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A 10% hike to mortgage payments would sink almost 3 quarters of homeowners, Manulife says

Financial Stress Vulnerability

Almost three quarters of Canadian homeowners would have difficulty paying their mortgage every month if their payments increased by as little as 10 per cent, a new survey from Manulife Bank suggests.

The bank polled 2,098 homeowners — between the ages of 20 to 69 with household incomes of $50,000 or higher — online in the first two weeks of February.

Because they aren’t randomized samples, polling experts say online polls don’t have a margin of error, but the survey nonetheless highlights just how tight the budgets are for many Canadians.

Fourteen per cent of respondents to Manulife’s survey said they wouldn’t be able to withstand any increase in their monthly payments, while 38 per cent of those polled said they could withstand a payment hike of between one and five per cent before having difficulty. An additional 20 per cent said they could stomach a hike of between six and 10 per cent before feeling the pinch.

Add it all up, and that means 72 per cent of homeowners polled couldn’t withstand a hike of just 10 per cent from their current record lows.

That’s a dangerous place to be with interest rates set to rise at some point.

“What these people don’t realize is that we’re at record low interest rates today,” said Rick Lunny, president and CEO of Manulife Bank.

If mortgage rates increase by as little as one percentage point, some borrowers could be facing a hike of 10 per cent on their monthly bills. A bigger mortgage rate hike would bring more pain.

In the survey, 22 per cent said they could handle a payment increase of between 11 to 30 per cent, while the remaining seven per cent didn’t know or were unsure.

Overall, nearly one quarter (24 per cent) of Canadian homeowners polled said they haven’t been able to come up with enough money to pay a bill in the past year. And most are not in good shape to weather any sort of financial storm — just over half of those polled had $5,000 or less set aside to deal with a financial emergency, while one fifth of them have nothing saved for a rainy day.

“When you put it into that context, they’re not really prepared for what is inevitable. Sooner or later, interest rates are going to rise,” Lunny said.

The survey found that 45 per cent of millennial homeowners — those aged between 20 to 35 — would have the most difficulty making their mortgage payment within three months or less if the primary income-earner in their families were to suddenly become unemployed.

Millennials were also the group that on average had the highest amount of outstanding mortgage debt, at $223,000, while gen X-ers (those aged 36 to 52) had an average of $202,000 owing. Baby boomers (ages 53 to 70) had $180,000.

Lunny said many millennials are unprepared to deal with a financial emergency due to a lack of financial literacy and soaring amounts of debt. That group has seen their mortgage debt rise more than any other generation, according to the survey.

The survey uncovered a few other differences between the generations. Almost half, or 45 per cent, of millennial homeowners said they received a financial gift or loan from their family when purchasing their first home. By comparison, just 37 per cent of Generation X and 31 per cent of baby boomers received help from family members when they first bought.

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