“Real estate is a hot topic these days amongst my neighbours. We’ve all heard the stories of little bungalows along the Cambie corridor selling for north of 2 million dollars. These were homes you could buy for a third of that before the construction of the Canada Line system was announced.”
“Where does it end? That unfortunately is a scenario we humans are not all that good at seeing. If it is indeed a bubble, it will remain invisible to all those but a chosen few. Those few will be madly blogging about it and preaching their gospel of “sell now” at cocktail parties, desperate to be proven right. And even if history does prove their predictions about a real estate crash to be correct, we’ll still find them annoying and usually find a way to avoid them at the party.”
“The cruel truth is that a bubble does not become visible until that bubble has popped, leaving drops of soapy fluid on the ground that we will be slipping and sliding on for years (as we make our way to the bank to renew our mortgages at a higher interest rate, realizing just how much money we owe on a property that suddenly doesn’t seem as sexy as it once had).”
“Last year, when my family and I were pondering a move out of Vancouver, the line I heard more than once was “don’t sell your house, you’ll never get back in.” It almost made sense, until I looked at the mountain of cash we would be leaving town with. Thankfully I haven’t had to make that decision yet… and the abstract concept of my net worth remains a fictional number.”
“So for now I remain a Vancouver homeowner. At least I know where to buy a carpet for cheap. [See body of article for context.] I should ask why they’re shutting down the business though. Maybe they know something I don’t.”
– from ‘The Persian Rugs Going Out of Business Sale!’, Martin Strong, at City Caucus, 30 May 2012 [hat-tip Nemesis]
Many Vancouver homeowners ‘know’ that this is a bubble; they see that the price run up is just too ‘good’ to be true; yet only a very small percentage will capitalize on this windfall before the bust. Most will be unable to overcome the inertia and the inconvenience of selling. And, that aside, it’d only take a relatively small percentage to try to sell at the same time for the market to collapse.
It is very, very difficult to run against the herd. On the way down, of course, the herd is selling…
Martin is correct about the bears being seen as irritatingly annoying by the general citizenry. Witness Larry MacDonald’s article in Canadian Business that we headlined yesterday, where Larry asks the bears to simply go away. As today’s anecdote shows, it’s irritating to have people tell you something that pertains to your circumstances, that you know in your heart is likely valid, but that you can’t bear to act on. Like a large version of being asked whether you shouldn’t get that overdue term paper finished when the big game is on television.
And for how long is the “can’t-tell-its-a-bubble-until-it’s-popped” canard going to be in such wide circulation?
It is very clear that you can identify a bubble from the inside: a market is in a speculative mania when prices clearly divorce themselves from fundamental values, and continue upwards solely because new buyers expect ongoing price strength. That’s a bubble. Capisci? (The bears do!)
Anyway, Martin shows that he has a remarkable amount of understanding about what’s going on, even to the point of talking about what it’ll be like after the bust (“realizing just how much money we owe on a property that suddenly doesn’t seem as sexy as it once had”). He also shows excellent insight in referring to his current perceived wealth as an “abstract concept” and his net-worth a “fictional number”. After the pop, he will doubtless say that he “knew” it was a bubble, and he actually ‘did’. But his own wishful thinking and the seduction/threats of the herd (“you’ll never get back in”) will have prevented him from acting on that which he knew. This is how bubbles work. Powerful, eh?