Bears to the rescue?

Browse through blogs and forums with a local Vancouver focus right now and you’ll likely find a lot of skepticism about the current state of real estate prices in Vancouver. How many blogs are there out there now looking at the downside of our market? VHB, (Un)realestate, BC Housing, heck even investment realtor Rob Chipman seems to exhibit some bearish ideas*. Even over at the RealEstateTalks BC forum you don’t see much ‘vancouver is a great investment‘ sentiment these days.

There seems to be no shortage of people that think rent/price fundamentals are out of whack, or that the massive supply of new condos completing over the next couple of years will dramatically shift the supply/demand equation. People argue that as Vancouver gets more expensive people will move away to where they can get more for their buck reducing demand, and that if we (god forbid) see any real negative economic impact from the US housing market crash then we could be in for some big losses on real estate investments.

Through it all the common thread is people discussing the future of our real estate market, and that means one thing to me: they are interested in our real estate. And if they are interested that means they would like to buy it. They are our ‘reserve tank’ of demand.

So will the bears awake from hibernation in the spring and absorb some of the new housing stock? Will they buy some of those stale listings? Are there enough hungry bears out there to counteract all of the factors that hungry bears hold up as proof that our market is unsustainable?

*I’m sure the postings of ‘anonymous’ and ‘boombust’ will keep him from ever fully joining the bear army.


The affordability index for a detached bungalow in Canada’s largest cities:

• Vancouver 70.1%
• Toronto 43.8%
• Calgary 40.9%
• Edmonton 33.4%
• Montreal 36%
• Ottawa 30.8 %

“The higher the city is in an index, the more costly it is to afford a home. For example, a reading of 50 per cent means that homeownership costs, including mortgage payments, utilities and property taxes, take up half of a typical household’s monthly pre-tax income.”

report in the Globe & Mail

With predictions of a bumpy economy next year should we expect affordability go up or down?

a comment on comments

I’ve had a request to turn off anonymous comments to fix the signal to noise ratio on this site, but for now I’m opting not to. I’m interested in both sides of the housing debate and I’d like to keep it easy to comment here.

The drawback is that we get some odd, possibly insulting and not well thought out comments. We see this from both sides of the debate, but I’m hoping for a sensible post about why our market is ‘worth it’ right now and not just incredibly overpriced. As long as the main argument in favor of buying right now is to ‘grow some balls’ and ‘move out of your mothers basement’ I’ll be steering clear of anything near ‘market value’ in the lower mainland. What you do is up to you.

I will keep an eye on the jerry springerfication factor and if the consensus among those of you that post reasonable well researched points is that easy comment posting just isn’t worth it, I’ll reconsider my position.

Soft landings for all!

TD has just put out their forecast for a canadian housing market soft-landing that will be softer than the soft landing currently not being enjoyed in the USA.

The gloom and doom from down south:

An ever-deepening housing correction is scarring the economic landscape. A sharp backslide in residential investment shaved 1 percentage point off real GDP growth in the third quarter, which marked the largest drag from this sector in 16 years. TD Economics expects to see a repeat performance in the final quarter of this year given that housing starts plummeted 13 percent in October. Moreover American shoppers are already contributing about half a percentage point less to GDP growth. And, estimates show that it takes at least one year for the full impact of a change in real estate wealth to feed through to consumption behaviour.

Bah! That’s merely semantics. If we only look at the US market 1 month at a time it IS the soft landing that everyone was predicting there a year ago. Its only when you look at long stretches of time (several months in a row) that the US housing crash looks bad.

The Canadian market is doing pretty good so far though:

Any drag from cooling housing construction will be mild in comparison to the U.S. This is not to say that the Canadian economy is free of housing risks. For instance, residents in Vancouver dedicate an inordinate amount of pre-tax income (+50%) to housing costs, while Alberta’s double-digit price growth won’t be sustained. However, a boom-bust cycle can be avoided if price growth cools in the near-term, which seems quite possible given ongoing supportive fundamentals.

Some hopeful signs for a potential soft landing have already emerged. New listings are up substantially in Calgary (51% y/y), Edmonton (27% y/y) and Vancouver (19 y/y), which should help alleviate price pressures in time. If a hard landing were to befall the western provinces, it would likely be due to the ripple effect of an unexpected collapse in the U.S. economy, rather than a sharp reversal of domestic fundamentals.

So as TD sees it, the only real risk to the canadian market is the US economy. And hows that going so far again?

South of the border, however, the U.S. economy will fall short of its potential pace (3.3 percent) by a full percentage point, resulting in a greater degree of economic slack. Moreover the American slowdown has only reached its halfway mark.

I’m sure many Americans would be dissapointed to hear that they’ve only reached the halfway mark in their economic slowdown. That’s a strange thing to state as fact. Is the TD bank perhaps controlling the US market? Or else they’ve hired some new soothsayers.

Either way, you may find it useful to know that both ‘defuse anthropomorphic assets’ and ‘forecasts hide upon metaphors‘ are anagrams for ‘the prophesies of nostradamus

Montreal pays it off!

Break out the champagne and poutine! Montreal has just paid off the olympic stadium built for the 1976 games, previously nicknamed ‘the big owe’. Thirty years is a nice round number don’t you think?

The original estimated cost for this beauty was $250 million, but the final cost came in a teensy bit higher at $1.5 billion. Now that they own it, whats the plan?

The Canadian Olympic Committee would not comment on the final payment. But CTV Montreal’s Tania Krywiak said “they did tell us they would continue to use the Olympic Stadium as a venue to host sporting events as well as commercial events.”

As far as the City of Montreal is concerned, “they tell us they are just not ready, they are not willing and don’t want to take over the Olympic stadium.”

Meanwhile here on the westcoast we’re gearing up for our own little party in just a few years, and despite the negativity of an earlier report from the BC auditor general, Vanoc CEO John Furlong says we’re on schedule and under budget!

Furlong said that despite the conflicting numbers, VANOC is still on track to finish on time. His assertion the project is so far under budget comes partly from the fact VANOC has yet to rely on any contingency money..

VANOC said it will try to finalize a detailed business plan next month, but it won’t be release the plan to the public until February or March 2007.