Archive for the ‘economy’ Category

Mayor: city is at a ‘breaking point’

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015

When it comes to housing affordability Mayor Robertson says that Vancouver is at a breaking point:

 “The conditions and the context keep getting tougher and tougher in Vancouver as the city gets more and more expensive and more desirable to people all over the world to invest in and move into. We’re basically at a breaking point where we need interventions in the market to ensure that people who live and work and grow up here in Vancouver have the opportunity to stay in the city and to keep being part of it and contributing.”

You may recall the Mayor wrote a letter to the BC Premier supporting the idea of speculation tax. The response from the Premier was based around the fact that such a tax would risk driving down house prices.

The Mayor responds to that idea in this interview at the Tyee:

“I think it’s completely wrong. It’s a totally different subject. What we’re talking about is taking some of the profit out of flipping and speculation, which doesn’t have to do necessarily with foreign ownership or homeownership or the value of homes. This is a business activity that’s taking place every day here in Vancouver where there’s a lot of profit, and it’s an option to transfer some of that profit so people can afford to live in the city. They went off on a completely different tangent in their response at the provincial level, and that’s unfortunate. The premier has said that affordable housing in Vancouver is a problem. Well, we need some action to deal with that.”

The problem with low debt levels

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015

We’ve seen lots of warnings about dangerously high consumer debt levels in Canada for years now, but here’s something new: Millennials lack of debt may be a sign of trouble.

Insolvency filings by consumers have started to edge higher after a long decline that began after the last recession. As has already been widely noted, the share of insolvencies accounted for by seniors is growing faster than any age group. What has not had much attention is the fact that the young-adult share is falling. Could this be a rare bit of good news for a cohort of the population that has been struggling financially?

Falling insolvencies among young adults definitely sounds good, but every silver lining must have a cloud right?  What’s the chicken-little take on this situation?

Hoyes Michalos recently produced an analysis called Joe Debtor that looked at people who make insolvency filings. The firm says 86 per cent of debtors ages 18 to 29 are working, but their average income is the lowest of all groups at $1,996 on a net basis per month. The average unsecured debt for the group is $32,229, also lowest of all age groups.

Personal loans are the biggest debt component at $11,841 for young adults making insolvency filings, followed by credit cards at $9,858. Almost 30 per cent have student debt, with the average amount owed averaging $3,716.

Their problems in today’s economy may have kept millennials from worse debt problems, Mr. Hoyes suggests. “If you haven’t been able to get a decent job, then it’s a lot more difficult to get into a huge pile of debt.”

In today’s debt-hungry world a lack of bankruptcies is indicative of a low income, how’s that for a bummer?

Protect the housing bubble!

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015

It seem natural that most readers of this site would appreciate an MLA standing up for more data on real estate transactions in BC.

It came after Weaver had introduced a private member’s bill to amend the Land Title Act. If it is approved by a majority of MLAs, it would enable the B.C. government to determine foreign-investment flows in the real-estate market, as well as the extent of corporate buying of property.

Unfortunately in a province where everything seems to revolve around real estate and sensitivities around that topic what you end up with is wishy-washy comments that are nonsensical.

Southseacompany points out that Green MLA Andrew Weaver has asked the finance minister what is being done to prevent a Vancouver housing bubble from bursting.  Unfortunately there appears to be some logical inconsistencies in the MLAs statements:

I especially can’t figure that first sentence on Weaver’s blog;

“Today in the legislature I rose to question the Minister of Finance as to what steps, if any, government is taking to ensure that Metro Vancouver’s potential housing bubble doesn’t burst and that housing remains affordable in the region.”

Remains affordable? And that if this bubble burst and prices fell, then… it won’t be affordable??

This man’s nonsense is a waste of time.

 

It’s a bad time to have Canadian dollars

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015

The Bank of Canada took another strike at driving down the Canadian dollar and cut the key interest rate by .25% to a slender .50%.

Canada’s central banker isn’t using the R-word – recession — but Stephen Poloz is cutting the Bank of Canada’s key interest rate by 25 basis points to 0.5 percent as he forecasts two back-to-back quarters of economic decline amid the crash in crude prices.

With Canadians carrying record-high debt loads and cheap money fuelling hot housing markets in Toronto and Vancouver, the 25 basis point rate cut will be seen as a risky play in some quarters, adding more fuel to the debt fire.

Read the full article over at BNN.

Investigative Journalism is alive and well

Wednesday, July 8th, 2015

Channel 4 in London has done an experiment on estate agent reactions to potential buyers using obviously ill-gotten gains. The results were predictable:

In a documentary called From Russia With Cash, to be broadcast on Wednesday, two undercover reporters pose as an unscrupulous Russian government official called “Boris” and his mistress “Nastya” whom he wants to purchase an upmarket property in London for.

The couple – Russian anti-corruption campaigner Roman Borisovich and Ukrainian investigative reporter Natalia Sedletska – view five properties ranging in price from £3m to £15m, on the market with five different west London agents, in Kensington, Chelsea and Notting Hill.

Despite being made aware they are dealing with ill-gotten gains, the estate agents agree to continue with a potential purchase. In several instances the estate agents recommend law firms to help a buyer hide his identity.

One estate agent names a “very, very good lawyer … the last person I put them was another minister of a previous Soviet state” in a deal worth £10m.

The estate agents suggest that in the capital secretive purchases of multimillion pound houses are common. One claims that 80% or more of his transactions are with international, overseas-based buyers and “50 or 60%” of them are conducted in “various stages of anonymity … whether it be through a company or an offshore trust”.

Read the full article here.

Realtors hungry no more!

Monday, July 6th, 2015

Home buyers may be eating a lot of Kraft Dinner but Realtors are doing fine.  From RFM over at Vancouver Peak:

The VANCOUVER REALTOR HUNGER INDEX is the percent of realtors who earned no commission income for the stated month. For June 2015 the VRHI was 34%. How does this compare? The 18-year average for June is 39%. At 34%, the 2015 June VRHI was higher than 8 years and lower than 9 years since 1998.

The lowest June inventory in nine (9) years and strong demand forced already high prices higher, especially in single family homes, where the HPI reached a stratospheric $1,123,900. Fueled by continuing historically low interest rates, a flood of foreign investment money and panic buying by uninformed and delusional buyers, the June sales rate is extraordinary! And unsustainable. And prices are unsupportable. For a complete analysis of the market dynamics of this firestorm, consult the DSM-5! (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association, offers a common language and standard criteria for the classification of mental disorders.)

Details and comparison data for 18 years at: http://vancouverpeak.com/showthread.php?tid=64

Party like it’s 1981

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015

Remember the 80’s?

Big hair, jelly bracelets and 20% interest rates.

Homebuyers back then had a tough time, they had to save up for a big down payment and the cost of holding a mortgage was high.  All that hard work and sacrifice was well rewarded though as Rob Carrick points out in the Globe and Mail:

The high interest rates of the early 1980s must have felt unbearable for all Canadians buying homes and arranging mortgages (it was heaven for savers, but never mind). The reward for perseverance was a 30-year run in which resale house prices on a national basis surged by an average annual 5 per cent and were up in 28 of 34 years.

This rally was fed by falling interest rates. After the visit to high-rate hell in the early 1980s, home owners benefited from a long decline in rates that continued into 2015. House prices haven’t gone up because homes are a great investment, because of immigration, because of foreign money or because home ownership is awesome. It’s because we’ve had a 30-year sale on the cost of financing a home purchase, with ever-increasing deep discounts.

That sale may be ending. There’s a growing sense that the U.S. economy is on the upswing, and interest rates in the bond market have already started to creep higher. Mortgage rates take their cue from rates in the bond market, so we could see lenders increase fixed-rate mortgage costs at some point this year or next.

For the historical perspective read the full article here.

The thing that may surprise you is that despite a housing market that has provided magical returns for older buyers and cheaper and cheaper debt seniors are still going bankrupt in record numbers.

Time for another recession?

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

It seems like it was just a few years ago we had a recession, could it really be time for another already?

The Canadian economy has now contracted four months in a row and if that trend continues will Poloz have to cut rates again?

Economists have already written off the first half the year, but something better was still expected for April.

This also brings into question the outlook that had been painted by Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz.

A recession is typically defined as two consecutive quarters of contraction, meaning May and June will have to be stronger to avert that in Canada.

Even if the May showing is flat, said Andrew Grantham of CIBC World Markets, there could still be a “modest negative” for the second quarter.

“It probably already feels like a recession for people in Alberta and Saskatchewan,” he said.

Read the full article here.

Flipping houses in Dunbar

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015

Many Franks pointed out this article over at BiV about house flipping in Dunbar. and points out how the math might not always be as appealing as it first sounds:

“A well-backed investor leveraging 20% down financing [around $400,000] would yield over 100% [on their cash investment],” said Derek Tinney, Landcor Data operations manager.Vancouver realtor Ken Leong, who admits to a brief – and heady – history of flipping condominiums for himself and clients, said it takes more nerve and cash to speculate on Vancouver’s detached-house market than during the exuberant days of condo flips a decade ago.

Leong said that if house price increases go soft – as in the current condo market – investors could find themselves financially under water fast.

Buried below the big numbers and cherry-picked examples are some important details:

[I]f an investor bought a house for $1 million and flipped it a few months later for $1.1 million, he or she would have to pay $18,000 in B.C.’s property purchase tax. Realtor commissions to sell the house would total around $33,500. The capital gains tax, likely at the highest tax bracket, would be roughly $30,000.“So now your $100,000 gain is down to less than $20,000, and you still have to add in the carrying costs of financing of around $4,000 per month while the house is for sale,” he said.

“It would be hard to make a big profit on such a flip,” Leong said. “Actually the government would make more than the investor.”

The last sentence is key.

Read the original article here.

What roll for developers in affordability debate?

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

Often when it comes to real estate stories in the local media the people interviewed are developers, marketers or realtors. These are all professionals who deal with the market every day, so it makes sense for the media to seek their opinion on housing stories.

But should they be driving the ‘affordability’ debate?

Architect and professor Avi Friedman thinks not.

“Builders will not initiate innovative ideas because they are profit motivators, so the city needs to act as a catalyst,” he told CBC Radio One’s Rick Cluff on The Early Edition.

Friedman also criticized the idea offered by many in the real estate industry, like marketer Bob Rennie, that Vancouver isn’t going to be affordable for everyone and that young people should consider moving to the suburbs.

“People who grew up and live in a city should be able to buy a home in their city. The fear is that, some of these young people may leave Vancouver,” Friedman said.

“Once you see the departure of young people from the city, they take along their potential … to start new businesses, to create a vibrancy that young people bring to a place.”

Friedman says it is incumbent upon the city and its leadership to foster and implement new ideas that will allow young people to stay and thrive in Vancouver.

Read the full article over at the CBC.

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