Tag Archives: RE_ATM

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]

Spot The Speculators #95 – “Each had a house with a mortgage. Then they bought a new residence and used a line of credit to add a rental apartment to the new house. Their $1.5-million of debt is 12 times their gross employment income.”

“A couple we’ll call Tiff (49) and Sandy (45) turned their long-time friendship into a union when they bought a house in British Columbia and combined their fortunes in 2008. The relationship came with a lot of baggage, however. Each had a house with a mortgage. Then they bought a new residence and used a line of credit to add a rental apartment to the new house. Their $1.5-million of debt is 12 times their gross employment income.
Revenue from the income properties barely covers their total costs — mortgage and line-of-credit interest, taxes, utilities, insurance and maintenance. Add in falling prices in the sliding B.C. housing market and the couple is subsidizing losing investments.
They save only $100 a month for RRSPs and $25 a month in an RESP for a Sandy’s nine-year old child from a former marriage. At mid-life, the couple, each of whom works for a large publishing company, has just $31,000 of RRSPs and almost no cash.”

They started with 25% conventional down payments, but now find themselves with about 10% equity in the rental units as a result of falling property prices and debt-financed buyouts of former partners. Their return after paying all interest costs, utilities, insurance and taxes is negligible. Unless they can raise rents drastically or realize future capital gains, the investments are flops.

A financial crisis triggered, perhaps, by unemployment, illness or accident would require them to add debt, for they have just $2,000 in cash. If interest rates rise by 1% or 2%, they would be forced to refinance, but they already have 30-year amortizations. To pay more interest, they would have to face deregistration of some or all of their $31,000 of RRSPs, heavy taxes on payouts or, in the worst case, bankruptcy.

Family Finance asked Adrian Mastracci, a portfolio manager and financial planner at KCM Wealth Management Inc. in Vancouver, to work with the couple. He is candid in describing the issues.
“The couple’s problems are far too much debt, especially for properties that are poor investments, and an excessive concentration in real estate, for each unit is within just blocks of the others,” he says.

Real estate has produced substantial gains for homeowners in parts of B.C., but the boom is waning. When interest rates rise, prices could fall further, for most people buy what they can afford and, with higher borrowing costs, they will afford less.

- from ‘Bad real estate investments leave couple with $1.5-million in debt’, Andrew Allentuck, Financial Post, 11 Jan 2013 [hat-tip JoeQ]

Summary of finances for this couple:
Assets $2M [$1.862M in RE at current market prices; $137K other]
Debt $1.542M [3 mortgages, 1 LOC, CCs, Car loan]
Net worth $456K [Assets minus Debt]
Ratio of RE holdings to Net worth: 4.1 to 1
Put another way, more than 400% of their net worth is in RE.
(I find this figure as shocking as the debt to income ratio of 12)
If/when the market price of their RE holdings drop 25% they would be wiped out.

What, me, a speculator?
Just innocent locals doing what innocent locals do, right? Building wealth with RE.
How many more out there are in similar situations?
- vreaa

“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

“Vancouver is a lonely place for financially responsible people.”

“There are some of us who still view life realistically but Vancouver is a lonely place for financially responsible people.

My partner and I are alike when it comes to finances. Our friends have been buying houses, condos, cars, boats, and all the toys in the world on incomes we know are similar or smaller than ours. Often we get lessons on how easy it is, “just put $10000 down and you’ll have $700 payments, its so cheap these days.” That would be a fine statement if we were talking about housing, unfortunately many of our peers talk in such a way of car payments. I get nightmares imagining what it must feel like to spend $1000 +gas on a car with my income. Dreadful thought, but I know first hand of people who do this without a second thought.

With housing its no different. We purchased a condo in 09, at a small monthly discount to renting. Our mortgage is just barely 2 times our annual income. We feel the need to get rid of this debt as soon as possible. Yet, we have friends who have bought both houses and condos in the past year valued 4 times that of our condo! These people earn the same money!

I would venture to say people are so conditioned to debt these days, they feel naked not having obscene monthly payments. When a car if finally close to paid off, they trade in for the newest model with biggest possible payment, or newest cruiser, or newest Bowrider.

The irony of it all? It makes us feel poor! We look at our friends, over extended, loaded on debt, enjoying all the spoils of life. The appearance of the wealthy elite.

Us? No consumer debt, used cars, and a big savings accounts, even bigger investment accounts.

This is partly why Vancouver is such a hard place to live, if not for us both being grounded and reminding ourselves that by 40 we will have enough cash-flow to retire or work part time, we would likely go insane and cave to the temptations. Its hard not to feel vindictive, and wish financial reckoning upon the indebted masses who get to enjoy the spoils without the work.”

Burt at VREAA 25 Oct 2012 8:39 am

Burt has our sympathy; it isn’t easy running against one’s herd, or even just sitting out while the herd is running.
The one note of surprise in the post regards Burt’s early retirement. It would be interesting to see his retire-at-40 math, given current interest rates and investment environment.
- vreaa

“Far too many middle- and lower-income buyers threw borrowed money at real estate, then compounded the error with expensive upgrades throughout.”

“It might surprise you to learn that rich Americans, people who could pretty easily buy any make or model they like, tend to drive inexpensive cars. A study by car pricing site TrueCar found that eight of the 10 best-selling autos in the country’s 10 wealthiest ZIP codes averaged less than $40,000.”

“The takeaway is clear: Your money should work for you, not for the salesperson. If you buy a car beyond your means and, worse, finance that pricey ride, you are throwing good money after bad.
Exactly the same thing happened during the [U.S.] housing boom. Far too many middle- and lower-income buyers threw borrowed money at real estate, then compounded the error with expensive upgrades throughout. Granite countertops, stainless-steel appliances, fancy pools and outdoor decks, usually bought with illusory home equity loans.”


- ‘Which Cars Do Rich People Drive? Cheap Ones’, marketriders.com, 9 Aug 2012

“My parents, who bought their place in North Van about 25 years ago, have used Helocs several times to pay for scientology training.”

“My parents have used Helocs several times to pay for scientology training. Yes, they are full on couch jumpers. They bought their place in North Van about 25 years ago.”
- midnight toker at VREAA 17 Jun 2012 2:45pm

People have dipped into the RE_ATM for all sorts of things they previously wouldn’t have been able to ‘afford’, increasing their leverage to the RE market as they do so.
This spending will come to an abrupt halt when prices stall and reverse course.
- vreaa

Notary Poll – “More than half of B.C. homeowners have refinanced their home or property.”

More than half of B.C. homeowners have refinanced their home or property, a new survey by Mustel Group for the Society of Notaries Public found.
Of those who have refinanced, 49 per cent used the money for renovations; 23 per cent to buy other real estate; 23 per cent for other investments; 10 per cent to purchase a new car; and 8 per cent to consolidate or pay off other debts.
“B.C.’s homeowners have enjoyed a healthy real estate market in most areas of the province,” said John Eastwood, president of the Society of Notaries Public of B.C. and a South Delta notary. “Many homeowners find themselves in the fortunate position where the current value of the house or property has far surpassed the price they initially paid, meaning a significant amount of their equity is tied up in the home. Mortgage refinancing allows them to access this equity without having to sell or downsize.”
Homeowners were split on whether the value of their homes would go up in 2012, with 44 per cent saying they expect an increase and 52 per cent expecting prices to stay the same.
In Metro Vancouver, 54 per cent said they expect prices to go up, with 34 per cent not expecting increases in the next year.
“There’s always a lot of interest in house prices and market forecasts here in B.C.,” said Akash Sablok, a Vancouver notary. “The reality is that most people live in their homes and those homes are their biggest investment and equity holding so it’s important to understand both the implications and opportunities this presents whether you’re looking to buy, sell or refinance.”

- ‘More than half of B.C. homeowners have refinanced: poll’, Vancouver Sun, 30 May 2012

HELOCs are common. They result in increased leverage to the RE market; an increased vulnerability to falling prices.
Note how this poll suggests that 96% of BC owners believe that in 2012 prices will either go up or stay unchanged. Which means only 4% say prices will drop. (Freaks!)
Also, note the universal “homes are an investment” belief.
- vreaa