Make sure you can afford your dwelling since interest rates set to rise, says Kinsley
In 1981, Karen Kinsley was fresh out of university and thought she was a pretty tough negotiator after sealing a mortgage on a two-bedroom condo in Ottawa’s east end.
“I negotiated a vendor takeback mortgage and then negotiated a one-percent discount on the rate. I thought I got a great deal at 21 per cent,” says the University of Ottawa Commerce grad, who has risen up through the ranks at Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. and recently signed on for a second term as president and CEO of the crown corporation that oversees financing, new design and research initiatives to promote housing across the country.
“I was in my 20s and thought the condo was a palace,” says Kinsley, who has been named one of Canada’s most powerful women for the past three years by the Financial Post Magazine and Ottawa’s top CEO by the Ottawa Business Journal in 2009.
CMHC was also named one of the National Capital Region’s top employers by MediaCorp, a Toronto-based publishing company which collects data on employee benefits.
She calls herself a perfectionist who has a habit of dribbling a bit when sipping water or coffee. Two traits that help explain her dedication to the industry and an impish nature that bubbles up during a wideranging interview.
“I probably paid $80,000. It was 1,200 square feet, open concept and absolutely perfect for a young person,” says Kinsley, who stayed in her St. Laurent Boulevard palace for about three years before leaving for Toronto and a senior financial job with Bill Teron and his international development company.
The job and Teron changed her life, planting the seeds that have grown into her passion for the housing and development industry and a career that has her at the head of a complex organization with 2,100 employees at 700 Montreal Rd.
Just as Teron was returning to the private sector after his own stint as president of CMHC in the late ’80s, Kinsley was offered a six-month contract with CMHC in Ottawa. “I said, ‘Great. Something short term and maybe a bit of a break from the pace of working for the private sector.’
“I was wrong on both counts. Twenty years later, I am here and I never did get a break. I have to tell you, I have never regretted a day. It has never been boring and there is always a challenge or two.
“It’s a passion for me,” says Kinsley, who says her enthusiasm for the real estate sector has broadened through her career at CMHC.
Yet her concern for fiscal control and prudent buying has never varied, even as mortgage rates rise and dip.
“It doesn’t matter if mortgage rates are 21 per cent or three per cent. The bottom line is you’ve got to make sure you can afford what are getting into,” Kinsley says.
Interest rates are going to rise, she says, and there is room