Canadians are carrying more mortgage debt than ever before, with the total crossing the $1 trillion threshold for the first time, according to a new report released Monday.

The annual report from the Canadian Association of Accredited Mortgage Professionals finds that Canada's total outstanding mortgage debt was $1.0008 trillion as of August 2010.

"Over the past 15 years, the volume of outstanding residential mortgages has expanded by 194 per cent, or a growth rate of 7.5 per cent per year," the report says.

The current growth rate marks a slowdown from a few years ago. From 2004 to 2008 Canada's mortgage debt was growing at a rate of 10 per cent per year, but eased off as a result of the recession and hit 7.6 per cent in the most recent 12 month period.

The report paints a positive picture of Canada's mortgage market, saying Canadian homeowners are comfortable with their mortgage debt, have "significant equity" and could even handle an increase in their interest rate.

"Canadians are being smart and responsible with their mortgages," said Jim Murphy, president and CEO of CAAMP, in a release.

"They are building equity in their homes and making informed, long-term mortgage decisions. The survey results speak to the strength of our mortgage market, especially when compared to the United States."

Here are some key findings from the sixth Annual State of the Residential Mortgage Market study:

  • In total 84 per cent of Canadians with mortgages could afford to pay more per month on their mortgage.
  • A total of 35 per cent have either increased their payments or made lump sum payments to their mortgage in the past year.
  • Roughly 89 per cent have at least 10 per cent equity in their homes and 80 per cent have 20 per cent equity.
  • The average amount of equity among homeowners is about $146,000 or 50 per cent of the value of their homes.

In terms of interest rates, the report found that the average rate is 4.22 per cent, down from 4.55 per cent a year earlier. Among those who have financed or renewed a mortgage in the past year, the rate is 3.75 per cent.

Because most Canadians express concern about the possibility of rising interest rates, the report looked at how an increase would affect homeowners.

"The average amount of room is $1,056 per month on top of their current costs," the report states.

"Combining other data from the survey, it appears that a vast majority of mortgage holders have considerable capacity to afford rises in mortgage interest rates."

According to the survey, 84 per cent of Canadians could afford an increase of $300 per month or more.

About 6 per cent of homeowners would have trouble with an increase of less than 1 per cent of their interest rate payment, and a further 5 per cent would have trouble with an increase of between 1 and 1.49 per cent.

Interestingly, most people surveyed agreed with the statement that "real estate in Canada is a good long-term investment" and most said the recent economic slowdown hasn't affected their real estate plans.

Very few of those surveyed said they regretted taking on the size of mortgage they did.

When asked about the future of their local housing market, people in Quebec had the most hopeful outlook among the provinces.

Here are the average results when Canadians were asked to rate their local community out of 10, in terms of how much housing prices will rise in the next year.

  • Quebec: 6.68
  • Ontario: 6.07
  • Manitoba: 6.03
  • Saskatchewan: 6.17
  • Alberta: 5.78
  • B.C.: 5.90
  • Atlantic provinces: 6.07

The report was written by CAAMP Chief Economist Will Dunning, based on information gathered by Maritz Research Canada in a survey of Canadian consumers conducted in October 2010.