May 29, 2010
I woke up this morning with a massive hangover. Wow, what a 40% sales-to-list party that was! But with today being Alumni Weekend, I decided to check out my Alma Mater and tour the empire of new condos she’s been feverishly building.
Even though we’re now essentially in June, the day was cold, wet and wintery. But as any Vancouverite will tell you, this only a small sacrifice to live in the Best Place on Earth. A minor inconvenience, if you will.
As I entered into UBC and drove passed some new buildings, I became confused. My navigation sense turned dismal. If you haven’t visited UBC in over 5 years, chances are you will not recognize this place either. Entire communities the size of the Olympic Village have recently been built multiple times over. According to U-Town, there are now eight emerging communities, with Wesbrook Village being the largest. Talk about inventory glut.
The Sales office at Wesbrook Village sat empty. Balloons walloped in the wind. I saw no people and no amenities, except for a Save-on-Foods. The villages felt like ghost towns; it was quite the sobering contrast to Rennie’s sunny and euphoric circus at the Olympic Village. But then we ran into a friend that I hadn’t seen in ages. It turned out she was living in one of these new communities and had an interesting story.
She is a first-time buyer that entered the market a few months ago during the climax of the buying frenzy. After getting bruised several times in bidding wars, she toughened up to outbid the hounds. Victory was hers, as were the keys to a new UBC condo for over $600/sq.ft on leased land. The conversation was very insightful:
Me: “What shaped your decision to buy in UBC?”
Her: “I bought this condo as an investment. UBC is quickly becoming a world-class university and is increasing its student capacity. There is always going to be strong housing demand from students and families. My goal now is to build a portfolio with as many condos as possible. You should really take this opportunity to own here.”
Me: “Actually, I’m really enjoying renting at the moment. I did own a condo, but then sold it in fall of ‘07.”
This comment stirred a puzzled reaction in her.
Her: “Why? Do you think the market is going to…”
For some reason, she had trouble finding the next word. Any one of “drop”, “fall”, “correct”, “tank” or “crash” would have done just fine. Instead, she silently motioned a dive with her hand. This was clearly a fragile person.
It utterly amazes me that someone with higher education would consider leveraging themselves to the moon in order to snap up as many condos as possible without even seriously considering a drop in prices. It’s no surprise to us that politicians, real estate agents, brokers, bankers and developers have failed us. But it’s sad that our academic institutions have not equipped us with the most basic of financial street smarts.
I look forward to The Great Cleansing ahead.