El Magnifico at VREAA 25 Dec 2010 12:24pm –
“I just wanted to share a conversation I had with a good friend of mine as he announced he was going to buy a place. It really highlights well what is called “the emotional factor” when it comes to buying real estate. Hopefully this conversation will be useful to some other people…
I hope you’re doing well. I was also apt hunting recently, until I learned more about the real estate market in Vancouver… I’ve decided to hold off for for a couple of years and see what will happen.
I read a lot of articles, blog, etc… You may want to hear what these people have to say about the Real Estate market in Vancouver. Here are some of the most useful links I found:
Hope all is well with you too!
Thanks a lot for the information. I surely won’t dare to disagree that the risk of a potential real state crisis has increased due to the low interest rates, easy credit, and consequent increasing household debts, etc.
However, since I arrived in Canada some people have been expecting a real state crash in Vancouver for different reasons: 2008 financial crisis, the olympic games; etc.
On the other hand, some other people think that real state prices in vancouver will never drop significantly, due to the shortage of available land…
Meanwhile, I now realize that I have spent over $75,000 to pay for my rent in the last 3.5 years… and I will never see this money again, that’s for sure…
I mean, I totally see your point, and actually nobody can be sure if a mortage will or will not be a good deal at this time…
I really don’t know who is right or wrong… and so I guess I will keep looking around and I think I will probably buy a place if I see a good opportunity on a place that I like. Besides, it’s probably better to buy now, when interest rates are low, than the opposite…
Anyway, we should keep discussing about that… I think it can helpful to the both of us in trying to make lucid decisions.
Thanks again and let’s try to get togetehr for a beer or coffee sometime soon.
I take this opportunity to wish you, (…) and your baby a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!
Good to hear everything is well for you! (…).
Somehow, I’m glad I didn’t buy any real estate as I would have been such in trouble to sell it off (the market is dead right now, -35%ish for saleq compared to last year…).
I’m glad you are aware of the potential risk for a real estate crash. The intent of my first email was simply to make you aware in case you were not. As we say in french “un homme averti en vaut deux” which means something like “one knowledgeable man is worth two men”.
If I can only give you a few advices to you in making the biggest investment of your life (unless your business becomes so successful that you can afford all these millionaires’ toys), there would be as follow:
– be always careful of what real estate agent and their board say. Trusting them regarding real estate analysis is like trusting your drug dealer when he says heroin is good for you! They have a vested interest in keeping the market going up…
– when you compare renting vs. owning, make sure that you take into account all the costs of ownership. As a renter, you don’t have to pay for property taxes ($1,500 a year), strata fees ($400 to $500 a month in the nicer buildings in downtown) and the maintenance costs (so many people bought condos in leaky buildings and had to pay 50 to 70K in rainproofing… that really hurts!). All in all, ownership costs are really expensive too.
– Don’t forget that when buying a place, you’ll have to pay 7% of commission fee to your real estate agent. On a $450,000 property, this is $31,500 (not far from half what you paid in rent in 3.5 years in Canada!), money that you will never see again too.
– remember that if you don’t have 20% of down payment, you’ll be required to pay for the CHMC insurance, which will be a significant additional burden to your mortgage payments.
Coming back to the argument of buying when interests are low, it is actually a bad idea, and it’s counter intuitive. Let me explain you. When people buy a house, they look at what they can afford and usually bought the biggest house/condo they can afford (property cost + interest cost). This is ok in countries like US or France, where mortgage interest rate is setup for the entire duration of the mortgage. In Canada, however, mortgage rates are reset every 5 years. I let you imagine what happened when a family that has bought to the maximum of their ability, at emergency low interest rates, see their mortgage payment doubling because their mortgage rate has been reset much higher 5 years later… This is what, in my opinion, will create a real estate crash throughout Canada. When the Bank of Canada will increase the prime rate, people will see their mortgage payment increase and won’t be able to face it, and therefore be forced to sell…
On the other hand, if you buy a place at a time where interest rate are high, the cost of your mortgage payment are likely to be lower when your mortgage rate is reset after 5 years. Today, it is the opposite. Interest rate can only go up, and therefore mortgage payment will go up significantly for most of the people.
Regarding the argument of available land in Vancouver, I don’t really buy this argument. There were so many special places in the US (Florida, California, Nevada, etc.) that, despite great features/qualities, have lost more than half of their values that I don’t think this argument is very solid. What I see is that prices in downtown Vancouver are now similar to prices in Manhattan and double the prices in Seattle. There is no rationale reason for that…
The last thing that I wanted to share with you is what I discovered when looking at mortgage payments. Initially, the first few years, your mortgage payments are split as follow: 80%ish to interest and only 20%ish to your principal. That something I didn’t know and found totally unfair and outrageous. Somehow, the first few years of your mortgage, you more renting the place to the bank than owning it…
Anyway, it’s a very long email. I wanted to share with you my thoughts and discoveries regarding RE. I was in the same seat as you and I didn’t buy, and now I’m leaving, I’m so glad I didn’t.
I hope this email will be useful to you. I’ll organize a small farewell gathering before I leave (…).
Cheers buddy !
Excellent reasoning, thank you so much for taking the time to share, I really appreciate it!
I did become aware of the issues you mentioned above when I first thought of buying a property here in Vancouver, in early 2009. I agree with you in most of them (and that’s why I gave up the idea of owning a real estate property in Vancouver, back in 2009).
In some other aspects I think slightly differently from you, more specifically regarding the interest rates and ownership costs (but I won’t get into details here, because I don’t want to make this a boring discussion to you, as I’m sure you have more important things to think about(…).
(…) I’m now also considering some aspects of ownership that are less of financial relevance (but not less important) and more of personal nature, and therefore difficult to be quantified, because their effect and value can significantly vary from person to person.
All in all, I’m still inclined to jump into the owners side, if the right opportunity comes.
Well, thanks a lot again (…). I really appreciate your analysis – definitely very useful.
Hopefully I will see you soon then!