Tag Archives: Anecdotes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wage To House Price Ratio Is A Changin’

inside-llewyn-davis-trailer

Readers may have seen the 2013 Coen brothers movie ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’, about a folk singer in NYC in 1961.
In a relatively early scene we hear from Llewyn’s sister that their parents’ house has been sold for “Eleven-Five” ($11,500).
Immediately thereafter Llewyn sits in on a recording session for another folk singer, playing second guitar and doing fill-in vocals on one song. For this he is paid $200 (a little under 2% of the value of a house!).
Gee, how times have a-changed.
The equivalent in our town today would be for a musician to be paid $15K-$20K for session work on one song.
– vreaa

No, Not Karl Marx; That Other Mark, Mark Carney – “Just as any revolution eats its children, unchecked market fundamentalism can devour the social capital essential for the long-term dynamism of capitalism itself.”

“Just as any revolution eats its children, unchecked market fundamentalism can devour the social capital essential for the long-term dynamism of capitalism itself,” Bank of England governor Mark Carney said. “A sense of self must be accompanied by a sense of the systemic.”

Carney said public trust had been damaged by the behaviour of banks both before and after the financial crisis. He cited allegations that the Libor interest rate benchmarks and prices on the foreign exchange market were tampered with.

“Unbridled faith in financial markets prior to the crisis and the recent demonstrations of corruption … has eroded social capital,” he warned. “An unstable dynamic of declining trust in the financial system and growing exclusivity of capitalism threatens.”

- from ‘Bank of England’s Carney says bankers should be less selfish’, David Milliken, Reuters, 27 May 2014

Related things can be said for the threats to a society of perversely low borrowing rates resulting in astronomically overvalued homes. A housing bubble devours its life-blood.
Carney was instrumental in ensuring years of mispriced money in Canada. He repeatedly threatened to tighten policy, but never walked the walk, and his words were ignored and seen as vacuous. And he never adequately leaned on those in government with direct influence on mortgage terms.
– vreaa

The New Yorker – Vancouver RE As A ‘Hedge'; “Zombie Neighbourhoods”; “The rest of us better get used to being tenants”

“The most expensive housing market in North America is not where you’d think. It’s not New York City or Orange County, California, but Vancouver, British Columbia. Now, Vancouver is a beautiful city—a thriving deep-water port, a popular site for TV and movie shoots. By all accounts, it is a wonderful place to live. But nothing about its economy explains why—in a city where the median income is only around seventy grand—single-family houses now sell for close to a million dollars apiece and ordinary condos go for five or six hundred thousand dollars. “If you look at per-capita incomes, we look like Reno or Nashville,” Andy Yan, an urban planner at the Vancouver-based firm Bing Thom Architects, told me. “But our housing prices easily compete with San Francisco’s.”

When price-to-income or price-to-rent ratios get out of whack, it’s often a sign of a housing bubble. But the story in Vancouver is more interesting. Almost by chance, the city has found itself at the heart of one of the biggest trends of the past two decades—the rise of a truly global market in real estate.

A recent report by Sotheby’s International Realty Canada examined more than twelve hundred luxury-home sales in Vancouver in the first half of 2013 and found that foreign buyers accounted for nearly half of sales.

Vancouver isn’t an obvious superstar. It’s not home to a major industry—as New York and London are to finance, or San Francisco to tech—and it doesn’t have the cultural cachet of Paris or Milan. Instead, Vancouver’s appeal consists of comfort and security, making it what Andy Yan calls a “hedge city.” “What hedge cities offer is social and political stability, and, in the case of Vancouver, it also offers long-term protection against climate change,” he said. “There are now rich people around the world who are looking for places where they can park some of their cash and feel safe about it.”

The globalization of real estate upends some of our basic assumptions about housing prices. We expect them to reflect local fundamentals—above all, how much people earn. In a truly global market, that may not be the case. If there are enough rich people in China who want property in Vancouver, prices can float out of reach of the people who actually live and work there. So just because prices look out of whack doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a bubble. Instead, wealthy foreigners are rationally overpaying, in order to protect themselves against risk at home. And the possibility of losing a little money if prices subside won’t deter them. Yan says, “If the choice is between losing ten to twenty per cent in Vancouver versus potentially losing a hundred per cent in Beijing or Tehran, then people are still going to be buying in Vancouver.”

The challenge for Vancouver and cities like it is that foreign investment isn’t an unalloyed good. It’s great for existing homeowners, who see the value of their homes rise, and for the city’s tax revenues. But it also makes owning a home impossible for much of the city’s population. And the tendency of foreign buyers not to inhabit investment properties raises the spectre of what Yan has called “zombie neighborhoods.” A recent study he did found that a quarter of the condos in a luxury neighborhood called Coal Harbour were vacant on census day.

One option would be to severely restrict foreign ownership, but that’s politically difficult, and not great for a city’s economy. It might make more sense if the Vancouvers of the world simply charged foreign buyers a premium for the privilege of owning there. “We’re one of the places where people seem to want to park their cash, and there aren’t that many of those places,” Yan says. “So let’s raise the parking fees.” As for the rest of us, we’d better get used to being tenants.

- heavily excerpted from ‘Real Estate Goes Global’, James Surowiecki, The New Yorker, 26 May 2014

When the New Yorker mentions Vancouver RE, that deserves a post.
– ed.

Vancouverites have ten times the personal debt of people in the ‘debt capital of Britain’.

“The BA1 9 postcode area has the highest level of personal loans per person in Britain. Each owes an average of £2,311 [Can$4,279], according to the latest data from the British Bankers’ Association (BBA).”
– from ‘Lansdown, unlikely personal debt capital of Britain’, Kevin Peachey, BBC, 24 April 2014

In the ‘You-call-that-a-knife-THIS-is-a-knife’ Department, compare this with our muscular local figures:

“At the end of 2013, Canadians owed a total of $27,368 on such things as lines of credit, credit cards and car loans. … Vancouver residents experienced the biggest increase in consumer debt, hitting $41,077 at the end of 2013, up seven per cent from $38,357 in 2012. … “.. the real estate market has really had an impact there,” said Thomas Higgins, TransUnion’s vice-president of analytics and decision services.”
– from ‘Vancouver ends 2013 with highest consumer debt in Canada’, The Canadian Press, 26 Feb 2014

A Veterinarian’s Dilemma – “Living in a 300-square-foot closet, moving to northern B.C. or renting for life.”

“My veterinarian, owner of a successful west-side practice, emailed recently to say young professionals like him “are left with a choice between living in a 300-square-foot closet, moving to northern B.C. or renting for life.”
– from ‘Here in B.C., we’re richer than we think — on paper’, Barbara Yaffe, 24 Mar 2014

[Posts are, as you can see, very sporadic. No change in our outlook for Vanc RE market. -ed.]

BC Premier: “I think the market’s good, it’s a buyers market. I want to make sure I get in before prices start to rise.”

“In Kelowna on Thursday, Clark said she has already been on the Internet looking for a home but would also like to hear from anyone in real estate about a home that requires low maintenance.
“I have a cat, but I won’t be bringing her. So no pets, no smoking and low maintenance,” she said.
The premier told reporters at her victory party on Wednesday night that she didn’t want to be “presumptuous” and start looking for a house while she was campaigning, but she’s getting serious now.
“I think the market’s good, it’s a buyers market. And you know the riding is really getting stoked again, so I want to make sure I get in before prices start to rise.”
– from The Times Colonist, 11 July 2013 [hat-tip kabloona]

Announcement:
With this brief (but sweet) post, we’ll be taking another break from our (admittedly very skeletal) posting habits of the past six weeks. We’ll be on hiatus for at the very least the rest of the summer. Refer to VCI and Whispers for ongoing Vancouver RE discussion. We hope to be back in full at some point. Enjoy the fine weather, and keep well, all. – vreaa
(PS: Nothing has changed regarding our overall bearish outlook on the Vancouver RE market.)

Mayor Robertson Selling His House

912 W 23rd

912 W 23rd Avenue, Vancouver
2,922 sqft SFH
Asking price $1,950,000
Assessed (reportedly) $1,600,000

- for the whole story, see ‘Guess who’s trying to cash out of the real estate market in Vancouver?’, at ‘Whispers from the Village on the Edge of the Rainforest’, 9 July 2013
[hat-tip Burnabonian]

“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]

“We spoke to a friend of ours yesterday. Even though she has purchased a house, she wants to keep (and rent out) the condo she’s living in, because she thinks prices will only go up.”

“We spoke to a friend of ours yesterday. Even though she has purchased a house, she wants to keep (and rent out) the condo she’s living in, because she thinks prices will only go up. She estimates her condo to be worth $530K, and rent she would receive to be $1800/mo. After taxes and condo fees, this appears to be a yield of 3%, without taking into account repairs/upkeep on the unit itself. She’s getting a one-year fixed rate of one point something percent to finance the thing. Sounds crazy to me!”
– from ‘s’ via e-mail to VREAA 13 Jun 2013

Families With Children Leave Vancouver – “We bought a townhouse in Port Moody in 2006, sold it in 2011 and bought a house. We couldn’t have done that in Vancouver. Absolutely not.”

“Last month, The Sun reported preliminary results of a Vancouver school board survey that found many families are leaving Vancouver due to the high cost of housing.

The purpose of the survey was to pinpoint the cause of the declining enrolments, which is bad news for school boards because fewer students means less government funding and difficult decisions about cuts to spending and closing schools.

In each of the past three years, the Vancouver school district has had a net loss of 600 to 700 students, the report shows. A typical elementary school in Vancouver has about 300 children.

Tracking where the students who left Vancouver schools went isn’t easy; there is no central source of this information.

Ministry of Education figures show a drop of about 10,000 students in all B.C. schools between 2008 and 2013, which could be attributed to people having smaller families, people moving out of the province or other factors.

While it may be difficult to pinpoint exactly where Vancouver’s students are going, at least some of them are heading to the eastern suburbs.

Catherine Cowan and husband Trevor are among those families, moving to Heritage Mountain in Port Moody from Burnaby in 2006, primarily because of the lower cost of housing but also for the town’s livability, good schools and community feel. Before moving to Burnaby, they lived in Vancouver.

“We bought a townhouse (in Port Moody) in 2006, sold it in 2011 and bought a house. We couldn’t have done that in Vancouver. Absolutely not.”

- from ‘Go East: Families leave Vancouver for suburbs Surrey, Coquitlam, Langley school enrolments rise while more expensive areas see decline, Tracy Sherlock and Brian Morton, Vancouver Sun, 4 July 2013 [hat-tip RESkeptic]

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

“I was really fortunate with how things worked out for me in real estate. I definitely took chances when I bought a few presale condos to flip back in 2004, but I was adamant at the time that there was room to grow for Vancouver.”

“I have moved on from residential and have been working in the commercial RE industry for over 8 years now. A lot less ups and downs and I get to deal more with businesses rather than individuals who tend to be less professional. Both sides of the industry have their pros and cons, but I love working with commercial brokers and tenants. I work for a large developer in town looking after their commercial portfolio in Western Canada.

A little about what has happened [to me]:

- Sold 2 of my condos that I bought pre-sale in 2004 in downtown Vancouver just by Rogers Arena. One sold in 2010 and the other in 2012. Both were 2 bedrooms that were purchased for $280K give or take and sold around $560K each. One I lived in with my family and rented out the other.
– Used the profits to upgrade to a spectacular 3-bedroom, 1600 square feet “new” condo in Fairview
– Have 2 lovely young kids
– Love condo living close to downtown with my family for the proximity to work downtown, restaurants everywhere and just the energy that the burbs don’t offer

I was really fortunate with how things worked out for me in real estate. I definitely took chances when I bought a few presale condos to flip back in 2004, but I was adamant at the time that there was room to grow for Vancouver. I still think it is one of the best places to live in the world and I am gladly paying for it by choosing to live close to downtown. I travel a lot internationally and every time my plane lands at YVR, I feel so blessed to be back home to such a beautiful place.

I took some chances, had some luck and stayed away from the extreme negative and positive views of posters on [RE Talks forum]. I would put myself in the Bull camp always, but that is only because I think you need to be ready to seek out deals – and this requires a pro-active mindset. One should never buy what they cannot afford (everyone agrees on this), but you should always be ready to buy a home when you need one (starting a new family, for example). Most of the original bears on [RE Talks] are gone, but I must say, it is funny to look back and see how wrong on the timing they were.”

- Property_Magnate at RET 24 Jun 2013 [cited by 'WhipMaster' (aka Johnny Horton, etc, etc) as an example of a story from a "winner" in Vancouver RE, VREAA 25 Jun 2013 7:14pm]

Nobody is disagreeing with the idea that one could have done well in Vancouver RE by buying in 2004.
And, please, nobody misinterpret the above anecdote as an endorsement for buying “a few” presale condos in Vancouver, least of all in 2013.
– vreaa

Making Sense Of It All

ay_112821317

- Leandro Erlich’s Dalston House is at 1-7 Ashwin Street, London E8 3DL until 4 August as part of Beyond Barbican.
See here for video from The Guardian 26 Jun 2013: “A Victorian terrace has popped up in east London that lets you swing from its ledges, run up its walls and generally defy gravity. Architecture critic Oliver Wainwright hangs loose at Dalston House, the novelty installation by Argentinian artist Leandro Erlich.”

BRITAIN-ART-HOUSE-MIRRORS

“I have been contacted by two of my realtor friends in the past week both proclaiming that the market is turning and that this is a good time to buy.”

“I have been contacted by two of my realtor friends in the past week both proclaiming that the market is turning and that this is a good time to buy. One of them even mentioned that interest rates will be rising this Friday. When they tell me this I argue that they should look at the ten year average. Sales are still around 20% lower than the ten year average and this is with major banks advertising mortgate rates under 3%. If you compare stats between spring 2012 and 2013 it is like comparing chicken manure and cow manure. Yes cow maure is better than chicken manure but it is still manure. One of them had the audacity to say: “You better get in now I bet you five years from now people will say that Spring 2013 was the real estate bottom.” Hearing this I had to refrain myself and asked him to google “Asset bubble graph”. Where we are now is called the “Return to ‘normal’ phase aka “bull trap”; and guess what comes after next? As a matter of fact the Vancouver real estate market is following the graph quite closely. Never bet against human nature. I may be wrong but I highly doubt it. I think we will know for sure by this time next year. Unlike most bulls I know, I am putting my money where my mouth is. I am not buying now even though I have a down payment ready and could afford the mortgage without straining myself. In terms of real estate it will be an interesting rest of the year.”
Waiting to exhale at VCI 7 June 2013

Trump on Vancouver – “Your people, they go to New York, they go all over the world, and they speak so highly.”

“I love Vancouver. I have had so much experience with Vancouver and with people who live here. You don’t even realize how important it is in terms of a destination and also your people they go to New York, they go all over the world and they speak so highly.”
Donald Trump, as quoted in ‘Trumps announce exclusive tower deal in Vancouver’, CBC.ca, 19 Jun 2013 [hat-tip jesse/YVR]

Did he try to say that people in New York speak highly of Vancouver, but just couldn’t?
– vreaa

‘Canadians obsessed with real estate, poll suggests’ – “Just as many people reported talking about real estate on a regular basis as they did about hockey.”

hi-realtor
Besotted.

“Most Canadians think about real estate on a regular basis, and a good number of them are obsessed with it, an online survey suggests.

That’s the takeaway of a recent poll by online home selling firm Zoocasa, where the real estate company commissioned Abacus Data to poll 1,000 Canadians online between June 3 and 6, 2013.

The poll found that 84 per cent of respondents across the country think about real estate on a regular basis, and 85 per cent have gone as far as shopping online for a new home in the past year.

“In ever increasing ways, Canadians seem almost obsessed with real estate. And it’s understandable,” Zoocasa president Carolyn Beatty said in a release. “For the vast majority of Canadians, their home is the largest purchase they will make in their lifetime.”

Nationally, more than a third — 34 per cent — described either themselves or a loved one as obsessed with real estate. In the Greater Toronto Area, which has the second-highest average home price in the country after Vancouver, the percentage of people who identify themselves as being obsessed jumps to 47 per cent, the highest in the country.

Zoocasa notes that the survey took place during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and just as many people reported talking about real estate on a regular basis as they did about hockey.

Some 28 per cent of respondents say they have gone to an open house at some point in the past 12 months.”

- from ‘Canadians obsessed with real estate, poll suggests’, CBC, 20 Jun 2013 [hat-tip elchavo]

Not me!
I can quit whenever I want!
– 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

“Things have changed, we are not doing that type of mortgage. We are not interested at all.”

“I am currently interested in a piece of property in the burbs; a unique property which is why I would be willing to move on purchasing now at today’s prices. This is land, no house. I am eminently mortgagable… credit scores at almost 900, dual income, large amount of assets. Approached M-Cap, BMO, Enbridge, People Trust, CIBC, TD, and a couple of others for financing. Still waiting for 1 or 2 answers to come in.. but.. 5 institutions say “things have changed, we are not doing that type of mortgage, we are not interested at all” (without even inquiry into our situation). 3 institutions say “we would only consider a higher interest builders mortgage”. And by higher they really mean higher… Wow. Remains to be seen if financing can be had.”
Burbs Boy at VCI 24 May 2013 4:51pm

“We are noticing our target type of housing in price decline, albeit slow, as our money increases in value, slowly as well but outpacing housing.”

“Here’s a true story. I’ll call it 20 REASONS THIS COOL SPRING MARKET SUCKS FOR BULLS–Or how I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb!

1. We sold at the last peak.

2. You know what happened after that…housing skyrocketed.

3. We missed that.

4. Our half-house is now worth 165K more than when we sold. Ouch!

5. It was in a neighbourhood we hated. We decided to move every 2 years to try out neighbourhoods before we bought again.

6.. We moved. First into a crazy-expensive dream apt (condo) for a year. Unbelievable view.

7. We wanted to treat ourselves. We did.

8. We loved it but the drug dealers started moving in.

9. So it was more than OK to move out.

10. Got another condo rental. It was unbelievably unique.

11. Patio was under review when we moved in.

12. Patio repair was estimated at 6K and 6 weeks.

13. Patio repair cost landlord 11K and took 8 months. Our rent was reduced. It was one of two patios so no biggie.

14. Landlord had just paid 6K for last year’s repair.

15. We moved out on 2nd year, windows were leaking. Est. repair for building 11K-17K each unit. Plus front walkways were put on hold by 3 years of repair. Majority owner in building refused all repairs. Lawyers might have been needed. We moved.

16. Now in City managed building in OV. Great apartment.

17. Remember #4 above? “Our half-house is now worth 165K more than when we sold. Ouch!” Well, our money is now worth 433K more than when we sold.

18. We now know: no condos for us. We will get a 1/4, 1/3 or 1/2 house on the westside.

19. We know the neighbourhoods we like.

20. We are noticing this type of housing in price decline, albeit slow, as our money increases in value, slowly as well but outpacing housing.”

- mac at VCI 24 May 2013 11:31am

Renter Buys In West Van – “For a few hundred more per month, you could own the place. Which is what I will be doing as my offer for a place down the street has been accepted. There is some value in staying in one place.”

“I am currently renting in West Van. It has been difficult to find decent, “affordable” rental accommodation on the North Shore. For a few hundred more per month, you could own the place. Which is what I will be doing as my offer for a place down the street has been accepted.
Went for 23% below the list price. Owner been in the place for 11 years, and over that time, the value of the property increased on average 5% a year. I negotiated hard, walked away twice, and eventually the seller caved, just like I knew he would.
I’ve been renting for 5 years now, ever since a health crisis with one of my young children moved me back here. I was the bear amongst all my peers who are all “owning”. I still think there will be a crash in the Lower Mainland – but I think it will be an uneven crash. Certain areas will crash worse than others. I don’t think the entry level house market in West Van will crash. I think it will take a 10-15% drop and then move sideways or at inflation for a generation.
There is some value in staying in one place.”

– chumpy le chump at VREAA, 2 Jun 2013 4:36pm

All the best with your purchase, chumpy.
Does the “few hundred more per month” include all expenses (and assume no downpayment?). Share the math if you care to.
Further:
That’s 70% increase over 11 years (5% p.a. compounded)? Is that representative of the price increases on similar properties?
As we’ve said before, we expect all property types to revert to long term means; we don’t expect any to somehow be exempt.
– vreaa

A Bed in the Bathroom, Why Not? [Let Us Count The Reasons...]

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“Here is another great Vancouver rental listed on Craigslist [link no longer active]. A bed in the bathroom..”

“Rental information:
Newly finished 1 bedroom with own ensuite. Furnished.
Access to dining room, living room and kitchen on main floor.
$500/month includes utilities, washer and dryer, and wireless internet.
Close to transit and shops.
No smoking. No pets.
Perfect for international students and short term renters.”

- from ‘Vancouver rentals: A Bed in the Bathroom, Why Not?’, vancitybuzz.com, 28 May 2013 [hat-tip space889]

Outrageous!
The underlying message, of course, is that we are Tokyo.
Again, consider this idea in relation to Canada’s vast expanse of land.
The bubble continues to grossly distort our thinking.
– vreaa

Vancouver-Rental-bedroom-in-a-bathroom

“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

“My best guess: this property is now an ‘investment hold’ and will be built ‘when prices recover’. Good luck on that!”

“The dominos start to fall: SFR Project on indefinite hold in Van West!
This is a property I have been watching for some time: 4988 Chancellor Boulevard in University, Vancouver West. A 7,700 square foot lot with an old house in an exclusive area of mostly older homes, with a few new builds. Sold under MLS V951758 in June 2012 for about $2,600,000 listing was at $2,688,000; by June 2012, properties in Van West were already coming under some price pressure. After it was sold, a sign appeared on the site, advertising a new 4,500 square foot modern architectural home to be ‘built in 2013′ with completion by 2014, priced at $5,188,000 under V989612 still active, but listing now says ‘completion in 18-24 months’. However, after about 6 weeks the sign disappeared and from June 2012 through last week the house was vacant and there were no signs of construction. Then last week April 10, several large U-Haul trucks arrived and a pickup toting a boat. Now, there is furniture in the house, a new ‘beware of dog’ sign on the front and from the shoes outside the front door, it appears it has been rented to a family plates on vehicles are BC. Normally, a family doesn’t move lock, stock and barrel into a house on a month-to-month tenancy, so I’m guessing they have a longer lease, but I cannot find a rental listing. The developer of the new house, Natural Balance Premium Home Builders, does not list this house on its website and the purported architect, Frits de Vries’, website does not mention this project.
My best guess: this property is now an ‘investment hold’ and will be built ‘when the prices recover.’Good luck on that!”

RFM at VCI, April 15th, 2013 at 7:37am

Man Loses $745,000 Vancouver Condo Deposit

“A man who put down and then lost a $745,000 condo deposit when he failed to complete the sale can’t get his money back, says a B.C. Court of Appeal ruling.
Afrasiab Amiri agreed in 2005 to pay a 25 per cent deposit of $745,325 for a $2.9-million condo in the Erickson development, located on the oceanfront on False Creek, before construction was completed.
The condo sale was valued at more than $3 million after the developer agreed to install limestone floors, which increased the price by $71,300.
The balance of the purchase price was to be paid on closing, but the purchaser did not secure financing to complete the deal by the contract deadline.
The seller refused further extensions, and relying on the terms of the contract retained the purchaser’s deposit.
Amiri filed legal action, claiming the seller was in breach of the contract. He sought the return of his deposit, contending the contractual terms calling for its forfeiture were invalid.
The trial judge rejected Amiri’s claim, and on Tuesday three judges of the B.C. Court of Appeal upheld the lower court’s ruling.”

– from ‘Man loses $745,000 deposit after $3-million Vancouver condo deal fails: court’, Canadian Press, 9 Apr 2013

It’d be interesting to know why “the purchaser did not secure financing to complete the deal by the contract deadline”.
Was it for reasons specific to the individuals economic situation, or was it because the market value of the property had plunged and no lender would consider making the loan?
– 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.

The Rare Individual With A Negative Ownership Premium

“I love moving. The longest I’ve ever lived in one apartment is 3 years. I usually move every year or two. Sometimes I move after only a few months. Some of my moves have been because I was renovicted by the landlord. Sometimes I move because the landlord never does repairs and I am sick of taking him to the RTB. But even if there are no problems with the apartment, I’ll start thinking about moving after one year. After two years in the same apartment, I start getting really antsy to move. Real estate bubble aside, I could never buy real estate because I could never commit to live somewhere long term. I don’t really understand how people do it? Don’t they get bored with their homes after a few years? Don’t they get tired of looking at the same view every day for years on end?”
perma-renter at VCI January 22nd, 2013 at 4:31 pm

Advice Regarding Renting In Vancouver, Please – “Unfortunately, the Vancouver rental stock is absolutely atrocious. It just seems like every landlord is looking for someone to pay 100% of their mortgage on a crappy place through rental income.”

“..reading this blog I’m glad to see there are many others like me who eschew real estate and prefer to rent. My wife and I are in that camp. We moved from TO to Vancouver about a year ago, so our perceptions of the Vancouver rental market are pretty uninformed. Currently, we are looking to upgrade our rental from a small 1-bedroom, downtown apartment to something larger (a detached or 2+den apartment >1,000 sf) and within good distance of rapid transit (or at least what qualifies as transit in the rainforest). Unfortunately, the Vancouver rental stock is absolutely atrocious (at least compared to what I was used to in Toronto). Just browsing Craigslist or Kijiji becomes depressing – a large number of “garden” (re: basement) suites, or just places in serious need of some TLC. It just seems like every landlord is looking for someone to pay 100% of their mortgage on a crappy place through rental income (so much for their faith in real estate appreciation, eh?). Another challenge for us is finding a place that will except our small dog – our own doing, but she’s part of our family. Love to hear how others are fairing in their rental hunt.
Where do you guys look to find good rentals in the city? Do you use an agent? Any blogs you can recommend for people like us to share our thoughts on the rental market?”

rent_vancouver at VREAA 11 April 2013 11:01pm and on

“I just visited Manhattan for a week, and happened to snap some real estate ads on both the Upper West and Upper East sides of the island. Compare to Vancouver. It simply doesn’t compute.”

IMG_1003

IMG_1004

“I just visited Manhattan for a week, and happened to snap some real estate ads on both the Upper West and Upper East sides of the island (both very affluent areas). Compare these prices for these apartments, located in the heart of the one of the world’s most important metropolises with all the employment opportunities that go along with it…. to how far one’s money goes in Burnaby, Downtown, etc. It simply doesn’t compute.”
– from ‘L’, via e-mail to VREAA, 8 Apr 2013

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]

‘Vancouver City Hall: Housing Report Card 2012′; Plus Revised Version

The following ‘Vancouver City Hall: Housing Report Card 2012′ appears at VanCityBuzz 8 April 2013.
The cheekily truthpacked revised version below that is from a source that is as yet unknown to us (but was passed on via e-mail by ‘B’, 9 Apr 2013).

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DOl5sJa

“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?”

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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

“They were talking about two couples they knew who had recently bought a lot and planned to each build a house on it and live as neighbours.”

“I was in a Starbucks in Kits today listening to two very Vancouver ladies talking RE. They were talking about two couples they knew who had recently bought a lot and planned to each build a house on it and live as neighbours. These ladies were concerned because one of the couples were heavy pot smokers. They wondered how the other couple would feel having clouds of dope smoke wafting in through the open windows on warm summer evenings. I just looked at my wife, who had been listening intently as well and whispered TWEB (This Will End Badly).”
lexlimo at VREAA 4 April 2013 7:17 pm

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

“He’s sold all his properties except his current one, which is now for sale. He explained that the market’s currently in crash mode, worst that he’s ever seen.”

“Just spoke to someone in the neighbourhood, real estate came up and it came out he’s invested in real estate over the last 15 years, buying dumps and fixing them up and flipping them. Has done this multiple times I was thinking oh no, this is going to end badly, then he told me he’s now retired and I thought even worse… Then continued to say he’s sold all his properties except his current which is currently for sale and explained that the market’s currently in crash mode, worst that he’s ever seen. He talked about 2008 and thought we were in for something far worst this time. Talked about previous declines he’s seen and thought this is going to be worst. Doesn’t follow any of these blogs. He’s getting close to selling now for about a 40K loss, and thinks he’s close to sealing the deal, but I got the impression he’d be happy taking even more of a loss just to get out.
He’s moving away from the lower mainland and buying farmland to retire on. Mentioned there are a couple others a few streets away that bought/reno’d/now trying to sell, thinks they’re already listed at breakeven and that they need to come down quite a bit more before selling. …
This was in South Surrey, I should add. Was a guy that seemed to have had some very good days in his life and has seen some very tough times…. Sounded like he was in the midst of a tough time job wise in his life in the late 90′s and is a pretty good handyman and kind of fell into the real estate thing, rode it up, and jumped off when he realized he had gained enough money to live out his life without worrying any further about money.
I was taken aback by this guy… Good for him.”

groundhog at VREAA 1 April 2013 at 4:10pm and 4:39pm

“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

Sturdy, With Views – “Calling Froogle Scott!… Is Dr. Scott ‘In The House’?” [Not In This One, Certainly]

Poster ‘DNAspark99′, [on the forum bcsportsbikes, 22 Mar 2013 and onwards; hat-tip RE Lurker] has posted images of a ‘building’ that is under construction, with this commentary: “So, my landlord has taken it upon himself to build a ‘toolshed’. For a roto-tiller. At least, that’s the entirety of what he told us – there are, however, some inherent communication issues. (He’s Korean, and not yet well versed in English (though certainly much better than my Korean)). There’s one door so far, and a lawnmower will not even fit through it. (I don’t think he knows that yet though)
So, this is the ‘project’ thus far. For one, the ground it’s being built is mushy moist marshland – your feet sink with every step. Which is always ideal for a good foundation – or complete lack thereof.
It may not be immediately obvious, but I don’t think this man has a background in construction.
It appears he owns a hammer and saw, perhaps a measuring tape, perhaps not. Certainly nothing like a square, straightedge, or level.
I guestimate that he has seen no more than 3 episodes of various home improvement shows, and maybe at best he’s driven by a construction site atleast once in his life. After all, “How hard could it be?”

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And now, in time-lapse video:

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A second time-lapse video [posted 2 Apr 2013], worth the watch for casual efficiency, for the horse, for the stuff falling off the roof, and for the paint-job:

“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