Mortgages: A Brief History

​Fun facts on how mortgage loans have evolved through the years.

 
Taking on a mortgage is the most common way Ontarians can get a piece of the housing market – and has been for a long time. The mortgage industry dates back hundreds of years. But while the purpose of these loans has stayed the same, they’ve evolved from a simple repayment plan to a much more complex financial transaction.
 
Mortgages originated in England when people did not have the resources to purchase land in one transaction. Buyers would get loans directly from the seller – no banks or outside parties were involved. Unlike today, purchasers were not able to live on the land until the entire amount was paid. And, if they failed to keep up with payments, they would forfeit their right to the land as well as any prior payments they made to the seller.
 
By the 1900s most mortgages involved long-term loans where only monthly interest was paid while the borrower saved towards repayment of the original sum. Major world events, like the Great Depression of the 1920s and the two World Wars however, led to many borrowers being unable to repay even the interest on a property that was often now worth less than their original loan, and many lenders carrying a loan that was not secured by the value of the property.
 
This resulted in the introduction of long-term fully amortized mortgages that repaid some of the principal and some of the interest each month in a payment that was fixed for upwards of 25 years.
 
The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) was created in 1946 to administer the National Housing Act and today sells mandatory mortgage loan insurance when the buyer is putting less than 20 per cent down on the price of their new home. Mortgage loan insurance compensates lenders when borrowers default on their mortgage loans.
 
The rise of inflation in the 1970s altered mortgages into the products we know now. As interest rates climbed, lenders and borrowers found themselves locked into fully amortized loans that didn’t reflect interest rate changes. The creation of the partially amortized mortgage, which protects both lenders and borrowers from fluctuations in the market, mean that instead of 20- to 30-year terms, one, three or five-year terms amortized across 20 to 25 years have become a better option. Partially amortized mortgages are now one of the most common mortgage types in Canada.
 
Making the down payment for a mortgage easier to attain, the Home Buyer’s Plan, which allows Canadians to withdraw money from their Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs) on a tax-free basis to buy a home, was introduced by the Canadian government in 1992.
 
On July 1, 2008, under the Mortgage Brokerages, Lenders and Administrators Act, 2006 [New Window], the Government of Ontario has required all businesses and individuals who conduct mortgage brokering activities in the province to be licensed with the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO). Mortgage brokers and agents play a big role in the mortgage process, with 51 per cent of first-time home buyers using their services according to a 2016 CMHC survey. Under the Act, all mortgage brokers and agents need to meet specific education, experience, and suitability requirements with the goal of increased consumer protection, competition and professionalism in the industry.
 
Mortgages have evolved from repayments that provided protection and benefits only for the landowner, to a system in which both the borrower and the lender can enter into the transaction with confidence.
 

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