November 2006: Vancouver Price Drops

Well its the slow time of year and a bit of a wierd month as well with muddy water and snowstorms, but the Real Estate Board of Vancouver has release stats for November and we’re seeing prices coming down in a lot of sectors. A few of the biggest price drops were:

Single Family Homes: Vancouver West (-4.1%) and West Van (-7.7%)
Apartments: Maple Ridge (-9.3%), Vancouver West (-7.5%)

So maybe now is the right time to buy that House in West Van or Apartment in Maple Ridge.

VHB created the handy Price RE/set graphic* shown above to visually track where we are historically on the price rollercoaster. Looks like November saw prices drop back a few months to about what they where in July 2006.

Some people think that this is the start of a softening market with prices dropping steadily for a while like they are in many places in the US. If this happens to be true, and it follows past trends for Vancouver House Prices it could be a while before it turns around. Previous drops from peak to trough have lasted anywhere from a short term of 1 year to several years of steadily dropping prices.

Personally I don’t believe that would be reasonable. I have been told that this time it is different, and assured that there will be a steady supply of people with ever increasing buying power to keep making our prices rise higher and higher until they reach my prior prediction of $3,000,000 for a 600 square foot condo in 2010.

UPDATE: There’s an article in todays Sun that take a suprisingly negative look at our market. under the headline Could big price drops be approaching? they look at the history of Vancouvers ups and downs and include some very negative possibilities:

By Gartman’s estimate, in the current cycle a Vancouver detached house rose from $340,000 at the last trough in the winter of 1998-99, reaching nearly $800,000 this year.

“If the peak was made earlier this year, and if history is any guide to us,” and Vancouver prices decline by the average of the last three cycles, Gartman said it could take 25 to 30 months to go down the trough, and 65 to 70 months to see a new peak.

Based on past experience, Gartman added that the drop could be in the order of 28 per cent, taking that $800,000 house down to $575,000.

*Graphic stolen and re-used without permission. I have assembled a crack team of legal ninjas to defend against any legal action VHB attempts to pursue.

L.A. California = Vancouver BC?

There’s an interest post over at Realestatetalks.com remarking on the fact that Property prices in Vancouver appear to be on par with L.A. even though rents and incomes here are lower. The poster gives a few examples and is interested to hear what investors think about this situation.

$250,000 buys a bachelor condo suite in downtown Vancouver, and it buys a bachelor suit in West Hollywood.

$300-$350,000 buys a 1 bedroom condo suite in West Hollywood, Wilshire, Santa Monica, which is what you will pay for the same condo in downtown Vancouver.

$2 million buys an ocean front Malibu half-duplex beach property (entry level price). In Vancouver, the same shared ocean front half duplex on Pt. Grey Road cannot be had for $2 million. Recent sales I’ve seen there are in the $3-4 million range, which makes Pt. Grey more expensive than Malibu Beach comparables. And in Malibu you get Brad Pitt and Jenefir Anniston as your neighbours!

Entry level single family home (old timer) in Larchmont-Adjacent neighbourhood of Hollywood costs $800,000. The same cost of an entry level home on the West side of Vancouver/Dunbar area.

All comparables that I could see suggest LA prime real estate matches very closely with Vancouver prices across the board. Some of the higher end properties in LA are less than what you’d pay in Vancouver.

Hopefully they will get some informed responses to this, I was quite suprised to hear that Vancouver prices are close to L.A. prices. Is that true?

Running late on loan payments

Subprime loans are mortgages to ‘risky’ buyers that have poor credit histories. Because of the extra risk involved in these loans, lenders charge a premium for them making them one of the most profitable types of loans. Some of these mortgages go for rates that are up to 4% higher than standard mortgages.

In the US late payments on these types of loans have surged recently:

Subprime mortgage originations climbed to $625 billion in 2005 from $120 billion in 2001, the WSJ said, citing Inside Mortgage Finance, a trade publication.

Based on current performance, 2006 is on track to be one of the worst ever for subprime loans, according to UBS AG, it said. It cited the bank saying that roughly 80,000 subprime borrowers who took out mortgages packaged into securities this year are behind on their payments.

So between 2001 & 2005 the subprime mortgage increased by more than 500%? A $625 billion market’s got to be hard to resist, but I wonder what effect this news will have on lending standards?

Rick Mercer Report on Vancouver

This is a report on Vancouver’s ‘most liveable city’ status as awarded by the UK’s Economist Intelligence Unit in 2002. That year we tied with Melbourne as the best place for a British Expat to live. Although its several years old, this clip is as funny as ever and certainly hasn’t lost its relevance:

Will snowbirds chase the bears away?

I’ve got to admit that the recent sluggish housing market in Vancouver has started to get me a bit worried.. Its not really that bad yet, but we’ve definately lost the excitement of last year, where buyers would overbid asking prices by $150k with no subjects and leaky condos on the ground floor facing major streets would sell at the first open house.

With the winter blahs this market has been experiencing since the end of last summer, even yours truly (a faithful real estate cheerleader) has started to wonder: is there something to the bears argument? Do ‘fundamentals’ matter? Is ‘affordability’ really that big of a deal? I mean, here we are with a robust economy, super low interest rates and an almost world-class city and yet condo’s just aren’t selling like they used to.

And then it occurred to me: We’ve got a bunch of baby-boomers just a few years off from retirement, and who likes condo’s better than retirees? We just need a whole bunch of them to move here to boost our prices again. I think if we can reach out to old folks from across Canada and the world and convince them that Vancouver is the right spot to retire we can keep those prices chugging uphill.

Economically it just makes sense: An undesirable four bedroom home in a quiet neighborhood in most parts of Canada could be traded nearly straight across for a convenient 420 square foot condo in a vibrant and active downtown east-side Vancouver neighborhood with easy access to ‘medication’ and ‘massage’ services.

All we’ve got to do is convince them that Florida and Arizona are totally lame, and this is where they want to spend their time:
vancouver snow
Just think of the therapeutic effect of all that cold damp air on tired joints! Spread the word: Vancouver is a retirement wonderland!