Home Equity Loans Allow Canadians To Leverage Housing Gains

By: Bruce Owens

Home equity loans can allow Canadian homeowners to leverage the gains they made in what was until recently a red-hot housing market into investments in other sectors. Home ownership, which was once the key fundamental to Canadians' wealth accumulation strategies, while still important, will likely take a back seat as a strategy in the near term as investment savvy home owners shift their accumulated wealth into other markets. Leveraging built up home equity is a highly advantageous method of making this switch in investment tactics.

The most recent economic forecasts indicate that Canada's overall housing market has settled into what will be a period of slow growth. Home owners who saw the equity in their homes grow by leaps and bounds as Canada enjoyed its longest sustained housing boom since the Second World War are now sitting on substantial capital that is locked up in their home. But the return on this capital will only grow moderately over the next several years and it is not clear that gains in housing prices will necessarily outstrip inflation.

The latest view from economists at the TD Bank Financial Group is that sales of new and existing homes are likely to continue to decline in the near term and housing prices will only increase modestly. TD's forecast is that "sales are likely to continue to decline in the coming quarters and price growth will slip to 2% on a national average basis in 2008 and rise only to 3.5% in 2009." They note that this national average will vary by regional markets, with some local markets that saw the biggest run ups in housing prices - such as those in Alberta and British Columbia - experiencing a drop in housing prices as regional markets adjust. But, they predict, "Most markets will see low to mid single-digit growth."

The Financial Post reports that most leading economist are expecting the Bank of Canada "to keep interest rates at 3% in 2008 before hiking them in 2009 as inflation becomes more of a concern and the U.S. economy picks up." Of course, as Canada's central banker hikes its lending rate, banks, trust companies and other financial institutions will raise their prime rates in due course.

With current low interest rates, homeowners looking for more continued and substantial growth in their existing assets can take out a home equity loan for investment purposes and purchase a risk balanced investment portfolio that is highly likely to carry a much better return than the moderate housing price increases that are forecast for the rest of 2008 and into 2009. The bonus is that the interest paid out on a home equity loan taken out for investment purposes is tax deductible. Effectively, the tax savings a typical homeowner/investor is likely to get will in most instances offset a large portion of the borrowing costs. If gains on the investment outstrip, as they should, the moderate gains forecast for housing purposes, homeowners who leverages their home equity in this manner will see real growth in their overall assets.

An abundance of caution should of course be used when leveraging your home equity in this manner. Ensuring that the investment portfolio you choose is well balanced is a key. Working with an experienced and knowledgeable financial planner is highly recommended, as is working with a mortgage broker to access the best available rates and terms for a home equity loan while interest rates remain at their current low level.

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