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Alberta Canada Foreclosures Mortgages

Record number of Albertans in mortgage arrears

The real estate bulls out there will say I’m being sensational… and I’ll say, gee thanks! I always thought I was pretty good, but sensational?! Really?! I mean, I’ve been working out, and my girlfriend has told me I’m the best she’s ever had… but I’ve told her the same thing… and lets just say I know for a fact at least one of us is lying. Not saying which one of us though.

Where was I? Oh yeah, sensationalizing. Okay, yes, yes my title is somewhat sensationalized… but it is also true, and if the pushers out there can cherry pick figures, why not I?!

By now I’m sure you’re all wondering what I’m rambling about, so, lets get on with the show. Today the Canadian Bankers Association released their January numbers of Canadians in arrears on their mortgages, complete with provincial breakdowns.

As the title implies, as of January, there are more Albertans in arrears on their mortgages then anytime since they started recording such things. A graph of that can be found here:

As of January, 2,168 Albertans were three months or more behind in their mortgages. The first time it has eclipsed the 2,000 mark. The previous high water mark February 1997 when it was 1,835, and that number stood until December last.

As you can see, during the boom the number took a big dive, bottoming out in May of 2007 at just 649… since the market has cooled though, the number or those in arrears has skyrocketed up more then three-fold, increasing by more than 100 per month through 2008.

Now, some will argue it’s not really fair to compare straight numbers because the population has swelled greatly, as has the number of mortgages outstanding… and I agree. I just wanted to justify my “sensational” title… now we’ll get on to a better measure, the ratio of mortgages in arrears to the total number of mortgages.

So yeah, by this measure things aren’t so bad… yet anyway. Currently we are sitting at 0.45% of mortgages being in arrears. Slightly above the long term average of 0.37%, but well below the previous high of 0.69% in February 2007.

What should be troubling is that this number is rising quite rapidly, having bottomed out at 0.14% in June of 2007, and increasing every month since, and more then doubling since a year prior.

Some may blame the recent downturn in the economy for this, but remember, the stock markets and oil didn’t plunge until autumn of 2008… and this measure is only of those at least three months in arrears as of January. So the effects of that shouldn’t really be seen yet.

We should also remember all the layoffs that started hitting in the new year, piled up quickly, and continue to… the number of those in arrears is bound to really take off as for savings erode and EI benefits start to expire. When the full effects of that is felt this figure could very well surpass those heights reached in 1997.

Rising numbers of those in arrears will obviously increase the number of foreclosures, and should those start hitting the market en masse its going to put even more downward pressure on prices. This is an emerging issue, and something that will be very interesting to track over the next couple years.

For those curious, here is how Alberta stacked up against the national average:

Alberta was in the same range as the rest of the country, especially since 1995. Since 1990 the national average has been 0.42%, while Alberta came in at 0.37% as mentioned earlier. Also interesting to note that the rate has started to increase nationally over the last six months, and currently stand at 0.36%.

For an idea of how the rest of the provinces stacked up, here is the chart for western Canada.

Here we can see the western provinces have been pretty close for the last decade. It is interesting to see how much of an outlier Saskatchewan was during the early 90′s. Since 1990 B.C. has had the lowest average in the nation at 0.32%, Alberta was second. Saskatchewan (0.54%) and Manitoba (0.49%) on the other hand were on the opposite end of the spectrum.

Here is the eastern half of the country. Quebec is a bit more erratic then the rest, but nothing like Saskatchewan. The average for Ontario was 0.41%, Quebec was 0.49%, and the Atlantic provinces come in at 0.41%.