Category Archives: 08. Overextended Buyers

We bought and we’re suffering.
Kraft dinners, no holidays, five jobs, etc.

Interest Rates Held Far Lower Than Necessary Cause Speculative Bubbles

fig

“The Fed’s mode of operation has drastically changed over the past 12 years. Prior to 2002 the Fed would tighten monetary policy in reaction to outward signs of rising “price inflation” and loosen monetary policy in reaction to outward signs of falling “price inflation”, but beginning in 2002 the Fed became far more biased towards loose monetary policy. This bias is now so great that we are starting to wonder whether the Fed has become permanently loose.”

“The chart above comparing the Fed Funds Rate (FFR) target set by the Fed with the Future Inflation Gauge (FIG) clearly illustrates how the Fed has changed over the past two decades. Note that the Future Inflation Gauge is calculated monthly by the Economic Cycle Research Institute (ECRI) and should really be called the Future CPI Gauge, because it is designed to lead the CPI by about 11 months.”

“The chart shows that prior to 2002 the FFR tended to follow the FIG. After the FIG warned of rising “price pressures” the Fed would start hiking the FFR, and after the FIG started signaling reduced upward pressure on the CPI the Fed would start cutting the FFR. During 2002-2004, however, the Fed not only didn’t hike its targeted interest rate in response to a sharp increase in the FIG, it continued to cut the FFR. The Fed’s decision to maintain an ultra-loose stance during 2002-2004 was the fuel for the real estate investment bubble and set the stage for the collapse of 2007-2009 [in the US].” [editor’s note: The Canadian RE market was bailed out by parallel rate cuts here — before it had even crashed!]

“There was a lesson to be learned from what happened during 2002-2007, but the Fed apparently learned the wrong lesson. The lesson that should have been learned was: Don’t provide monetary fuel for bubble activities, because the eventual economic fallout will be devastating. Unfortunately, the lesson that was actually learned by the Fed was: An economic bust can be avoided forever by keeping monetary policy loose forever. The result is that the divergence between the FFR and the FIG that arose during the first half of the last decade is nothing compared to the divergence that is now in progress. Moreover, the near-zero FFR doesn’t do justice to the ‘looseness’ of the Fed’s current stance, in that 4+ years after the end of the last official recession the Fed is still pumping money as if the US were in the midst of a financial crisis.” …

“By ignoring investment bubbles and erring far more in favour of “inflation” than it has ever done in the past, the Fed is currently setting the stage for the mother-of-all economic busts.”

- from ‘Future ‘Inflation’ and Monetary Madness’, Steve Saville, 14 Oct 2013

Canadian markets are completely subservient to action in the US. (If you don’t believe this, watch any aspect of a Canadian market of any sort on a US market holiday. Flatline!)
Canadian interest rates were cut in lockstep with the US in late 2008, even though the RE market here sorely didn’t need the juicing. The BOC and the Min of Finance were, and are, at fault for dropping interest rates too far, and then holding them too low for too long.
If you want to see a graphic representation of the reason for our national RE bubble, look at the orange areas in chart below (a version of the one above). [BTW, the charts here are almost a year old.. the FIG is now back around 4, and the Fed Fund rate remains zero].
The policy is perverse, and the piper is yet to be paid.
– vreaa

fig c g

“It won’t last. It just prepares the way for the bust. It forces out real businesses. And it drives out people who find themselves financially unable to live here any longer.”

When reading this article, Vancouverites may want to play spot-the-differences/spot-the-similarities. – ed.

How the Surge of Hot Money Pushes San Francisco to the Brink
Wolf Richter, wolfstreet.com, 22 July 2014 [also reprinted at zerohedge]

The median home price in my beloved and crazy San Francisco – that’s for a no-view two-bedroom apartment in an older building in a so-so area – after rising 13.3% from a year ago, hit an ultra-cool, slick $1,000,000.

It made a splash in our conversations. People figured that nothing could to take down the housing market. Yet, as before, there will be a devastating event: the moment when the billions from all over the world suddenly stop raining down on San Francisco.

Every real-estate data provider has its own numbers. The Case-Shiller placed the peak of the prior bubble in “San Francisco” in June 2006 with an index value of 218, well above the current index value of 191. Though named “San Francisco,” the index covers five Bay Area counties that include cities like Oakland and Richmond where home prices, though soaring, haven’t gone back to previous bubble peaks.

The $1,000,000 that DataQuick, now part of CoreLogic, came up with is for the actual city of San Francisco. In the data series, San Francisco’s prior housing bubble peaked in November 2007 when the median home price hit $814,750. People thought this would go on forever, that San Francisco was special, that the national housing bust would pass it by. A month later, the median home price plunged 10%.

It was the beginning of a terrible bust – the moment when money from all over the world stopped raining down on San Francisco. Real estate here lives and dies with the periodic storm surges of moolah from venture capital investors, IPOs, and corporate buyouts.

Now we’re in another storm surge. The Twitter IPO transferred billions from around the world to Twitter investors and employees in the city and the Bay Area. When Facebook acquired Whatsapp for $19 billion, its 55 employees and some investors started plowing some of this money into the local economy, money that didn’t come from heaven but indirectly from Facebook shareholders. In the current climate, hundreds of transactions, large and small, take place every month, including a slew of IPOs. That’s the great hot-money-transfer machine. And San Francisco sits at the receiving end.

There are some drawbacks, however. Number one, it won’t last. It just prepares the way for the next bust. Number two (and in the interim), it forces out real businesses with real revenues and profits. And it drives out people who find themselves – though well-employed – financially unable to live here any longer.

Take the story of Bloodhound that was catapulted into the limelight by ValleyWag. In January 2013, a Series A round brought its total funding to $4.8 million, based on its conference app, an “ambitious vision to fundamentally change how buyers meet sellers,” as TechCrunch put it. “Its hardcore dedication to product and the fact that it can reuse everything it builds puts it leagues ahead of….” Etc. etc. The article was dripping with startup hype.

Companies like Bloodhound are flush with money from investors and have no need to make revenues or profits, and they have no clue how to manage expenses, or that expenses even need to be managed, and there’s nothing to constrain them in any way and force them to be prudent with investors’ money. Armed to the teeth this way, they dive into the local real estate market.

As the startup bubble in San Francisco was coming to a boil, and billions started showing up in bits and pieces, landlords began lusting after this money. And so in October 2012, the Million Fishes Art Collective – “an incubation program” for artists – was not able to renew its lease on a 10,000 square-foot space on Bryant Street at 23rd Street, in the Mission, which had been an iffy area and therefore affordable. After ten years, Million Fishes was gone, and so were the artists and the shows that had been open to the public. It reportedly had been paying over $13,000 per month.

The space was prepared for a startup armed with hype, hoopla, and Series-A money piped in from VC-fund investors around the world. Along come Bloodhound with whatever remained of its $4.8 million in funding. It signed a 5-year lease for $31,667 a month in rent and $564 in fees, or nearly 150% more than Million Fishes had paid. The neighborhood wasn’t amused, but hey, big money rules, and it was a done deal.

So Bloodhound was blowing $387,000 a year on rent, and it didn’t care because expenses were no objective because profits weren’t even on the horizon. It was just building a thingy that would forever change the world. But now Bloodhound is gone as well. Stopped paying rent, ran out of money, just packed up and disappeared. ValleyWag reported:

When emailed for comment, Bloodhound co-founder Anthony Krumeich simply stated “We moved out of the office. No longer fit our needs.” However court documents indicate Bloodhound has gone AWOL and abandoned their office. The landlord’s attorney has not been able to issue the company or its founders a summons….

Bloodhound didn’t change the world. But its hot money changed San Francisco. It helped drive up rents. Each transaction impacts a number of future transactions via the multiplier effect. This scenario is repeated over and over. Enterprises with real cash flows are pushed out because they can’t compete with the hot money that briefly comes into town looking to multiply itself.

But occasionally, it goes too far, even for San Francisco. A little while ago, Pinterest jumped into the fray. It has raised $800 million so far, and sports a valuation of $5 billion, but has no noticeable revenues, doesn’t even dream of profits, and has no idea how to control expenses – and no need to. Armed with this distorted attitude and hundreds of millions of dollars in global hot money, it set its sights on the beautiful, historic 600,000 square-foot San Francisco Design Center at 2 Henry Adams St., where 77 design businesses were plying their trade the hard way by generating the cash flow necessary to sustain themselves.

The Design Center’s owner, according to the SFGate, “had sought to take advantage of a city zoning ordinance that allows owners of designated historic landmarks to change zoning from so-called PDR – production, distribution and repair – to traditional office space. That would have allowed Pinterest to locate its offices there.” The tenants would have been booted out in favor of a company that had no reason to care about how much money it blew on office space. Alas, after an uproar, the Board of Supervisors Land Use & Economic Development Committee voted to table the matter indefinitely.

The ratchet effect continues as each transaction impacts future transactions, pumped up by hot money that doesn’t care about actual expenses and profits. And the space Million Fishes had leased for $13,000 a month, and that Bloodhound had leased for $31,667 a month, went back on the market, ValleyWag reported, at $37,500 a month.

This too is happening to homes where one sale price of one home impacts the price on average of 60 others via the multiplier effect [How Wall Street Manipulates The Buy-to-Rent Housing Racket]. That’s how the median home price of $1,000,000 came about: powered by hot money that follows hope and hype about the next big thingy that will change the world. As before, someday the hot money will suddenly evaporate, with devastating effect. To pinpoint that moment, we just have to watch the IPO market. When it blows off its top, so will San Francisco.

UBS is already preparing for that moment. The world’s largest wealth manager is “very worried” about “the lack of liquidity” that could wreak havoc during the expected sell-off. So UBS reduces risk “over the full spectrum of assets.”

‘How badly would you be hurt in a housing market price correction?’ [The Globe and Mail]

“A question for everyone who thinks houses are an investment: How much would a market decline hurt you? …
Houses are a financial asset that can rise and fall in price, just like stocks, bonds and gold. It’s important to remind ourselves of this after a 25-per-cent price gain between 2008 and 2013 on a national basis and a doubling of prices in Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto over the past 10 to 12 or so years. …

Want to see what a 25-per-cent decline would look like in today’s market? Our Correction Calculator shows you the numbers for the Canadian market as a whole, as well as the Big Three markets of Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto.

The calculator in no way predicts a downturn in housing prices. It’s only a tool for helping people understand how both declines and increases in house prices might affect them.

Be cautious when viewing how a rising market will increase the value of your home. Interest rates are close to rock bottom levels after a 30-year down cycle and likely to rise in the next couple of years. The impact on affordability will be significant.

“I think it’s going to be a huge shock to the Canadian real estate market,” said Craig Alexander, chief economist at Toronto-Dominion Bank. “I do a lot of real estate presentations from coast to coast and an awful lot of young people think these low interest rates are normal. They don’t see anything abnormal about a 3-per-cent five-year mortgage. I always have to say, can you please have a conversation with the grey-haired gentleman at your table about the normal level of interest rates.”

- from Rob Carrick, Globe and Mail, 21 April 2014

Recorded here as part of our series ‘Incredibly Infrequent Posts’.
The idea of a possibly significant correction is getting mentioned more and more in the MSM.
Our outlook for Vancouver RE has not changed. We still foresee a large correction at some point. And, contrary to some guesses on the last comments thread, we have not capitulated and bought or anything bizarre like that.
Markets can remain irrational for longer than one can stay sane.. the Vancouver RE Bubble has been an absolute doozy.
For evidence, check out the graphic below, keeping in mind that the Vancouver chart is running at a trend that is unsustainable, arguably anything from 2% to 5% more per annum than is justified by any related real growth, and that prices tend to revert to means when they correct.
– vreaa

image
– from ‘Canadian, U.S. housing markets defy expectations, price gap hits record’, G&M, 23 April 2014

“No problemo. 69 per cent of the condo tower is pretty stable.”

Downtown Vancouver

“Only 31 per cent of sales have been to first-time buyers, or new immigrants from offshore, so 69 per cent of the market is pretty stable.”
– Bob Rennie, local condo salesman, as quoted in ‘Vancouver real estate moguls unfazed by axed immigration program for millionaires’, Kate Webb, Metro, 12 Feb 2014

[A post from beyond the grave. This is a one-off post-death ‘rattle’. Keep well all. – ed.]

“Nothing Wrong Here!”

Maple ridge, lougheed highway and 223rd aldus huxtable
Maple Ridge: Lougheed Highway and 223rd [image and post title care of Aldus Huxtable]

The Economist on Land Taxes – “Taxes on immovable property are the most growth-friendly of all major taxes.”

“Taxing land and property is one of the most efficient and least distorting ways for governments to raise money. A pure land tax, one without regard to how land is used or what is built on it, is the best sort. Since the amount of land is fixed, taxing it cannot distort supply in the way that taxing work or saving might discourage effort or thrift. Instead a land tax encourages efficient land use. Property developers, for instance, would be less inclined to hoard undeveloped land if they had to pay an annual levy on it. Property taxes that include the value of buildings on land are less efficient, since they are, in effect, a tax on the investment in that property. Even so, they are less likely to affect people’s behaviour than income or employment taxes. A study by the OECD suggests that taxes on immovable property are the most growth-friendly of all major taxes.”
– from ‘Levying the land’, The Economist, 29 Jun 2013 [hat-tip clive]

“It’s kinda funny that 3 unrelated Irish blokes all said that this mess in Vancouver/Canada RE is unfolding EXACTLY like the mess did in Ireland, one headline at a time.”

“Been chatting with some Irish blokes who are here working post Irish Bubble. It’s kinda funny that 3 unrelated guys all said that this mess in Vancouver/Canada is unfolding EXACTLY like the mess in Ireland, one headline at a time. Good luck Canada!”
TBWCB at VREAA 29 Jun 2013

All bubbles are alike in essential nature, even though there may be variations in the minor details.
– vreaa