Category Archives: 08. Overextended Buyers

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

“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

‘Doomed’? – “Home prices in Canada are now double what they were in the 1970s in real terms. Historically, over the very long term, real home prices tend to be flat.”

“Home prices in Canada are now double what they were in the 1970s in real terms. Historically, over the very long term, real home prices tend to be flat.”
- from ‘CANADA IS DOOMED: Three Signs The Country Up North Is Screwed Beyond All Recognition’, Josh Barro, Business Insider, 17 Jun 2013

“The bank encouraged her to take the equity in her home to purchase another home. She bought a 2nd home at the peak.”

“I spoke to an older gentleman who bought his home in the 70′s and is now selling. He told me an interesting story of his ex-wife which may represent a lot of Vancouverites. She is unemployed. In 2009 she had 250k left on her mortgage on her primary home. The bank encouraged her to take the equity in her home to purchase another home. She bought a 2nd home at the peak.
How does she pay the mortgage on both properties? By sharing a room with her daughter and renting out rooms individually. Is this a risky scenario or what?! How many people are in her situation?”

- Anon at VREAA 17 Jun 2013 4:52pm

“Let’s remember how we got here” – Looser and Looser CMHC Limits

Let’s remember how we got here:

• Prior to 1999 you needed 10% for a mortgage and that mortgage had a maximum amortization of 25 years. CMHC also had limits on how much you could buy with their insurance.

• Just after 1999 CMHC lowered the down payment to 5% with price limits on how much they would insure depending on the area. Amortizations were still 25 years. There would be no price limit on what they would insure if 10% or more was put down.

• By Sept. 2003 CMHC allowed 5% down on 25 yr amortizations but they removed all price ceiling limitations. Now any mortgage would be insured regardless of the value of home purchased.

• In March 2004 CMHC began allowing Flex-Down products which permitted the 5% down to be borrowed and 1.5% closing costs to be borrowed (essentially zero down, but 95% insured.

• In March 2006 you had 0% down, 30 yr amortizations. This became 0% down, 35 yr amortizations later in the year. Interest only payments were allowed for 10 years.

• In November 2006 CMHC began allowing 0% down, 40 yr amortizations along with interest only payments for 10 years.

• Canadian banks ramped this up by allowing up to 7% cash back offers if you would take on a mortgage with them. You could basically get paid if you bought a house.

• Not only were the rules surrounding the granting of money loosened, but CMHC’s cap for granting mortgages grew from $100 Billion in 2006 to almost $600 Billion today.

- this fine summary from ‘golden_boy’ at VCI 11 Jun 2013 7:40am

Don’t Worry, I’m Sure Somebody Will Sort This All Out – “Policymakers now know better and will be a lot more proactive in preventing a collapse.”

“Risks are undeniably elevated in the Canadian housing market with prices so high relative to household incomes. Many housing bears assume this overvaluation entails a hard landing but I’m not convinced it’s inevitable at the national level. One reason – which seems mostly overlooked in the debate – is that Canadian policymakers will be doing their utmost to avert such an outcome.

In a sense, Canada is fortunate to be facing the spectre of a housing bust after other countries have had theirs. Before 2008, it was generally believed house prices could never fall by much. Policymakers now know better and will be a lot more proactive in preventing a collapse.

Canadian policymakers do have the levers to affect outcomes. One is the regulatory framework for housing, which can be amended in various ways to reconfigure housing demand and supply to the extent required. Indeed, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has tightened mortgage lending several times over the past two years to slow down price increases and give household incomes time to catch up.

Other regulatory changes include tagging Canadian banks with “too big to fail” provisions that require them to put aside more capital. Then there are the “bail-in” provisions that specify when a troubled bank will recapitalize by converting its senior unsecured debt and other liabilities into equity.

In addition to these pre-emptive steps, Canadian policymakers have no doubt given some thought to dealing with the risk that the soft landing could go off the rails. It’s hard to imagine they would allow the housing sector to destabilize the economy and financial system like it did in the U.S. and other countries.

Responses could range from cutting the Bank of Canada rate to relaxing regulatory restrictions on housing demand. Housing bears might complain about such measures but they would allow Canada to reposition back to a soft landing. That would be more preferable than inflicting the trauma that befell the countries hit with housing meltdowns.”

- from ‘Canada’s lucky to come late to the housing-crash party’, Larry MacDonald [a "retired economist"], G&M, 13 Jun 2013

A soft landing will not be engineered in the Vancouver RE market;
it is in the nature of spec bubbles that they burst, ending with a “bang and not a whimper”. Let’s hope that those in charge of Canada’s monetary policy and mortgage rates don’t do even more damage to sensible citizens by trying to avert the inevitable.
While we’re on the topic of “late to the party”, it is interesting to see the Globe and Mail’s Larry MacDonald, who up to now has gone to great lengths to reassure himself and everybody else that the RE market is not at risk [see, for instance, 'Housing bears need to relax and take the long view', G&M 1 April 2013], now stating that “risks are undeniably elevated in the Canadian housing market with prices so high relative to household incomes.” After all, prices have been outrageously high relative to incomes for many years now.
- vreaa

“My husband and kids are pretty happy in our rental house within cycling distance of work that we could never have afforded otherwise. We’re doin’ pretty dang well, thank you, for median income earners in this expensive city.”

“My husband and kids are pretty happy in our rental house within cycling distance of work that we could never have afforded otherwise. My husband is especially happy with the nest egg we’ve put away, and some day, my kids will be happy with their RESPs. We’re doin’ pretty dang well, thank you, for median income earners in this expensive city.
I have been priced out forever, according to any sane financial management strategy, for pretty much the whole time I’ve had a down payment. When the choice became “house poverty for family of four in a purchased 2 bedroom in Port Moody” vs. “responsible savings and a family of four in rental house with yard in Vancouver”, I thought something smelled funny in real estate. Still stinks, and will continue to stink, until prices adjust.”

- Absinthe at VCI May 24th, 2013 at 9:06 am

“I Wish Them Bad Luck.” – Jim Flaherty, on those who wish to profit from Canadian RE price drops

“I wish them bad luck.”
- Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, commenting on recent moves by some U.S.-based hedge funds and other big investors, who worry that the Canadian housing market is heading for a hard landing, and are looking to short, or bet against, Canadian investments.
[as quoted by the Wall Street Journal, 28 May 2013]

Other excerpts from the same article:
“Last year, Mr. Flaherty had voiced concern about the condo markets in Toronto and Vancouver.
“When I look at the housing market, I’m looking for the ‘doom and gloom’. I don’t see the ‘doom and gloom’. I see some moderation in demand. This is a good thing,” he said.

Flaherty’s wish for bad ‘luck’ for the ‘shorts’ is the equivalent of a hope for good ‘luck’ for the (immensely greater) ‘long’ position; a long position that he has, after all, attempted to shore up for many years. Flaherty cannot calculate the damage that the housing bubble has done, nor that which its resolution will end up doing. It’s natural for him to be simply trying to keep it going at this point.
Regarding those betting against price increases:
Any healthy market has to be able to tolerate the possibility of people speculating against price increases.
There are strong arguments that the ability for individuals to short a market improve that market’s strength. Shorts improve liquidity, make for more valid ‘price discovery’, and are around to buy when nobody else wants to (near bottoms).
There are no ways to directly short the Vancouver RE market (it would likely have benefited if that had been possible!).
Some are attempting to indirectly short, and hope to profit from price drops via their likely effects on the values of the shares of certain stocks or other instruments. For the record, vreaa is not trying to do anything like that. We’d simply like to see sane valuation of Vancouver housing.
- vreaa

“We asked why he doesn’t just rent the whole house. He said he can’t, it wouldn’t cover his mortgage – he’ll get more to rent it out as two suites. These new landlords are hilarious, thinking that rent will cover their mortgage!”

“Called a guy today about a house he has for rent. Turns out he’s only renting the upper half (for more than what the market will pay, I think, considering I’ve seen it advertised for awhile). Since we really don’t want to rent half a house and live in fear about who lives in the basement (and share laundry), we asked why he doesn’t just rent the whole house. He said he can’t, it wouldn’t cover his mortgage – he’ll get more to rent it out as two suites. These new landlords are hilarious, thinking that rent will cover their mortgage!
By running the numbers, it looks to me like he put $400k down (he told us how much his mortgage payment is). I also think it’s a failed flip – I’ve been watching it awhile and when I googled the address two weeks ago, it was for sale and there was an open house that weekend, though another google search tells me the Vancouver sun featured it in their real estate section as being bought in December 2012. This guy must be panicking….
I think our time has come, bears! Anyway, it’s a nice house, maybe we’ll be able to buy it for $400k one day (lol).”

- pricedoutfornow at VCI 26th May 2013 12:50pm

“My neighbours, in their late 60s, just put their house on the market. They had said they would die in that house, but now they are worried that with the housing market going south they may be losing a lot of equity and they better sell now before it gets worse.”

“I can’t believe it!
My neighbor and his wife, who are in their late 60s, just put their house on the market.
I talked to them often before, and they said they would die in that house and leave it to their only son.
But now they say they are worried that with the housing market going south they may be losing a lot of equity and they better sell now before it gets worse.
To make matters worse, 1 year ago they took out a HELOC for $30k to help their son buy a condo.
Two week’s ago their son received a note from his strata that a special levy of $40k to cover inefficiences in the building envelope has to be paid.
Another leaky condo!
Needless to say, the old couple has no other assets than their rapidly depreciating house, so they are panicking.”

- Real Estate Tsunami at VREAA 23 May 2013 10:53pm

Hello again to all readers.
Posts recommence with this powerful anecdote from RETsunami.
We will aim to pop up anecdotes here on an occasional and irregular basis; we trust they will be appreciated nonetheless.
Keep well.
- vreaa

Graphic – Degrees of Housing Overvaluation in Canada

trailing-housing

- forwarded to vreaa via e-mail by ‘B’, 13 Apr 2013; original source of graphic as yet unknown to us.

Ben Rabidoux In Vancouver Next Week

Ben Rabidoux has asked me to let readers know that he’ll be in Vancouver next week, giving a talk on housing and the economy. It takes place Thursday April 18th, 4-5pm. More info here.

Those readers you who don’t know Ben will find his analysis thorough and thought provoking. We have featured his opinions here on numerous occasions.
His website is ‘The Economic Analyst’. Take a look at his latest article ‘Canadian housing and economic trends: The good, the bad, and the ugly’ [9 Apr 2013]. Excerpt:
“Things have gone from bad to worse in Vancouver, where sales remain very weak (March sales were almost 20% below an already-weak 2012 level) and existing MLS inventory remains elevated. To add insult to injury, the backlog of unsold new homes is growing, units under construction remain high, and the strong population growth needed to absorb all this inventory is nowhere to be found. It’s going to be another rough year for Vancouver, but on the bright side, we can expect the y/y comparisons to get more favourable throughout the year. Vancouver sales fell off a cliff in late 2012. It’s quite unlikely we’ll be seeing 20-30% y/y sales declines come late summer given how depressed sales were last year. So you can bet the real estate board will be waiting anxiously to put their always-positive spin on that.”

“The mortgage company told me they were calling in my 40-year, 0-down mortgage. I have paid nearly sixty thousand dollars towards it, but, nearly five years in, I have yet to touch the principal.”

“There are few other words out there that carry the sense of shame and failure that “bankruptcy” and “foreclosure” do. They are words about having commitments that you couldn’t meet; they are words about loss.

They also carry judgment, don’t they? As though if you go bankrupt it must be because you went to a five-star resort with your lover, spent money you didn’t have on extravagant things. And foreclosure? Well, that’s just the little matter of losing your family home. Of sitting down in the living room and pulling your children close and saying, “We’re going to move, my loves, because Mama can’t pay the mortgage anymore.” Bow your head in shame.

So you can imagine how shredded I was about a month ago, when those words blew into my life, when the house of cards I had so carefully constructed over the last eight years came crashing down. I had constructed it after my marriage split up, when as a single mother-of-two, with a high school education and no work experience, I moved back to Canada, tried to find a job, found one, then bought a little home, and then got laid off, and started university full-time. All the while, I was eyeing nervously the fiasco of my finances and hoping like hell we were going to make it to solid ground. You can imagine that when the house of cards finally collapsed, I was devastated.

And I was shocked. Because in my mind, we had just made it to that solid ground. I got through university, I got a wonderful job. But then the tidal wave I’d been running from for the last eight years crashed over me still.

I had had a sense it might. It was the accumulation of all that time out of work, all that time in school, all those months in which I bought the groceries and school supplies on credit cards, all those late payments.

Seven times in the preceding two years I had approached the bank that held the lion’s share of my credit card debt and asked them to reduce the interest from 20 percent to something more manageable, something more like 10. I explained that I had been laid off, that I was now not only a single mom but a full-time student, living on student loans. I explained that I was trying my best to pay it off but I couldn’t even make a dent in it with interest that high. Seven times they turned me down. The last time I met with a bank officer, she told me to make all my payments on time for a year and then come back and she’d consider it. I shuffled off, head bowed.

And then the mortgage company told me they were calling the mortgage – a forty-year-mortgage with no money down, made back in the day when you could still do that. I have paid nearly sixty thousand dollars towards that mortgage. Nearly five years in, I have yet to touch the principal. Get a new lender, they told me or come up with the pay-out amount, the same amount of money I borrowed initially. Impossible. I cried.

For a week I walked around numb, as though everything I had been fighting for, so hard for so long, had just collapsed. Vanished. As though I had lost my children their home. I couldn’t believe, I told my boss, sobbing, that after all that effort, everything had all fallen apart in the end. I told her I had always been afraid I was going to die alone and be eaten by dogs and here I was – losing the house. I can’t believe, I said, I can’t believe it ended this way.
My boss held up her hand. “Hold on,” she said.”The dogs haven’t gotten you yet.”

And with that I entered into a long period of stillness, and when I emerged I went to a credit counseling place, where they took one look at all my debts and my non-existent assets and went straight to suggesting I declare bankruptcy. And then I went to a bankruptcy trustee who suggested exactly the same thing. He reviewed what that would mean for me.

“I have been paying a thousand dollars a month in credit card debt,” I said, “for more years than I can count, and I haven’t even made a dent in what I owe, never mind that I’ve paid the debt some four times over. And you’re telling me that I can pay less than that, a lot less than that, for 21 months – and then this is over?” He nodded. “Do you just make people happy all day long?” I sniffled through the tears. He said, “If it feels this good to you, you know it’s the right thing to do.”

I keep thinking I should have done this two years ago. But I kept going, kept borrowing, kept paying, kept trying, month after month. And I kept doing that for two reasons. For one, it’s the right thing to do, isn’t it? You borrow money, you pay it back. For two, there was shame. To admit defeat would be to admit failure, would be to announce to myself and the world that I couldn’t cut it.

Now I feel like, hey. I accumulated that debt to take care of my family, and I am grateful for it. And I paid that credit card debt four times over. The bank is NOT getting ripped off here. They’ve done just fine by me. And my house? We loved our little house, it has been just lovely for us. And now it will be just lovely for some other family who needs a home. We’ll find another little house, or an apartment, and we will make it fine for us, too.

Eight years ago, I grabbed my kids and carried them through a whirlwind of challenge and uncertainty. I got us to solid ground. The tidal wave may have crashed over us, but all it did was wash away the wreckage of the past. We are on terra firma. And we are free.”

- from ‘Going Bankrupt’, by Kyla Hanington, The Sunday Edition, CBC Radio, 7 Apr 2013 [hat-tip 4SlicesOfCheese]

“My folks find themselves at 65 still owing half the value of their home and recreation property to the bank. After almost 30 years of ownership in the BPOE and a number of boom markets, they have very little to show for it.”

“My folks have owned in South Surrey since the mid-70′s, mostly in just two locations, but in their empty nest years yo-yoed between downsizing and re-upsizing to various condos, townhouses, duplexes, etc. trying to ‘find the right fit’, and all of a sudden they find themselves at 65 still owing half the value of their home + recreation property to the bank. After almost 30 years of ownership in the BPOE and a number of boom markets, they have very little to show for it and dad will keep working until the debt is paid before considering retirement. Now they are talking of selling and renting, which I have encouraged them to do, but they would feel ashamed in their peer group to ‘stoop’ to that.”
- Dazza at VREAA 6 April 2013 11:05 am

“Rent for $2,200 a month or buy and have a mortgage of $4,310 per month. Why would anyone buy?”

2_carousel
7541 Kerr Street, East Vancouver (Fraserview)
2518 sqft SFH on 45×110 lot

“We considered renting this SFH a few months ago. It stayed on the market for a few months, looks like the landlord never got any tenants (rent went from $2500 to $2200) and today when I walked by – - it’s for sale for $999,999! Gee… tough choice, rent for $2200 a month or… buy and have a mortgage of $4,310 per month (based on 3.09%, 25 year, 100k down). Why would anyone buy?
Thanks, I think we will remain renters until prices come back down to earth. Or never buy in Vancouver.”

- pricedoutfornow at VCI 5 Apr 2013 7:38pm

Think of this situation like this:
This landlord can’t find anybody who will pay $2,200 per month to actually use the house as a home, but they are hoping to find somebody who is prepared to pay over $4,310 per month to make use of the house as a financial instrument, by using it to bet on increasing prices.
The house’s fundamental value is that which one could calculate based on a yield of less than $2,200 per month. The speculative market has been valuing it at substantially higher than that. As the speculative mania unwinds prices will fall to reflect fundamental values.
- vreaa

Greater Vancouver Home Builders’ Association Annual First-Time Buyer Seminar Attendance Plummets

“The Greater Vancouver Home Builders’ Association presented its 19th annual free seminar for first-time homebuyers in Surrey on March 19. This event is the largest of its kind in North America, drawing aspiring homeowners from virtually all Metro Vancouver municipalities – and beyond.
Attendance over the years has averaged 800. One year, registrations were cut off three weeks before the event, as 900 eager people had already signed up. Last year, attendance dipped to a tad under 600.
This year, despite significant promotion and a top-notch panel of speakers, about 500 prospective first-time buyers registered. Moreover, an audience head count revealed less than 300 attendees.
Mind you, I believe a number of external factors contributed to the attendance drop – March break, heavy rain, traffic and a Canucks game. Also, it appears the wealth of information available at folks’ fingertips kept some of the registrants at home that night.”

- from ‘A world of advice’, Peter Simpson, The Vancouver Sun, 6 Apr 2013

Thanks to RG, who sent the above link to VREAA by e-mail, and who adds:
“The interesting bit is Mr. Simpson’s rationalization that the marked drop in attendance may be attributable to, “March break, heavy rain, traffic and a Canucks game” …
Seriously? … “rain” and “traffic” resulted in far less than half of the typical numbers of potential first-timers from seeking critical purchasing information? Wow.”

Mom and Pop Get It Wrong In All Markets, Time And Again

“Villa and White felt “sucker punched” when stocks collapsed in 2008, he reports. The crash “wiped out half their savings.” They sold out of stocks, put their money in the bank, and “swore off stocks,” presumably forever.
Last month, as the Standard & Poor’s 500 index surged to new highs, they hired a new financial adviser and plunged into the stock market again.
The problem with Villa and White isn’t that they are unusual but that they are absolutely the typical American investor. Both of them are doctors, meaning they are presumably intelligent and educated. And yet they insist on investing like absolute fools.”

“They buy high, sell low, and the ending is predictable.”
“Share prices fall because there are more sellers than buyers. They rise because of the reverse. So mom and pop investors like the Villa-Whites rush to dump their stocks because they see the market plummeting, oblivious to the fact that the only reason it’s falling is because people like them are rushing to dump their stocks.”
- from ‘Mom and pop: The world’s worst investors’, WSJ Marketwatch, 4 Apr 2013

And so it is with all markets.
Regular folks (in the case of RE, the vast, vast majority of market participants) fell in love with Vancouver RE when prices started running up, became more and more adoring as they ran up more, and were most infatuated at the frothy peak (at the very time they should have been most wary). It is this crescendo of infatuation that drives speculative manias to their ridiculous heights.
As prices fall folks will become less enamoured, then discouraged, then disgusted by local RE, and when the most people are the most disgusted, it’ll be a sensible time to buy.
It’s not rocket-science, but it is emotionally very, very difficult to be a contrarian, and to take a position that is the opposite of that of the crowd.
- vreaa

The average British Columbian homeowner is not going to pay off their mortgage by the time they retire.

“The average Canadian homeowner doesn’t think they’ll be mortgage-free until they’re 57 — two years longer than what they expected last year, a survey by CIBC suggests.
The survey also found that half of those surveyed said other debt, from credit cards to lines of credit, have increased and impeded their ability to pay off their mortgage more quickly. …
The report released Friday also found those in British Columbia expected to be the oldest at 59 when they have paid off their mortgage, followed by those in Manitoba and Saskatchewan at 58. …
Colette Delaney, executive vice-president of mortgage, lending, insurance and deposit products at CIBC, said that the longer someone has to hold a mortgage may mean the less savings they have for retirement.
“Being mortgage free sooner can help accelerate retirement savings, but carrying a mortgage into your late 50s can have the opposite effect and make it more challenging to reach your long term savings goals,” said Delaney.

- from ‘Canadian homeowners don’t think they’ll be mortgage-free until they’re 57′, Canadian Press, 5 Apr 2013

Let’s simply face it that the average British Columbian homeowner is not going to pay off their mortgage by the time they retire.
In a closely related sense, locals are overdependent on their RE holdings for their retirement funding, and are at high risk of their retirement plans being severely hobbled by coming RE price weakness.
- vreaa

“One of my old high school buddies finally got her mother to sell the family home in Kitsilano – sold for over $1M, monies realized after debt paid off $185K.”

“One of my old high school buddies finally got her mother to sell the family home in Kitsilano – sold for over $1M, monies realized $185,000. Home equity loans and “helping” out the kids does take a toll.”
- ex-kitsie at VREAA 30 Mar 2013 3:17pm

Even longstanding owners are speculating on future price strength.
- vreaa

“I know someone who just declared bankruptcy because her condo was assessed at $150k and she bought it presale north of $250k in 2005 or 2006.”

“I know someone in BC who just declared bankruptcy because her condo was assessed at $150k and she bought it north of $250k in 2005 or 2006 (presale). Tried to rent it out for the past few years but the rents kept drifting lower and lower, and the tenants stayed shorter and shorter terms (I think they moved on to better places, this is a city in BC where rents are down significantly since there was a boom-the boom is long over). She was losing more than $10,000 a year and just couldn’t get ahead. Time to hand the keys back to the bank and start over.
I hear stories like this all the time. A friend’s dad in the same city bought a house during the boom “everyone wants to live here!”. Now his mortgage is $2500/month (blue collar worker) and he tries to rent out the basement suite for $1000 a month (no takers-though it worked during the boom). The house is worth about 30% less than what he paid for it (maybe less, not a lot of sales these days).
All we have to do is look north a bit to see these stories.
Quiet suffering. These stories don’t seem to make the news but they do exist.”

- pricedoutfornow at VREAA 1 April 2013 7:55 pm

“She said the market was dead in Victoria and that it would remain so for a very long time. I asked how she knew. Her answer was fascinating and should scare the pants off the real estate crowd.”

“Yesterday two old friends, J & M, from Victoria, mid 50′s, both very bright and mid level bureaucrats at separate provincial government departments came to visit us in the Comox Valley. At one point the topic moved to real estate. I began to say that the market was dead here when J interjected that it is the same in Victoria and that it would remain so for a very long time. I was surprised by her response and asked how she knew this because I know that neither of them reads any of the real estate bear blogs. Their answer was fascinating and should scare the pants off the real estate crowd.

First, both live in Townhouses and J is the head of her strata council (46 units). She said that last year about 7 units sold. This year one of the most desireable units was listed and got no inquiries at all. It was pulled. In addition one of the vendors of a unit last year did want to buy back in but could only do so with a 0/40 mortgage, which is of course no longer available. She had no idea what he had done with the equity from the sale.

Second both pointed out that their incomes have remained largely static for years but that housing prices and strata fees (not to mention special assessments) have increased relentlessly to the point where they felt prices are ridiculous relative to income. J was of the opinion that the townhouse unit in which she lives has about $60K of material in it and yet these units were until recently selling for $300k plus. She felt that the spread between material cost and selling price was indefensible. J also pointed out that despite being mortgage free her strata fees and hydro per month were in excess of $500, the better part of a mortgage payment not that long ago.

Third J said that the price of real estate would be down basically forever because our generation had had few children, overall. As a result who was going to buy our houses when we depart for the great hereafter?

Fourth both believe that the potential sales price of their own units have decreased substantially in the past year and will probably continue to decrease but they intend to stay put. They do not see any point, for example, in selling and then renting despite knowing that prices are inflated vis a vis rent.

Fifth both pointed out that they work at very large institutions and that they, of course, interact with many of their fellow employees. One of the constant topics is real estate and these days the virtual impossibility of finding buyers for the units that their fellow employees have for sale. They report that the view of the majority of their fellow employees is similar to their own – real estate is dead.

Finally, and very ironically, at least for most of us at this site, both get most of their news from CBC and CTV. Their overall impression of reports on both channels was that the real estate market is collapsing.”

- Ford Prefect at VREAA 31 Mar 2013 8:46am

Kits Notes – “I’m pretty sure that this is the first 3+ bedroom property of any type that I’ve seen in the 5 years I’ve lived here that is priced below $700K.”

James writes [via e-mail to VREAA, 12 and 14 Mar 2013]:
“A couple of properties that I’ve been watching in my neighborhood with interest...

v982432_4
Unit #1 2482 W 8th Ave; 1132sqft; Ask $699K
Granted this is a garden suite (but a nice one at that), I’m pretty sure that this is the first 3+ bedroom property of any type that I’ve seen since I’ve lived here (5 years) priced below the 700K mark in Kits. MLS blurb states: “NO HST & PRICED $146K BELOW ASSESSED VALUE!”

History:
Nov 2012 list price: $810K
Dec – price reduced: $799K
Today’s price: $699K -> -14% in 4 months! ouch!”

“Two other units in the same heritage-tear-down-and-subdivide Kits special..

v978640_2
Unit #2 2488 W 8th Ave; 1331 sqft; Ask $899K
This one is great because it’s a 2 bedroom and yet priced at a full $200K above the one above…but still “PRICED $106K BELOW ASSESSED VALUE & NO HST!”

Previous list price: $950K -> I wasn’t able to find a date on this…
Current list: $899K
Price Reduction: -5.4% in 4 months. Though I bet any money that the $950K price was an interim price drop given the obvious desperation on the other units.”

“Third still listed on one site but not Realtor.ca which means that some poor sucker paid too much money or they are in the process of relisting it:

kits row houses
Unit #3 2486 W 8th Ave; 1197sqft; Ask $950K
3 bedrooms but $250K more than the “garden suite”. “PRICED $79K BELOW ASSESSED VALUE & NO HST!”

La piece de resistance as they say.
Previous list price November: $1,050,000 (!)
Dec price reduction: $998,000
End of Feb price reduction: $950K
-9.5% haircut on a property that the city has deemed to be worth $1,030,000.
If it did sell, I would bet money it was NOT at $950K and therefore was probably -10% below assessed value at the time of sale. I’m sure all the other people on that street that are trying to sell , and there are a number of them, are not thrilled with this…”

“So, total $110K + $100K + $50K = $260K of assumed profit vaporized in 4 MONTHS.
Further, I managed to stumble across cached web pages with original purchase price of the property that was sold in May 2008 and subsequently torn down and replaced with the 3 “heritage style” Kits units above.
The original house looks like it was sold back in 2008 for $1.388M. Here it was then:

2486 w 8th 1.388M 2008

“I’m certainly not well versed in what it would cost to tear down to the foundations and then some, rebuild, subdivide and then flip a ~4K sq ft home like this, but an educated guess would be somewhere around ~$2-2.3M total for the 3 units once it’s all said and done including costs to sell each unit.
For the original list prices that WOULD have worked out to ~$500K profit. I didn’t consider cost of carrying the original mortgage since I’m not sure how these things work for developers, but 5 years of interest would be significant on a $1M+ mortgage.
Current list prices that profit drops to ~$200K.
And that’s with an assumed 1 out of 3 units sold and the nicest unit at that. No wonder they are getting desperate.”

Thanks to James for the above info and thoughts.
Anybody else got ideas on the math on a development such as this? -vreaa

More Undisclosed RE Industry Insiders Publicized As Clients – “In 1995, Allan and Karin Hoegg were mortgage-free. But no more. Today their Vancouver home is a valuable source of income as they plan for full retirement.”

mortgages-property
Allan and Karin Hoegg are pictured in their home in Vancouver, British Columbia on March 8, 2013 [image F.Post]

“In 1995, Allan and Karin Hoegg were mortgage-free. But no more: today their Vancouver home is a valuable source of income as they plan for full retirement.
Allan Hoegg says when their son and daughter-in-law wanted to buy a house, they took out a variable-rate mortgage so they could help them out. “We wanted to take advantage of the stability of the current rates.” To cover the mortgage payments, they rent out a suite in the home to students.
The couple also established a home line of credit that allows them to free up cash for investment purposes when they need it. “It gives you maximum flexibility and you can pay it any time you want without penalty,” he says. “It’s dead easy.”
Like many people planning their retirement, there’s a sentimental side to keeping their home, he says. But there are just as many practical reasons. In the Hoeggs’ case, selling to downsize would mean substantial commissions and moving costs. “Besides, real estate is a very good investment in Vancouver,” he says. “The longer we can stay here, the greater the possibility of no-tax capital gains.”

“For the most part, people want to stay in their homes, says Rob Regan-Pollock, senior mortgage consultant with Invis – Team Rob Regan-Pollock mortgage brokers in Vancouver. “The fact is they’re sitting on a big nest egg. So when they get near to retirement, they start asking how they can use that equity to help them in their retirement.”
There are plenty of options to consider, from applying for a line of credit or reverse mortgage to renting out your property to finance your monthly costs at another residence.
A line of credit is the most flexible option, Regan-Pollock says. “If for some reason you can’t meet your monthly expenses, a line of credit on your home can be a very good buffer. The interest rates are low — typically prime or prime plus one per cent, depending on the institution and your qualifications. It’s also quite sustainable, since your home will often appreciate in value more than the amount of debt being drawn down against it.”

- from ‘Home is where the retirement money is’, Denise Deveau, Financial Post, 13 Mar 2013

Comments from ‘Bo Xilai’ below the FP article, 27 Mar 2013:
“Denise, why didn’t you mention Allan Hoegg works for Invis – Team Rob Regan-Pollock mortgage brokers. Of course he’s going to use his house as an ATM… he’s just eating his own cooking. And at the same time you’re interviewing Rob Regan-Pollock as an “expert” in your piece. http://www.teamrrp.com/team/
More fake real estate stories using employees as plants.” …
“They used an employee of the “expert” interviewed without disclosure and, I would argue, in a deceitful manner to promote a strategy beneficial to the “expert’s” reputation and business interests.”

group
Allan Hoegg (top left) part of Team Rob Regan-Pollock mortgage brokers [image teamrrp.com]

[thanks to 'C', for sending news of the article and 'Bo Xilai's comments to vreaa via e-mail, 27 Mar 2013]

This article is interesting..
1. for the undisclosed insider publicized as client
2. for the journalist’s ineptitude or, alternatively, collaboration
3. for the retirees’ dependence on RE holdings for retirement funds
4. for the fact that such borrowings were used to purchase more RE
5. for the need for tenants in their ex-SFH to cover mortgage payments
6. for the assumption that Vancouver RE is “a very good investment”
7. for the assumption that prices will continue to rise.
- vreaa

For those readers unfamiliar with the recent high profile case of industry insiders masquerading as condo buyers, please see:
CTV TV News Featured ‘Condo Buyers’ Actually Marketers Of Very Same Condos!, VREAA 13 Mar 2013

UPDATE:
This article also headlined and discussed by Whisperer here:
‘Another media scandal from the real estate industry? News article appears to be contrived shill piece from PR company.’, 28 Mar 2013

Rumor that some OV units will be reduced by 20%.

“I’ve just had a re-freshing chat with that realtor who’s selling an investor-held unit in the Olympic Village. He told me that Rennie has applied to the City to have certain, hand-picked units at the OV reduced by 20%. This guy is very straightforward and has insight into how investor bulk buying works.”
- Posted by mac to Whispers from the Edge of the Rainforest at March 24, 2013 at 6:31 PM [hat-tip Whisperer]

Downside Weights On The Vancouver RE Market – “One of the older guys (over 60) mention to the guy beside him that he and his wife were thinking about selling their family home, and renting, in order to get some of the money that was locked up in the house.”

“Every Friday I play hockey with a bunch of guys who are over 55. I’m a goalie, so even though I’m not 55, they let me play – I guess it’s hard to find 55 year old guys whose knees are willing to bounce up and down off the ice for an hour and half.”
“Anyways, I overheard a conversation in the dressing room last Friday. One of the older guys (over 60) mention to the guy beside him (over 70) that he and his wife were thinking about selling their family home, and renting, in order to get some of the money that was locked up in the house. The over-70 guy nodded in approval. The over-60 guy asked if he had heard of anyone doing this before, as they couldn’t see any other way to continue to fund their retirement.”
“The over-70 guy nodded, and said “Yup, we did it a couple of years ago. We’ve been renting now for two years – we had to do it, because we couldn’t afford the property taxes each year anymore”.

- anecdote from ‘Ross’, relayed by Garth Turner at greaterfool.ca 27 Mar 2013

“Boomer retirement supply” will be just one of the factors weighing on the Canadian RE market in these coming years.
In Vancouver, there will be many other downside weights. We anticipate that the largest will be the loss of speculative buying (all buying based on the idea that prices go up will stop). Another downside weight will be the knock on effects of a shrinking RE sector (loss of jobs; loss of related economic activity; people leaving). Yet another will be the disappearance of the ‘move-upper’ market (as condo prices contract, almost all wannabe move-uppers will be stuck.. they will not provide support for townhome or SFH prices). Another downside weight will be cash flow negative properties coming to market that have only been held because prices have remained strong enough (we’d expect this to include some of the empty condos we recently heard about). Collapsing RE markets in China will have a modest direct downside effect, but also a larger indirect downside effect through the psychological impact on local speculators.
This list is not comprehensive, I’m sure readers can think of other mutually-perpetuating downside mechanisms. When a speculative mania cycle turns from ‘virtuous’ to ‘vicious’, the multiplier effects reverse.
Boomer supply will be just one of the many downside weights. Many who are reliant on paper RE wealth for their retirement fiscal health will come to market; as prices drop, some will do so with urgency.
- vreaa

“My buddy was looking to upgrade to a house in the Coquitlam area. With 200k extra for a home, that’s half of lifetime saving between him and his wife.”

“My buddy was looking to upgrade to a house in the Coquitlam area. Currently they own a apartment. Not sure if they even have than 10% down payment for a “used” single family home. The other day we were chatting and he mentioned how he wants to upgrade to all new appliances and do a bunch of renos when he buys a place. He said that I bought a house without a mortgage so I could upgrade all the fancy appliances at my place. Here is my thought: my place is in Surrey, which is 500k, for a single house. He wants to buy a house for 700k. His household income is not more than mine. If he is not overextending himself, he could easily do the upgrades. With 200k extra for a home, that’s half of lifetime saving between him and his wife. I guess no more trips and fancy toys.”
- from klin1022 at VREAA 18 Mar 2013 9:41am

Remember the good ol’ days when people used to think about an amount of money in terms of how long it would take to earn or save it?
- vreaa

“I don’t think that most people think things are going to crash, just that there is going to be a slight correction, but it was amazing to me how sentiment has changed, and the fact Vancouver RE is too high was just understood.”

“Investors Group (I know, I know,) came to my office for a lunchtime seminar a few days ago. (Talking TFSAs, how to reduce your taxes, etc,). Anyway, it was open to everyone, and there was over a hundred people there. Without giving away too much about where I work, there are a few administration types, and then mostly people with professional designations or MBAs / PhD’s.
The presenter mentioned Vancouver’s Real Estate Bubble a few times, and said that everyone was talking about ‘how we are in a bubble.’ I scanned the audience each time, looking for shock or surprise, but everyone had a look of acceptance, like yes, of course we are overpriced. I don’t think that most people think things are going to crash, just that there is going to be a slight correction, but it was amazing to me how sentiment has changed, and the fact Vancouver RE is too high was just understood.”

- Yellow Helicopter at VCI, 15 Mar 2013 9:48am

“What’s the worst that can happen? You can’t pay your mortgage, so sell your house! No fear.”

Hannah Sung, Globe&Mail: “According to the numbers Canadian’s are carrying more debt than ever; which seems like a worrisome place to be. So I decided to ask people: ‘What is your biggest financial fear?’.”

Man1: “That’d be my mortgage. Actually, I just lost my job, about a month ago. Believe me I’m really happy about it; I can go back to school. I really don’t want the fear to come in front of me. What’s the worst that can happen? You can’t pay your mortgage, so sell your home! No fear.”

Hannah Sung: “‘What is your biggest financial fear?’.”

Woman: “The stereotyped idea of graduating and living in your parent’s basement.”

Hannah Sung: “What is the best way to manage the stress of being in debt?”

Man2: [looking concerned] “Try to think positive. I just had a job interview.”

- from ‘The fears that grip Canadians as debts rise, housing prices fall and incomes stall’, Globe and Mail video, 9 Mar 2013

Spot The Speculators #100 – Couple In 20′s Desire Light Workload, Early Retirement And Free Money From Their RE ‘Investments’; Current RE:Networth 10:1

“In B.C. a couple we’ll call Max and Portia, 28 and 27, are trying to plan their financial future. They bring home a total of $6,880 a month from their high-tech jobs, but Portia wants to take sabbaticals to travel more and Max wants to try out a new career. They also want substantial investment income — $1,000 a month by their mid-30s. All that, plus early retirement well before 65.
What is standing in their way is not just the problem of earning enough money to do all that, but more than half a million dollars of debt
They have already made big career switches, Max from running a theatrical company for four years, Portia from several years in pharmacy management. Their jobs, their incomes and their present high rate of savings can build a solid retirement, though not necessarily an early one.

So far, Max and Portia have made a big bet on real estate. A $265,000 rental condo is their largest investment. It has a $228,775 mortgage with 26 years left on its amortization. Without capital repayment on the 25-year mortgage, interest alone is $410 a month. Condo fees and taxes add $277 for total carrying costs of $687. It generates $1,050 rent, so their total return is $363 a month or $4,356 a year. That’s a 12% return on their equity — not bad, but vulnerable to rising interest rates. If they have to roll over their 3.0% mortgage at 4.0%, which is still historically cheap, they will lose their margin of profit. No one doubts that interest rates will rise and a 1% jump is easily in the cards…
Rather than take all the risks that go with being landlords — such as vacancy, tenant damage, and the inevitable rise in interest rates — they could sell, harvest their about $23,000 of equity after 5% selling costs, and use the cash to pay off most of a $27,000 student loan outstanding at 4.5%. If they choose not to use the cash to pay off the loan, then, at $500 a month, it will be repaid in five years. Their home mortgage would still have 24½ years to run. …
If they choose jobs for fun … their ability to have a secure retirement will be at risk
Their reality at present is that debts are almost 90% of their assets. To support a $1,000 monthly investment income, they would have to have $400,000 capital generating a 3% return after inflation. They can’t do that in seven years with their present incomes and the need to pay down debt. Moreover, if Max changes jobs or Portia takes lots of time off for travel, sacrificing income and perhaps career advancement, their financial outlook would dim.
“It is not possible in any reasonable scenario, especially if they impair their incomes with sabbaticals or risky job switches,” Derek Moran [a financial advisor from Kelowna] says.

Summary of finances:

Income:
$6.9K per month

Assets: $606.7K Total
Home condo $298K
Rental condo: $265K
RRSPs: $23.7K
TFSA: $8.9K
Stock options: $4.5K
Cash: $6.6K

Liabilities: $544.4K Total
Home condo mortgage: $284.6K
Rental condo mortgage: $228.8K
Loans: $31K

- from ‘Is this couple’s financial vision an impossible dream?’, Andrew Allentuck, Financial Post, 8 Mar 2013 [hat-tip MC]

Networth: $62.3K
Percentage of Networth in RE: 973%
[For those readers who have semantic objections to their position being expressed in that fashion, think of the '973%' as an elegant way of saying that their net-worth is leveraged to RE prices by 9.73 to 1.]
So, if their RE holdings drop in market value by a touch over 10%, they lose their entire net-worth. In fact, we can say with close to certainty that, given current market conditions, their actual current net-worth is very likely less than zero, as they’d be unlikely to clear 90% of the quoted amounts on their properties if they tried to sell.
This couple represents self-delusion run amok.
They clearly see RE as a path to a light work-load and early retirement. Free money, in effect.
How many Vancouverites have built positions in RE based on similar fantasies?
Note how the sensible financial advisor (from Kelowna, and thus, we’d assume, no stranger to collapsing RE markets) advises them to sell their RE ‘investment’.
What will the effect on our markets be when all those speculators in a similar position try to get out of money losing RE, over the same few years?

This couple’s position is also particularly noteworthy in that it represents the local speculative activity that has been the major engine of our perverse bubble. Most would still argue that their actions are innocent; that they are simply trying to get ahead in current challenging economic circumstances. We’d argue that they are being greedy; and ask what the hell they were thinking buying a second, poor-cash-flow property with a household balance sheet like that. It is purchases such as these, people over-stretching to buy primary residences and/or ‘investment’ properties in the hope of future abnormally large price gains, that have relentlessly pushed up prices and formed the bedrock of the problems now facing Vancouver RE: A bubble based on cheap borrowing and over-leverage.

Speculative manias represent ephemeral fantasies, and they all, ultimately, have to be reconciled with reality.

- vreaa

“Mere mortals could not afford housing in Vancouver even back in 2004.”

“Moved from Montreal to Vancouver, stayed six years, (got-the-hell-out-cause- I-didn’t-like-it), moved out to Ottawa. In each city I had a job waiting at 90K range.

Mere mortals could not afford housing in Vancouver even back in 2004. House was fully paid off in Montreal, even with that equity we realized we were going to have the largest mortgage ever. With wife and three kids, living in a condo was not considered, so we moved a little east of the city – Pitt Meadows, commuted into Vancouver for work. Wife gradually found self employment – accounting – in small businesses locally. Loved the views, hiking with kids in the mountains, crossing to Victoria by ferry.

Shocked by real estate prices. Stunned by the cost of everything else. Couldn’t believe that salaries in general here were Lower than Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. Where in Vancouver would someone bring up a couple of kids on 60k? Where did the 35k salaries live? Was not impressed by the theatre and music scene. Good Chinese food, and Indian food, but otherwise, Vancouver does not hold a candle to Toronto/Montreal/Ottawa. Only place that made real bagels seemed to be Granville Island. Drove down Hastings Street one day. Remarkably like NYC of the seventies, down and dangerous.

Was slightly depressed by weeks and weeks of cloudy days. Missed the changing of the seasons. I love a sunny cold winter day, so bright with the sun reflecting snow. Came to realize that there were no advancement opportunities in my industry. (Like most other Vancouver industries, only a branch office in town.) A survey of some neighbours’ professions: Two teachers, one small business owner, four retired.
Realized that there would be nothing for my kids to do once they hit teenage years in Pitt Meadows. Take a 1.5 hour bus ride to see a band downtown? If would be a pain for them to go to either UBC or SFU.
And where would they live as adults? Love my kids, but after a degree, you’re out. Didn’t see a future for them here.

Moved to Ottawa. Housing is aprox 1/3 the Vancouver cost. We live 20 minutes drive from downtown and Parliament buildings – in traffic. Oldest attends Carleton U, also about 20 minutes away, by bus. High school is 4 minute walk for other two. We lucked out at Canterbury High.
Unknown to us when we moved here, it’s the city’s premier arts school. Incredibly motivated kids apply to attend Canterbury from all of eastern Ontario. We happened to move into its catchment area.
Ottawa has Carleton U and Ottawa U. Montreal (1.5 hour drive.) has Mcgill and Concordia U, if the kids want to adventure out to another city and/or immerse themselves in french language.
Ottawa has virtually no reports of grow-op busts, unlike west coast.
Ottawa has NAC, and host of other theatres, many museums, byward market. Rideau canal has pleasure boating in summer, and becomes world’s longest skating rink in winter. Hiking and cycling, cross country sking in Gatineau park is great. Montreal is 1.5 hours drive with major Jazz/music fest. Many of those acts come to Ottawa the week before or after.

Kids still facebook old buddies from the Pitt. Several bored buddies are serious dopers, dropped out, etc. We’ll go back to Vancouver to visit, but never to live.”

- Dadeedumer at VREAA 9 Mar 2013 11:57am

Thanks for sharing your story, Dadeedumer.
We bemoan the fact that RE prices have driven many from Vancouver.
And we agree that, by 2004, prices were already overextended beyond those supported by fundamentals.
- vreaa

Vancouver Sun Profiles A First Time Buyer – “I just wanted to build equity and not pay rent.”

8106638.bin

“Myles Wilcott, a single, 31-year-old general manager at Canadian Linen & Uniform Service, is among those who have met new financial requirements in order to buy a condo. He paid $412,000 for 705-square feet two-level loft in a 16-year old building in the Gastown district of Vancouver.

Wilcott had been looking at condos throughout the winter, waiting to find what he was looking for at a price he could afford.

By this spring, he had almost enough in his registered retirement savings plan to meet the minimum down payment set by the federal government. He had sufficient income to cover the monthly payments, even though new federal regulations meant he would be paying hundreds of dollars more each month than he would have been required to pay before the rule changes.

He was not concerned about reports of record high prices and talk of a possible crash in the real estate market. “A lot of people talk about getting into the market to make a quick buck,“ Wilcott said. “I just wanted to build equity and not pay rent.” …

Mr. Wilcott, who graduated from Simon Fraser University in business and human resources, said in an interview he had thought about buying a home a few years ago but did not qualify for a mortgage that was big enough to buy what he wanted.

He turned his attention to improving his credit rating, pursuing his career and putting aside some savings. “I was able to climb the ladder enough to the point where I qualified for a [25-year] mortgage.”

Mr. Wilcott started the home-buying process in December. The first step was to arrange for pre-approval for a mortgage. He had an agent to help him search in earnest for what he wanted – a loft-style condo in the downtown area. He looked at 12 different condos before finding what he was looking for.

He put down the minimum five per cent, which was about what he had saved in his tax-free registered retirement savings plan. A federal program called the homebuyers plan allows purchasers to use their RRSP as long as the money is paid back within 15 years.

His mortgage payments of $1,900 will be considerably higher than the rent of $1,200 he was paying before he bought the condo.

However it was his outstanding debts — not the monthly payments — that almost tripped up his mortgage application. Arrangements were finally confirmed at an acceptable rate with Vancity Savings Credit Union.

The whole process was a bit more stressful than he anticipated. The most difficult aspect of the purchase was evaluating the conflicting points of view he received on home buying. “I got too many people involved … there was such a wide array of opinions — buy now, don’t buy now; wait five years, don’t wait; don’t go into that neighbourhood, go over there.”

But once he met the qualifications and found what he wanted, he was ready to close the deal.”

- image and text from ‘First-time homebuyers adjust to federal changes; For those who can afford it, home ownership still a viable option’, Robert Matas, Vancouver Sun, 15 March 2013 [hat-tip OH YAH]

“$700 per month more outlay for accomodation plus condo fees, taxes, legals, move etcetera, etcetera (you all know the drill) and no mention that all his savings were wiped out during the purchase. Live and learn. Got to get on that ladder even if it only leads to a periscope.”
- Farmer, commenting on the above story, at VREAA 16 Mar 2013 3:22am

Agreed, we don’t think Myles really did the math on this.
He says “I just wanted to build equity and not pay rent”.
Even if he’s not fully conscious of it, he’s speculating on future RE price strength.
We’d bet the math shows that he wouldn’t “build equity” without that.
- vreaa

Vancouver RE Crash On Track

Expected weakness continues, sales remain low. Things are playing out as we’d anticipate. Very significant price drops to come (all in all, 50% to 66%, peak to trough). :

SALES ARE WEAK:
“The flicker of optimism that sparked in Canada’s housing market when January sales outpaced December’s has died out, erased by a notable drop in February.
Last month’s declines were significant enough to prompt the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) to cut its sales outlook for 2013 on Friday for the third time since last summer. …
“Vancouver remains the clear weak spot, with sales down a seasonally adjusted 9.8 per cent in February and 29.2 per cent in the past year,” Bank of Montreal economist Robert Kavcic wrote in a research note.But some feel that much of Vancouver’s weakness has played out.”
[hahaha -ed.]
- from ‘Clouds gather over Canadian housing market’, Globe and Mail, 15 Mar 2013

SO ARE PRICES:
“The average MLS residential price in BC was $514,134 … down 8.1 per cent from a year ago.”BCREA news release 14 Mar 2013

INVENTORY/LISTINGS ARE HIGH:
“I’m seeing big increases in New West, North Van, Burnaby SFH listings. Historical highs for this time of year. VW has stalled out; VE puttering along. Condos downtown nothing special on the inventory side. I don’t know what all that means except that our little crashlet is *not* a “Van has too many condos; it’s just condos; houses are safe from all this” thing. It is in fact inventory growth and sales declines are mostly a SFH thing, from what I see.” [price declines will effect all sub-sectors of the market. -ed.]
- VHB at VCI 15 Mar 2013 12:22pm

RE Inventory Chart130313
chart care of b5baxter at vancouverpeak.com

HOUSEHOLD DEBT CONTINUES TO GROW:
“The ratio of Canadian household debt to disposable income rose to another record last quarter, calling into question Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney’s assertion that families are listening to his warnings about the risks of borrowing too much.
Credit-market debt such as mortgages rose to 165.0 percent of disposable income, compared with 164.7 percent in the prior three-month period, Statistics Canada said today in Ottawa.
In his previous two policy statements, Carney weakened language about the need to raise the central bank’s 1 percent policy interest rate, partly on evidence a housing boom was slowing and consumer debt burdens are stabilizing. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty tightened mortgage rules in July on concern some regional housing markets were overheating.
National net worth rose 1 percent to C$6.87 trillion ($6.73 trillion) in the fourth quarter, Statistics Canada said. On a per capita basis the increase was to C$195,900 from C$194,300.”
[Watch the per capita net-worth plunge with RE prices over coming years. -ed]
- from ‘Canadian Household Debt-to-Income Ratio Rises to Record 165%’, Bloomberg, 15 Mar 2013

MEDIA STILL PUMPING:
“Global TV just ran two RE spots (within an hour of each other) on this morning’s news featuring Joannah Connolly, editor of the highly acclaimed BIV and holder of a BA in Eng Lit.
In segment one, she commented on the 0.1% rise in the Cdn new HPI (for Jan) and implied the housing market had “reversed a downtrend”. She also mentioned the Cdn$ and how “it rose five cents” yesterday. How sad. Colorful, animated bar graphs (a la CNBC) were used in the presentation to drive home the point that home prices are still way higher than they were in 2009. The year 2012 was conveniently omitted from graph #1 so as to mislead the public into believing the upward trajectory is still intact. graph #2 was equally laughable with price chg’s in Vanc, Vic, Wpg and Cda average all appearing to be gains with upward pointing bars.
In segment two, she talked about how hot the commercial RE was, that land was in limited supply and that investors were “snapping up anything and everything”.

- from bullwhip29 at VCI 15 Mar 2013 9:55am

..AND MASSAGING:
BTW, they changed the headline of the Tara Perkins article in the Globe from this…
Real estate market outlook cools as home sales plunge
To this…
Clouds gather over Canadian housing market
There….that’s better.”

- from kabloona at VCI 15 Mar 2013 11:01pm

REALTORS STILL PUTTING ON BRAVE FACES:
“BC home sales continued at a modest pace in February,” said Cameron Muir, BCREA Chief Economist. “Despite improved affordability, many potential buyers and sellers remain in a holding pattern. With pent up demand now becoming latent in the market, it’s not a matter of if, but when home sales rise above their current pace.”
- BCREA news release 14 Mar 2013

“I have continuing conversations with a friend who spent just under 1 million for an East Van home…”

“I have continuing conversations with a friend who spent just under 1 million for an East Van home.
6 months ago he thought prices would never come down for detached homes in Vancouver.
3 months ago he admitted that West side home had come down but not on the east side. After all, the west side was overvalued compared to the east.
This month he talked about re-financing their mortgage so they could take on more debt and do more renovations on their home.
sigh.”

- b5baxter at VREAA 12 Mar 2013 10:28am

Ongoing Hope For Soft Landings – “Growth should actually gain momentum this year rather than crashing as it did the U.S.”

“Some observers became panicky about a serious collapse in the market, perhaps because they believed that Canada was just like the U.S. had been in 2006.
But what we’ve seen in the ensuing months says that this interpretation was entirely wrong. Housing really is somewhat overpriced and it will indeed be the weakest part of Canada’s economy this year, notes economist Arlene Kish at IHS Global Insight, a big economics consulting firm, but it “will not be following in the footsteps of the U.S. housing downturn.”
Instead, it will be more of a typical cyclical downturn, with housing investment — including new construction, renovations and all sorts of related spending — dropping by a significant, but hardly catastrophic, 1.7 per cent. With others sectors of our economy picking up a little steam, growth should actually gain momentum this year rather than crashing as it did the U.S.”

- from ‘Canadian housing market finds its feet’, Jay Bryan, The Montreal Gazette, 15 Mar 2013
[hat-tip to 'Ryan' who told us about this story via e-mail]

Added to the ‘Premature Calls Of A Bottom‘ sidebar collection.
- vreaa

“Over the years, we refinanced our home a few times to pay off our debts. Now we’re selling our home as we can’t keep up with mortgage payments. In this market, we’re not sure if we’ll break even.”

Q: “Over the years, we refinanced our home a few times to pay off our credit cards and other debts, but we never actually got ahead. Now we’re faced with selling our home as we’re having a hard time keeping up with our first and second mortgage payments. With the market the way it is, we’re not sure if we’ll break even. What can we do?”

A: “… With over a decade of extremely low mortgage rates and fast-rising home values, many homeowners refinanced their mortgages to access the equity in their homes. Unfortunately, this can work against you if you aren’t living within your means.”

- from ‘Evaluate all options before selling your house’, Scott Hannah, The Province, 11 Mar 2013 [hat-tip Alexcanuck]

Savings rates in BC have been negative for years.
The average BC consumer debt is a remarkable $38,837, the highest in the country (up 6.2% in the last year!).
Whether by means of low downpayment or large HELOC, a significant percentage of owners are woefully over leveraged to the RE market.
All of this information represents downside risk for the RE market.
- vreaa

“He said that he is currently managing about 337 foreclosed/court ordered sale properties in Mission and Maple Ridge.”

“Bought a court ordered sale in Mission…
Property manager for the Banks came by, wondered why we were in the house…
Bank had not told him it sold… two weeks ago.
He removed the lock key holder.. we talked a bit…
He said that he is currently managing about 337 foreclosed/court ordered sale properties in Mission and Maple Ridge right now… that’s right… I asked three times just to make sure he didn’t mean 37… 337 is what he said.
… said he was not able to provide a list of the properties as the banks had forbidden him to disclose the list as part of his contract…, that’s in Maple Ridge and Mission… alone…
Yikes…
That was Three Hundred and Thirty Seven property’s in just the two districts…
WOW…Don’t see that in the news… or the real estate/assessment tax vultures sales lists…”

- Silver at VREAA 14 Mar 2013 10:08am

Two House-Warmings In South Surrey – “One thing I noticed is that no one talks about home prices going up anymore. They talk about how expensive Vancouver is and how prices will drop there, but not where they live.”

“Went to two house-warmings this week. Both in South Surrey.
While we were there we were bombarded with how great Surrey is and we should consider moving there. With close to an hour commute each way to downtown, no thanks.
Even though the townhouses were cheap (in today’s market anyways: you can get a brand new 3/4 br for the price of 1 br in the city), I was not at all enticed.
Previously, after a house warming I would feel like wow maybe I should just bite the bullet and go buy, not anymore. After the new house smell goes away, I realized how house poor all these people have become, and really their lifestyles are not any better than mine, perhaps even worse with all that extra commuting.
One thing I noticed is that no one talks about home prices going up anymore, that was different from a year ago. They now talk about how expensive Vancouver is and prices will drop there, but not where they live because it is so cheap already how can it drop. I guess they think it will always be other people’s problems.”
- 4SlicesofCheese at VREAA 10 Mar 2013 10:04am

TD Bank: “Home prices will be essentially flat for the next decade” [Therefore Vancouver Prices Will Crash]

td bank flat

“A TD Bank research report is warning that Canada’s real estate bonanza has come to an end and predicts home prices will be essentially flat for the next decade. The TD report forecasts average house prices will move lower over the next few years before modestly rebounding after 2015. But even with the rebound, TD predicts that home price increases will only rise about two per cent annually — essentially keeping pace with inflation.”
- from ‘The value of your house may remain flat for 10 years: TD Bank’, CTV News, 11 Mar 2013 [link defunct at time of press] [hat-tip E.G.]

“Just to be clear, most observers expect a soft landing, rather than a U.S.-style crash. But, according to TD, don’t bet on prices appreciating to any great extent.
“The housing market is prone to cyclical ups and downs, and Canada is expected to embark on a gradual, modest, downward adjustment over the next three years,” the TD economists said.
“A string of lacklustre performances will mean that the annual rate of return for real estate in nominal terms will be roughly 2 per cent over the next decade,” they said in their report.
“In other words, real estate gains are set to match the pace of inflation.”

- from ‘Home prices to gain ‘measly’ 2% a year over next decade: TD’, G&M, 11 Mar 2013

“The report does not predict a collapse in house prices as some analysts have suggested. In fact, it sees prices rebounding after a few years of a correction to as high as eight per cent.
However, the longer term trend is for home price gains to average about two per cent over the next 10 years — flat once inflation is taken into account, says TD chief economist Craig Alexander.
“I do not think we have a housing bubble in Canada,” said Alexander. “We have had abnormal strength in the market during a period of low interest rates and when rates go up over the next three years, you will get a cooling and weaker prices, but not a permanent shock and not a sharp correction.”

- from ‘Vancouver house prices to will outpace national average, TD report says’, Vancouver Sun, 11 Mar 2013

The vast majority of buyers of Vancouver RE, for many years, have been speculators in that they have been buying with the expectation that prices would continue to rise at an abnormally high pace (for instance, 7% per annum, or even more).
Once it becomes clear that prices will not continue to behave like this, the massive central engine for demand will disappear. Buyers will not overextend to a ridiculous degree to chase prices that aren’t going anywhere. The fear of being “priced out forever” will no longer propel their behaviour; the greed that previously encouraged buyers to “jump on the RE train” will disappear.
This is why a speculative mania never, ever, ends with a flat market.
Once the speculative component of prices evaporate, prices will fall to those supported by fundamentals, far below. In Vancouver’s case, these levels are 50% to 66% off peak.
- vreaa

“I am a boomer. I am appalled at some of the financial situations that my contemporaries have gotten themselves into. I can’t stand it, it is all around me.”

“I am a boomer. I am appalled at some of the financial situations that my contemporaries have gotten themselves into. They have borrowed against their homes while saying “that’s just a line of credit, the house is paid for”. They have counted on the run up in real estate without selling and now owe more on the house than when they bought it TWENTY years ago! When renewing their mortgages they roll in their latest credit card debt. Then they keep the amortization high so the payments are as low as possible. These people owe hundreds of thousands of dollars and now are having health issues, divorces, and want to retire. How can you do all that and not have a thought as to paying off your debt? Time is not on their side.
When the lender they started with is cautious and turns them down, they go elsewhere, get the loan and a promise of more if needed and then bad mouth their first lender. They never miss a chance to go somewhere warm for a month and love the casino and the lottery. Their cars are new, Friends, family, acquaintances, I can’t stand it, it is all around me.”

- camper at VREAA 8 Mar 2013 11:05am

… and then prices start to descend, and the whole debt expansion process goes into reverse (as is occurring just about… now). Ghastly implications for the individuals involved; not good for the group, either.
- vreaa

VanCityBuzz – Vancouver vs. NYC – “If Vancouver wants to keep waving the world class flag, she’d better get used to being compared to those with a few hundred years experience, because beauty and access to a lot of natural resources can only take her so far.”

guggenheim

Empty-Chairs

“Vancouver is often touted as a world class city by local boosters. While the costs of living and real estate prices are certainly indicative of that caliber, our culture (or lack thereof) and the locals’ inability to get to know themselves without making a big stink about how dissatisfied we are with one another, leaves us to question whether or not our very young city is really ready to step up onto the global stage. There’s only so many years a city can ride on having hosted the lesser of the Olympics, no matter how many gold medals were won by locals. Only so many venues can close before the so-called ‘creative’ class finally throws in the towel and leaves everything to the mercy of developers, corrupt political parties and their sycophant friends. So since I’ve just returned from a five month stint in New York, I’ve been asked by the good people at Vancity Buzz to write up a piece comparing some of the finer points of life in both cities.” …
“Housing and Real Estate Development
I’m no expert when it comes to discussing the finer points of housing and real estate, however as someone who at this point can never even hope to think of one day dreaming about the mere thought of buying a property in or around Vancouver, it’s important to mention that many New Yorkers are in the same boat. I was warned that everything is much more expensive in NYC, but this isn’t true at all. If anything, prices for lodging are almost exactly the same. My trendy, 1500 square foot loft cost close to, if not slightly less, than what you’d end up paying here, which is about three grand per month. And just like here, it pays to have roommates.
There are always new development projects happening all over the city, with walk-ups and high rises popping up all over New York, like zits on a teenager’s chin, boasting deals “starting at only 500K!” The difference between there and here is less of a marketing push. Of course, there are the requisite flyers falling out of every free weekly, but I didn’t notice such an in-your-face attempt as Vancouver’s to get me to sign over the next 30 years of my wages in exchange for a tiny, poorly built shoebox in the sky. Nor did I see any buildings wanting to have sex with the handsome new 12 story about to go up just off Bedford. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t looking, or there was a lack of real estate focused billboards, I don’t recall.
New Yorkers, while dealing with various gentrifying forces, are less likely to complain about being priced out of their neighborhoods thanks to fairly rigorous rent control initiatives, which, like the subway, place the rich and poor side by side, often in the same building. Still, just like Vancouverites, there are grumblings among Gotham locals about everything going condo and being sold to absentee foreign investors. But boy did they have a laugh when I showed off CrackshackorMansion.com.” …
“Conclusion
If New York is a grand dame of the urban world, gaudy, spackled with lights and experienced in the ways of love and war, then Vancouver is like a naturally beautiful teenage girl: not sure of what she yet wants or what she’s capable of, only that she’s good looking enough to, for now, have her pick of suitors at the expense of those who really have her best interests at heart. …
All in all, these are two different places, with their own unique styles, so is it even really fair to compare the two? Well, if Vancouver wants to keep waving the world class flag, she’d better get used to being compared to those with a few hundred years experience, because beauty and access to a lot of natural resources can only take her so far.”

- from ‘A Tale of Two Cities: Vancouver vs. New York’, by Hipster Designer, VanCityBuzz, 6 Mar 2013 [hat-tip proteus]

Lower Mainland Couple In Their 70′s; RE Makes Up 216% Of Net-Worth; Desire To Buy More – “My friend is getting worried about his parents’ financial situation.”

“I was talking to a friend earlier today, He’s getting worried about his parents’ financial situation…
Get this:
$2.6 million invested in real estate… all in the Lower Mainland.
$1.4 million of mortgage debt (54%). Dad is over 70, mom not much younger.
Imagine a collapse of 50% of the market in the LM. The entire family’s net worth would be wiped out. Really scary. The irony? They want to invest even more in real estate (because they lost so much money in mutual funds…).”

- Makaya at VREAA 6 March 2013 8:22am

We still believe that the (90 minus age)% guideline for maximum percentage of net-worth that should be in RE makes sense.
These guys should have less than 20% in RE, their actual number is 216%… and they want to increase it!
We’ve heard enough of these stories now to extrapolate that there are a significant number of people in this position. They are very vulnerable to price declines, and they make the market that much more vulnerable, too.
- vreaa

“Forty percent of homeowners over age 65 had mortgage debt in 2010, compared with just 18% as recently as 1992, Reuters reports.
The Investor Education Fund recently found that 24% of Canadian homeowners surveyed expect to have debt on their principal residence after they retire. Of those who expect to owe money on their homes when they retire, more than one-quarter said they don’t know how they will pay it off.”

- advoc8 at VREAA 6 Mar 2013 at 2:12pm, quoting from ‘How Baby Boomers are rewriting the rules of retirement’, Financial Post, 6 Mar 2013

“Talked to a Vancouver man who sold all his assets in Vancouver. He told me he bought a newer house in Arizona for $105K that has a renter that pays $850 a month.”

“I went to a real estate seminar in Phoenix and the prices to rent ratios were awesome for investors. Talked to a Vancouver man who sold all his assets in Vancouver. He told me he bought a newer house in Surprise Arizona for $105,000 that has a renter that pays $850 a month. I guess Canadians have higher incomes for higher price real estate.”
- happy renter at greaterfool.ca 4 Mar 2013

Fitch Ratings – Canadian RE 20% Overvalued; BC 26% Overvalued

“American-based agency Fitch says house prices are overvalued by approximately 20 per cent in real terms across Canada, with regional variations.
But in releasing its ratings on Monday, it said Alberta’s market is overvalued by 15 per cent.
“Because of the effects of inflation and price momentum, it is not expected that prices would drop by this amount,” said the Fitch report. “If growth halted and prices began to drop, it would be expected to take several years for home prices to revert to their sustainable values, depending on a number of factors such as government support and credit availability. With this time frame, the actual observed decline in prices could be as low as 10 per cent.”
It said rises in prices have continued with small corrections since 1996, and specifically since 2008 have risen when underlying fundamentals suggest that growth is unsupportable.
It said the Ontario market is overvalued by 21 per cent, Alberta by 15 per cent, British Columbia by 26 per cent and Quebec by 26 per cent.”

- from ‘Canadian housing prices overvalued by 20%: Fitch Ratings’, Calgary Herald, 4 Mar 2013 [hat-tip Nemesis]

“Vancouver Island real estate is crashing.”

“Mid Vancouver Island real estate is crashing.
So many listings have been reduced 4-5 times and over $100,000 in price reductions, and still no greater fools buying.
Nanaimo to Courtney is kapoot!
Someone turn out the lights and end their misery.
This is not ending well!”

- unbelieveable at greater fool.ca 1 Mar 2013 10:13pm

“Central Vancouver Island is kaput is almost an understatement. Comox Valley: MLS Inventory, 874. February sales, 36. MOI, 24.4. This is a total wipe out.”
- Ford prefect at greaterfool.ca 1 Mar 2013 11:13pm

“I train automotive dealership employees how to use my employer’s software for a living.
Yesterday, one of my clients was a woman who used to be a realtor for 6 years on Vancouver Island……and last week I had another ex-realtor on Vancouver Island with 20 years of experience. Both left the RE industry recently, and just entered the car business.
That’s about 4 of them I have encountered in the last month alone.”

- Carioca Canuck at VCI 2 Mar 2013 10:35am

The Blast Radius moves closer to the epicentre.
(cue Jaws theme)
- vreaa

“It was a chance conversation with a seasoned realtor that tipped me off to the whole bubble back in 2004.”

“It was a chance conversation with a seasoned realtor that tipped me off to the whole bubble back in 2004. When I met my wife she had just purchased a condo in Surrey for $135k. We moved into it and met a tough-as-nails older woman who had been a realtor for 30 years and lived in the building. She shared the history of the building with us. Units had originally sold for $170k but a leaky condo adventure had dropped the value down to $70k, many lost their homes but those that were left were holding out for the prices to return to $170k. I asked her how long that would take. She pondered it, referred back to her 30 years of experience and said. “Probably 10 years.”

Almost exactly one year later in mid 2005 she came to us to tell us she could get $160k for our unit if we wanted to sell and move to a larger unit. We took her up on it and bought a larger unit in the same building. We got an over ask offer of $164k and bought a bigger unit for $170k. A year later and I was now working in Burnaby, a crappy commute. The condo needed a new roof and we had an assessment of $5000 that we had to take HELOC to pay for. We got a call to check out a place in a co-op in Burnaby near my work. It was perfect for the family we wanted to start. When we returned from checking out the co-op there was a flyer under our door. Our friendly realtor had just sold a comparable unit to ours for $240k.

Our families told us we were nuts to sell and rent. I smelled a rat, this experienced realtor had predicted 10 years to appreciate from $135k to $170k. And two years later the value had skyrocketed to $240k. My sister explained that I didn’t understand because I didn’t have kids yet how important it was for us to have real estate holdings to leave them. I decided that when I did have kids, they would be better served having me home for the two hours I would have been commuting then having a condo in Surrey 50 years from now. We pulled the trigger, the realtor actually sold the place to the same people who had bought our previous unit and we are now renters in Burnaby.

I knew nothing about real estate when I met my wife, she had bought into the market with an inheritence and had a bit of trouble walking away from ownership. But strata drama had shown her that she didn’t really own much of anything, she couldn’t rent her place out, she couldn’t decorate the way she wanted, she could have the pets she wanted, it was really a lot like living in a co-op. Except your crazy neighbours are toying with a massive chunk of your equity when they make silly rules. (They tried to make the building a 55+ while we lived there).

But ultimately it was that chance conversation with the realtor when she genuinely predicted a slow, steady increase in value that paced with inflation that tipped me off to the anomaly that was this price increase. I watched it shoot up and I was not prepared to sit back and watch it drop back down, taking my windfall with it. My wife is glad we made the move too, now she tries in vain to explain to her friends and family that they are headed for financial ruin if they continue their real estate delusions. But we all know how that goes.”

- lexlimo at VREAA 27 Feb 2013 9:42am

Thanks for your story, and for all your other comments on the blog, lexlimo.
- vreaa

Housing Makes Up 20% Of Canadian GDP – “This heavy reliance is not healthy. We basically borrowed our way out of this recession. Now, it’s payback time.”

“If the city is any indication of what’s going on in the country, it’s over-reliant on its housing sector.” – Herbert Crockett, a retired World Health Organization executive who lives in France says of Toronto.

“We basically borrowed our way out of this recession. Now, it’s payback time. We will be in for a period of long, slow growth.” – Benjamin Tal, deputy chief economist at the investment-banking unit of Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.

“It did seem a little unusual to have every policy maker in Ottawa hectoring Canadians about their excessive debt levels and yet the economic incentive for the average Canadian was completely slanted to taking on debt and not saving. The realist in me would admit it was the only tool the Bank of Canada had. The reality was, they really could not lift interest rates.” – Douglas Porter, chief economist at Bank of Montreal.

“As an economist working for a Canadian bank, I can’t go into a client meeting and have someone not ask me about housing in Canada. For U.S. investors, they are still a little gun-shy about what happened in the U.S., and I think they worry the same fate will happen to Canada.” – Tom Porcelli, chief U.S. economist at RBC Capital Markets LLC, Royal Bank of Canada’s investment-banking unit, in New York.

Meantime, the share of GDP linked to housing, including construction and renovation, soared to more than 20 percent. A similar U.S. measure peaked at 18 percent in 2005. Canada’s share of construction jobs in total employment was 7.3 percent in January, above the 4.3 percent in the U.S.
“This heavy reliance is not healthy,” CIBC’s Tal says. “I expect to see some softening.”

- excerpts from ‘Canada Losing Debt Halo as Bull Market Housing Peaks With Carney’, Bloomberg, 26 Feb 2013 [hat-tip Nemesis]

As we have been saying here for years.
What percentage of Vancouver’s GDP is linked to housing?
- vreaa

‘CMHC seeking to hide foreclosure information from home buyers’ – “CMHC just told us that pricing will stay strong and now they want to keep information about foreclosure secret. Where there is smoke there is fire.”

“Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. has been asking realtors for months to keep consumers in the dark about whether the properties it sells are part of a foreclosure, according to a document obtained by The Financial Post.
The move, said to be part of CMHC national policy, upset Quebec realtors who refused to play ball, worried about an ethical breach. …
Some real estate industry insiders wonder whether the Crown corporation is simply being prudent, not letting potential buyers know a property is part of a distressed sell so they can put in a low-ball bid.
Others question whether the Crown corporation is just getting things in order in case home prices collapse and they are forced to sell properties that are backed by government insurance. …
“Look at what is going on right now in financial institutions and everybody is ratcheting up their loan-loss provisions,” said Ben Rabidoux, a Canadian analyst for California-based Hanson Advisors, a market research firm whose clients are institutional investors. “Everybody expects loan losses to rise. I can’t imagine CMHC is in the dark on that. My suspicion is they want to limit any loss on that hits their books.”
By limiting the information on whether a property is part of foreclosure, the Crown corporation would potentially avoid a situation in which a buyer knows it has to sell. In the United States, foreclosed properties have sold at huge discounts.
“CMHC is trying to get the better price,” said Don Lawby, chief executive of Century 21 Canada, who had not heard of the new policy. “You know something is repossessed, you low-ball the offer. You know you are not dealing with a homeowner but an investor.”

- from ‘CMHC seeking to hide foreclosure information from home buyers’, Financial Post, 27 Feb 2013
[hat-tip Reader #4]

“If the price of a house is good or someone is putting a low ball price and the seller is ok with that…I call it the market. CMHC just told us that pricing will stay strong and now they want to keep information about foreclosure secret….When you have smoke…fire is not very far…” – ‘luckyluc’, commenting on the above article at the FP site

Is it within the CMHC mandate to take active measures to hide information from the public?
Aside from that, the need for deception is massively telling – the market is at risk from normal price discovery processes, and the CMHC obviously now sees that.
- vreaa

Realtor Tries To Sell Own Home But Can’t – “Buyers are very skeptical, very hesitant because they think prices may go down.”

Hoda Seraji is experiencing Vancouver’s housing slowdown firsthand. A real estate agent, she took her own family’s two- story house in Canada’s third-largest city off the market after failing to get a single bite for the C$2.39 million home overlooking the Pacific. Cutting the price for the five-bedroom, four-bathroom residence didn’t help.
“Buyers are very skeptical, very hesitant because they think prices may go down,” she says.
Seraji blames fading interest from foreign investors, especially in China. Changes to Canada’s mortgage rules designed to cool the market have accelerated the sales drop, she says.

- from ‘Canada Losing Debt Halo as Bull Market Housing Peaks With Carney’, Bloomberg, 26 Feb 2013 [hat-tip Nemesis]

Agreed, “buyers are hesitant because they anticipate prices are going to drop”.
The problem is not with the buyers, but with prices that are still very, very overinflated.
What was that “C$2.39 million home” selling for just ten years ago? Less than $500K, most likely.
Because of the very large speculative component to price in Vancouver, price drops will not draw in demand, but rather beget further drops.
- vreaa