Archive for the ‘economy’ Category

What’s happened to condo prices?

Monday, November 24th, 2014

With all the media focus on rising real estate prices in Vancouver you’d think all market segments must be doing pretty well right?

Well it sure looks like condo prices have been languishing.  First we had the CIBC world markets report showing Vancouver condo prices barely budging in the last five years, and now Ulsterman points out the following:

It’s easy to only see the big gains SFH’s have made over the past 5 years and overlook the many “homeowners” of condos who have not made much or even lost money (what!?!, but i was told it only goes…).

I noticed 303-1333 W 7th Ave (V1088944) listed in the Georgia Straight p72 of Nov 20-27 issue). It’s a 1bd/1bath unit listed for $355,000. The key detail was of course, “Amazing deal, listed $20,000 below where it sold in 2009.”

So after paying $70k in interest, $15k’ish in taxes and strata fees, $20k capital loss, CMHC fee when buying (10k) (3%?), $13k selling fees. This gets expensive really fast ($128,000 over 5 years or $2133/month). It probably rents for $1300/month.

Not such a slam dunk.

Are condos just hitting a price ceiling at the entry level? Shouldn’t condo prices be going up more in this market?

Joe Mainlander points out that the REBGV HPI paints a similar picture.

Even the REBGV HPI stats point to a sinking condo market (not 20% though);

Metro Van Apartment HPI;

July 2008 = $367k
July 2014 = $380k

There’s been 10% inflation since then, so HPI would need to be $403k just to keep up.

A 6% drop in real dollars.

Builders stop building in a bubble?

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

Markoz left this comment in yesterdays thread, but it got held up in moderation because it had more than two links:

My wife works at a bank and her boss sent a link to this BIV article entitled, “Nobel economist housing bubble formula shows Vancouver resistant.

Here is a copy of my response (unfortunately the charts I clipped won’t paste into the comment section):
His theory (as presented by the article’s writer at least) is that builders are smart enough to stop building before/when a bubble pops. I’m not sure if he means that a slow down in building is a precursor to a bubble popping or if he means that when sales drop so do housing starts. In Vancouver, housing starts only dropped off significantly well after sales did in 2008.

Vancouver sales began to tank in March or April of 2008.

Residential property sales in Greater Vancouver totalled 2,997 in March 2008, a decline of 16.3 per cent from the 3,582 residential sales recorded in March 2007, and a decline of 25.7 per cent compared to the 4,033 sales in March 2006.

The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) reports that residential property sales in Greater Vancouver totalled 3,218 in April 2008, a decline of five per cent from the 3,387 sales recorded in April 2007, and a 3.8 per cent drop from the 3,345 sales in April 2006.

VANCOUVER – The Greater Vancouver housing market continued its re-balance between sales and listings last month. The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) reports that residential property sales in Greater Vancouver declined 30.7 per cent in May 2008 to 3,002 from the 4,331 sales recorded in May 2007.
All of the above is from the REGBV website: http://www.rebgv.org/monthly-reports?month=May&year=2008
It just kept getting worse:http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/07/04/vancouver-home-sales-10-year-low_n_1649539.html

“This summer, sales went off a cliff,” added Somerville, who is director of the centre for urban economics and real estate at the Sauder School of Business at the University of B.C.:http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/business/story.html?id=e6e0c211-fddd-413b-9a94-3564e20567d8

The financial crisis did not start until Lehman Bros failed on September 15, 2008.

Here are the housing starts specs:

Apparently our builders aren’t as smart as the Nobel Laureate. Starts for all types of homes stayed above the average for 2004-2008 till the end of 2008. They plummeted after the fact. Perhaps the writer is putting his own spin on what Smith said. I wasn’t there so I don’t know.

The other thing to note is that the writer never actually asked Smith if he thought Vancouver was in a bubble. He did a follow up interview with him but seems to have avoided asking the question directly. He says, “Using Smith’s formula for housing bubble-burst scenarios, B.C. and Vancouver do not appear threatened, despite record-high prices in the latter. B.C. housing starts this year are up 3.1% from 2013 and forecast to rise a further 1.4% in 2015, according to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.” Why not just ask him what he thought instead of making a supposition?

BC Ferries: Losing money by cutting service

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

Think of the money the government could save by closing down the Trans Canada highway! No more expensive road maintenance, and the land could be sold off to build more condos!

…Of course there may be some negatives associated with closing that highway.

Here on the coast much of our province is across water, which means the transportation system we rely on is BC Ferries.

An economic analysis shows that the expected $725k savings from recent cuts is actually causing a loss of $870k in tax revenues as tourism plunges $3.9 million following deep service cuts.

About one in five tourism- ism-based businesses in the Coast-Chilcotin region report foreclosure is a near-term possibility.

More than 40 per cent report losing most or all of their tourist bookings when agencies couldn’t sell the Discovery Coast package due to worries over ferry service.

And three in four businesses report decreased income in the year after the service cuts, according to the report by Larose Research Strategy.

Read the full article here.

House prices up across Canada

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

The 45 basis point reduction in interest rates at the start of the year has done wonders for real estate in Canada.

The average house price is up 7% and Calgary prices have gone up by nearly double the national rate.

With the October numbers by CREA, the average Canadian home has never been worth more than it is now.

In volume terms, the actual number of homes sold rose by the same amount — seven per cent. “This marks the sixth consecutive month of stronger resale housing activity compared to a quiet start to the year, and the strongest activity for the month of October since 2009,” CREA said in a release.

October isn’t typically one of the strongest months for home buying, as activity tends to be strongest in the spring and summer.

TD Bank said in a note to clients after the CREA numbers were released that in sales terms, the housing market is hotter than it normally is this time of year.

Of course most of these gains are driven by the three cities: Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary.

Will wonders ever cease or this the economic miracle that keeps on giving?

Hold cash or leverage up?

Monday, November 10th, 2014

This article in the Globe and Mail asks ‘where is the smart money going‘?

Is a drop in oil prices good for the Canadian economy? Will interest rates stay low forever? Nobody knows, but that doesn’t keep us from asking.

Today’s situation amounts to a near total inversion of the markets of a generation ago. “If you look back to, say, 1981, stocks, bonds and real estate were all cheap,” says Jim Giles, chief investment officer at Foresters, a Toronto-based financial services provider with more than $20-billion in assets under management. “Now, the exact opposite is true.”

For investors, this poses a daunting challenge: What do you buy when there’s nothing left to buy – or at least nothing that appears to be a bargain?

For somepeople cash is trash, for others it’s king:

Tim McElvaine, one of Canada’s best-known value investors, has a similar viewpoint. The head of McElvaine Investment Management Ltd. in Victoria is holding about 25 per cent of his fund’s assets in cash, considerably higher than the normal level, as he awaits buying opportunities.

“People will tell you they don’t want to hold cash because it doesn’t yield anything,” he said in an interview. “But the real value of cash is its ability to buy things when prices become attractive.”

Among the reasons to worry about today’s market is that near-zero interest rates have failed to spark any widespread global recovery. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development trimmed its global growth forecast this week to 3.3 per cent for this year, reflecting the euro zone’s continuing woes and a slowing Chinese economy.

Read the full article here.

Poloz: higher rates for housing a bad idea

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz says it’s a ‘bad idea‘ to raise interest rates to combat imbalances in housing and consumer debt as that would only hurt manufacturers and the general economy.

“Housing activity is showing renewed momentum and consumer debt levels are high, so household imbalances appear to be edging higher,” he said. “But it is our judgment that our policy of aiming to close the output gap and ensuring inflation remains on target will be consistent with an eventual easing in those household imbalances.”

Changes in Canada’s population justify growth in the housing market, and Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary are the only three cities showing signs of overbuilding, Poloz said at a press conference.

Canada’s dollar extended declines after the speech and as crude oil, one of the nation’s main exports, fell below $80 a barrel. The currency fell 0.9 percent to C$1.1357 against the U.S. dollar at 3:15 p.m. in Toronto.

It may be just a crazy idea, but if the government actually wanted to do something about house prices and consumer debt, wouldn’t eliminating mortgage insurance do that without any change in rates?

Oct 2014 Vancouver Realtor Hunger Index at 54%

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

RFM has updated the Vancouver Realtor Hunger Index which currently stands at 54%.

That takes it almost squarely into the middle of historical data:

The VANCOUVER REALTOR HUNGER INDEX for October 2014 was 54%. How does this compare? The 17-year average for October is 50%. At 54%, the 2014 October VRHI was higher than 8 years and lower than 8 years since 1998.

Details and comparison data for 17 years at: http://vancouverpeak.com/showthread.php?tid=64

Here’s how that number is calculated:

I start with the total reported sales from the REBGV. I assume 5% of those sales were ‘double ended’ (one realtor kept the entire commission by ‘representing’ both buyer and seller) and add to the number of ‘double ended’ commissions the number of split commissions (which I reduce by an assumed 15% ‘earned’ by realtors who handled multiple sales). I divide the resulting number of commissions by the total number of realtors and subtract that fraction from 1 to yield the percent of realtors not earning commissions and therefore going hungry. In symbols: (((sales x .05) + (sales x 1.615))/(# realtors)) – 1 = VRHI; (1.615 = .95 x 2 x .85). The REBGV website reveals neither the exact number of realtors at any particular time nor the percent actively engaged in selling residential property. I used 11,000 for 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011; 10,000 for 2010, 9,400 for 2009, 9,500 for 2008, 9,000 for 2007, 8,200 for 2006, 7,800 for 2005, 7,100 for 2004, 6,700 for 2003, 6,500 for 2002, 6,700 for 2001, 7,200 for 2000, 7,800 for 1999 and 8,500 for 1998.

CMHC: Lower house sales in lower mainland over next 2 years

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

The CMHC is predicting declining house sales in the lower mainland over the next couple of years due to higher mortgage interest rates.

“Total housing starts will edge higher as resale market conditions remain balanced and the supply of completed and unabsorbed (unsold) new homes trends lower,” said CMHC B.C. regional economist Carol Frketich.

“Housing demand will be supported by employment and population growth, but tempered by gradually rising mortgage interest rates.”

They are predicting price growth of 1.2 and 1.7% (unclear if this is before or after inflation) and they forecast this based on an assumption of a shift to ‘lower cost housing’.

Which might be good news for anyone trying to sell ‘lower cost housing’ since prices on Vancouver homes under $1.1 million have gone essentially nowhere over the last four years.

 

What’s plan B for the economy?

Monday, October 27th, 2014

BC really hasn’t done so bad for itself by digging stuff up from the ground and selling it to other countries, but as prices change in that market it can leave our economy somewhat wanting.

For example:

This week, we discovered just how far the B.C. government was prepared to cave in order to assuage proponents like Petronas. It effectively cut the royalty tax it first talked about in half.

Now ‘free money’ is still free money, but anytime your income is cut in half its a bit of a downer.

So whats plan B to diversify the BC economy?  Gary Mason says there is no plan B and Patriotz says ‘what about real estate‘? But isn’t the RE market a bit played out at this point?

Most middle class RE purchases in Vancouver have gained less than a GIC over the last four years, and there’s the risk that high home prices chase away more productive industries.

So how does BC grow its economy in the future? If resources take a dive, what our best hope as a province to compete on a national and global scale?

The problem isn’t prices, it’s the buyers

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

Over on Medium there’s an Op-Ed by Spencer Thompson on the high cost of Vancouver Real Estate.

Not just the literal high cost of property, but the risk of a greater price paid by the city .

The secret that no-one actually wants to talk about is that the quality of a city is mostly determined by a simple factor — the number of smart, ambitious people who live there. These people are the ones who want to drive that city forward by investing in opening businesses, donating their time to the arts & community, participating in city planning, etc… Without them, growth wouldn’t happen and you wouldn’t get all of the benefits that great cities enjoy.

The biggest contributor to the decline of a great city is simple — it’s the decline of those smart people. When they decide that the cost of living in a place outweighs the benefit, they move. They don’t just take their money with them, they take their intellectual and future capital with them. This is dangerous. When people aren’t willing to make an investment in a place to live any more, the city doesn’t just lose their taxes for the year, they lose a massive function of potential jobs created, culture added and future capital they can put to work.

Read the full article here.

Now clearly Mr. Thompson is a believer in foreign investors as a primary driver of prices in this city, but whatever the cause, HAM, Drugs or Credit, does he have a point? Do high real estate prices risk driving out ‘smart people’ who would contribute to a brighter future for the city?

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