Category Archives: hype

Vancouver housing zeppelin

Even with all the recent warnings of a housing bubble that is no longer limited to just Vancouver and Toronto, you’ll still find lots of media coverage that dismisses bubble talk or explains it away as an ‘ownership premium’.

It’s not difficult to see why this is – there are thousands of people who’s incomes depend upon the housing market.

Whether its condo marketer Bob Rennie or a random realtor, they all have their day to day income tied to the health of the real estate
market and conveniently are given ‘expert’ status and quoted by the local media.

That makes an article opener like this all the more shocking to newspaper readers:

Is there a housing bubble in the Lower Mainland? Housing zeppelin is more like it. Bubbles, after all, are soft and cute and harmless. Zeppelins, conversely, hurtle into the ground, spewing flaming wreckage in all directions. And that’s precisely what we’re about to witness in Metro Vancouver.

That’s the intro to a rather dramatic editorial written by Gord Goble and published in a number of local papers.

Buyers walking away from deposits

Well, there’s a change in the air when it comes to Vancouver Real Estate.   The ‘can’t lose’ investment is starting to look like the ‘must lose’ investment with reports of buyers walking away from deposits and waiting for prices to keep dropping.

“It happened twice in the last month. One [deposit] was $75,000 and one was a $20,000 deposit, the guys just walked away from it,” said Mr. Arora, who runs Oneflatfee.ca in Surrey, B.C. “They are going to wait it out. So they lost $75,000 and $20,000, but if the market comes down $150,000 on a $1.5-million house, that’s not uncommon.”

Vancouver’s once-overheated housing market has cooled sharply, with the average price falling nearly 10 per cent in April from a year ago to $735,315, according to figures released Tuesday by the Canadian Real Estate Association. That was the largest drop since the recession and it marked the fourth decline in the past five months.

In a market once famous for being overheated, Mr. Arora said he hasn’t seen a bidding war in months. “It’s totally a buyers’ market. Buyers are determining the price,” he said. “And sellers are surprisingly accepting it. They are taking it.”

Buyers always determine the price.  If there are enough of them that want to pay more they will drive prices up.  Sellers have no control if no buyer is willing or able to pay the asking price.

Disappearing ghost towns in the media

This is odd.  The Globe and Mail published an article about the condo boom titled “How condo boom threatens a ghost city phenomenon” and included the following alarming section:

“CMHC estimates that roughly 25 per cent of condominiums in the Greater Toronto Area are sold but sitting vacant — shades of Miami at the height of its collapsed condo bubble in 2007. Other analysts say the 25 per cent figure may be too low.

“This is the ghost city phenomenon,” Mr. Holt said.

Condo developers in Eastern cities such as Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa, appear to be rushing to sell and build units before interest rates start to climb, and the market crashes.”

But if you visit that link you’ll no longer find that text and the headline has been changed to “Housing starts shoot higher on back of condo boom” (although as of this writing the URL still shows the original title).  Why the dramatic change in tone?

West Side housing boom loses its sizzle

The Globe and Mail has a suprising headline: Sky-high housing prices in Vancouvers west side short lived.

Both sales and prices are down at the top end even more markedly than in the rest of the region, which has also seen a general slowdown this spring.

A house on the 3000 block of West 24th Anenue, first listed at near $4.5-million six months ago, sold on April 15 for $3.35-million.

Fresh statistics from the Greater Vancouver Real Estate Board show the number of sales on the west side is down by nearly 40 per cent for the first four months of the year. Only a third of the nearly 400 homes listed in April have sold – one of the lowest rates in the region.

Realtors say the slowdown appears to have resulted from a combination of tighter lending practices by local banks, which now want proof of income to service large mortgages, more restrictions on how much capital can be taken out of China, and fewer immigrants.

“Banks are now requiring borrowers to disclose incomes and assets before mortgages are approved, as of the last six weeks,” said west-side realtor Marty Pospischil, who specializes in selling single-family homes owned by long-term residents. Last year, he says 90 per cent of his 100 house sales were to “offshore buyers” – people not living here yet, who flew in to buy. This year, it’s less than a tenth of that. “We’re now seeing a 50-per-cent collapse rate in deals, when it’s usually more like 5 per cent,” he said.

Read the full article here.

GVREB Market Update April 2012

Every month the GVREB releases it’s market update.  This should not be confused with the REBGV press releases.  Both use current market data and anecdotes from professionals but they spin different directions.

The GVREB is a volunteer organization.  You can help contribute knowledge and market data to their ongoing reports by emailing them at  gvreb1@gmail.com

Here’s the current market update for April 2012:

FOR EXCLUSIVE RELEASE ON VCI
Real Estate Market Sales Volumes Fall Further in Greater Vancouver

VANCOUVER, B.C. –May 1, 2012 – April saw the Greater Vancouver real estate market continue to falter as sales volumes decreased below all relevant comparative periods including a 4 per cent decline in detached sales from the previous month. Continued education of Canadian buyers on the risks of high debt levels as well as reduced expectations of future increases in real estate prices has inserted an increased level of caution in buyers.

GVREB reports that residential property sales of detached, attached and apartment properties reached 2,806 in April. This total represents a 13 per cent decrease compared to the 3,225 sales in April 2011. Looking back, sales activities were 20 per cent below the 3,512 units sold in April 2010 and also 5 per cent below the 2,963 units sold in April 2009. April’s sales volume and its sale to list ratio of 46% were both the lowest of the previous 12 years. In addition, we saw the average detached price fall a further 4% from March 2012 and is 8% below April 2011 in last year. The impact is partly been a result of a significant slowdown of properties valued over $3.0 million with months of inventory for these units are now exceeding 18 months.

Discussions with industry professionals have noted “This is the weakest spring we have seen since before 2001. Limited price increases over the past 5 years in the condo and townhouse market has resulted in a reduced pool of move up buyers. The excess of unsold newly built luxury detached properties has caused home builders to be absent as purchasers on the resale market as they focus on selling their existing completed homes. These two factors combined with changing buyer sentiment and stricter lending conditions, has resulted in significant inventory increases in the lower priced detached single family homes.” GVREB notes that previous inventory increases were concentrated in higher price categories and thus we now have a more broad market slowdown. GVREB also wishes to clarify that that major transportation and road infrastructure enhancements in more distant suburban locations have had little impact on prices with areas such as Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows only seeing insignificant price increases and many properties experiencing decreasing values.

New listings for detached, attached and apartment properties in Greater Vancouver totalled 6,067 in April. This is approximately 12 per cent above the 10-year listing average for the month of April. Listings in April 2012 represent a 4 per cent increase compared to April 2011 when 5,847 properties were listed for sale and an 21 per cent decline compared to the 7,648 new listings reported in April 2010. The Spring listings pace increased 4 per cent from the 5,843 listings in March 2012.

We are now at decade high inventory levels for the Spring season and at 16,524, the total number of residential property listings in Greater Vancouver increased 16 per cent compared to April 2011, increased 8 per cent from the previous month and has increased 30 per cent since January 2012.

The Residential Reference Price for all residential properties in Grater Vancouver over the last 12 months has increased 5.1 per cent to $672,000 in April 2012 from $639,200 in April 2011. Although the market has increased in the past 12 months, gains are almost entirely a result of gains in the detached market. Price gains of detached prices in recent months however have been insignificant and we are now seeing prices fall in previously strong markets such as Richmond and Burnaby. Due to the limited gains outside of the detached market, leveraged sellers of attached properties and apartments are finding that the high transaction costs in real estate are eliminating much of their equity after selling. A significant majority of purchasers of condominiums across the Greater Vancouver region in the past two years would be unable to realize net gains by selling in current market conditions.

Sales of detached properties in April 2012 slowed to 1,130, a decrease of 19 per cent from the 1,402 detached sales recorded in April 2011, and a 18 per cent decrease from the 1,370 units sold in April 2010. On a month over month basis, sales declined 4 per cent during a period which we typically see an increasing sales trend. Sales during April of detached homes were the lowest since 2001 and were below the 1,190 sales made during April 2009 when the Greater Vancouver market started to recover from the sales reductions during the global financial crisis of 2008-2009. The reference price for detached properties increased 5.9 per cent from April 2011 to $1,042,000 but fell from $1,048,000 in the previous month.

Sales of apartment properties reached 1,193 in April 2012, a 1 per cent decrease compared to the 1,201 sales in April 2011, and a decrease of 22 per cent compared to the 1,526 sales in April 2010. The reference price of an apartment property increased 1.9 per cent from April 2011 to $379,000.

Attached property sales in April 2012 totalled 483, a 22 per cent decrease compared to the 622 sales in April 2011, and a 22 per cent decrease from the 616 attached properties sold in April 2010. The reference price of an attached unit decreased 1.2 per cent from April 2011 and 2012 to $470,000.