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First-time homebuyers are maxed out, but confident

Canadians are not holding back when it comes to buying their first home. The annual mortgage consumer study by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation finds that 85% of first-time buyers are maxing-out their home-buying budgets.

The CMHC study indicates that affordability is the most important factor for both first-timers and repeat buyers, ahead of things like the condition of the home, the neighbourhood and distance to work.

More than half of recent homebuyers say other key concerns include unforeseen costs, paying too much for their property and rising interest rates. Still, 76% of first-time buyers are confident they will be able to meet their mortgage payments. Sixty percent of first-time buyers and 69% of repeat buyers claim to have sufficient assets, such as investments or other properties, which they could use to fund their mortgage if they needed to.

There is some support for this consumer confidence. Recent reports by the credit monitoring firms Equifax and TransUnion indicate the growth of consumer debt (non-mortgage) is slowing and delinquency rates are declining. At the same time the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions reports the quality of mortgage loans is improving.

Rising interest rates, foreign buyer taxes and tougher mortgage qualification rules appear to be cooling real estate sales and prices across the country but the Canadian Real Estate Association is maintaining a positive forecast.

The Bank of Canada is expected to bump-up its benchmark interest rate by a quarter-point – to 1.75% – on Wednesday.