Category Archives: 05. Where do Buyers get the money?

First hand accounts of where buyers are getting the cash for their downpayments. Financed by Mom & Pop? Grow-ops? Four jobs? Offshore funds? Robbed a bank? Commodity trades? And so forth..

Zerohedge: “Vancouver Housing Market Implodes”; “Devastated”; “Slammed Shut”; “About To Get Very Ugly”

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“Three weeks ago, when we looked at the long-overdue sudden change in the Vancouver housing market, long a receptacle for Chinese hot and laundered money, we found that as a result of the implementation of the 15% property tax implemented by British Columbia (something we recommended over a month earlier), that the Vancouver housing bubble has burst.

We concluded this based on anecdotal evidence by local real estate professionals: “As a new dawn breaks in Metro Vancouver’s real estate market, realty companies and real estate boards are reporting the first anecdotes of deals falling through as foreign buyers forfeited deposits on binding deals rather than pay the new tax. Worse, if only for the unprecedented local housing bubble, and certainly better for potential local homeowners who were locked out from the massively overpriced market, they report evidence of local buyers withdrawing offers in expectation that the market will soften.”

Less than a month later, there is also hard evidence to confirm this assessment. According to Global News, evidence from realtors and MLS data is showing the Vancouver real estate market is in the midst of a major slow down, with prices dropping and sales plummeting.

While August is typically one of the slowest months for real estate transactions, MLS sales data from the first two weeks of the month shows what many have been hoping for during the last few years of escalating prices. According to realtor Brent Eilers, using MLS listing data, there were only three home sales in West Vancouver between Aug. 1 and 14 this year, compared to 52 during the same period last year. That’s a decrease of 94%.”

Global News obtained MLS sales data from several key Metro Vancouver markets and found the number of homes sold during the first two weeks of August in Greater Vancouver dropped by 85% on average. Richmond experienced a 96% drop in the number of sales and Burnaby North fell by 95%. Vancouver’s West Side, West Vancouver, and Coquitlam also took major hits.

It appears that the Vancouver housing market has slammed shut.

Which is hardly a surprise: virtually everyone saw it coming, the only question was when. Eilers says he’s been warning of a real estate slow-down for at least a year due to the region’s unsustainable and unsupportable prices. West Vancouver, where he does a large part of his business, had a benchmark detached home price of almost $3.4 million in July according to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver.

“The market in West Van is up 450 per cent since 2001. So is everyone making 600 per cent more income than they were so they can pay their taxes and buy their houses? Of course not. So how is this inflation been financed? By off-shore money and record debt.” Precisely what we said at the start of the year when we first heard horror stories about Chinese buyers paying cash, sight unseen, for any and every local luxury, and not so luxury home.

It appears that it is not just the 15% luxury tax implemented on on July 25 that has burst the bubble: according to Eilers sales were dropping even before the tax. According to the data, July was another slow month in West Vancouver with only 44 sales, down from 80 in 2015. June saw 74 sales, also down from 102 the year before.

The pattern has left the market “devastated”, Eilers adds.

While it may be too early to make a definitive conclusion, after all while earlier this month, the REBGV released its statistics for the month of July, saying the data showed the market had slowed down to “normal levels”, there was still no official August data available, and thus no actual indication of the slowdown. Fortunately for buyers, real-time data proves otherwise.

Zolo, a Canadian real estate brokerage, keeps track of MLS home sales in real-time and reports prices as an average rather than the “benchmark price” used by the REBGV. It currently shows a major correction underway in most Metro Vancouver markets. According to the website, the City of Vancouver currently has an average home price of $1.1 million, down 20.7% over the last 28 days and down 24.5% over the last three months. The average detached home is $2.6 million, down 7% compared to three months ago.

If the bubble has indeed burst, things are about to get very ugly. Eilers says that in the 1980 housing crash, prices dropped by 40 to 60% within a year and took six years to recover. “So your $2 million house became $800,000 in five months. There’s a lot of economists and a lot of wise people that believe that our financial structure is much closer to that structure from a corrections’ point of view,” Eilers explained.

One thing, however, appears certain: the foreign money influx has stopped. Zolo’s CEO says the foreign buyer tax has certainly stopped speculative buyers. This has caused many other buyers to take on a “wait and see” approach, which has essentially frozen the market.

News of the foreign buyer tax has spread to China, where Chinese real estate website Juwai now promotes other Canadian cities as foreign capital destinations. The website used to promote Vancouver as one of the best places for wealthy Chinese to invest, but has now switched to publicizing Calgary and Alberta due to the tax.

Which means that while one bubble is bursting, another is about to start, even if it is smack in the middle of Canada’s bleeding oil patch.

That said, this is good news for ordinary Vancouver residents. NDP MLA David Eby says the tax has caused a lot of people to hit the pause button on buying homes, but all those people might come back into the market in September. Despite his reservations on how the tax was implemented – he would have preferred an incrementally-increasing tax – he says a market slow down is good news.

“A lot of people have said to me quietly that they hope there is a substantial housing crash.”

Well, it appears they got what they wanted. Now the only question is what happens once Vancouver “corrects” by 30%, 40% or more – will the Chinese buyers stay away permanently or, like a good S&P500 algos, simply BTFD. We will have the answer in a few months.

– from Vancouver Housing Market Implodes: Average Home Price Plunges 20% In 1 Month – “The Market Is Devastated”, Zerohedge, 19 Aug 2016

As the article says: “If the bubble has indeed burst, things are about to get very ugly.” – vreaa

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15% Tax on Foreign Buyers – Enough to Change the Narrative?

The important thing is not the direct effects of the tax itself, it is the effect that this may have on the story that locals are telling themselves about Vancouver RE.

From what I informally overhear, many people are talking about the effects of this tax.
If enough people believe that this will lead to dropping prices, drops will occur.
Local owners intending to sell will hurry to realize paper gains; Local prospective buyers will evaporate (see Spot the Speculator).

Speculators abhor falling prices.
Momentum speculators (off-shore and local) will withdraw.
Locals intending to buy far, far above wage or rent determined fundamental values will stay away if they can no longer be ‘certain’ of future price gains.

A market like Vancouver RE circa 2016 (25% gains in the last year!!) is dependent on ever rising prices to suck in new buyers.
Once it is seen, or believed, that Vancouver RE prices can drop substantially, at what level will prices stop falling?
[50% of uber-astronomically-overvalued is still substantially over-priced.]

– vreaa

Analyst on Global – “Sheer insanity…You’re pricing local, hardworking people out of the market… It’s fueled by a money laundering bubble that politicians, in cahoots with the real estate industry, don’t want to end.”

Speaking on Global BC News Morning, Cohodes made it clear that he has no personal stake in the Vancouver real estate market.
Cohodes said he wants to speak out about the housing market in Vancouver because he feels strongly “people are being taken advantage of.”

The Greater Vancouver real estate board says the benchmark price of a detached home in Vancouver hit $1.56 million in June, which is up 38.7 per cent in one year.
“I think it’s a money laundering-induced market,” said Cohodes. “Where the local politicians, or the BC Liberals, are kept or in cahoots with the real estate brokers, developers, lawyers, that angle. And they have sought Chinese money to keep the market propped up and it won’t last.”
“China has capital controls on and Vancouver has become the money laundering mecca of either the world or North America and something is going to change and change drastically.”
Cohodes said if the provincial government doesn’t step in to change the market, they’re going to be voted out.
“This is sheer insanity,” he said. “What’s going on is you’re pricing local, hardworking people out of the market and as I’ve said before, the housing market in Vancouver resembles the Vancouver stock exchange and penny stocks many years ago and that didn’t end well at all.”
Finance Minister Mike de Jong has said he does not believe Vancouver is in a real estate bubble, to which Cohodes said “he’s full of more crap than a Christmas turkey.”
“The market is ridiculously high and Christy Clark goes and takes real estate people over to China.”
“They have the records,” said Cohodes,” they just don’t want people to really know or they don’t want people to know the truth.”
In a statement to Global News, de Jong said:
We continue to work with both local governments and the federal government to address issues in Vancouver’s real estate sector, particularly to help bring new supply of homes to the market at affordable prices, and acting on concerns about regulation and enforcement. The premier announced last week that the province will end self-regulation of the real estate industry, and further steps aimed at helping make homes more affordable for the middle class will follow in the near future.
Cohodes said he has solutions to fix what the “issues are” but B.C. politicians don’t want to “take the medicine because their livelihoods depend on this.”
According to Cohodes, people who buy in this market will only become “debt servants for the rest of their lives.” He said when Vancouver’s market does tank or collapse, people are going to lose a generation of savings and equity.
“It’s fueled by a money laundering bubble that politicians don’t want to end.”
“At some point, bubbles burst.”
– from ‘Vancouver’s real estate is ‘fuelled by a money laundering bubble’: Market analyst’, Amy Judd, Global News, 5 July 2016

Trudeau States The Paradox: “The inflated housing market must be stabilized, but any action must not completely devalue those people whose retirements and equity are tied to their homes.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government is concerned about the ballooning cost of housing in Vancouver and Toronto but it wants to be certain any action it takes doesn’t make the problem worse.

Speaking Friday morning on CBC Radio in Vancouver, Trudeau said any solutions will require collaboration between all levels of government, as well as academics and stakeholders.

He said overseas money is playing a role in fuelling superheated markets such as Vancouver, where the average price of a single-family detached home is $1.5 million.

But Trudeau cautioned that any federal measures to cap soaring house prices could backfire elsewhere in the country.

He said officials are examining Australia’s decision to tax homes owned by foreigners, but warns federal levers to curb offshore ownership in Vancouver or Toronto have the potential to harm other regions of the country where overseas investment can be beneficial.

Trudeau was scheduled to attend several events in Vancouver on Friday, including a roundtable on housing affordability attended by industry experts and several Metro Vancouver Liberal members of Parliament.

“How do we make sure we are helping people (in Vancouver) in exactly the right and targeted way,” Trudeau said. “That is where the kind of collaboration we haven’t had for 10 years between the federal government and different orders of government is so important to work on together.”

Most Vancouver homeowners know the inflated housing market must be stabilized, because the current trajectory “doesn’t have any good outcomes,” he added.

But any action must not completely devalue those people whose retirements and equity are tied to their homes, he said.

“We just have to make sure we are keeping people protected in how we stabilize it.”

– from ‘Trudeau warns housing solution in Vancouver could hurt markets elsewhere’, Vancouver Sun, June 17, 2016

It’s going to be interesting watching Trudeau and his surrogates try to land a B52 on a sail-boat.
In a Bubble, it is beyond the powers of government to orchestrate either ‘stability’, or a ‘soft landing’. -ed.

Question: “Why should a condo in Vancouver cost more than a condo in Toronto (or any other big city in Canada)?”

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Correct Answer: “No good reason.” (full marks plus bonus)

Alternative Answer: “It’s a Bubble, Stupid.” (full marks, but no bonus due to unnecessary impoliteness)

Incorrect Answers: “Supply and Demand”, “Everybody Wants One (or two or three)”, “The Views”, “Only Insiders Will Be Able To Live Here”, “Because Downsizers Are Richer Here”, “We Are Running Out Of… Fresh Air?”

Points Further Deducted For Any Answer Qualified With: “Last Year I Made More Money In RE Than In My Last 20 Years Working As A (xyz)” or “What Else Are You Going To Do With Your Money?”

Back of the Class: “(anything involving the words ‘Property Ladder’ or ‘Bullet-Proof’)”, “I’ll Get Rich, Rich I Tell You!! (manic laughter)”


Obliquely related story:

Major condo developers in Vancouver are shutting out average buyers by selling their most affordable new units privately – to clients of select realtors and “family and friends” – before their advertised sale dates, The Globe and Mail has learned.

Eager buyers camp out in lineups for hours or days before the sales events. Thousands also sign up online to get “VIP” access, only to find out on opening day they had no chance. Several have said they were then invited to buy something more expensive.

Mr. Rennie said developers advertise to the public as a sort of fallback policy. If the insiders who get first dibs do not buy enough units, they can sell what is left to the next tier of interested buyers.

Toronto realtor Andrew la Fleur said condos are selling out to insiders in that hot market, too. He said he is one of the few agents whose clients get first crack at properties before the public. He estimates 95 per cent to 100 per cent of new condos are sold to insiders that way. “I think the public is just unfortunately misinformed or uneducated,” Mr. la Fleur said. “Those of us in the industry can see this coming a mile away and we know how to get our clients in at an opportune time.”
However, he said he does not think most units in Toronto will be flipped, because condo prices are not increasing in that city like they are in Vancouver.

– from ‘Vancouver developers shutting out regular buyers with insider condo sales’, Kathy Tomlinson, G&M, 17 Jun 2016 [hat-tip 3rdRock]

The average price of a single-family detached home in the Greater Vancouver area has increased as much in the past five months as it did from 1981 to 2005.

So profound, it deserves to be said again:
“The average price of a single-family detached home in the Greater Vancouver area has increased as much in the past five months as it did from 1981 to 2005.”
– from ‘World Out Of Whack! Which of these crazy real estate markets will be the first to bust?’, Zerohedge, 16 Jun 2016

For Those Who Have Lost All Perspective, Think On This

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After surviving a serious illness and divorce, Denise Franklin was more than ready to start over. With a $25,000 budget, she approached architect Henry Yorke Mann to help her build a home fit for a fresh start in rural British Columbia. Mann saved money by severely restricting the size and material cost. Designing the 280-square-foot space in a mandala shape, Mann gave this home all the essentials and more. Franklin loves nature, and it was important that the home feel connected to the outdoors. A front porch reaches out into her front yard and vegetable garden. Mann used all natural and local materials — no synthetic or plastic materials were used in any part of the home. Durable, insulated metal roofing keeps the home well protected from the elements.
– from ‘Tiny B.C. cabin — at 280 sq. ft. — provides more than enough space to start a new life, and garden’, National Post, 14 Jun 2016

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