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.