Tag Archives: housing bubble

Afraid of falling prices? Just don’t sell!

There’s a funny comfort meme in the media now that house and condo prices are falling.

Its a strange interpretation of ‘supply and demand’ that says if demand is dropping dramatically we’ll just cut back on supply to match and prices will stay stable.

Soft landing here we come!

There are a number of talking heads in the media espousing this viewpoint at the moment and If you don’t think about it too hard it kind of makes sense.

Here’s just one recent example:

Don Lawby, chief executive of the Century 21 Canada, and a charter member of the club that doesn’t see home prices dropping anytime soon, can’t see any desperation from sellers.

“The economy continues to be okay, people have jobs, interest rates are low,” said Mr. Lawby. “Historically, anytime when prices dropped it was tied to high unemployment and interest rates. It’s not the case today, people are not forced to sell, they are staying with their price.”

If people don’t have to sell, then they’ll just take their homes off the market and there’s one less property on the supply side right?

..Of course if you start thinking about it a little bit it doesn’t make as much sense. As Patriotz points out:

..most discretionary sellers are planning to buy another property, so if they decide not to sell they are also deciding not to buy.

So for those of you keeping score, that’s one less seller AND one less buyer. Kind of cancels itself out doesn’t it?

The other point that has been repeated ad nauseum but always seems to get ignored in these articles: the seller that doesn’t sell has zero affect on the market.  The ONLY activity that affects the market are the sales that take place and what price the exchange happens at.  That sale then sets the comp price for all neighbouring properties.

So what really drives the market?

What buyers are willing and able to pay for their desired property from buyers who either need or want to sell.

In a falling market buyers are willing to pay less, because they aren’t completely stupid.  They know it doesn’t make sense to bid high on a purchase that is falling in value each month.

And how fast are Vancouver property prices falling right now?  Apparently even faster than the US bubble markets were falling at their peak.

So there’s that.

But possibly even more important is the buyers ability to pay.  Even if someone really wants to buy that million dollar house and thinks it’s a great deal they might not be able to.  If the credit isn’t available that sale will not happen.

Recent moderation in the mortgage market will have some effect here as we return to the historical standard 25 year amortization on CMHC insured mortgages.  As CMHC hits it’s mortgage cap it is also pumping less credit into the housing market now than it has been for the last few years.

Every time you read another expert talking about the lack of a ‘trigger’ to cause a collapse in the housing market it’s worth thinking about what the trigger in the US or Spain or Ireland was.

The US housing market started to collapse in 2006.  2 years later financial markets collapsed.  The ‘trigger’ for the US real estate collapse was simply this: House prices were too high.



800 Billion dollar housing problem

Think home prices are a touch high in Canada?

Concerned about falling house prices and the spin-off effects on the larger economy?

If you’re looking for an outline of the way the federally run Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) took part in a reckless race to bottom against US competition and put the Canadian economy at risk you could do a lot worse than this Globe and Mail article .

Created in 1946 to help returning Second World War veterans find homes, CMHC had morphed over the years into a multibillion-dollar goliath that fuels bank lending and housing demand by insuring riskier mortgages, especially those in which the buyer has only a small down payment. Without that insurance, many more people would be shut out of the real estate market, unable to get a mortgage from a chartered bank.

It has also been a lucrative venture for the government. But that business was now being eroded as a result of the arrival of aggressive U.S. insurers into Canada.

The American companies were willing to do things CMHC had never done. Some were even backing “zero-down” mortgages in which the buyer borrowed every dollar needed to pay for the home.

Fortunately as fiscally responsible Canadians, we didn’t follow the US example and start backing ‘zero-down’ mortgages.. Oh wait, actually we did.  In fact the CMHC was a little late in its turn around, only starting to pull back the changes after it was obvious the US economy was tanking due to the bursting of a housing bubble.

So how much did the CMHC influence the rise of Canadian house prices?  That’s the source of much debate, but as the G&M puts it:

What is beyond dispute is that CMHC’s rules have enabled a change in behaviour among home buyers like Ashleigh Egerton. When she and her boyfriend bought a townhouse in Brampton, Ont., in May, 2008, they could have made a 5 per cent down payment – but opted to put nothing down instead.

“Instead of putting that money into the house, we felt like we’d be off to a better start if we had some money to furnish the house,” Ms. Egerton says. “I wasn’t under the impression that I would be paying this house off. This wasn’t the house that we would be staying in forever, it was just about getting into the market, getting a place.”

But the zero-down mortgages created a new problem in the housing market: Buyers who weren’t building any equity in their properties, since the payments were primarily covering the interest in the early stages of the loan. When Ms. Egerton moved out about two years later after splitting up with her boyfriend, the pair still didn’t have any equity in the home.

I’m going to stop myself now, because I could just keep quoting from this article.  If you have any questions about the role the CMHC has played in the Canadian housing bubble do yourself a favour and read the full article.

Flaherty won’t ‘stand by’ in recession

The more things change the more they stay the same.

The president is back in the white house and there’s rumbling of a fiscal crisis again.

Flaherty has said he’s not going to take another recession lying down.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney both pledged Wednesday to take action to support the economy if a shock from the U.S., or Europe, threatened to once again plunge the country into recession.

“We are a pragmatic, sensible government. If our economy goes into recession because of an external shock from the United States or the eurozone, or both, we will take steps to stimulate the economy,” Flaherty told the Commons finance committee in an evening session.

“What we have done before we will do again. We will not do exactly the same thing again…but we are not going to stand by and have the Canadian economy slip deep into a recession with high unemployment.”

We want a nice housing bubble

I’m so sick of hearing realtors and mortgage brokers complain about the new CMHC rules.

The government isn’t really bringing in some tough new restrictions, they’re simply rolling back some of their bubble incentives.

The Feds clearly wanted to juice housing and that’s what they got.

Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney says the No. 1 risk to the Canadian economy is a housing bubble. Good grief! How on earth did rock-stable, good-banking, solid-regulating Canada end up on the edge of a possible real estate crisis? Simple. In Canada as elsewhere, housing is a political business policymakers find irresistible. There’s always some government policy — low interest rates, first-time home-buyer incentives, high-ratio mortgages, mortgage insurance, capital gains exemptions, interest deductibility — available to government agencies to bolster the feel-good business of home ownership.

It’s a global phenomenon, from Ireland to Spain, from Britain to the United States. Housing bubbles — rocketing prices following by plummeting prices — are not new to the world economy. The last decade, however, has left an unprecedented trail of housing price chaos and disaster. The similarities from one country to another are unmistakable.

We saw what was happening in the states, and still the government moved amorts from 30 to 40 years and flooded the housing market with money. Where did they expect this to lead?

One bubble down, one to go

The Vancouver real estate slow down is making news all over and people are now wringing their hands over Toronto.

This Financial Post article talks about our bloating inventory and collapsing sales while pointing out that Toronto sales are up 11% year over year.

..and yes, there’s yet another warning from the Bank of Canada:

“Although economic growth in Canada was slightly slower than expected in the first quarter, underlying economic momentum appears largely consistent with expectations. However, the composition of growth is less balanced. In particular, housing activity has been stronger than expected, and households continue to add to their debt burden in an environment of modest income growth.”

The warning is apt. Rosenberg said if the Bank of Canada felt the need to re-establish parity between short-term rates and its inflation target it would have to raise the rate 100 basis points.

“That wouldn’t cause a recession, but it sure would be painful for many households,” leading to more loan defaults and less spending growth.

If you can’t afford a 100 basis point increase in rates you probably shouldn’t be taking on too much debt.