Tag Archives: speculation

Is Alberta now a buying opportunity?

The oil market has had an effect on house prices in Alberta.  Now with prices lower than they were a year ago does Alberta pose a good buying opportunity for real estate investors?

Don Pittis over at CBC says maybe not yet.

According to long time investment adviser and real estate guru Hilliard MacBeth, the bargain hunting in Alberta has already started.

“I’ve heard of lots of people who say, ‘The prices are down. I’m going to jump in,'” said MacBeth, Edmonton-based author of When the Bubble Bursts.

In fact, some of the people he advises have already identified a buying opportunity and jumped into the market, at least on behalf of their kids, who they are helping out in the role of bank of mom and dad.

“I would have counselled them against it,” said MacBeth by phone as he put on his ski boots in the Lake Louise parking lot. “I would have said, ‘Wait,’ because we’re early days yet.”

It’s more exciting to buy when prices are rising, so maybe try the Fraser Valley instead, where prices are up 27% over a year ago and they don’t have high paying oil jobs to lose.

“One of the things that was supporting Alberta home prices was the fact that our incomes were 40 to 50 per cent higher than the rest of Canada, and that’s changing very rapidly,” said MacBeth.

But property owners and prospective buyers elsewhere would be wise to watch and see if, indeed, the plunge is nipped in the bud by bargain hunters or whether prices continue to fall for a while yet.

Read the full article here.

Mayor: city is at a ‘breaking point’

When it comes to housing affordability Mayor Robertson says that Vancouver is at a breaking point:

 “The conditions and the context keep getting tougher and tougher in Vancouver as the city gets more and more expensive and more desirable to people all over the world to invest in and move into. We’re basically at a breaking point where we need interventions in the market to ensure that people who live and work and grow up here in Vancouver have the opportunity to stay in the city and to keep being part of it and contributing.”

You may recall the Mayor wrote a letter to the BC Premier supporting the idea of speculation tax. The response from the Premier was based around the fact that such a tax would risk driving down house prices.

The Mayor responds to that idea in this interview at the Tyee:

“I think it’s completely wrong. It’s a totally different subject. What we’re talking about is taking some of the profit out of flipping and speculation, which doesn’t have to do necessarily with foreign ownership or homeownership or the value of homes. This is a business activity that’s taking place every day here in Vancouver where there’s a lot of profit, and it’s an option to transfer some of that profit so people can afford to live in the city. They went off on a completely different tangent in their response at the provincial level, and that’s unfortunate. The premier has said that affordable housing in Vancouver is a problem. Well, we need some action to deal with that.”

A future based on past results

Here’s an extrapolation for you: Altus group does home appraisal and valuations.

They looked at the numbers and say if everything carries on as usual the average home price on the west side will be 7 million in 10 years.

“If [the current] trend continues, in the year 2024 the average price for older [detached housing] stock could be greater than $2 million on the Eastside and $7 million on the Westside of Vancouver. We are not saying this will happen, we are simply applying the math from the past decade and extrapolating forward to the next decade,” said Pedro Tavares, Altus Group’s director of research, valuation and advisory.

And as any investor will tell you, past performance practically guarantees future results right? So what are you waiting for? Get out there and buy something!

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.



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?