“Today [16 Feb 2012] the UBC Faculty Association hosted a lecture titled “Is Real Estate Part of Your Financial Plan?” as part of their Financial Planning Lecture Series. The speaker was Tom Davidoff, Assistant Professor at UBC Sauder School of Business. In the past Prof. Davidoff had been interviewed on CTV, and discussed on this blog.” [1. 'Tom Davidoff, Sauder School of Business, UBC - "There's not going to be any free lunch in Vancouver. There's no entitlement to own a nice home in the most beautiful place on earth. So I think people need to be prepared just to accept that reality.", VREAA, 1 Dec 2012; 2. 'Tom Davidoff, Sauder School of Business, UBC - Clarification', VREAA, 2 Dec 2012; 3. 'Tom Davidoff Knows About RE Cycles', VREAA, 4 Dec 2012 -ed.]
“Today’s lecture was fantastic. He did not adopt a dogmatic bull or bear stance, but instead was quite pragmatic.”
“His main points were:
1) It’s ok to rent
2) Discussion of legitimate rationalizations of owning
3) Vancouver price future is uncertain with clear downside risk
4) Vancouver is not going to be cheap anytime soon
5) Owning housing can be viewed as both risk and insurance.”
The slides from his talk are available here, and here:
“I jotted down some interesting remarks, some of which are taken from the slides:
– (concerning slide 4) “If you want something to be distressed about, try this. Vancouver vs Seattle: the rents are the same, but prices are 40-50% greater, even though the tax rules tell us it should be the other way around.”
– (concerning slide 13) “Prices here have risen way faster than rents. This is worrisome and reason to be pessimistic”
– “Vancouver is the nicest city in China” (slide 19)
– “Short run risk of bubble collapse in China” (slide 19)
– “There is a risk of a bubble. Prices could absolutely fall 50%.”
– “There are other nice cities on the coast, but you can’t buy citizenship there like you can in Canada”
– “20-50% of sales are mainland Chinese buyers” (did not state precisely where or what)
– “If you need a 20% downpayment on a $1m home, which in Vancouver is a starter home, and not a very nice one, then it will be very hard to achieve this [if you a UBC employee] with a PhD in English”
“I commend Prof. Davidoff for being the first Sauder faculty (that I have seen) to publicly give a useful and rational discussion of the Vancouver housing market. I apologize for any erroneous quotations.”
- the above account and commentary from ‘Anonymous UBC Professor’ forwarded to VREAA via e-mail 16 Feb 2012
Thanks, indirectly, for the talk, Tom Davidoff; and thanks for the reporting thereof, ‘Anonymous UBC Professor’.
For those of us who weren’t at the talk, the pdf slides give a fairly good idea of the material covered. It’d be great if video, or audio, or transcription, of the entire talk emerges.
Davidoff discusses Vancouver rent vs buy, and pricing, in a more complex and more subtle way than we have seen elsewhere. Ideas regarding interpersonal differences in desire for mobility and stability involve important (and very difficult) calculations.
He honestly states that there is a possibility of large magnitude price drops, and is open about his lack of certainty going forward. When Tom states: “Easy to see downside risks; Easy to envision long run growth”, we wonder about how he would weight the probabilities of various different outcomes.
What are his best guesstimates regarding chances of ongoing growth; chances of a crash?
When a careful student of RE markets says “I can’t say if we’re in a bubble or not”, and “Prices could absolutely fall 50%”, but also “It’s easy to envision long run growth”, how are prudent owners and prospective buyers to respond?
When we ourselves join the available dots that the current market lays out, we continue to see very prominent downside risk, with only a very small chance of an ongoing price growth scenario. But we, too, acknowledge lack of complete certainty.
Isn’t that always the way in markets?: One can never be certain, but, one way or another, you have to take a position. You assess and weigh the probability of various outcomes as best you can, and then make decisions about how to position yourself, keeping in mind the consequences of various outcomes, and the particular effects they could have on you. Thus, a couple in their 20′s with 5% down on a condo, and a retired couple worth $10M who own their own $3M westside home outright, may have very little quality of life to lose from a RE crash, and may happily go on owning. But a 58 year old with 3 dependents, inadequate retirement funds, and more than their entire net-worth in a $1.3M east-side house, may suffer devastating consequences from the very same crash. We’d expect the 58 year old to be worried about even a low probability of crash outcome, because the consequences would be so dire, and for them to take up a more defensive stance towards their RE exposure. At what ‘best estimate level of crash-probability’ should the 58 year old sell? 30%? 15%? 5%?
Davidoff is reluctant to jump on what he appears to see as some kind of ‘bubble-caller bandwagon’. Perhaps his perspective is at least partly the result of his US post-bubble experience, where, post-implosion, everybody came out of the woodwork with “we-knew-all-along” fudging. Here in Vancouver itself, ‘bubble callers’, amazingly, remain in the small contrarian minority. Tom says “Many are willing to declare a bubble”; but we can think of few local examples. At least he is now on record as saying we’re possibly in a bubble. We agree, of course.
Overall, a stimulating series of slides, and as our invaluable reporter-on-the-ground says, the talk appears to have been both “fantastic” and “pragmatic”. Tom Davidoff’s analysis is a welcome addition to the local discussion. We continue to extend an open invitation to him to post a piece discussing Vancouver RE on these pages. We’d just as eagerly like to see a comprehensive essay by him in the local press.