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Mortgage Default Insurance and CMHC: The Untold Story

First-time homeownership is a rite of passage into adulthood. It is a very thrilling time in life right now. It can, however, also be extremely overwhelming. You absolutely require a down payment. How much though? Are you able to pay for it? With as little as 5% down, first-time homebuyers can get a piece of the real estate action thanks to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).

That is a fantastic offer. The hitch is that buyers who are unable to make the customary 20 percent down payment must be approved for mortgage default insurance. CMHC can help in this situation. What is mortgage default insurance and who is CHMC?

Who is the CMHC?

The CMHC has existed since at least 1940. Its main purpose when it was once known as the Wartime Accommodation Corporation was to assist veterans who had just returned from combat in finding decent housing. The Wartime Housing Corporation was replaced by the Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation in 1946. The organization was renamed the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation by 1979. (CMHC). Its present goal is to make it easier for Canadians to find high-quality houses at reasonable prices. Canadians who cannot afford homes on the private market are assisted by CMHC.

What is Insurance Against Mortgage Default?

In Canada, a down payment for a property can be as low as 5%. That’s much less than the customary 20% down payment needed for a standard mortgage. The staggering average price of a home in Canada, according to CBC, is $688,000. That is a $138,000 down payment, or 20 percent. It becomes a high ratio mortgage if you don’t put down 20% of the purchase price, and it can only be amortized for a maximum of 25 years, as opposed to 30 years for normal mortgages. Saving up a six-figure downpayment is simply not a possibility for many Canadians.

By giving your mortgage lender mortgage default insurance, CMHC enables you to make a 5 percent down payment. Mortgage default insurance is a type of insurance that guards against financial loss for your lender in the event that you are unable to make your mortgage payments and go into default. It costs money in the form of premiums because it is an insurance policy, just like any other kind of insurance policy. Naturally, your lender will charge you for such premiums because they do not want to cover the expense. The sum of those premiums is applied to the outstanding debt on your mortgage.

How Do I Meet the Requirements for Mortgage Default Insurance?

If you want to be eligible for mortgage default insurance from CMHC, you must fulfill the following criteria:

  • The house must not cost more than $1,000,000 to purchase.
  • You must put down a down payment of at least 5% on the first $500,000 of the buying price and a further 10% on the balance.
  • A loan cannot be used for the down payment.
  • The mortgage stress test must be passed.

You need to pass the mortgage stress test to be eligible for a CMHC mortgage. This estimate evaluates your capacity to cover a fictitious increase in your monthly mortgage payment in the event that interest rates rise. Your gross monthly housing expenses, such as your mortgage payment, property insurance, property taxes, and utilities, are measured by your gross debt service. The total of all those expenses is divided by your gross monthly revenue. Housing-related expenses shouldn’t total more than 32% of your gross monthly income.

Your entire monthly debt service responsibilities, which include payments for credit cards, lines of credit, auto and school loans, and other debts, are added together with all of your housing-related expenses. The ratio of your total monthly housing expenses and debt payments to your total monthly income is determined. Your total monthly loan payments shouldn’t be more than 40% of your gross revenue. A traditional, federally regulated lender, such as one of Canada’s big 6 banks, will not accept you for a mortgage if you fail the stress test, nor will you be able to purchase mortgage default insurance through CMHC. 

However, there are alternative lenders who will fund subprime borrowers for people who do not meet standard qualification conditions. Additionally, there are other suppliers of mortgage default insurance that will provide coverage for borrowers who do not meet CHMC requirements.

Who Offers Insurance Against Mortgage Default?

The phrase “CMHC” has grown so commonplace in the mortgage market that it now refers to all types of mortgage default insurance. Though not the only organization assisting Canadians in accessing the real estate market is CMHC. There are two additional providers of default mortgage insurance:


Actually, they are Canada’s largest privately held mortgage default insurance, not CMHC, and were once known as Genworth Financial. However, they collaborate with lending institutions to offer mortgage default insurance to borrowers with high ratio mortgages, exactly like CMHC does. But they do provide mortgage default insurance to lenders for subprime borrowers who don’t fit the CMHC eligibility criteria.

Assurance Canada

This privately held Canadian company offers many of the same goods and services as SagenTM. In order to help subprime borrowers obtain a mortgage and become homeowners, they have partnered with significant private investors and unconventional lenders to offer mortgage default insurance and novel lending solutions.


Many Canadians must make standard down payments in the hundreds of thousands of dollars in today’s housing market in order to be approved for the coveted conventional mortgage. But millions of people just do not have access to that, which further elevates the dream of homeownership to the realm of fantasy. Every day, the CMHC and the other two mortgage default insurance carriers fill the gap for loyal, diligent Canadians. However, is mortgage default insurance really the cure-all that we believe it to be? 

According to CBC, the average cost of a home in Canada is approximately $688,000. If you had to save up a six-figure down payment, how long would it take? Even though I work in finance, I couldn’t do it. It’s tempting to imagine that the CMHC and mortgage default insurance are acting as a kind of heavenly check on the forces driving up real estate prices. But is the price tag justified? More importantly, have you even been informed of it? Even if it means being a renter, knowing the hidden costs of mortgage default insurance will help you make the best choice for you.

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