Tag Archives: Debt

Enter Inflation, Stage Right

The Bank of Canada came under pressure on Friday to stop fretting about low inflation after unexpectedly sharp price gains pushed the rate above the central bank’s target, making it more likely the next move in interest rates will be higher.

Statistics Canada reported the annual inflation rate hit a 27-month high of 2.3 percent in May from 2.0 percent in April. Core inflation, which excludes some volatile items like gasoline, rose to 1.7 percent, the highest since July 2012, from 1.4 percent in April.

As recently as last week, Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz had said the underlying rate of inflation, which he pegged at 1.2 percent, was so low it “leaves us vulnerable to a downside shock at any time.” —

“The low-inflation ship has sailed in Canada, and I think the Bank of Canada pretty much has to change their rhetoric as of the next meeting,” said Bank of Montreal chief economist Doug Porter.

Poloz said the central bank’s policy stance was neutral, specifying that rates could just as easily fall as they could rise, using dovish language that has kept a lid on rate hike expectations and the currency.

Still, yields on overnight index swaps show rate cut expectations have largely faded.

And even before Friday’s data economists were unanimous that the next rate would be a hike. —

“We are still of the view that any moves on rates are not likely until 2015, but certainly there is now a higher probability of hikes coming sooner rather than later,” said Royal Bank of Canada assistant chief economist Paul Ferley.

- Reuters, 20 Jun 2014

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

‘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

“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 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary of finances:

Income:
$6.9K per month

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

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

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

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

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

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

– vreaa

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

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

Silver at VREAA 14 Mar 2013 10:08am

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

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

camper at VREAA 8 Mar 2013 11:05am

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

Bank Of Canada’s New Euphemism For Contraction – “Constructive evolution of imbalances”

“With continued slack in the Canadian economy, the muted outlook for inflation, and the more constructive evolution of imbalances in the household sector, the considerable monetary policy stimulus currently in place will likely remain appropriate for a period of time, after which some modest withdrawal will likely be required,” the Bank of Canada said Wednesday. …
“With a more constructive evolution of imbalances in the household sector, residential investment is expected to decline further from historically high levels,” the central bank said in its policy statement. “The bank expects trend growth in household credit to moderate further, with the debt-to-income ratio stabilizing near current levels.”

– from ‘Battle of housing bubble won, Carney focuses on economic growth’, Kevin Carmichael, The Globe and Mail, 6 Mar 2013

Somehow the Globe and Mail concludes that “concern about a housing bubble” has “deflated” and that the “battle of the housing bubble is won”.
We fail to follow the logic.
What is happening is that, as debt hits limits, the entire economy, overly dependent on debt spending, is slowing.
This is precisely what one would expect at this point in the cycle.
The housing bubble hasn’t even really begun to unwind yet, let alone any battle being “won”.
It is not at all surprising that there is no intention to raise interest rates.
As we have said before repeatedly, we don’t need rising interest rates for the bubble to implode; it will do so by collapsing under its own weight.
We look forward to the “constructive evolution of imbalances” that will come with 50% to 66% price drops in Vancouver.
Viva La Constructive Evolution Of Imbalances!
– vreaa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crazy Rubs Off – “At that time, strangely, I recognized this was expensive, but did not consider it absurd. My expectations had been subconsciously adjusted to account for the fantastic/abnormal circumstances.”

“Just started reading your blog, after a brief foray into the 1-bedroom condo market.
I’m 28, a professional, and earn a high 5 figure salary. I moved to the city 3 years ago.
My anecdote is viewing condos on Fraser, considerably south of broadway in a new building. The building is nice but the street and surrounding area looks awful, particularly at night. Grimy, damp, rundown. Nondescript small business with algae growing on vinyl awnings. Saw a series of small single bedrooms (350k) and one slightly larger single bedroom (375k). At that time, strangely, I recognized this was expensive, but not absurd. My expectations had been subconsciously adjusted to account for otherwise fantastic/ abnormal circumstances. Crazy rubs off.
I started reading more and I havn’t looked at ‘property’ since. I don’t intend to buy in this city at anywhere close to current asking price. I’ll move before I do. That’s not said in a righteous or defensive way, its just true. Two weeks after the viewing I was contacted by the real estate agent with an adjusted price list. 350k was reduced to ~340k, 375k was reduced to 350k.”

– Poorprofessional, via e-mail to VREAA, 21 Feb 2013

I have no doubt that we have all been ‘conditioned’ by the absurd prices.
Even the most ardent and insightful bear has been desensitized to the actual meaning of the large figures.
How long does it take a Canadian to save $400K?
– vreaa

Update – Westside Old Favourite Sells For Same Price As In Feb 2011

Here’s an update on a Westside SFH we’ve featured here before:

4411 W 11th; 4,696 sqft SFH; 63×121 lot (7,623 sqft; 0.175 acres)
(Old Timer; Backs onto alleyway behind 10th Avenue stores.)
Listed 9 Oct 2010 $2,980,000
Price change 6 Dec 2010 $2,890,000
Sold 15 Feb 2011 $2,830,000

Listed August 2012 with $3,180,000 ask price
Remained on market for rest of 2012, unsold

Relisted 24 Jan 2013 with $2,998,00 ask price
Sold 24 Jan 2013 $2,850,000

Anybody care to calculate carrying and transaction costs over the last 2 years?
We can’t verify this, but we are told that nobody has lived there over this period.
Will this property now be utilized as a residence, knocked down for a new build, or is it being purchased to sell again later at a hoped-for higher price?
– vreaa


This house was first featured at VREAA 6 Dec 2010 when we noted that, at an “Ask Price of $2,890,000″, “10% downpayment ($289K); 4% rate; 25yr amortization” would result in “Monthly mortgage payments: $13,681.79″
In a later post, 5 Jan 2010, we cited it as the kind of house that would sell for less than $1M in the coming trough.
This house was also featured representing our fair city in ‘Unashamed House Porn: Seattle Vs Vancouver’, VREAA, 11 Aug 2011.

Financial Times – “The lack of buyers is sobering evidence that Canada’s housing boom, which began in 2000 and bounced back to life after the financial crisis of 2008-09, is now over.”

“The lack of buyers is sobering evidence that Canada’s housing boom, which began in 2000 and bounced back to life after the financial crisis of 2008-09, is now over.
Nervousness about the outlook for house prices, and the effect on the economy if they slump, is casting a pall over the last few months in office of Mark Carney, the Bank of Canada governor who will take over at the Bank of England on July 1.
Mr Carney, who will appear to face questions before the British parliament for the first time on Thursday, was courted by UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s government partly on the strength of Canada’s relatively strong performance compared with other large economies. Just as he is leaving, the shine is coming off that record.
Worries about Canada’s house prices and rising consumer debt prompted Moody’s, the rating agency, to cut the credit ratings of six of the largest Canadian banks last month.

Mr Carney deserves neither all the credit for Canada’s successes nor all the blame for its failures. The economy has been driven by forces beyond his control, particularly events in the US, and he has shared economic management with ministers and government agencies. The biggest changes in the housing market last year were the government’s moves to cut back the availability of mortgage insurance provided by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, a state-owned company.
Nevertheless, it was the decisions by the Bank of Canada under Mr Carney’s leadership to cut interest rates during the crisis and hold them down subsequently that enabled a surge in household debt and house prices. While American consumers were running down their debts, Canadians were adding to theirs, so that by the end of last year household debt was 165 per cent of income, in the same territory as the peak in the US at the start of the crisis.
House prices, meanwhile, rose 23 per cent in the three years to April 2012.”

– from ‘Canada housing cloud cast over Carney’, Financial Times, 6 Feb 2013

Yes, Canada’s housing boom is over.
The Financial Times makes the same observations about Mark Carney’s tenure that we discussed here (VREAA 26 Nov 2012) when his move to the Bank of England was first announced.
– vreaa

“Almost one-half of Home Buyers Plan participants paid less than the full required repayment amount in tax year 2011.”

“Almost 1.8 million Canadians participate in the Home Buyers Plan (HBP), according to the latest available numbers from CRA but here’s the interesting part…
We’ve long operated under the assumption (based on past StatsCan research and CRA data) that 25-35% of people don’t make the annual repayments required by the plan. It turns out those numbers are a bit shy.
CRA told us last Wednesday that almost one-half of HBP participants (47%) “paid less than the full required repayment amount in tax year 2011.” (2011 is the latest data available.
That means almost 1 in 2 HBP users paid income tax on the RRSP money they borrowed and didn’t repay on time. (The amount of any repayment shortfall is considered taxable income, and tax is assessed on this amount at the individual filer’s marginal tax rate.)
That’s not to mention the tax-deferred investment gains they’re forgoing by not leaving the down payment funds in their RRSP. This lost growth directly impacts their income in retirement.
Such is the price that many young buyers are paying to own a home sooner. Is it worth it?”

Rob McLister at Canadian Mortgage Trends, 5 Feb 2013

“Our unhealthy obsession with home ownership is never more clearly seen than it is in a well-used federal government program called the Home Buyers’ Plan.
The HBP allows first-time homebuyers to withdraw up to $25,000 from a registered retirement savings plan to help cover a down payment. Somehow, we’ve decided that houses come before retirement savings. That’s a mistake and it needs to be corrected by winding down the HBP.
Prepare for hysteria if this is ever seriously discussed by the federal government. “There’d be a deafening outcry from the real estate industry, mortgage industry, first-time buyers, and many politicians,” Robert McLister, editor of the Canadian Mortgage Trends blog and a mortgage planner, told me in an e-mail. “First-timers have already taken the brunt of recent rule changes, so canning the HBP would be viewed as war against young homeowners.”
This is true, and here’s why. The idea that everyone should own a house is a foundational and uncontested financial principle here in this country. The massive rise in house prices since the mid-1980s has convinced almost everyone that there’s not only a social and economic benefit in promoting home ownership, but also a financial one for owners.
If you’re buying in some cities at current prices, that latter point is debatable. …
Through the HBP, the federal government is telling us that buying a house is important enough to scoop down-payment money out of your retirement savings. Why is Ottawa handing out bad financial advice?”

Rob Carrick at The Globe and Mail, 4 Feb 2013

The spec mania in RE has been fuelled by those who have overextended themselves, using any means available, to buy properties at preposterous price levels, in the certain belief that prices can only ascend further.
There is now evidence from numerous quarters of debt limits being reached.
– vreaa


Postscript:

From the comment section at the G&M:

“Wrong on this one RC.
– best decision ever for us, able to purchase our first house several years earlier
– have steadily paid back the HBP so the money is not out of service forever
– house steadily appreciated faster than our RRSP by several hundred thousand $”

– Big Dan 5 Feb 2013 6:03am

Yeah, looks great on the way up, don’t it? – ed.

Moody’s Downgrades Canadian Banks – “High levels of consumer indebtedness and elevated housing prices leave banks more vulnerable”

“Moody’s Investors Service has downgraded the long-term credit ratings of six Canadian banks, including Toronto-Dominion, Bank of Nova Scotia, Bank of Montreal and CIBC. National Bank and Desjardins were also downgraded. The ratings agency lowered each of its ratings one notch, citing high levels of consumer debt and high home prices as threats to the Canadian economy.
“High levels of consumer indebtedness and elevated housing prices leave Canadian banks more vulnerable than in the past to downside risks the Canadian economy faces,” David Beattie, vice-president at Moody’s said in a note.
Canadian consumer debt has risen to a record-high 165 per cent of disposable income in the third quarter of 2012, up from 137 per cent in mid-2007. Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney has repeatedly warned about these levels, but they remain stubbornly high.”

– from ‘Moody’s downgrades 6 Canadian banks’, CBC, 28 Jan 2013 [hat-tip Bally]

You Bought It, Congratulations – “They spent Sunday going to open houses in and around their Kits hood in Van, then fell in love with a place listed just under a million.”

“Jason and Maria are young thirtysomethings who, like most, lust for a house. Four weeks ago they did something they instantly regretted, which this time had nothing to do with blue berries or udder cream.

Per usual, they spent Sunday going to open houses in and around their Kits hood in Van, then fell in love with a place listed just under a million. Of course they couldn’t really afford it, but that never stopped coursing hormones. By the next night they’d contacted the listing agent, drafted an offer and submitted it. The deposit was $15,000 – part of a downpayment they figured would be $50,000 – and they handed over a cheque when the realtor asked for one. Make it certified, he suggested, since it shows you’re serious. They did.

A day later they’d done some heavy budgeting, gone to the bank to visit their loans officer and, most seriously, emailed me [Garth Turner]. “Maria really, really wants this house,” Jason explained, “but after thinking about this and doing the numbers, we’re a little scared. Do you think we should just walk away and, like you say on the blog [greaterfool.ca], wait a year?”

Of course you should walk, silly hormonal, self-destructive, irrational people, I said, letting my feminine side show through. Just tell the agent to stop payment on the deposit cheque before it’s cashed and before the vendors have a chance to sign back.

Unknown to me, the sellers immediately accepted the deal, and the deposit cheque had been certified. So when Jason called the agent – less than 24 hours after signing the offer, thinking that he could back out during a “cooling off’ period – as is the case in BC and other provinces with condos (usually seven days to exit) – he was shocked. “You bought it,” he was told. “Congratulations.”

And they did. Closing’s in seven weeks. They’re freaking.”

- as told by Garth Turner, at greaterfool.ca, 27 Jan 2013

Condo Ad Booklet – “The Provincial Government will send you a tax free cheque for $10,000 if you buy a qualifying condo by March 31, 2013 and you are a first-time home buyer.”

IMG_1642

IMG_1641

- above from a set of images sent by ‘Ordinary Average’, via e-mail, 22 Jan 2013, and who adds:
“Today in my mailbox I found the following booklet. Pages 4-5
state “Borrow the down-payment from your favourite uncle and pay him back when you get the $10,000!”. Condo advertisements have become a weekly occurrence in my mailbox lately, this one blows me away.”

UPDATE [hat-tip bullwhip]:

7869358.bin
Doug Bigg and his daughter Krista check out a condo developer’s brochure that makes unauthorized use of the provincial logo.

“A major condo developer has been reprimanded by the B.C. government for the unauthorized use of the provincial logo in a promotional brochure for a new development in Langley.
Quadra Homes agreed Thursday to delete all references of the government’s registered logo from its website and to destroy the remaining promotional brochures for the development, named Yorkson Creek, which carried the B.C. logo on its front and back page.
The issue came to head on Wednesday after The Province contacted the Ministry of Finance asking about the 28-page, glossy brochure, which began arriving on doorsteps in the Langley and Abbotsford areas within the last two weeks.
“British Columbia [the logo is used] is handing out $10,000 in cash … ” read the cover and back of the brochure.
“Borrow the down payment from your uncle and pay him back when you get the $10,000,” read another page.
Another read: “We have the qualifying condos and will fill out the paper work for you.”
The $10,000 refers to the government’s first-time homebuyer’s bonus, which was detailed in the first few pages of the brochure. The rest of the pages are dedicated to the benefits of buying at Yorkson Creek.
“It is not just misleading, it is wrong,” said Doug Bigg, who received the brochure last week. “I interpreted it as taxpayers’ dollars being used to advertise condos for a multi-million dollar corporation. If I thought that, then I’m sure most other people would think that.”
But the government had nothing to do with the brochure, the Ministry of Finance said. And on Thursday, the company was ordered to remove all unauthorized references of the logo.”

– from ‘Major developer reprimanded over unauthorized use of provincial logo to help sell condos’, The Province, 24 Jan 2013

“I know three ‘middle class’ families that can’t afford gas. They all live in million dollar houses.”

“I know three ‘middle class’ families that can’t afford gas. Two of them have put their cars away and another said quite frankly that they can’t afford gas.
They all live in million dollar houses. One is even trying to sell their 1.8 million dollar house. No job loss, no divorce, no changes – just too much debt.”

Anonymous at whispersfromtheedgeoftherainforest 21 Jan 2013 10:09am

Spot The Speculator #96 – “In 2008, when I was 28 years old, I had saved $70,000, enough for a 20% down payment on a triplex in Toronto. I moved into one unit and the rent from the other two units paid for the mortgage and utilities.”

“I’ve always been very focused in my life. I was born a triplet and knew from an early age my parents wouldn’t be able to pay for many extras, or for postsecondary education for all of us. But I was determined to go to university and to buy a home of my own. So in high school I started working as a waitress for 20 hours a week. During the summers I took as many shifts as possible, often working seven days straight. I was a workaholic and should have cut back because my grades were suffering, but I persevered.”

“I earned enough to pay for tuition by living at home with my parents and commuting to York University. It wasn’t easy. I didn’t have a car so I used buses to make the two-hour journey to York and back each day. At one point I considered buying a car but was shocked when my dad showed me how expensive it was. I kept commuting every day for four years. Believe me, it was really depressing. I would get home every night and it was cold and dark, and I was tired. But I knew I was saving for my big goal of owning an investment property, which kept me going.”

“After graduating with an English degree in 2006, I had no student debt and $20,000 in savings from my waitressing job. Then I got a lucky break-I landed a job as an administrative assistant, paying $32,000 a year in downtown Toronto. In 2008, when I was 28 years old, I had saved $70,000, enough for a 20% down payment on a triplex in Little Italy. I moved into one unit and the rent from the other two units paid for the mortgage and utilities. Last year, I got married and my husband moved into the apartment with me. I’ve never doubted the triplex was one of the best financial decisions I’ve ever made.”

“The key for me was tracking my spending in a journal to see exactly where every penny was going so I knew where I could cut back and add to my savings. Most years I saved 70% of my earned income, which I used to pay for university and for the down payment on the triplex. By living at home a little longer than most people I was able to really beef up my down payment. That’s made me truly independent a lot more quickly than many of my friends who are still mired in debt.”

“Now my goal is to pay off the mortgage on the property as quickly as possible. I’ve done some renos over the years and I’m putting $500 a month extra on my mortgage to pay it off faster. The triplex’s value has also gone up. I bought it for $350,000 and it’s worth $450,000 today.”

- Angie Oliveira, 32, Toronto, as featured in ‘How to become a landlord’, Julie Cazzin, MoneySense 16 Jan 2013 [hat-tip proteus, who sent this link by e-mail and added "Saving 20k waitressing is a heroic accomplishment."]

Angie has an admirably proactive savings habit. Because of this ability, she will quite likely do fine in the long run, but we suspect this will end up occurring despite her RE investment, not because of it.
Yes, she is describing a ‘cash-flow positive’ property (something unavailable in our city in 2008), but we’d like to see more of the math before being sure about that. Also, there is downside risk of increased mortgage rates, downward pressure on rents (TO condo glut), and unexpected expenses.
She bought a few years prior to the peak of a multigenerational bubble in real estate. If property prices drop 33% from the peak, she’ll likely still be able to maintain her ownership, but she will, on paper, have lost her profits and her downpayment. This is something we’d imagine would be particularly painful for her, given the hard work it has taken for her to accumulate her savings gains.
In that regard, it is interesting to note that it took her many years of extreme saving to accumulate $70K, but her RE purchase then rose in value by $100K from 2008 to 2012. In fact, she ‘made’ more on paper in RE than she did in entire income those 4 years, when taxation is taken into account. This is a good example of how RE price rises through the speculative mania have perverted the way in which people consider the relative value of real estate, money, work and saving; and how homes have become financial instruments as much as places of shelter.
– vreaa

“I personally know of a friend who was offered the moon from the bank to buy a home in October. This month the same bank is reconsidering the mortgage. Nothing has changed for my friend’s finances.”

“Sadly, I’ve been hearing lots of stories of financing falling through. Banks have done a 360 degree turnaround. They are still lending, but on their terms. Not so attractive terms. I personally know of a friend who was offered the moon from the bank to buy a home in October. This month the same bank is reconsidering the mortgage. Nothing has changed for my friend’s finances.”
enlightened at VREAA 16 Dec 2013 3:36am

‘Old Curmudgeon’ Has Audacity To “Force People To Confront The Consequences Of Their Own Debt”

“I own my house. I have no debt. Why? Not because I was lucky or rich. But because I never borrowed for consumables. My house is not an investment. Whether it is worth $100,000 or $1,000,000 is irrelevant. It’s where I live. It’s a roof over my head. I had to get a mortgage for the house, but worked on paying it off with spare cash. I didn’t have to have a car. Nor yearly vacations in exotic locales. I didn’t eat out a lot. I didn’t need a lot of clothes. And I don’t give a sh*t about impressing the neighbours.
For the most part, all the debt problems people have stem from their own greed, consumerism and lack of self-control. Don’t blame the market. Don’t blame the banks. Blame yourselves. But in our society, it is impolite to force people to confront the consequences of their own actions.”

– Old Curmudgeon, commenting at ‘Why lower home prices are a national priority’, Globe and Mail, 11 Jan 2013 9:26PM

‘Old Curmudgeon’ is in this situation in part because of his sensible ways with money, but also because he was very likely fortunate enough to buy at a time when house prices were more reflective of underlying fundamental value. And that is how it should be, after all. Homes as places to live, rather than as financial instruments.
His indignation with debt-spending is well placed.
– vreaa

From the article on which ‘Old Curmudgeon’ is commenting:

If Canada wants to slay its household-debt dragon, it will have to cut down house prices at the knees. But there’s an economic price to pay for that – and it goes well beyond a cooling of the residential real estate sector. …
“…house prices appear to drive non-mortgage debt, too – the more valuable your house, the more debt you’re likely to take on outside of your mortgage. And, since close to half of all non-mortgage debt is used to finance consumer purchases, higher house prices ultimately boost our national consumption, too.” …
“… the 52-per-cent rise in national house prices from 1999 to 2007 was responsible for a 19-per-cent increase in homeowners’ non-mortgage debt.”… “Multiply that by approximately 13 million households, and that’s nearly $10-billion more in annual consumption – or roughly a 2-per-cent juicing of non-housing consumer spending.” …
“A substantial downturn in prices – say, 10 to 20 per cent – would, in theory, not only reduce mortgage debts for new home buyers, but, significantly, push down non-mortgage debt to the tune of 4 to 8 per cent.” …
“A downturn in consumer borrowing is going to put a serious lid on consumer spending growth – which up until now has been a critical driver in Canada’s economic outperformance since the 2008-2009 global recession.
In the long term, this is the price to pay to get Canadians back living within their means, and the economy on more solid footing. But in the nearer term, the medicine could well feel worse than the disease.

– from ‘Why lower home prices are a national priority’, David Parkinson, The Globe and Mail, 11 Jan 2013

Less Expensive Is Better – “So they’ll buy a less expensive home. Good. I consider that desirable.”

flaherty

“It will mean that some people will not buy into the market. It will also mean that some people will buy less into the market… so they’ll buy a less expensive home, or less expensive condominium. … Good! I consider that desirable.”
– Jim Flaherty, Canadian Minister of Finance, April 2012 news conference regarding mortgage condition tightening, as recapped on Global TV News, 18 Dec 2012 [hat-tip Greenhorn for the archived video clip]

Not less of a home, note, but a less expensive home.
This is, indeed, desirable.
– vreaa

“I am probably one of the few on this and other blogs who sat thru a RE collapse first hand in Canada back in the early 80′s when I was a banker here in Calgary…”

“I am probably one of the few on this and other blogs who sat thru a RE collapse first hand here in Canada back in the early 80′s when I was a banker here in Calgary. I watched the second mortgage portfolio I managed for National Trust Company go down from 100MM, to about 65MM, in a little over 12 months due to foreclosures and property devaluation. This was at a time when CMHC financing needed 15% down, and we actually took such obscure concepts as credit worthiness, debt to income ratios and past payment history into account “before” we dished the money out. Also, most second mortgages were in the amount of $15-25K on average, as most houses were not much above $125-150K at the peak. If any you thought it was bad last time………..this time around will make history look like picnic.” …
“I was averaging 75 – 100 foreclosures / quit claims a month over 1983/84. And, I just ran the second mortgage and personal loans department. We also had a humongous first mortgage department with its own problems. Thing is, I distinctly remember foreclosing on a ton of realtors’ spec properties, and also their primary residences, as well as that about 75% of the places we eventually got back had been listed in vain (priced too high) for 12-18 months beforehand.”
Carioca Canuck at VREAA 27 Dec 2012 5:58pm and 28 Dec 2012 8:28am

“I was there, too. Was working for a Trust Company that was scrambling to save its own sorry arse after having dished out too much credit. People were desperate to get loans but easy lending had dried up and rejections were the game of the day if you could not bring collateral. Hardly a day went by when I did not see someone sobbing at the loans officers desk. They brought in art work and antiques and junk they thought was valuable to persuade the manager. Nobody cared though. You know how much that stuff is really worth when only cold hard cash, bonds or securites will suffice? Not a spit. I was an assistant then and a mere observer but the image stuck. Never get in debt over your head because when the day of reckoning comes even your friendly banker will pull the plug on you and never give it a second thought. Most people do not realize that internal policy changes at financial institutions where lending is concerned are bureaucratic and very inflexible when the mood changes. It is just a machine that will not be swayed by sentiments and emotion. And all that crap that you thought was valuable is not worth ten cents on the dollar anymore. So I agree with Carioca. This next go-round is going to be quite an experience for the novices in the crowd.”
Farmer at VREAA 27 Dec 2012 10:53pm

“I was a loans officer at a medium sized Credit Union in the 80s.
Heartbreaking. Homeowners were dropping off the keys, walking away.
We did not have the heart to foreclose, ended up as landlords of properties valued way below the mortgage.
After 3 years, the auditors forced us to write down the properties to market value, which almost bankrupted us.”

Real Estate Tsunami at VREAA 28 Dec 2012 7:11pm

Thanks to Carioca Canuck, Farmer, and Real Estate Tsunami for the above anecdotes.
Interesting to see that three regular readers saw battle during the 80’s RE collapse. There is little substitute for first-hand experience when it comes to markets.
– vreaa

“I wasn’t under the impression that I would be paying this house off. This wasn’t the house that we would be staying in forever, it was just about getting into the market, getting a place.”

housing-obrienxxrb1
Sarah O’Brien and her husband Darryl Silva were able to buy a home a few years ago because their 35-year mortgage kept payments low.

“In 2006, the new Conservative government in Ottawa allowed CMHC to tinker with its tried-and-true formula. One of the key changes was in mortgage length: CMHC would insure mortgages 35 and 40 years in length.
The measures helped people like Sarah O’Brien, who bought her first home at the age of 26. She and her husband, Darryl Silva, purchased a condo three years ago in Etobicoke, on the western side of Toronto, with a down payment of just 5 per cent. Mortgage rates were low, which helped. But so did the bank’s willingness to give them a CMHC-insured 35-year mortgage. The longer amortization held their biweekly payments to about $700.
“We’re young to be getting into the real estate market, so if the monthly amounts were significantly higher, we probably wouldn’t have,” Ms. O’Brien said. “We probably would have waited.”
The arrival of buyers like Ms. O’Brien and Mr. Silva has changed the market, however. Home buyers have responded to low rates and easy mortgage rules “by bidding up the price of houses,” said bank analyst Peter Routledge at National Bank Financial. Since 2000, the price of houses across Canada has risen 127 per cent; they’ve gone up nearly 50 per cent since 2006.
“You can never really provide cheap housing,” argues Moin Yahya, associate professor of law at the University of Alberta. “All you can really do is provide cheap cash, which of course then drives up the price of housing. You’re only distorting the market.”


“What is beyond dispute is that CMHC’s rules have enabled a change in behaviour among home buyers like Ashleigh Egerton. When she and her boyfriend bought a townhouse in Brampton, Ont., in May, 2008, they could have made a 5 per cent down payment – but opted to put nothing down instead.
“Instead of putting that money into the house, we felt like we’d be off to a better start if we had some money to furnish the house,” Ms. Egerton says. “I wasn’t under the impression that I would be paying this house off. This wasn’t the house that we would be staying in forever, it was just about getting into the market, getting a place.”
But the zero-down mortgages created a new problem in the housing market: Buyers who weren’t building any equity in their properties, since the payments were primarily covering the interest in the early stages of the loan. When Ms. Egerton moved out about two years later after splitting up with her boyfriend, the pair still didn’t have any equity in the home.”


– above two anecdotes excerpted from ‘Ottawa’s $800-billion housing problem’, Tara Perkins and Grant Robertson, The Globe and Mail, 26 Dec 2012

Examples of two couples who bought houses, but shouldn’t have; and who, under normal circumstances (and, ironically, at lower prices), wouldn’t have.
– vreaa

Bears Care, Too


“…the schadenfreuden stories on Vancouver Real Estate Anecdote Archive. Always good for a bitter laugh.”Bill Lee at francesbula.com 26 Nov 2012

“I never did give anybody hell. I just told the truth and they thought it was hell.” – Harry S. Truman

All the very best for the festive season to all readers, and wishing you all a fine, peaceful 2013.
Regular readers know that we foresee challenging times ahead for the Vancouver RE market. This opinion is not a wish, it is simply the result of an analysis of all the available evidence. And it is most definitely not to be confused with a desire for bad things to befall anyone in our community.
The speculative mania in housing (2003-2012) has been detrimental to Vancouver. It has misallocated human and financial capital, and distorted the economy of the city. It has inconvenienced many, and, unfortunately, in the end, it will have financially and psychologically hobbled a good number of citizens. This outcome is inevitable. Again, please don’t confuse this observation with a wish, it is simply part and parcel of a spec mania: a messy resolution has been ‘baked in’ since prices hit the afterburners in the mid 2000’s. When asset prices are artificially inflated by a chain of ever increasing debt-financed transactions, there will always be a large group left ‘holding the bag’ when it all runs out of oxygen.
There is, unfortunately, no other way things can resolve, and nothing that can be done to significantly ameliorate the bubble’s consequences. It is too late for that. The problem was letting it develop in the first place; and not allowing it to unwind earlier.
Anybody who is wishing for soft-landings, or hoping that some form of kindness will somehow allow for a resolution that involves no damage, needs to answer this question: Who do I expect to do the buying that will let everybody down gently? Who do I expect to step in now, borrow (or ‘donate’) large sums of money, and agree to purchase properties that are still woefully above their fundamental values? (and thus exposing themselves to very large losses ahead). Who do you suggest should be the sacrificial lambs?
Those wishing for fantasy bullish, Pollyanna-ish outcomes may be well-meaning, but they are simply ignorant of bubble market dynamics. You can’t simply call the game off and hope that everybody wins; it doesn’t work like that after years of ever-increasing over-extension.
All that said and done, we hope that readers fare as well as possible. All citizens, owners or not, will feel some of the economic effects of a RE downturn. Non-owners will suffer less direct personal impact, and there are a good number of owners who will survive the RE bear market with just a scratch or two. We are most concerned about modest net-worth households who have almost all of their savings in their homes; often with leverage. We know it is a painful fact that they can’t all get out ‘whole’, but we fear for them nonetheless. Particularly vulnerable are those close to retirement who are relying on the value of their homes for a comfortable future.
We hope that Vancouver can find a way to make the transition from overvalued market to a fairly, and sustainably, valued market with as little damage, and as peaceably, as possible. In fact, for us, the ‘peace’ bit is paramount. Economic stress puts groups at risk of highly-charged fractures, and we sincerely hope that as a large and diverse group we’ll be able to avoid scapegoating, in-fighting, and division.
So, to emphasize: Bears care, too. They may come across as grumpy and (per force) contrarian, but they care as much for family, friends, neighbours, and fellow citizens as anybody else. Sure, the occasional bearish commenter will express the opinion that they will gain pleasure from the losses of speculators, but this is far from the commonest position. The very few Vancouverites who have seen this speculative mania for what it is most commonly express genuine concerns about the potential consequences for themselves, their families, and their fellow citizens.
– vreaa

“I conceive that the great part of the miseries of mankind are brought upon them by false estimates they have made of the value of things.” – Benjamin Franklin

“I think you’ll need another sidebar category to capture the mounting “why do you hate families/wish misery on others?” accusations that are going to come in increasing numbers. Long time bulls – and new visitors to this site – may trot that one out more and more, accusing you and posters here of schadenfreude, hating home “owners”, etc. Even if it doesn’t happen here, mind-bending statements in this vein will increasingly pop up elsewhere and be worth collecting. May I humbly suggest a sidebar icon with a picture of Helen Lovejoy and the words “won’t someone PLEASE think of the children?!?” to link to the post you ultimately create addressing this topic?
Past even-handedness will matter little to desperate people who will misinterpret many sentiments expressed here. The archive will be useful to a subset of these people who are willing to be taught the historical mechanics driving this bubble.”

– paraphrasing of Royce McCutcheon at VREAA 17 Sep 2012 8:50am [We'll call such a sidebar 'Bears Care, Too' -ed.]

“The bank called us and offered us a $300K HELOC on the $315K leaky condo without us even asking for it.”

“Our personal experience in 2008 really shook my confidence in how mortgage and HELOC approvals are handled by banks.
We used to own a 1Bedroom 1 Bath 780 Sqft “Penthouse” in East Vancouver, one block to Commercial Drive.
It was a good location, we renovated it from the inside, great so far… However the building had major issues from the outside and needed a complete rainscreening job. The Strata members fought each other for a long time and renovations were postponed while the damage got worse. Our share when it finally got done $78K.
We had no mortgage on it at the time and were able to get a loan from CMHC for the repairs which we took because it was interest free. Anyways, we sold the place for 315K after the renovation was done and made a good profit as I had bought it very cheap, back in 2001 when everybody was afraid of leaky condos and there were no buyers for this even though the location was great and the unit was nice from the inside.
Here is the part that shows the recklessness of lending though: After we were approved for the CMHC funds one of the major 5 banks who we were banking with at the time called us and offered us a HELOC on the place without us even asking for it.
I asked them how much could they give us and the answer was that based on the location, size and age they can give us up to 300K if we wanted to.”

Mike at VREAA 23 Dec 2012 2:14pm

“I was approved for about 420k in the spring I only made a little more than 50k last year. I looked at a few condos in Vancouver and decided to keep renting.”

“I was approved for about 420k in the spring I only made a little more than 50k last year. I looked at a few condos in Vancouver and decided to keep renting.
I sold my house on Vancouver island for about 40% over assessment also about 20k more than I thought it was worth. I don’t know if a human came to appraise it.
My experience of the past year from looking at condos to selling a home and getting pre-approved I see so many holes in our system.”

Funky Monkey at VREAA 23 Dec 2012 9:27am

“Five years ago my girlfriend and I were pre-approved for over 400k on a mortgage, without showing or proving any income.”

“Five years ago my girlfriend and I were approved for over 400k on a loan. You know, the kind that get pre-done before you shop. Well, that was without showing or proving any income. This was by word of mouth at a mortgage broker’s office. I said I have the papers to back my claims, she said doesn’t matter, we trust your word.
Why would phoney valuations made by a computer surprise anyone in today’s environment?
We never pulled the trigger on a place… good thing too!”

kc at VREAA 23 Dec 2012 9:12am

G&M On Emili – “Everyone is getting nervous now. There is more and more potential of a downturn in the marketplace.”

“Where banks once sent human appraisers to assess a home’s value and determine whether to provide a mortgage for it, the banking industry – encouraged by the federal government’s own Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) – had largely converted to a faster and cheaper system of automated underwriting, using computerized models to determine how much money to safely lend. The models weren’t perfect, but they were close enough. And what did it matter? House prices always seemed to be going up in Canada anyway.”

CMHC’s automated underwriting program – called Emili – had been stamping its approval on millions of mortgages as safe. But in Emili-approved cases where the banks were forced to foreclose, the homes turned out to be worth much less than believed.
As the housing market in Canada begins to cool and the federal government talks of a soft landing for home prices, rather than a hard crash, attention is turning to the factors that fed record borrowing and contributed to overheated sales and price increases – and the risks that now lie within the financial system. Rock-bottom interest rates propelled Canadian real estate to undreamt-of heights, and Ottawa’s decision to loosen mortgage rules added to the froth, as marginal buyers flooded into the market.
That much is amply documented. But an investigation by The Globe and Mail has uncovered a hidden risk in Canada’s housing markets: The rise of automated lending approvals, which has created a rapid-fire system that has financial regulators worried about the foundations that underpin Canada’s housing market. There are worries that the true worth of Canadians’ homes could be lower than what computerized methods spit out. There are also worries that unscrupulous human appraisers can manipulate home values.
Those distortions matter less in a strong economy and a rising market, in which price appreciation covers up any errors. But the days of steady gains in real estate are gone: Almost all major metropolitan markets have plateaued, and in some, such as Vancouver, housing prices are falling at a worrying pace.
“Everyone is getting nervous now,” says Phil West, a veteran of the appraisal industry who is critical of Emili. “There is more and more potential of a downturn in the marketplace.”


An on-site visit to a suburban Vancouver home with Mr. Sieb illustrates the concern. As he begins walking through the house, the appraiser grows skeptical about the information the bank has been given about this home.
The listing says this house – a bungalow listed for $479,000 – was built in 1980 and is newly renovated. He notes some fresh carpet and a recently installed light switch, but the kitchen and other rooms show troubling signs of age. “This isn’t a renovation,” he says flatly. “You wouldn’t call it that unless you were stretching what you see for the purpose of getting the value up.”
Mr. Sieb checks the dates stamped on the plumbing. “This place was built in the 70s,” he says, shaking his head.
This, he explains, is the sort of thing that the computers miss.
Last month, Mr. Sieb appraised a home that turned out to be several hundred feet smaller than what the paperwork on the house claimed.
“In my career,” says Mr. Sieb, who has been appraising for 30 years and now runs Inter-City Appraisals of Coquitlam, B.C., “maybe five times have I had the exact same measurements as the realtor.”


– from ‘Shaky foundations: How Ottawa’s computers get Canadian home prices wrong’, Grant Robertson and Tara Perkins, Globe & Mail, 22 Dec 2012[hat-tip Ralph Cramdown]

An article that is worth the entire read.
We particularly like the way the description of the current state of the market is not sugar-coated, the thorough discussion of the clearly fudge-able Emili system, and, in particular, the observation that these kinds of rethinks of aspects of market ‘regulation’ are only questioned when a market begins to fail. As the authors say: “Those distortions matter less in a strong economy and a rising market, in which price appreciation covers up any errors.”
– vreaa


UPDATE: Further regarding the Emili discussion:
“Over portfolios with hundreds of thousands of properties, there will always be overvaluation and undervaluation, and the overwhelming majority of those cases fall within safe parameters. What the public needs to know is the tail risk of auto-valued applications, versus appraiser-evaluated apps. Unfortunately, we don’t have enough data to gauge that yet.
Inevitably, people will read the Globe’s story and think that CMHC is using some back-of-the-napkin formula to judge property risk. That’s so far from the truth. Emili is not some 100-line computer program written by a college intern. It is multi-million dollar mission critical technology benefiting from the best available data and over two decades of R&D.
CMHC knows the risk of it botching property valuations en masse. It has the public, press and regulators breathing down its neck around the clock. It knows the risks in automated valuations better than virtually anyone in the country because it’s processed millions of mortgage files since 1996. And it tirelessly optimizes its systems to statistically factor in and adjust for those risks. To imply that CMHC cannot account for “recent movements in home prices” is simply laughable.”

– from ‘emili Criticisms Resurface’, Rob McLister, canadianmortgagetrends.com, 22 Dec 2012
[hat-tip Ralph Cramdown, added at the suggestion of jesse/YVR]

Okay, fair point. One has to do a careful analysis of the entire risk across the whole CMHC portfolio, agreed; it’s not enough to point to a few anecdotes of errors in valuation assessment and conclude that the entire system is at high risk. The anecdotes could be representative example of a systemic bias towards overvaluation, but they could also simply be outliers.
At the same time, when Rob McLister expresses high confidence in CMHCs risk modelling, refers to the “multi-million dollar mission critical technology”, and states that this criticism of CMHC is “laughable”, we are not immediately reassured. After all, he is
the same guy who called the idea of 40% price drops “farcical”. Any market observer who lacks the imagination to see the possibility of such an outcome is at risk of being blinkered in their analysis.
When we hear market participants calling the idea of certain outcomes “laughable” and “farcical”, we’d strongly suggest one give serious thought to the possibility of those outcomes coming to pass. Why? Because their high confidence reflects the strong probability that a very substantial percentage of market participants are not prepared for that outcome, and that is the very mechanism by which such outcomes come to pass! This is closely related to the analysis of sentiment, and is Contrarianism 101.
When market participants are 100% convinced that stock ‘x’ can only go up, where does it go?
At 125, the thought of Nortel trading at 50 was “farcical”, and “multi-million dollar mission critical technology” showed that such a drop was impossible.
– vreaa

High House Prices, Less Liquid Wealth – “The cheapest house in this neighbourhood goes for $1.2 million, but people are too cheap/poor to fork over $50 per kid.”

“Our elementary school, solidly in the “rich” Arbutus neighbourhood on the west side of Vancouver managed to raise $17,000 this year during its fundraising drive. Last year they raised $21,000.
Goal was $25,000. There are approx 500 students in the school, so the goal is $50 per student. They raised $34 per student.
Not sure you can draw an anecdote, maybe people are cheap or think their taxes should cover schools, I just find it quite sad/disgusting that when the cheapest house in this ‘hood goes for $1.2 million, people are too cheap/poor to fork over $50 per kid.”

LS at greaterfool.ca 17 Nov 2012 6:55pm

“We live in Vancouver and it’s all we can afford” – “As though living in Vancouver and having no money go hand-in-hand”

“Have had a listing on Craigslist for almost a month to sell a nice quality baby car seat. Finally got an offer last night, 50% below asking because “We live in Vancouver and it’s all we can afford.” I put obo on the thing and I don’t care why you’re making the offer you are, but I just thought that was interesting, as though living in Vancouver and having no money go hand-in-hand, it’s a given that you have no money.”
Angela at greaterfool.ca 29 Nov 2012 12:24am

Reno Flip Gone Rong – “Highly Motivated Seller.”

3955 Blenheim Street, Vancouver West Side
2,595 fin.sqft + 900 unfit.sqft 1927 SFH on 53×110 lot
Current owner paid $1,180,000 back in December 2009.
Listed for sale April 2012 $1,998,000
Listed for sale 14 Aug 2012 $1,699,000
Price reduction 26 Nov 2012 $1,599,000

Blurb extract: “ALERT!!! Investors/Contractors. Upper flat lot 53’x110′ on the Westside of Blenheim. … Easy to build a 4000 sqft mansion with a lane-way house. … New solarium extension 35’x15′ built from ground up by the Fourseasons with warranty. … Reno-permit and engineer drawings in place. Easy to show. Highly Motivated Seller.” [hat-tip 'westsidefrank'; thanks to Village Whisperer for info re past pricing]

If we weren’t locked in the jaws of a speculative mania in housing, this house would very likely still be a simple, functional bungalow going about its business.
As it is, it’s highly likely that it will now be torn down, along with all the work that has gone into what were apparently planned to be flip-renos. Misallocation of resources, again.
I suspect Froogle Scott would have some thoughts on this.
Anybody know any earlier sales history on this property?
– vreaa

Sad, Young, Inquiring Minds Want To Know: “Could someone explain why Canadian housing prices have gone up so much in the last few decades? Why are houses not being built to meet the demand and keep the prices in line with inflation?”

From ‘As a young Canadian, the current real estate market makes me sad. What is your view?’ a thread at reddit.com started 24 Nov 2012. [hat-tip poster_with_many_handles]

“I was born and raised in Canada and as a young adult, I want to be able to start a family and buy farm property in Alberta, not too far from a major city. However, the current real estate market makes this dream rather hopeless unless I want to owe my life to a bank, if I can even qualify for the massive loan I would require. I am curious what other people’s view is on real estate in Canada?” – slowbreeze

“I live in Toronto and I’m probably never going to be able to afford a house if I also want kids.” – Mun-Mun

“Could someone explain why housing prices have gone up so much in the last few decades? Why are houses not being built to meet the demand and keep the prices in line with inflation?” – wugitor
[EXCELLENT questions. Watch how your college economics professor tries to squirm out from under those. Housing costs in Canada should rise at the rate of inflation (more specifically, wage inflation). Period. Speculative manias distort from that, but the effects will be temporary. -ed.]

“My dad and I have the same career (dentist). He bought his 4-bedroom, detached Toronto home in 1979 at the age of 26. This house is now worth in excess of $1,000,000. Imagine a 26 year old buying such a house now! I am 29, and despite having the same career I am unable to afford a home, let alone a detached house. The times they have changed.” – Ostracized

“I just bought a very nice recently renovated tri level split in my city in the nice part for 160k, granted I live in a small city of about 80 thousand, and it isn’t as exciting as Toronto or whatever, but I paid 20% down, and have very small mortgage payments, I make a decent living and have quite a bit of disposable income. I travel at least twice a year and generally buy things I need. I think it all depends on where you live. Live somewhere smaller and you can get a lot for your money.” – PartyMark

“Move to Windsor Ontario. Houses for $50-150k. (And more). I lived in Toronto, moved to Windsor because paying $250k for a condo, or $350-$550 for a starter home is absurd. I bought a 4 bedroom, 2 bath w/pool for $130k.
I would never move out west or to a big city… It is obvious that average Canadians can’t afford to pay off a $500k mortgage. They are just hoping to sell for a profit. Someone is going to be left holding that bag… And it isn’t going to be me.”
– Bortology

Bortology said: “It is obvious that average Canadians can’t afford to pay off a $500k mortgage. They are just hoping to sell for a profit. Someone is going to be left holding that bag… And it isn’t going to be me.”
Amen.
Sensible young chap.
– vreaa

Debt Driven Spending – She’s not sure what her family will do with that extra money. “I don’t know. It will probably all be going on our line of credit.”

“Meredith Stevenson, a North Vancouver resident, wanted a voice in the National Hockey League lockout and to get it the lifelong fan made what she described as a gut-wrenching decision.
She and her husband Dean cancelled the pair of Vancouver Canucks season-tickets they had held for 14 years. …
Stevenson said the tickets were costing her family nearly $11,000 a year, plus as much as $8,000 for playoff tickets. They had put down roughly $3,700 towards this season’s tickets, which will now be refunded.
“Our season-tickets are a big investment for us,” Stevenson said. “It always hurt a little bit when those payments came due. I think that’s also why it feels a little bit liberating to be honest.”
She’s not sure what her family will do with that extra money.
“I don’t know,” she said. “It will probably all be going on our line of credit.”

– from ‘A frustrated fan makes a tough decision and says so long to the Canucks’, Vancouver Sun, 23 Nov 2012

In other words, these guys were buying hockey tickets with debt.
The money isn’t “extra” at all!
We’d make a small bet that the LOC was a HELOC. Can’t be sure of that, of course, just a hunch, thus the ‘small’ bet.
– vreaa

BC Consumer Debt Highest In The Country, Up 6.2% YOY – “In a city where this house is assessed for more than $1.3 Million, it’s understandable why some British Columbians feel rich. But what if prices fall?”

“In a city where this house is assessed for more than $1.3 Million, it’s understandable why some British Columbians feel rich. More than any other province, people here have been borrowing against their homes, running up lines of credit, and credit card debt. …
The average British Columbian has $38,837 in consumer debt, that’s an increase of 6.2% compared with a year ago. And it doesn’t even include what they may owe on their mortgage. And what have they been spending it on… renovations, and tearing down and starting from scratch. And vehicles.. lots of vehicles.. sales of luxury cars have seen double digit increases.
But what if prices fall? Neighbourhoods like Vancouver’s West Side have already seen that happen, and sales have slowed down considerably just about everywhere.”

– from ‘B.C. personal debts increase sharply’, CBC, 14 Nov 2012

Yup.
See what’s happening?
Concerns long held by the bears are rising in public consciousness.
– vreaa

“A friend of a friend bought with 0/40 at the last market top in an age restricted building. Then a baby came along. They’re underwater and cannot afford to sell. Strata started to ding them $200 a week.”

“A friend of a friend bought with 0/40 at the last market top in an age restricted building. You know how it is, “get in the game”, “build equity”, “throwing money away on rent”, “flip it in two years”, “a place to call your own”, “everybody’s buying”. Then a baby came along. Despite advances made in Van West and Richmond SFH, condo prices haven’t really recovered yet so they’re underwater and cannot afford to sell. Strata started to ding them $200 a week [penalty for breaking the age bylaw] and they are forced to move out and (gasp) rent elsewhere, while their condo sits there doing nothing except eating mortgage, strata fees and taxes. To add insult to injury, they can’t rent out the unit unless to their immediate family. They tried to sell this summer and the market was really soft and the price are weakening. Last I heard they are waiting for the market to bounce back next year.”
RaggedyRenter at VCI 12 Nov 2012 10:16pm [This story, or one very similar to it, also featured on local radio, 14 Nov 2012. -ed.]

“BC has the most heavily indebted population in the country. The average BC citizen has $37,879 in consumer (nonmortgage) debt. That’s 40 per cent higher than the national average.”

“Dave Malicki discovered his dark side as he plunged into a hellhole of debt.
The good friend, loving father and respected lawyer showed a flair for denial, counter-attack and wilful ignorance.
Many people thrashing in debt try to consolidate their loans. Malicki de-consolidated.
He divided his borrowing. He borrowed from his mom so he could fly to see his daughters in England, from his girlfriend to cover his rent, from a lawyer friend to cover his law society fee.
“I was in such a state of denial that when my girlfriend or family member would bring it up, I would turn on them and say that they didn’t have any faith in me,” he says. “It was a horrible, horrible thing.”
It grew worse. He fell behind in child support payments and feared he might not be able to borrow money to fly to see his children.
When his debts swelled to $85,000, his girlfriend and his accountant convinced him to get help. Ashamed and guilty, one eye twitching with anxiety, he dragged himself into a bankruptcy trustee.
A few hours later, he had filed for bankruptcy. A euphoria washed over him that has yet to completely fade, seven years later.
“I was walking on air,” he says. “I had tears of joy and relief.”


“A growing number of B.C. residents are running this emotional gauntlet. Beset by stagnant incomes and rising prices, B.C. posted a 42 per cent increase in people going bust over the past four years – far higher than the 11-per-cent national increase.
It’s little wonder insolvencies are surging: B.C. has the most heavily indebted population in the country. The average B.C. consumer has $37,879 in consumer (nonmortgage) debt. That’s 40 per cent higher than the national average.”


“Malicki, 46, is a beacon of hope for those who fear they will never rehabilitate themselves and emerge from the darkness of debt to a better life. He closely tracks all his costs. A renter and house-sitter, he has cut his spending to the point he only works in law halftime.
The rest of the time he works with children, and does paid and unpaid work outdoors. Next month, he flies to Tanzania for three months to help build a secondary school with a Vancouver-based charity.
“While I’m gone the child-support cheques will be sent out and all my obligations will be met,” he says.
Malicki offers three bits of guidance to people in a financial jam. The first is to talk to an expert – and do it now.
“Write down what you spend. By becoming aware of where your money goes your spending habits will change.”
His third piece of advice is reserved exclusively for people whose self-esteem has taken a hit – which is to say, almost every debtor out there.
“Forgive yourself once a day. Maybe twice.”

– from ‘The people’s debt: B.C. has the most heavily indebted population in the country — and the number is growing’, Paul Luke, The Province, 4 Nov 2012

“73% of homeowners can’t afford their own homes”; “Mark Carney admits to ‘droning on in public about the dangers of household debt'”; “They offered me close to a million last year (25 years old) just because I’m in Fort McMurray.”

“Canadians will learn an ugly lesson if they keep piling on debt the way they are at the moment.
The Bank of Montreal report that came out Monday and noted that almost three-quarters of homeowners would feel a significant squeeze from even a small rise in interest rates shows just how close Canadians are to falling over the edge of their finances. What it means, in essence, is that 73% of the people surveyed can’t afford their own homes. And a lot of them are already feeling the pinch.”


“This is at a time when interest rates are at historic lows, which means they can only go up from here. That they will rise, eventually, is inevitable. Yet 16% of the people in the survey said they might not be able to make their payments if rates rose by even a tenth.
You don’t have to think hard to imagine what the fallout would be from an event like that. You can picture the headlines — “Canadians driven from their homes by rise in interest rates” – and the panic in Ottawa. The papers – well, some of them, anyway – would be full of stories about innocent families who insist they had no idea they were getting into such a mess when they took out the mortgage on their “dream home.”


“Mark Carney, the Bank of Canada governor, has wagged his finger at big borrowers so often he seems almost sheepish about it.
“Me droning on in public about the dangers of household debt is a way of reminding households that: don’t assume that current levels and the current situation will be there forever,” he said on one recent address.


“As the housing market cools and home prices slip, a lot of people could find themselves making monthly payments they can barely cover for a house that isn’t worth what they thought it was. If you can’t cover the mortgage, you just have to pray the roof doesn’t start leaking or the furnace fail.
And borrowers won’t really have anyone to blame but themselves. The warnings are out there. The examples are rife: all anyone has to do is examine the experience of U.S. homeowners over the past few years. The dangers aren’t a secret, they’re just being ignored.
But people keep borrowing, because it makes them feel good to spend, because they’re too busy to think about it, because they figure they can cover the payments in the short term and will deal with the future when it comes. And because they can always blame it on someone else when the roof caves in.”


– from ‘Hard-pressed homeowners just close their eyes and borrow some more’, Kelly McParland, National Post, 24 Oct 2012

And from the comment section below that article:

“When I was shopping for a house in 2010, the bank told me I could afford $850k. I am a compulsive budgeter, with detailed spreadsheets, played with various amortizations, and incorporated all of my expensive, housing-related and otherwise, and the amount I concluded that I could afford was $500k. That’s a huge difference.” – Jc

“They offered me close to a million last year (25 years old) just because I’m in Fort McMurray. Didn’t go anywhere near that mark.” – doodles

“I was also offered a $750K loan 10 years ago, and only borrowed $500K upon my own analysis (based on property costs < 30% of gross income). The Scotia loan officer told me that I was smart, and that she feared for others that were borrowing all they could get." – cash0

“We wanted to move a year ago and decided we could afford about $400K. Bank offered us $750K. We spent $362K fully expecting to pay higher interest rates eventually.” – chmilz

No surprises; Lenders have allowed borrowers to overextend.
Headlined for the record.
– vreaa

Mortgage Prisoners – “Something like that will never happen in Canada”

“How it happens
Here is a fictional but typical example:
A shop owner moved home in 2006, after being offered a mortgage without needing third-party corroboration of their income.
The interest tracked base rate at 1% over bank base rate for five years, after which the rate would revert to the lender’s standard variable rate (SVR).
The lender was happy to lend the money on an “interest-only” basis, where the repayment of the loan would come from future profits in the business, or from an inheritance, or from the sale of the property itself.
With the Bank rate at 5%, the interest stood at 6%, so the householder had to pay £2,000 a month.
In 2007, the Bank rate increased to 5.75%, so repayments increased by a further £250 a month.

Changed circumstances
It is now 2012, the High Street is suffering, and the shop owner’s current income is only £50,000. The property might be worth only £570,000.
From April 2008 until March 2009, his mortgage costs dropped from £2,000 pm to £500 a month as the Bank rate fell to a record low.
All appeared well until the end of the five-year Bank rate tracking product in November 2011.
Now, payments have gone from 1.5% (£500 a month) to the current SVR of 4.25% (£1,416 pm).
Traditionally over the last 25 years or so the answer to this issue of increasing costs would be have been to remortgage to another lender.
However in the current environment things are different, with lenders being much more conservative.
The shop owner would find it difficult to find a new loan on an interest-only basis.
The loan is now at 70% of the value of the home, so almost every lender would require him to take a repayment loan.”

- from ‘Mortgage prisoners’ are locked in to home loans, Simon Tyler, BBC, 25 Apr 2012

Hat-tip Erebus at VREAA 25 Oct 2012 for this link, and who added:
“My co-worker’s response to this: “Something like that will never happen in Canada” “.

Note that in the above example, problems have arisen even with property prices rising.
Yes, there are some differences between UK and Canadian mortgages, but the broad principles of those in debt coming under increasing pressure, as the virtuous cycle turns vicious, are the same.
– vreaa

Mark Carney Magic – Soft And Strong At The Same Time

“The Bank of Canada softened its stand on raising interest rates , a shift that reflects an economic outlook that has deteriorated markedly since the spring.
Canada’s central bank also left its benchmark interest rate at an ultra-low setting of 1 per cent for the 25th consecutive month, and left its economic outlook for the next few years largely unchanged.”

– from ‘Bank of Canada softens rate stand, flags debt concerns’, Kevin Carmichael, G&M, 23 Oct 2012

“The Bank of Canada strengthened its bias for raising interest rates, retaining its outlier status among the Group of Seven nations while signaling concern about record household debts it says will keep growing.
Policy makers led by Governor Mark Carney kept the benchmark rate at 1 percent, where it’s been more than two years, and said “some modest withdrawal of monetary policy stimulus will likely be required.”

– from ‘Carney Strengthens Bias to Raise Rates as Debt Risk Grows’, Greg Quinn, Bloomberg, 23 Oct 2012

The speculative mania in Vancouver RE will resolve itself regardless of whether rates stay low, or whether they strengthen slightly. Either way, there is too much debt, and the market is collapsing under its own weight.
Fortunately, our predictions are not dependent on trying to read the BOC’s intentions.
– vreaa

“I used to go to the parking lot with my co-workers, point at the realtor section and say: “See these cars? They’re bought though fees and commissions you paid when you took out the mortgage. When you buy property, you purchase a BMW as a gift for somebody else.”

“My name is Stan. I live in Vancouver, BC. I’m 30. I rent and plan on doing so for as far into the future as my eye can see. I carry no debt. Have enough diversified savings to last about 2 years if I happen to lose my $65K / year job. I’m the sole bread winner in my 3 member family, which may become 4-member family if my mother doesn’t find a job soon.

I keep hearing about boomerang kids and those that live in their parents’ basements into their 30s. To me, a fall back option such as this, would be a luxury. I face the possibility of housing “boomerang parents”. Each time the media mentions someone returning to someone else’s house, I cringe.

Despite being told all my life that renting meant throwing money away, I could never bring myself to invest in a mortgage. Signing a contract that amounted to a promise to remain in good health and financially stable for 30+ years never made sense (regardless of the premise). Not knowing what the next year might bring, how could I commit to anything forcing such obligation?

My previous place of employment shared the building with a realtor firm. Their parking lot was always full of top of the line BMW’s and Porsche’s. My young friends were all starting families and jumping into mortgages at that point. They thought they could afford the $1 mil homes they were going for (while earning roughly less or as much as I did).

I used to go to the parking lot with my co-workers, point at the realtor section and say: “See these cars? They’re bought though fees and commissions you paid when you took out the mortgage. When you buy property, you purchase a BMW as a gift for somebody else.” My friends laughed, but they’re not laughing now… neither are they my friends anymore.

Yet with many of my, now underwater, former friends no change has taken place. They still occupy the properties, having missed out on the blessing of a faux recovery. Not everyone gets a second chance to get out of the market and they totally blew it. I still cannot understand what pushed most of them into “ownership”. I had no data, no projections when making my decisions, just a simple set of observations. The parking lot and my own clunker told me more about the state of the housing market than all of the mainstream economists, university professors, and TV newscasters combined.”

- Stan from Vancouver, as relayed by Garth Turner at greaterfool.ca 21 Oct 2012

Sitting With Equity And Eager To Use It – “They purchased the three-unit brownstone, in the up-and-coming area of Bedford-Stuyvesant, for $725K, by re-mortgaging their Vancouver house for around 80 per cent of its value.”

“Meet Rodney Hynes and Thomas Hunt, Vancouver owners of a new brownstone in Brooklyn, N.Y.
“We’d like to thank the over-priced Vancouver real estate market for making it possible,” says Mr. Hynes, dryly.
Mr. Hynes, who works for Aboriginal Affairs, bought a home on Vancouver’s east side with Mr. Hunt, a TV producer, nine years ago. They purchased the house, which needed a $200,000 renovation, for $268,000. According to a recent appraisal, it’s worth $850,000.
They purchased the three-unit brownstone, in the up-and-coming area of Bedford-Stuyvesant, for $725,000 (U.S.), by re-mortgaging their Vancouver house for around 80 per cent of its value. Because the Brooklyn property will bring in rental revenue of $7,000 U.S., their mortgage and other expenses will be more than covered.

Full disclosure: I’ve known these guys through friends and media connections for a number of years. They are a perfect example of Vancouver buyers who were initially reluctant to jump into the market, but once in, soon embraced the seemingly endless ride, as, year after year, the value of their home climbed. They were smart, or lucky enough, not to lock into a five-year rate, but instead went with a variable rate so low that they rapidly paid down a hefty chunk of their principal. It meant they were sitting with a lot of equity, and they became eager to use it towards another purchase.

You won’t hear the Suze Ormans of the world advising consumers to mortgage one’s home to the max. Most every money expert will tell the average middle-income earner to pay down the mortgage, not borrow further on it.

Mr. Hynes and Mr. Hunt had almost paid off their Vancouver home but chose to mortgage it to the max so they could own the brownstone clear title. I spoke to a few Century 21 realtors in Vancouver and Toronto who help clients liaise with realtors south of the border, so they can work their way into the U.S. market. When I ran the idea of maxing one’s mortgage to make a U.S. purchase possible, the realtors weren’t so sure they’d personally go that far.

Mr. Hynes and Mr. Hunt say they have already endured shocked reactions from friends, of the “are you crazy?” variety. But the couple regularly travel to New York, and one day, when they’ve paid down the mortgage, they will reserve one of the small suites for themselves, as a pied-à-terre.

“Canadians are very conservative, especially around matters of money,” says Mr. Hynes.

Says Mr. Hunt: “What’s interesting is when you go to New York and you’re doing what we’re doing, you see it’s as normal as can be. There are people from all around the world purchasing real estate, and being entrepreneurial about it.

“We’re not worried.”

Mr. Hynes and Mr. Hunt aren’t alone in their quest for U.S. real estate. Overall, foreign purchases of U.S. properties have gone up 24 per cent in the last year, according to a recently released report by the American National Association of Realtors (NAR). Canadians are, by far, the greediest buyers. We account for 24 per cent of the foreign sales stateside in the last year. Meanwhile, the second-biggest buyer, China, is responsible for 11 per cent of sales. Toronto realtor Paul Indrigo said he relies on such stats to help Canadians find properties in popular hot spots in Florida, California and Arizona.

But it’s not a straightforward process, purchasing an American investment or holiday property that’s nowhere close to home.

If Mr. Hynes and Mr. Hunt want to renovate, which they do, their property management company will have to hire contractors. To do the work themselves would require a work visa. As well, non-residents of the U.S. are expected to pay a 30 per cent withholding tax on gross rental income – unless, of course, they find an accountant who can help them file the forms that will save them from having to take such a hit. Fortunately, there are local accounting firms who’ve become expert in U.S. tax laws and one of them, a Surrey firm, helped guide the way for Mr. Hynes and Mr. Hunt.

“There will be challenges every step of the way,” says Mr. Hunt. “Taxes are huge. Expenses are really high. Insurance is high. Water has to be paid for separately. We have to budget for maintenance.”

And the vacancy rate isn’t the same as Vancouver, adds Mr. Hynes. In an up-and-coming neighbourhood like Bed-Stuy, they say demand is so much lower that people might not show up for an open house on a rainy day.

However, compared to Vancouver, the New York market is a breeze, says Mr. Hunt.

“We spent two years looking for a house in Vancouver, and the fact that we survived a sellers’ market here meant we didn’t freak out about the New York purchase.

“The market in Vancouver was way more intense.”

‘Going all in: Canucks max out their mortgage to buy in Brooklyn’ Kerry Gold, The Globe and Mail, Oct. 19 2012 [hat-tip Jack]

So, this couple paid $468K ($268K purchase, plus $200K renos) for a house that now has an appraised value of $850K.
This means they could have liquidated their RE for a profit of about $382K (minus commissions and fees etc).
Instead of doing that, or of being content with having a paid off home in desirable Vancouver, they decide to go ‘all-in’ real estate, with leverage.
They borrow 80% of the current value of the East side property ($680K), and purchase the $725K US property.
Thus, by our very rough math:
Value of RE carried:
East side $850K + Brownstone $725K = $1.575M
Mortgages:
Eastside $680K + Brownstone $45K = $725K
(Is it also fair to assume that, because this couple paid down their mortgage rapidly, and because they required a 80% HELOC to purchase the US property, that they don’t have much else in the way of savings/investments?)
Thus they are very likely leveraged RE:net-worth at about 2:1.
Overall, this looks like a situation where a household is overextended into RE and very vulnerable to RE weakness ahead.
On their side, they likely purchased the US property at a reasonable value, and it is currently cash-flow-positive.
The US housing market may have bottomed, but quite possibly not; the Vancouver RE market has only now begun to descend.
– vreaa

“Canadians are even more in debt than anyone imagined. Revised Statistics Canada calculations place household credit market debt in the second quarter at 163% of disposable income, well above the previously reported 152%.”

“Canadian households are even more in debt than anyone imagined, according to a revised Statistics Canada calculation that gives a more accurate picture of family finances.
The revisions place household credit market debt in the second quarter at 163 per cent of disposable income, well above the previously reported 152 per cent, although the two levels are no longer a direct comparison.
The new numbers remove non-profit institutions from the household category, giving a more accurate accounting of family finances. The revision shows debt growth over the last decade that looks “eerily similar to the U.S. experience, just before their dramatic housing bust,” said David Madani, an analyst with Capital Economics.
“Overall, this supports our bearish view that Canada’s housing boom is unsustainable and the eventual correction, which we think is already underway, is likely to have a material negative implications for growth,” he said.
The revisions show a much steeper climb, with debt growing in each of the past six quarters.”

– from ‘Canadian debt even higher, stats show’, Julian Beltrame, Canadian Press, 16 Oct 2012

No surprise. All part of the same big theme.
– vreaa