There’s an article by Bob Ransford in Saturday’s Vancouver Sun titled ‘Its hard to pin down what’s fueling the boom’. Unfortunately the online version of the article is only available to subscribers (here), but I found this section interesting:
It seems like the economic surge that we experienced this last year was almost wholly driven by a real estate-based frenzy that perhaps peaked over the last twelve months but remains the only visible engine of economic growth in these parts.
It was easier to make sense of earlier real estate booms in Vancouver when our resource-based economy used to go through cycles of expansion and contraction tied to commodity price fluctuations. It was even easier to make sense of the record setting real estate boom of the mid-1990’s when a new international market discovered Vancouver as Hong Kong’s sovereignty was about to be handed over from Britain to China.
So that was then, what’s driving the boom now?
Pinning down what exactly fueled our latest trend-setting real estate boom is harder. Job growth is certainly one fundamental driving the market. Many new jobs created by the institutional projects that are part of the pre-Olympic period provided the wealth that brought new home buyers to the market.
The residential construction sector itself also was a significant job creator. Kind of like the chicken and the egg. It is somewhat scary that we have little more than this to point to as our engine of growth.
That got me thinking: In previous booms once demand was absorbed or the driving economic factors were removed the market went through a down-turn with lower house prices. People that needed to sell were faced with a depreciating asset, and it wasn’t uncommon for people that bought at the peak to owe more on their mortgage than their house was worth.
So what about now? If the only driving force behind the boom is the boom itself then we never have to worry about a downturn! If the boom is providing the underlying economic factors for the boom then perhaps we’ve attained the real estate equivalent of perpetual motion!