Canadians borrowing more against their homes

Fifteen per cent of Canadian homeowners took money out of their homes last year, at an average amount of $30,000, new data showed Wednesday.

New data from the Canadian Association of Accredited Mortgage Professionals Wednesday showed that Canadians took out $26 billion worth of equity from their homes in 2010, an increase on the $20 billion taken out in 2009.

The most popular use for those funds was home renovations, with 36 per cent of the 2,000 Canadians the group surveyed for the report saying that was their plans for the money they withdrew.

But investments (28 per cent) replaced debt consolidation (19 per cent) as the number two use of home equity takeout.

"As economic confidence returns in Canada, many survey respondents have told us they now feel comfortable using some of that equity to improve their homes and to invest," CAAMP CEO Jim Murphy said.

Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty are two high profile names who have repeatedly voiced concerns over Canadians' debt loads in recent months.

On average, Canadian homeowners have $222,000 in home equity, equal to 66 per cent of the value of their homes.

Approximately three million Canadians have no debt on their homes. And the report estimates that 79 per cent of mortgage holders have at least 25 per cent worth of equity in their homes, and roughly three per cent have "negative equity" — meaning they owe more on their home than it would be worth if they sold it.

The average down payment for a home purchased in the last 12 months was 30 per cent, up from 26 per cent for homes purchased two years ago.