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Rising interest rates hit mortgage holders

Mortgage rates still near 40-year lows, but costs increasing for families

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"Most people have to rethink things a little at this point, be a little more conscious of (interest rates)," he said. "It hasn’t moved enough to cause serious hardship, but if things keep going like they’re going…"

Stacey has been in Whistler since 1977, and says mortgage rates are still within 40 year lows despite the recent increases. In the early and mid-1980s mortgage rates were in the range of 20 per cent, and he remembers two properties on Alta Lake that were mortgaged at 21 per cent at the five year rate.

"When things went down to 11.5 per cent, people thought they’d died and gone to heaven," he said. "And it’s not that long ago when a good deal was an 8.5 per cent rate.

"So if you put it into the big perspective, taking into account disposable income and everything else, home ownership is still more affordable for more Canadians than it has been in quite a while."

Pat Kelly of the Whistler Real Estate Company says while the increases might be small, every increase has the potential to impact young families and people living in staff housing.

"If it gets to the point where they may not be able to pay the price every month, they may have to buy less or not at all," he said. "If (realtor) Stuart Munro is right and we won’t be able to sell a single family staff home in Rainbow for less than $650,000, a half a point increase could mean an extra $300 to $400 a month for a family – that’s approximate, not having the exact numbers in front of me, but whatever that number is it could be the difference between buying a home or not."

Kelly says he has not seen a direct impact from interest rates on the Whistler market yet, but said that people are definitely more concerned about rates than in recent years. Some buyers are deciding to act now rather than wait, hoping to lock into a lower fixed rate mortgage in case rates continue to increase.

"Rates are up about 50 per cent over the last year and a half, and that’s a big increase in your cost of living if you have a variable rate mortgage," he said. "Anytime you increase the cost of borrowing money that has to have an impact somewhere."

The most recent increases have not impacted what Kelly calls the "wealth market" – people who buy properties in Whistler with discretionary income. He says that market represents about 80 to 85 per cent of home sales.