Tag Archives: blogs

Bubble Bear Bloggers Buy… in Seattle and New Jersey


“Tim, the seattlebubble.com blogger, bought this house [3601 Wetmore Ave, Everett, WA; 1,620sqft SFH on 6,098sqft lot] for $225K. [Seattle Bubble blog, 27 May 2011]. He expressed concern that the act of buying would be seen as “moral weakness” and “picked to pieces” by readers. He summed up rationale as “buy vs. rent was in favor of buying for the location & type of homes we wanted to live in”.
At less than $150/sqft, it seems fine to us. -ed.

HOMEOWNERS James A. Bednar and his wife, Jayne, are in the throes of renovating their first home, in Wayne. Mr. Bednar, a blogger, has been a longtime public skeptic of the real estate market.

BIG news in the virtual neighborhood: “Grim” bought a house. [from nytimes.com 12 May 2011]
For the last six years, James A. Bednar — or “Grim,” as he is known in the blogosphere — has served as a passionate advocate of cool wariness about New Jersey real estate. Through his posts on njrereport.com, Mr. Bednar convened a community of skeptics, scoffers and scavengers for “true value” during times of spiraling prices — first up, then down.
Most regulars on the blog appear to have remained renters through at least one full housing market cycle, depending on how one measures the cycling. As did Mr. Bednar.
But on the morning of April 29, as Grim, he abruptly posted the announcement that he and his wife, Jayne, were closing on a three-bedroom ranch in Wayne. “Has J. B. lost his mind?” asked Grim about himself.
There were 217 quick responses. “Now I’ve heard everything,” read one. Others asked whether Mr. Bednar would disband the blog, for which he is unpaid (definitely not, he said), and whether prices had now hit bottom (he did not answer that). But most expressed warm, if teasing, congratulations.
“I’m sure with your knowledge of the market you are getting a real good deal,” read a post from “Mikeinwaiting.” “As far as bottoms go, well, you take your chances.”
Mr. Bednar, who says he usually blogs in the wee hours, has had a full-time job as a software technician since graduating from college during the dot-com boom of the early 2000s. He withheld the gritty details of his purchase from the blog. But in an interview, he readily gave them up, saying that since he was in the habit of exposing price information about other peoples’ houses, it would be hypocritical to do otherwise: purchase price $435,000, list price $479,000 — meaning that the Bednars negotiated a 9 percent discount.

—-
As we’ve said before, US RE is a fair buy at present. There is likely still more downside, but, looking at these purchases prices, even another fairly big leg down wouldn’t completely destroy these folks.
Vancouver, snap-shot from the future, sometime later this decade? -ed.

“Hi, my name is Kate and I’m a recovering real estate addict…”

Kate at greaterfool.ca 9 Apr 2011 12:35am -
“Hi, my name is Kate and i’m a recovering real estate addict. I used to spend afternoons searching for the perfect home on my pre-approved budget. Then i started watching home and garden. I hit rock bottom when i started scheduling viewings for houses we couldn’t afford.
Luckily my husband stepped [in and] held a real estate intervention before things got bad.
We live in a beautiful million dollar rental, and pay 2200 a month. I sometimes feel like i want to own, thanks to pregnancy hormones. But i’m happy, debt free, and i don’t have to pay an 800 a month strata fee.
Reading this blog [greaterfool.ca] gets me through the hard nights when i want to pull up mls and buy a house in Vancouver. Thank-you garth [Garth Turner, at greaterfool.ca] for saving us lots of money.
Now if you could only write an anti-designer hand bag blog my husband would really owe you.
Thanks again.”

“I just kept thinking: Something is not right here, too much risk, don’t people worry? They seem to think NOTHING is possible, until it’s literally happening.”

This from “just call me anonymous please” via e-mail to VREAA 18 Jan 2011 -
“I was at Metrotown this evening, SALE signs everywhere (retail – a hint at the big picture ?). What is it? Boxing month?!
As a young (23 y/o) Vancouverite, I felt so alone before finding the [bearish RE websites]. I just kept thinking “Something is not right here, too much risk, don’t people worry?”. Everyone I know is sucking on the kool aid, it’s extremely comforting to know I’m not alone in my views. People truly are stupid, it seems they are just not too good at taking guesses at estimating possible outcome scenarios. People are shortsighted, they think NOTHING is possible, until it’s literally happening.”

Yes, we are aware that one can make the argument that the bearish Vancouver RE websites are like a cult, with posters and readers all reinforcing each other’s delusional views of coming RE collapse. But, we consider that argument carefully, weigh it, and discard it. There is far more evidence that the delusions are held by the far larger bullish-owner-speculator cult, who are apparently having to deny far more to maintain their false beliefs. Sample belief: “There is no relationship between income and the price of housing.”  -vreaa

TPFKAA – “Like many people I have been trying to save with my wife for the past four years, with the end goal of buying a house”

Just three or four short days ago ‘anonymous’, the poster now known as ‘The Poster Formerly Known As Anonymous’ (‘TPFKAA’), started treating us to anecdotes in the VREAA comment sections. We’ve already headlined one of their composite anecdotes [Spot The Speculators #22; 23 Dec 2010], and will headline others in the near future. And there will be even more to follow, we hope.
Here’s TPFKAA’s own story, edited and compiled from various posts, 22 to 24 Dec 2010, at VREAA:

“I have been a blog reader for the past few weeks – it has been eye-opening. I have since been collecting my own anecdotes. I have “vectored” in to this site to share my experiences, as limited as they are. I felt it my duty to share with others as they have generously shared – I owe a debt of enlightenment to the many who bothered to post real stories from their lives, in keeping with the spirit of this forum. I (have gone) a little evangelical on the postings volume, I must admit, and for this I apologise. I had a lot of anecdotes built up over the past month that I felt would be of interest. [No need for apologies, the anecdotes are appreciated. -ed.]

Like many people I have been trying to save with my wife for the past four years, with the end goal of buying a house – (we actually wanted a small condo or townhome but have her father living with us, and with two kids, there are very few that have enough bedrooms. One thing I don’t understand is why virtually no one builds four bedroom apartments or townhomes – they are surely more economical than SFHs?) We were despairing of ever being able to afford anything large enough. I was looking as far out as Mission (we work in Vancouver, rent in Burnaby). One day I just got sick of every minute of every day thinking about how I could spend less and save up fast enough to get in to the market, and did a little search on Google for “average Vancouver house price” to see what information I could uncover to get a glimpse at future house prices. I came across Vancouver Condo info’s rollercoaster, saw the charts, and in rapid succession hit VREAA and Garth Turner’s blog. Read every Froogle Scott episode (loved the writing and the detail) – and months of archived blogs and anecdotes. The wife says I am obsessed.
I think it’s fair to say my world shifted on its axis. Since then, I have been asking subtle questions of anyone I encounter (it’s surprisingly easy in Vancouver, in 2010, to ask highly personal questions like how much did you spend on your house! amazing…) and my findings astonished me. The one question that had been puzzling me was the HAM or Hot Asian Money hypothesis, that had all my family members believing prices will NEVER come down in Van. So I got my realtor landlord into a discussion and worked my way to asking how these investors get the money. He volunteered all of the above. I should mention that together with his brother, he also manages 19 properties for investor clients, taking care of renting them out, maintenance etc. (his brother does the legwork, gets a small rent based commission, and together they share the commission from the eventual sale of these investor properties.) All these investor clients are living in Van, and own one or more investment properties in addition to primary residence. Most of them bought in around ten years ago, however, so they truly are long term investors.

I will keep asking around for more information. As far as I see it, there are two possible outcomes to this real estate conundrum:
1) Chinese and other foreign investors keep coming with enough cash and overseas income to buy up all Westside and work their way east with tear-down and rebuilds, with no need of local jobs. Local wage earners unlucky enough to be left behind in the property market rent or leave. That would include us. A skeleton crew of baristas, mechanics, retail staff, Ferrari and Lamborghini salespeople and check out clerks live in rent assisted social housing islands in a sea of uber wealthy, world’s-elite-with-a-penchant-for-temperate rainforest-climate-owned mansions. What happens to the local economy next I am not smart enough to figure out.
OR:
2) Many of the overseas investors are overleveraged in a speculatory bubble, both in their home markets (esp. China) and here. Rising interest rates and falling prices sap their will to buy higher. Depending on events in China, prices either decline calamitously or grind down slowly as per Garth Turner until they rest somewhere slightly above where fundamentals would put them, so about 4.2 price to income ratio (Vancouver seems to always have been above fundamentals. (grow op income perhaps?)
People continue to buy in preference to renting because of the homeowner premium. (as a six year renter since I arrived in this god-forsaken city I am prepared to pay slightly over to not have to deal with the landlords here – words cannot describe how cheap they are and how much it annoys me to have to spend money and time on making repairs because they never show up and I worry that they will raise rent every time I make them fulfill their legal obligations and actually spend the money on repairing dripping taps, leaks, broken stairs, etc.)

So that’s my take. I will keep collecting information to help the blogosphere decide where this will end.

As a new-ish Vancouverite who has lived in Italy, Spain, UK, Finland, Japan, even Albania albeit briefly, and traveled in 28 more countries, I want to tell something to all of you: read my lips very carefully:
THIS – IS – NOT – THE – BEST – PLACE – ON – EARTH.
It’s just like every other place, ok in some respects, sucky in others, great in a few. Get your heads out of your asses. It’s almost embarrassing telling people from other parts of Canada where I live, as I inevitably get tarred with the same brush of arrogance.

In my case, housing in Vancouver wasn’t affordable 4 years ago, and it isn’t affordable now. If it were affordable I’d be mortgaged to the hilt just like everyone else, nervously biting my bull hooves hoping that all these have-nots posting away into the night are wrong. I didn’t try to outsmart the market. I came within 10,000 more saved dollars of pathetic little downpayment to springing for a 1950s bungalow on an easement in Surrey backing onto railway land that if BC rail decided it needed, would cut the corner of the house off. Well, the 10,000 wasn’t as big an obstacle as the wife’s reluctance towards the place.”

Self Referencing Meta-Post – “The best indicator that there’s a RE bubble in Vancouver? The fact that there’s a RE blog (VREAA) that is basically dedicated to comments posted on other RE blogs.”

Anonymous at vancouvercondo.info December 4th, 2010 at 9:03 am -
“The best indicator that there’s a RE bubble in Vancouver?
Nope, it’s not rent-value ratios, median income, affordability, etc.
It’s the fact that there’s a RE blog (VREAA) that is basically dedicated to comments posted on another RE blog (VCI)…
A blog about comments on another blog that basically consists of comments….nice.”

vreaa replied December 4th, 2010 at 9:10 am -
“You make a good point, one that is not lost on many of us.
The fact that so many spend so much time thinking about the RE markets is itself an example of the misallocation of resources that occurs during a bubble.
We are aware of this.
In unusual times, people do unusual things.

[For the record, we source anecdotes from wherever they are available: RE blogs, news sources, e-mails directly to us, word of mouth, etc. VCI (vancouvercondo.info) is certainly our single 'richest' source for anecdotes. This is because it's the most active discussion about Vancouver RE out there at present. 'Anonymous' is incorrect to imply that VCI is our sole source, but, we believe, is correct to point out that the simple fact that VREAA exists can be seen as further evidence of a bubble. In 'normal' markets conditions we certainly wouldn't be collecting anecdotes. -vreaa]

The Importance of Buying at Vaguely the Right Time

When somebody next claims to you that RE, or any investment, always goes up “in the long run”, or by “x% p.a. over any 20 year period”, and that you should therefore simply buy & hold, show them this diagram. It’s from Carl Richards, at a NYTimes investment blog 10 Aug 2010. One implication is that the time that you buy can make massive differences in your actual dollar returns. – vreaa


Misinformed Citizens – “She mentioned now is a good time to buy, read it in a paper, heard it on the news. I said now is exactly the wrong time to buy. Many people that don’t keep up with blogs or follow stats closely haven’t really got it yet.”

When BC is in crash mode and the majority are saying “nobody knew this could happen here”, the stories on the blogs will stand as a record that a small minority had seen the bubble for what it was all along. -vreaa

metalhead at vancouvercondo.info 5 Aug 2010 5:21 am“Spoke with the neighbour’s wife on the street. She knows I have talked about buying another property in the past. She mentioned now is a good time to buy, read it in a paper, heard it on the news. I said now is exactly the wrong time to buy. Prices are still very near peak and the downturn is only just starting. She seemed surprised. Many people that don’t keep up with blogs or follow stats closely haven’t really got it yet.”

Opinion from Mike Shedlock – “I am now confident the peak in Canadian housing insanity is finally in.”

This from one of the highest traffic economics blogs in North America. We agree. -vreaa

‘Mish’ (Mike Shedlock) at his blog globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com, 6 Jul 2010 -

“First comes volume, then comes price; Canadian housing peak is finally in.

Housing Collapse Cascade Pattern

  • Volume drops precipitously
  • Prices soften a bit
  • Inventory levels rise slowly
  • High-end home prices remain relatively steady for a brief while longer
  • The real estate industry tries to convince everyone it’s “business as usual” and homes are affordable because rates are low
  • Bubble denial kicks in with media articles everywhere touting the “fundamentals”
  • Stubborn sellers hold out for last year’s prices as volume continues to shrink
  • Inventory levels reach new highs
  • Builders start offering huge incentives to clear inventory
  • Some sellers finally realize (too late) what is happening
  • Price declines hit the high-end
  • Increasingly desperate sellers get creative with incentives, offering new cars, below market interest rates, trips, etc
  • Gimmicks do not work
  • Price declines escalate sharply at all price levels
  • The Central Bank issues statements that housing is fundamentally sound
  • Prices collapse, inventory skyrockets, and builders holding inventory go bankrupt

Some of those may happen simultaneously or in a different order, but the whole mess starts with a huge plunge in volume.

I am now confident the peak in Canadian housing insanity is finally in.”

A Journalist Leaves Vancouver – Max Fawcett’s Goodbye

http://img.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2007/07_02/planeDM2207_468x336.jpg

Just last month we featured local journalist Max Fawcett’s anecdote about friends leaving Vancouver. Max has now announced that he has himself left Vancouver, for Edmonton, and that RE prices are the major reason for his move.  Some confident locals will argue that these desertions are meaningless, that Vancouver will be no less attractive a city without these folks, that there is an endless supply of talent and wealth hankering to get in here, so why should we worry?

We personally have a very different take on this, and believe that this almost invisible loss of human capital is one of the most important ways in which the Vancouver RE bubble has hobbled our city. People who would under normal circumstances be playing various active roles in our communities are chased away by preposterous RE prices.

RE has taken centre stage in our social, cultural and economic life, and that is a place that it doesn’t deserve. We look forward to a time when homes in Vancouver are again seen as places to live, rather than investments or speculative vehicles. And we particularly look forward to a time when it is again possible for people like Max and his friends to make Vancouver home. -vreaa

Read Max’s whole article at MaxFawcett.com 13 May 2010. Excerpts below.

“Having been born and (mostly) raised in Vancouver, I’m not ignorant to its charms. But it long ago became obvious to me that the average citizen who lives there pays a high price for those pleasures, one that’s only gone up in recent years.”

“I lay most of the blame for this state of affairs on the overheated real-state market. When the average couple – one without trust funds, inheritances, or seven-figure jobs – can’t afford to buy the average home, there’s a price to be paid. In the short-term, that price will be paid (in a cruel irony) by those very same average couples, who will leverage themselves into knots to get into the market.”

“Those average couples will start to look elsewhere, to the Edmontons, the Saskatoons, and the Halifaxes of the country, places where middle class people – teachers, journalists, nurses, and tradespeople, for example – can afford to live middle class lives. They’ll move to places where they can afford to save money, to have children, and to plan for the future, rather than remaining on the economic hamster wheel of places like Vancouver and Toronto, where wages remain stagnant while prices shoot ever higher.”

Discussion Regarding ‘VREAA Removes A Post’ – “Shall we compare the societal damage done by someone with a few stickers in his pocket to the societal damage done by a massive housing bubble?”

Many thanks to all for the thought provoking discussion regarding ‘VREAA Removes A Post’ (4 May 2010), both in comments posted here, and elsewhere.  [Comments from some other sites are archived, here.] Instead of responding to all the various ideas in a piecemeal fashion, I thought I’d respond in this post.

Perhaps the most important topic raised is the issue of freedom of speech, and journalistic freedoms. Many commenters were dismayed by my decision to take down the post, and I can understand their responses:

  • “Please don’t cave in to realtor pressure, you are simply reporting a story” -Mark
  • “Giving in to bullies is not really a good way to go about reporting on issues.” -Snowrunner
  • “Take Down ?!? Its part of the history!” -asalvari
  • “Pretty ridiculous that you caved in to the realtor’s demands.” -Adrian

Many encouraged me to put the post back up, but I have decided not to do that.
Let me emphasize that in principal I agree with the argument that there is nothing illegal about the post, and that it was by and large simply reporting. I documented activity that had occurred in the community that was reflective of sentiment regarding the Vancouver RE market. That is something that I have done in many other posts at this site. In fact, a central focus of this blog is documenting stories that reflect the personal and social effects of the RE bubble, and the fact that some individuals had felt moved by the market circumstances to post posters and stick stickers certainly is noteworthy from that perspective.

If I was an anonymous reader of this blog, I’d quite likely also have tried to encourage the blogger not to be intimidated and to take a stand on this issue.
However, a good number of commenters saw that this was a more complex matter for me, the blogger. I greatly appreciated the supportive comments that showed a somewhat nuanced understanding of how it would feel from the blogger’s perspective. Not by co-incidence, some of that support came from individuals who themselves have experience of blogging:

  • “Cut VREAA some slack. I suspect he doesn’t have the time or $ to take a big legal stand.” -VHB
  • “I applaud your wise decision to move on and post another day.” -Larry

Refusing to remove the post may have provoked an actual legal proceeding. Recall that I received two e-mails from the realtor that made direct threats of legal action. The second e-mail had come even after I’d clarified that I was not responsible for the stickers in any way. I will add here that the realtor works as an agent for a fairly large realty company. It is highly likely that, if their company decided to back them in this action, they would have automatic access to legal resources, whereas I do not.
As various commenters pointed out, if the realtor did proceed with this action, even if they had no grounds at all (as I believe is the case), it would potentially have cost me my time and my money.
It would be, at the very least, a nuisance, and, at worst, would take up my personal resources. I really don’t think the case would have gone very far, but it could still have proven to be a significant interference.

  • “Be careful” – freedom
  • “Tread lightly on the legal stuff.” -Larry

With all that in mind, I did the risk/benefit analysis, and decided to remove the post.

  • “If vreaa chooses to not put the pics up again I completely understand: a nuisance suit is still a nuisance suit! Who has time for the hassle?” -Absinthe

Another consideration that contributed to my decision was the risk of being scapegoated. Recall that I’d had absolutely nothing to do with the poster or sticker campaign itself. But if the realtor was angry enough about something, and had nothing better to do, they may have pursued the action anyway, if only to blow off steam. Again, this would have all come out in the wash, but I didn’t want to be a by-stander drawn into a brawl that I had no part in.

Now, if I was a public figure in the Vancouver RE market, or if I was someone who made my living from journalism, or if this was a blog where the central focus was freedom of speech, I would possibly have responded differently.

  • “Contact BC civil liberties association and get a quote or two for the press.” -Rocker Guy
  • “I’d throw this story to some local guerrilla political messaging blogs and let them take it from here.” -jesse

As it is, I decided to respect the realtor’s request, and decided not to go head-to-head with them about something that I ultimately just didn’t see as worthwhile taking a big stand over.

Many commenters appealed to me to release the name of the realtor who sent the e-mails, or the e-mails themselves.

  • “One case of Molson’s finest delivered free to anybody who can come up with that reators name.” -joeblow
  • “I think someone threatening to take legal action against you should be named. Again, it’s newsworthy and readers of the site would want to know.” -midbach

I haven’t seen fit to do that, even though I suspect it would be within my legal rights to do so. I made that decision simply because I don’t want to be a party to escalating any form of uncivil discourse or action. I know that the vast majority of readers would not act on that revealed information in any untoward way but, this is the internet, and I wouldn’t want to take the chance. Witness this comment exchange:

  • “You absolutely have to give us the realtors name, and there would be nothing illegal about that. This CREEP would wish he’d never been born.” -sluggo
  • “What, are you going to put stickers all over his signs?” -Dave

In this regard I should re-iterate that none of the realtors whose signs were imaged on the web, nor any well known realtor bloggers, were the source of the e-mails.
I would also re-iterate that I do not condone any actions that involve breaking the law.
Bears can express themselves and, more important, this RE market will do what it’s going to do, without anyone breaking the law.

  • “Don’t descend to their level. The best revenge is making sure the facts and real information gets out there.” -Plummet
  • “House prices are not going to change as the result of a grassroots movement. Leave it to the Invisible Hand [of the market]” -Newcomer

Many of the comments were thought provoking.
More than one commenter noted that, in complaining about coverage of these incidents in the community, the realtor had actually drawn more attention to the message on the poster, and stickers, and I think that is a remarkable point:

Another commenter suggested that the realtor should have politely asked to have the images taken down prior to threatening legal action and, I agree completely, that form of discussion would have been far preferable.

  • “I am unimpressed with anybody who brings lawyers into the picture when simply politely pointing out one’s concerns with an image could accomplish the same effect. I would certainly avoid hiring a party who is so quick to jump to their lawyers.” -VultureBoy

Commenters suggested that this whole affair was itself a noteworthy ‘data point’ in the Vancouver RE bubble. Perhaps, like the simultaneous deflating of the roof of BC Place, this will mark the final top.

  • “If you want a measure of what the sentiment and a big part of the narrative around real-estate in this town it’s kind of all condensed into this one little event.” -nonymouse
  • “The fact that a realtor would threaten to sue over posting pictures of “bubble” stickers on realtor signs is the surest smoking gun you need that even the realtors know this market is done.” -Rent-o-rama

Of particular interest, I believe, were the points made by commenters regarding the relative intrusiveness of the stickers on the realtors’ signs compared with the impact of aspects of the RE bubble itself:

  • “Gimme a break, realtors are the ones that vandalize our hoods in the first place by putting their for sale ad signs up all over the place.” -gork
  • “So it is unacceptable to put a tiny sticker on a FOR SALE sign, but it is perfectly ethical to sell an overpriced home to an overextended family…” -painted turtle
  • “Shall we compare the societal damage done by someone with a few stickers in his pocket to the societal damage done by a massive housing bubble? If the first is an ounce, the second is an ocean.” -VHB

A special form of comment and a considerable amount of derision came from local realtor Rob Chipman, at his own blog, in the form of a post ‘Guerilla Education’ (robchipman.net, 6 May 2010).
I should explicitly state that Rob was not the realtor who e-mailed me the threats, and he has even seen fit to reproduce the images at his site. Rob takes me to task for both the content of my original post, and for my decision to take it down.
Firstly, with regard to post content, Rob says that I was wrong to label this action “a guerrilla education campaign” and to have said that “there are still members of the public, trapped in disinformation bubbles, for whom this will be news”. He claims: “We live in the information age. You can get all this information on your phone, right now.” For the record, the image of the poster on the lamppost shows that it included statements such as “Vancouver has been rated the most unaffordable city in the English speaking world” and “Interest rates are expected to rise, causing some mortgage payments to increase by 60% to 100%”. Well, yes Rob, you may be able to get that information from your phone, right now, if you know where to look. I would argue that a good number of Vancouverites, dependent on local media for their information, are not aware of these facts. They don’t look for them on their phones because they’re not even aware that there are important RE market issues being debated. It’s certainly not something that is easily learnt from local papers, local TV, or from the copies of ‘Real Estate Weekly’ that are delivered to our doors (uninvited) 50 times a year or more.
Secondly, Rob believes I should “stand up and preserve our freedom of speech, not fold like a cheap tent and cry foul”. Well, I’d refer him to my discussion above, and ask him to try to see this situation from my perspective. I suspect that ‘freedom of speech’ includes the freedom to decline from speaking when one has good reason.

The purpose of VREAA is to document the personal and societal impacts of the Vancouver RE Boom and Bust. It has always done this through civil discourse, as any regular readers know. The Vancouver RE cycle will wax and wane in its own sweet time, and that is going to play out regardless of these kinds of skirmishes.

  • “time to move on” -jesse

Thanks again for all the discussion. I’m going to continue to post anecdotes, with occasional commentary. If you have any stories from the Bubble-trenches, please send them along.
-vreaa


VREAA Removes A Post

VREAA yesterday took the unusual step of removing a prior post and, in the interest of the integrity of the archived record, we thought that we’d share with readers the circumstances that led to that decision.

Recently, unknown individuals stuck posters and stickers up around downtown Vancouver that were obviously designed to warn citizens of a ‘housing bubble’. A reader at vancouvercondo.info reported these to the blogging community (29 Apr 2010). Readers know that at VREAA we are interested in stories that reflect significant activity and sentiment in the Vancouver RE market. We certainly felt that this apparent guerilla campaign was newsworthy, and, in the interest of archiving these images, we posted a note at vancouvercondo.info saying that we’d be interested in any images of this campaign. In response we received two snapshots by e-mail (one of a poster on a lamppost, another of a sticker on a realtor sign).

We posted those two images in a post here at VREAA entitled ‘Bears Take It To The Streets – “Vancouver Housing Bubble Ready To Pop!” Signs In Downtown Core’ (30 Apr 2010). In the comment section of that post, a commenter linked a 3rd image, a snapshot at ‘flickr’, and we added that to the post. A further two relevant images were found on Mike Shedlock’s (‘Mish’s’) very well know financial blog, ‘Global Economic Trend Analysis’. Also in the comment section of our post, on 2 May 2010, a commenter with the handle ‘Vigilante’ posted ‘tinypic.com’ links to what appeared to be the original images for the poster and sticker that had been used in the campaign.

Yesterday, 3 May 2010, vreaa received an e-mail from a local realtor who had initially assumed that the campaign originated from this site (VREAA) and threated legal action for “defacing company property”. In response, we immediately removed the links to the images from ‘Vigilante’s comment. In an e-mail to the realtor, we clarified that VREAA was not the source of these images nor of this campaign. In a second e-mail, the realtor claimed that “[in] displaying such vandalism on your site you are a party to promoting such activities” and requested that we stop posting this kind of promotion of unlawful acts”. They again threatened legal action. In response to the second e-mail we took our original 30 Apr 2010 post down all together. No images related to this story are any longer available from this site.

At VREAA, we do NOT condone or encourage any actions that are unlawful, nor have we ever intended to do so. We archive stories from the Vancouver RE market, at times with commentary. Since February 2008 we have posted over 500 such anecdotes. Our readers know that we believe that the housing market is very overextended and likely to suffer a large correction. Numerous commentators are now in agreement in this regard. Even Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of Canada, foresees a “marked weakening in housing”. Nobody has to break the law for this to all play out in that fashion.

-vreaa (vancouver real estate anecdote archivist)

See also:
Discussion Regarding ‘VREAA Removes A Post’ – “Shall we compare the societal damage done by someone with a few stickers in his pocket to the societal damage done by a massive housing bubble?”
VREAA 6 May 2010

“A couple of years ago I started going to open houses with my wife. Quickly, I found myself getting angry that we were even discussing shoeboxes that were going for $600 per sqft. I started looking for information online.”

It has been exceptionally difficult, socially and psychologically, to be a prospective buyer who is bearish on Vancouver RE prices these last 5-8 years. The internet arguably fuels bubbles, but it also enables independent thinkers to feel less isolated. This poster describes how Vancouver Condo Info and other blogs have given him the fortitude and information necessary to “make reasoned decisions about home (not) buying”. -vreaa

RoyceMcCutcheon at vancouvercondo.info 9 Apr 2010 11:32 am -

“A couple of years ago I started going to open houses with my wife. We just thought we’d try to learn about what such a big purchase would involve. I could see the hype, but I didn’t feel too compelled to push against it. Quickly though, I found myself getting angry. Angry that we were even discussing shoeboxes that were going for $600 per sqft, etc., I started looking for information online. I was hoping to hear at least some voices that made me feel like I wasn’t some crazy curmudgeon that was missing the point about RE here in Vancouver. This site was one of the places I eventually uncovered and I’ve been happily lurking ever since (with close to zero understanding of RE, investing, etc. going in, there wasn’t much point in adding my voice). I figured I’d take this opportunity to thank thoughtful posters on this site who have given me wonderful points and counter-points to use while discussing why I don’t want to buy in this town any time soon. It helped my wife and I crystallize what we wanted to do about housing: we elected not to buy and have instead rented a spacious place that’s about 10 minutes walking from work. We’ve also socked away thousands each month, meaning we can buy IF IT MAKES SENSE TO DO SO later on. Maybe we’re now facing RE-mageddon (am I the first to use that?), maybe not yet. Either way, to the bears (and, yes, some of the bulls): thanks for giving me some tools to help make reasoned decisions about home (not) buying. Cheers.”

Bear Baiting – “It’s the whole tone the bears take when presented with a good deal. This home couldn’t possibly be priced in my range because, it’s a dump, it has two alleys, it’s close to commercial buildings, yadda yadda yadda.”

Those bullish the market are cajoling cautious prospective owners by claiming that they simply don’t have the fortitude to buy, or that they have over-inflated and unrealistic ideas regarding the quality of housing they deserve. -vreaa

Main Photo: For Sale: 625 E 24TH Avenue Vancouver Fraser VE : Residential Detached

eyesthebye at RE Talks 9 Feb 2010 started a discussion headlined “Great Deal on this SFH in Main area” by referencing the above house (625 E 24th Ave; built 1910; 1490 sqft + 800 sqft unfinished; 33×122 ft lot; asking price $679K) and claiming that it was a “great deal”, that ‘sweat equity’ would add $300K-$400K to its value, and also offering to bet that it will sell for $100K over ask. Debate as to the desirability of this property ensued, regarding construction quality, age of the structure, neighbourhood, proximity to commercial area, and even the property’s Feng Shui. At that point the original poster objected to all the objections by saying: “It’s not just the discussion itself – it’s the whole tone the bears take when presented with a good deal. Like argufying themselves out of the market. This home couldn’t possibly be priced in my range because, it’s a dump, it has two alleys, it’s close to commercial buildings, yadda yadda yadda. If prices were 50% cheaper bears would still talk themselves out of buying somehow” and “This home might be [only] a half great deal to you – but your opinion doesn’t coincide with this market. Most buyers would probably tell you that being able to buy a decent home under assessed value constitues a great deal – at any time.” Poster dot com refugee pointed out that the house seemed “bloody expensive”, to which jimtan replied “Move to Windsor! You’ll love it there!!!”.

Visual Group Anecdote – 50% of Construction Jobs Will Disappear

Employment growth in BC over the last decade has been solely related to the housing bubble and the closely associated Olympic construction projects. At one point in 2008, the number of individuals involved in construction represented 250% of what one would expect under more normal market conditions. This chart is from the indispensible local RE blog, Housing Analysis, run by bloggers jesse and mohican. In a 7 Feb 2010 post, they predict that, with “the continued completion of construction projects through the spring and summer”, the number of construction jobs will drop from current 200K to the 2001 levels (100K), very rapidly. We agree with this outlook. -vreaa

[industry-jan10.JPG]

Bull Hubris?… Or Appropriate Owner Confidence? – “My property got assessed 20% higher than last year! Wooooohooo! I’m going to refinance for another house while you cry-babies live in the dumpsters.”

Vancouver RE owners offer up few descriptive personal anecdotes on the sites that we monitor, despite the fact that we’d like to record such stories here. Very few people who are owners/investors/speculators seem to want to describe their situations. This contrasts with the fair number of renters/prospective_buyers who seem quite willing to share their metrics. Are the owners embarrassed by profits? Or shamed by debt? Or concerned about privacy? Or underrepresented on RE forums? … Owners do, however, quite readily offer up opinions and advice about the Vancouver RE market. The price levels of July 2008 have been regained [Jan 2010]. Owners have been voicing more and more confidence on RE forums. Any statements obviously have to be seen in the context of the kinds of exchanges that occur on such forums, as they are often part of playful or jibing banter, but they nonetheless do reflect an aspect of owner attitude. For the record, some such statements are archived and referenced below. If there are any owners who would like to share specific anonymous stories of their gains and holdings, or how RE has changed their lives, please e-mail them to us and we’ll headline them. -vreaa

sideliner at robchipman.net 4 Jan 2010 12:45 pm“The market has been unstoppable for over 8 years now.  Nothing will change.  That time frame shows you how strong the market is.  A minor pullback here or there, 5 or 10% means nothing.  The average person is priced out and always will be.”

EconomicBoom2010 at vancouvercondo.info 5 jan 2010 12:22 pm – “My property got assessed 20% higher than last year! Wooooohooo! I’m going to refinance for another house while you cry-babies live in the dumpsters.”

eyesthebye RE Talks 30 Dec 2009 9:23 am“Bears haven’t said ‘uncle’ yet so I’ll keep twisting the screws”. (With an end-of-post signature that reads): “the cure for higher prices is moving to a destination with lower prices”. [This poster is one who has been generous about sharing specifics. They purchased a SFH in early 2009 which is now up 170K in market value (owner's estimate), for a 300% gain in equity in 11 months (consider the down-payment as initial equity).]

Johnny Horton RE Talks 1 Jan 2010 8:28 pm – (In reference to a non-owner) “…a severe case of Landless Serf Syndrome.” and 11:06 pm“Vancouver is the best place on Earth.” and 7 Jan 2010 11:44 am – “Don’t worry, when you pass the real estate course, you’ll be out of the in-laws basement in no time.”

mike at yattermatters.com 1 Jan 2010 10:56 pm“Do you bears ever get tired of being so disgustingly wrong? Give up already.”

jimtan RE Talks 1 Jan 2010 11:05 am“We have been over all this stuff time and again. And, the bears have been wrong. What’s the point of bringing it up again? You’ve got nothing new to add.”

Vancouver Rocks at greaterfool.ca 4 Jan 2010 3:50 pm – “Just a history lesson for all the young’uns – prices may rise, and dip, but in Vancouver they maintain their trajectory ever upwards.”

VanLoverBoy at vancouvercondo.info 7 Jan 2010 3:10 pm and 3:56 pm - “I’ve got a word of advice for you: M_O_V_E”… “I’m sure from your cheery disposition you’ve got to be one of the renters who has missed the boat. Too bad. Go start out somewhere better, like Africa, MiddleEast or one of those other notasgoodasvancouvermiddleofbumf—nowhere places you’re in love with.”

silverman at RE Talks 4 Jan 2010 1:30 pm (in response to a post from ‘dot com refugee’ that “We have seen that RE bubbles pop on their own, even with low interest rates. Please see Vegas, San Fran, NYC, Arizona, Miami, Dubai, London, etc etc etc etc etc.”) – “You forgot Istanbul and Timbuctu… Please see B.C.

Steinbock at RE Talks 6 Jan 2010 10:25 pm“Bears are only good at crapping in the wrong spots. Hence the smell in some basements.”

Lastly, these two very trollish and vitriolic posts from someone who calls himself ‘richasian’ (and who is quite probably neither rich nor asian) on vancouvercondo.info 2 Jan 2010 at 2:54 pm and 6:04 pm - “Happy new year you scum sucking renters!!!!!!! I hope 2010 brings continued misery as you watch from the sidelines in your crappy rental! Maybe this year you’ll finally come to grips with your financial situation.” … “Put your fingers in your ears and say na na na na when everyone is saying that real estate only goes up. Continue to drown your sorrow in the pubs downtown you sick little losers. Meanwhile I cash your rent cheque and head to Vegas for some gambling. It’s fun being a winner. How is it being a loser… bears?”

“We bought a home in Vancouver’s hideous inflated west side in 2005. When the markets starting tanking in October 2008 we stupidly panicked, put the house up for sale and essentially gave it away for about $1,000,000″

Bubbles stir the emotions, and even those who have profited by selling may feel confused. This Vancouverite, who has $600K equity in hand after selling her house in 2008,  expresses regret, sheepishness, dismay, fear, greed, depression and resentment – all in one paragraph. This anecdote is also noteworthy in that it shows that supply does indeed come into the market as prices drop and owners begin to sell out of  fear. How many Vancouver properties will enter the market when prices next descend?  -vreaa

This from the body of Garth Turner’s latest post at greaterfool.ca, 4 Dec 2009, quoting am e-mail from Vancouverite ‘Elaine’ -

“I ended up making a huge mistake and frankly, feel like a pretty great fool. We bought a home in Vancouver’s hideous inflated west side in 2005. We had a  $375,000 mortgage on a nice home we had reno’d. I thought the mortgage was huge (in hindsight I see it wasn’t!). When the markets starting tanking in October 2008 we stupidly panicked, put the house up for sale and essentially gave it away for about $1,000,000, and then rented a home for a hideous monthly fee and intended to buy again when values “stabilized”. Well to our dismay, the average house price one year later in the same area is $1,400,000. Needless to say we have been unceremoniously turfed out of the Vancouver housing market due to our unfounded fear about a housing crash that never happened. I am not challenging you [Garth Turner], I know in time this market cannot sustain itself, but in the meantime we have to live somewhere in Vancouver and with a 70% increase in house value in 10 years, and a steady stream of  strong Asian cashflows, it seems a correction will never come.  I don’t want to lose out on equity, and our lease is up, and what the heck do we do next?  We are in our mid-forties, our combined income is about $150,000 p.a., and we have about $600,000 to put down. Luckily no debt otherwise. The thought of going to a cramped condo after living in a nice home is depressing, not to mention the  resentment over the mountain of equity we lost.”

“It is annoying to see almost all our friends have moved to their new houses recently. Our hearts sink every time we hear mainstream media telling us next year housing price will continue to go up.”

The real estate boom has shut out some prudent citizens who would, under more normal circumstances, be homeowners. Some feel despair, others great inconvenience. Some gain solace from local and national real estate blogs, in the following case, from Garth Turner’s greaterfool.ca. This post by ‘Mom Society’ at greaterfool.ca 16 Nov 2009 10:33 pm appears to be an update and elaboration from the same poster whose earlier thoughts are archived at VREAA 7 Nov 2009 -

“We desperately want to buy a place with a yard as we have an 18 months old son and he needs a place to play. Although our annual income is around $15,000 more than average, we still find we can not afford anything with a yard, even in Surrey. It is annoying to see almost all our friends have moved to their new houses recently. Our hearts sink every time we hear mainstream media telling us next year housing price will continue to go up. Actually we don’t care if your [Garth Turner's] prediction would be accurate, no one has crystal ball. At least your blog gives us hope in this raining winter, give us a hope to allow us still dream we may have a home with yard in the future. Thank you. If we are belonging to middle class or working class, I feel [we are not alone in] our sadness.”