were more vocal about residential market risk, Mr. Milne said.
“The banks are back out there lending in the condo sector,” Mr. Milne said at a Toronto real estate conference Tuesday. “There is a hole that the banks are looking to fill. The regulators were really pounding them a year and a half ago and now it’s quiet.”
Banks are boosting financing to condo developers even as the number of unsold units in Canada’s largest city reached a 21-year high in January. There are about 1,600 unsold units on the market following a record number of completions in January, according to a report from Sal Guatieri, senior economist at Bank of Montreal.
Federal regulators have eased warnings on the real estate market compared with the late Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and former Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney, Mr. Milne said. Mr. Flaherty backed several mortgage rule changes that tightened scrutiny of the so-called Big Six banks while Mr. Carney often commented on the risk of record consumer debt.
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