Charts For a Monday Funday

Monday, April 28, 2014

What will make Calgary any different? Growth is purely anecdotal. Ask your friends who just recently got laid off at Telus, Shaw, CBC, Encana and Terra Vista Energy Group (to mention a few). Have a great week everybody!

The Home Stretch

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

For those who are interested, former Calgary Flame Dion Phaneuf has his house up for sale for a cool $1.3 million (MLS®: C3416738). I'm sure his financial advisors have suggested he cash out of the real estate game while there is still air left in the bubble. Either that, or Calgary has left a really bad taste in his mouth. I still don't understand why he was traded. He was going to be the future captain of the Calgary Flames. All good things come to an end. I'm sure his Realtor appreciates the free marketing. Where is my cut of the commission?

I can't believe it's been over a year since I last blogged. In the time of absence, I have been extremely busy with work, and also furthering my academics. I have been loosely following real estate in the background. Time has flown by and not much has changed in the real estate market - held buoyant by record low interest rates. Sheeple are still as irrational as ever, spending themselves into lifetimes of debt and serfdom. An average house costing close to half a million dollars in Calgary simply does not compute. Accidental landlords are renting every single room of their house(s). Calgarians are overextended financially. Majority are in the double-income trap. I have never seen so many stressed out drivers on the road in their HELOCmobiles. Realtors are still saying it's a great time to sell and buy. What does the future hold? Mortgage rates are already on the rise. Listings are exploding back on the market as the current herd mentality is to "cash out." Sales are plateauing. Calgary's favorite blogging bubble Realtor (BT) is suddenly changing his tune on his blog. The Competition Bureau is finally onto the Realtors. Finally, many home owners who purchased inside the bubble will not be able to afford their mortgage payments soon. Is this finally the tipping point?

Oh by the way, Garth Turner is coming to Calgary on Wednesday. 7PM at the Airport Radisson. My guests and I have seats, we beat the rush as now there is a waiting list for the event tomorrow. Can't wait for the truth to resonate through proverbial walls of denial, irrationality and greed.

This should be good.

"Pent Up" Demand...At The Kool-Aid Stand

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Recently, Bonnie Wegerich, the new incoming president of CREB was interviewed by the Calgary Herald.

Q: How would you describe the real estate market in 2008?

A: It was an interesting market in 2008. We went from a seller's market to a buyer's market and we saw sales drop, listings go up. But we maintained our average sale price and median sale price. They stayed fairly steady.

In May 2008, average and median prices for SFH peaked at $479,564 and $419,000 respectively. By December 2008, the average SFH price was $417,398 (drop of $62,166) and median SFH price was $380,000 (drop of $39,000). In June 2008, the average price of a condo peaked at $315,042. February 2008 saw the median price peak at $295,000. By December 2008 the condo average price was $274,919 (drop of $40,123), median price was at $254,000 (drop of $41,000). Stability is not clearly not definable by those price drops.
Q: Has the market hit bottom?

A: All of a sudden we're seeing some buyers come out again and start looking for houses. I think they want to buy before the market starts to go up again.

Q: Will 2009 be a buyer's or seller's market?

A: I think we're still in a buyer's market at the beginning of 2009, but I see it going into a balanced market, which is better for both the buyer and the seller.

Perpetual sales pitch that prices will go up forever. In reality, sales in January 2009 are down 50%-60% compared to last year. The market, which participated in the greatest asset bubble in history is on the other side of the boom. Sales will not recover in 2009, and a buyers' market is here for the long term. Stop blaming the snow.
Q: What are some of the factors contributing to this optimism about the market?

A: Calgary has got a low unemployment rate. Alberta is the lowest in the country as far as unemployment rate goes. We still have a good economy. We have a great young population here. Interest rates are really good. So we have a lot of positive factors there that lead us to believe that it could be a really good year.
In reality, we are in the midst of deflationary pressures. Oil prices have fallen and have maintained low prices. Canada is now joining the global recession. Unemployment and layoffs will grab headlines in 2009.

The demand function has been exhausted. The element of "pent up" demand is waited upon by the real estate food chain (realtors, speculators, etc). Sadly, this phenomenon may not materialize for many many years, if at all. As evident in the past Canadian recession, demand recovery occurred four years later. Currently, we are now in uncharted waters while the sales to list ratio is the lowest in history. Year over year, January 2009 sales will be down approximately 50%-60% from last year. "Pent up" supply will accelerate as demand falls. Many conditions exist in today's reality that will continue to put downward pressures on real estate demand and prices (in no particular order):

  • Unprecedented economical chaos resulting in a prolonged US recession (precipitating Canadian recession)
  • Contraction of credit, mortgages will be more difficult to obtain
  • Falling commodity prices in a deflationary environment
  • Falling consumer confidence and psychology
  • Increasing layoffs/unemployment
  • Pool of buyers remaining is small
  • Prices still remain unrealistic, sobering demand
  • Supply still at all time highs
  • Time and patience are now abundant commodities for the buyer

By the way, Happy Belated New Year!

It's Just A Matter Of Time

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Canada could be headed for a housing and mortgage meltdown similar to the one that has devasted the U.S. economy, Merrill Lynch warned Wednesday.

Canadian households are more financially overextended than their counterparts in the United States or Britain, a report issued by Merrill Lynch Canada economists David Wolf and Carolyn Kwan says.

So it's revealed that Canadian home owners have more debt than their US or British peers. How comforting.

“What worries us is that Canadian households have been running a larger financial deficit than households in either the U.S. or the U.K.,” the Merrill report says. “... After 40 years of net saving, Canadian households moved into sustained deficit in 2002. In 2007, household net borrowing amounted to 6.3 per cent of disposable income, a wider deficit than in the U.K. and not far off the peak U.S. shortfall seen in 2005.”

But yet many still believe we are different.

To read David Wolf's full report, "The Tipping Point," click here.

Perhaps the Merrill Lynch report has ruffled a few feathers among other economists (are they speculators themselves?).

The nature of the decline in Canada is much different than that of the
U.S., said Benjamin Tal, senior economist at CIBC World Markets Inc.

"You need a trigger for a crash in the housing market. In 1989 to
1990, the trigger was double-digit interest rates that killed affordability in
Canada. In the U.S., the trigger was subprime, and a huge increase in default
rates when people who were not supposed to be in the business of owning a house
did, and that created artificial demand," he said. "Unless Canada goes into a
major economic recession ... I'm missing that trigger."

Let me do your job for you.

Falling house prices. That is the trigger. It's simple.

40 year mortgages, 0 downpayment, etc...all these new mortgage products introduced by the CHMC over the last two years force-fed false affordability on unsuspecting home buyers. These are the same home buyers that would not even qualify for a traditional 25 yr amortization period. People who have no business buying houses bought during the last two years. Just talk to my single hairdresser who owns 3 properties. A significant majority of homes bought in the last two years were bought with 40 year mortgages. Once can argue that affordability is now worse in 2008 than it was back in the 1990s as now the principle amounts of mortgages are astronomical.

In the US, the trigger was not subprime. Subprime would have never been an issue if house prices continued to rise or remained static. Those who were overextended once the teaser rates adjusted to higher rates could easily escape by either selling their property or refinancing their mortgage. When house prices fell in the US, those home buyers with subprime mortgages were trapped. They couldn't sell because there were no buyers. And they could no longer refinance their mortgages because their property was losing significant value. The only option was to default.

The same scenario is occurring in Calgary and other cities across Canada. Houses aren't selling under similar principles. I fear that sellers are unwilling to lower their prices because they will take a big loss. Intelligent buyers, are exercising their patience on the sidelines. Meanwhile, home prices which have risen exponentially over the last two years are starting to come crashing back down. Soon many Canadians will be in the same trap. Severely upside down on their mortgage they will be forced to either sell or refinance their mortgage. Both of which cannot be accomplished when asset values are decreasing. Skyrocketing inventory is a symptom and precursor of what is to come.

Reality check, as house prices slide in every major Canadian city - real estate is still unaffordable to the average wage earner. These include important people such as teachers, firefighters, nurses etc.

Even if our own meltdown is a fraction of what happened in the US, it will still have a significant impact on our own economy. Perhaps an in-house grown recession (pun intended).

To simply ignore all the warning signs and to discount what is happening in the US is complete ignorance.

Alberta Retail Sales Fall

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Alberta was the only province in the country in July to see year-over-year retail sales
drop into negative territory
, according to data released Monday by Statistics Canada.

The federal agency said retail sales in this province declined by 0.9 per cent from July 2007 to July 2008 while at the national level retail sales have increased by 4.9 per cent.

[Insert record scratching sound here]

Alberta leads the nation in real estate price declines and now in retail activity. In consideration to the economic decline of the manufacturing sector in Eastern Canada, this simply shows that the "solid economic fundamentals" may not be solid afterall.

"Using the year-over-year level of sales alone, it would be tempting to
conclude that Alberta has the weakest economy in the country," said Hirsch. "It
was the only province where sales in July were lower than last year.

"But that impression would be incorrect. Sales per person in Alberta are
still by far the highest in the country."

He said that at $1,455 per person, retail spending in the province is 34 per cent higher than the national average of $1,083. But Hirsch said even that figure has come down over the past year. In 2006, retail spending in Alberta, he said, was more than 40 per cent above the national average.

Spending more than the average Canadian should not be used to as a metric of economic health. Albertans may make more money than an average Canada. This then equates to greater spending statistics. But Alberta is an inflationary (and CPI) leader in the nation so it is all relative. Consumer confidence is vital in triggering spending in an economy. In Alberta, we are constantly reminded that we live in the most financially insulated place on Earth. With that instilled confidence, retail activity should not be faltering. Perhaps the reassuring fundamentals were exaggerated? With the current global financial crisis, consumer confidence will not return to the utopia levels of the boom years. This will hurt demand for real estate. As seen in the recent pending sales statistics, there isn't a significant push in demand. Despite the new mortgage rules coming into affect on October 15, 2008, this shift in consumer spending will further downward pressure on home prices.

One simple explanation why retail activity may be down is that Albertans no longer have disposable income after bills and other necessary expenditures. The opportunity cost of carrying a large mortgage, discretionary income becomes a scarcity.

I believe the term is being "house poor."

As house prices continue to slide, it will be interesting to see what many upside down Albertans will do when they reevaluate their financial well-being.

Uncharted Waters

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Alot has happened in the world since I last blogged. Concerning the financial sector, we're witnessing a historic market meltdown on Wall Street. Many of the prominent investment banks are falling one after the other. Over the weekend, Henry Paulson (US Treasury Secretary) and Ben Bernanke (Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve) are putting the final touches on a $700,000,000,000+ (yes, that's what billions looks like) bailout plan to rescue Wall Street. The problem with this bailout is systemic on many levels. The bottom line is that the already cash strapped US taxpayer will be on the hook for this bailout. Where is everyone going to get the money? It will be like pouring gasoline on a huge burning fire. We are also witnessing the nationalization of the banking system and disintegration of the free market. A postponement of the inevitable which is now amplified exponentially. Keep in mind the Federal Reserve is composed of a group of private bankers! To pump money back into the system, money printing machines will run 24/7. This will only lead to one thing: hyperinflation. This will translate to a future of higher interest rates which will wipe everyone out. I just hope that the shields on the USS Alberta are at maximum capacity and will hold.

Back on the home front, Stephen Harper has called a federal election approximately one year earlier than expected. Remember that Harper is the same person who introduced Bill C-16 back in 2006. This bill was aimed to structure a 4 year time period between federal elections. Now, there is only one perception of this bold move. It is the only way he will win a majority government. But why call an election so early? Timing is crucial. Amidst a straight face, Harper knows the truth of Canada's impending economic condition. In 2009, the economic landscape of Canada will further deteriorate as we follow in the wake of the US. Despite all the current hot air pumping that Canada's fundamentals are strong, we just cannot ignore what is happening to our neighbours down south. There is no doubt we will be affected to some degree.

In Calgary, we are seeing a loosening of the social fabric. Murders, shootings and crime dominate headlines each day. Road rage is the worst I have seen in my lifetime here. Many attribute these factors to a growing city but I believe that you have recognise the increased levels of stress by living in the most expensive inflationary province in the country. The city just feels different now. Calgary continues to lead the nation in real estate price declines amidst having the oil sands in our backyard. Office vacancies in the city are also set to rise. Another condominium project has stopped construction bringing the total now to three (Gateway Midtown, Manchester Station, and Skytower). The diplomatic answer to the construction stoppage is high construction costs. But in reality, you'll find many of the buyers have walked away from their deposits not willing to gamble anymore in a dwindling housing market. There are more tough times ahead for the real estate industry. Surely, all these elements portray the sound "economic fundamentals" that have been eternally preached. I think not.

For those of the bulls remaining who believe that house prices will just plateau and not decrease sharply, don't be foolish or overly confident. Looking at past historical trends with a statistical fine tooth comb will not prepare you for what will happen in the next couple of years as the world enters into a position of financial chaos and eroding economies.

In times like these, the most favourable position is to be debt free.

Calgary Listings Disappearing? Something Smells...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Something smells like fish.

I can't write a huge post today because I am back hard at work. But has anyone noticed on that the listings in Calgary have magically disappeared? I receive "private client" email lists and yesterday I received an update with 38 properties for sale.

Today, that list went to 6 properties with no explanation.

Could this just be an honest mistake?

Or is this CREB's response to dismal sales, decreasing prices and impending "soft crash?"

Something just doesn't feel right and hopefully the glitch in the system gets fixed.

Real Esate In the Negative Western Conference 2008

Sunday, August 24, 2008

On Saturday, August 23, 2008, real estate "investors" from across Canada gathered in the beautiful city of Calgary to attend the REIN™ Western Conference. For those of you who are not aware, REIN (Real Estate Investment Network) is headed by Don R. Campbell who helps individuals invest in real estate. Don also predicted that property prices in Calgary would appreciate by 11% in 2008 and listings would fall by April. Inventory is still high and prices have decreased thousands of dollars. REIN's success may have been amplified during the time of free credit, "innovative" mortgage products and coincidental economic boom. I would imagine the REIN network increased its member base the most during the last two years as many wanted to ride the wave of the boom and profit. I have spoken to some REIN members who are average income earners who bought multiple rental properties during the boom. Many individuals who subscribed to REIN during the boom may be in a bit of trouble with no clear distinguishable bottom to the real estate "soft landing."

The name of the conference is suitably coined: How to Create Wealth in Real Estate, No Matter What the Market Does.

Is this truly realistically possible?

As with many other organizations who's reputation and livelihood depend on real estate appreciation, the keynote to this conference was more an assurance to REIN members (each member pays a subscription fee of $3375.04 every 17 months - that's crazy!) that the sky isn't falling. I now understand why Don has to be so upbeat about the prospects of building wealth through real estate. People have invested alot of money, personal savings, trust funds etc. in his word and advice. Any honest and realistic negative sentiments would crumble the network.

Best-selling author, Steve McKnight was flown into town from Australia to present his insights on the Canadian Real Estate market. Invite an individual from another country to come speak to others about how to be successful in real estate investing in this country. Makes sense right? Isn't real estate mantra such that proclaims that markets are localized region to region? Are real estate invesment fundamentals applicable internationally now? I digress.

The following are Steve's "Six Generations of Wealth:"
1. Trade Time For Money
2. Save More Than They Spend
3. Asset Appreciation
4. Income Generation From Assets
5. Income Reinvestment
6. Asset Maximization

For those buyers who bought at the peak, "Generations" 2-6 are simply not plausible in the current softening real estate market as property values decline. One can argue if fundamental #1 is possible in a declining market is possible. Time spent worrying about financial health is not my deftinition of time well spent. I even believe that the second fundamental violates what most REIN members have been advised. An average income earner purchasing multiple rental units would be classified as not saving more than you spend. In bubble fundamentals, rent will never cover the full cost of mortgage payments, maintenance costs, etc. of the property. In a declining housing market, rent increases are not feasible (you will see rent decreases). So the owner of the property is responsible for assuming a month to month financial loss which negates the flowing from one generation to the other. The members of REIN are advised to hold real estate over the long term but to actually make it long term requires financial survival during these present times.

SFH Market's Worst Nightmare/Enemy: the Condo Market

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The simple physics of building implosion/demolition. Place highly powerful explosive charges to knock out supporting infrastructure and allow the building to cave in on itself.

One can argue that the condo market and the sfh market are two different markets but one must also make the realization that the two have a relationship. The condo market can be portrayed as supporting the sfh market. Does anyone notice how all of the realtor authored blogs avoid talking about the condo market?

Could the collapsing condo market in Calgary bring down the sfh market?

Remember that the condo market is seen as the easiest entry point into real estate especially when price hyperinflation occurs such as they did in Calgary in the last couple of years.

With the announcement of construction being halted on the Gateway Midtown towers yesterday, it indicates that there is substantial trouble in the condo market in Calgary. Right now there is severely low demand for condo units and there will be soon a enormous influx of product coming onto the market. Inner city fundamentals are out of touch with reality.

With a severe reduction in demand and record high inventories, prices will have to come way down.

As Radley77 has beautifully composed graphs comparing the two markets and levels of construction, we can see that the quantity of multi-family units continues to increase outstripping single family units.

For the bulls out there who remain, seeing the quantity of condos being built in the future should be concerning because the element of inventory will not be manageable.

I believe that there is a relationship between the condo market and the sfh market.

If inventories continue to skyrocket, prices will come down as they have now. Because condos have a price point much lower than a sfh, they will become more attractive to the first time home buyer looking to enter into the real estate market.
Once that buyer is removed from the pool of buyers then the sfh inventory will be stagnant and will continue to increase if prices in that market are not lowered (in accordance) to attract buyers.

Once the new mortgage rules come into effect in October, the pool of buyers will be reduced even more.

The reality may be that the condo market may be the first go, followed then shortly by the sfh market.

Layoffs and Stalled Condo Projects

Friday, August 22, 2008

Thanks to Jim A. for emailing in that comic!

I haven't posted in a while because of heavy work commitments. Thanks for your patience and understanding. Since my last post, not much has changed in the local real estate market. Much that was predicted by "doom and gloomers" has come to fruition. The market continues to soften heading into the Fall. Prices are falling and inventory levels are still at record highs. Many condo projects are stuttering to the financial finish line. Things are soon to get interesting.

While burning the midnight oil this evening (morning), I was listening to QR77 news talk and sports radio. The hourly news reports that there are soon going to be layoffs in residential construction as the Calgary real estate market further cools. An official with Jayman was interviewed and a short clip was played outlining the change in their employment outlook. I'm sure that other developers and builders in the city are soon to follow the same inevitable path. This was bound to happen as housing starts have decreased substantially as compared to Calgary's boom years. The same thing happened in the US. But yet Calgary is different. This morning, the following article in the Calgary Herald was available: Layoffs strike Calgary's once-booming homebuilders. These type of layoffs are just the beginning.

In addition, an elite-multimillion downtown condo project has ground to a halt in construction. Gateway Midtown has stopped construction and has also laid off 41 employees in the process. Watercooler talk has it that many purchasers have walked away from their deposits while demand has significantly dwindled. As condo prices and demand continue to decline, many of these million dollar projects are at risk. Even if they are in a excellent location such as downtown Calgary (where all the head offices of oil companies are situated). The only way the project can continue its construction I would imagine that it would take all the suites to be completely sold out at peak prices. The reality is that's not going to happen. Strangely, Gateway Midtown is very close in proximity to many other beltline condo projects currently underway or completed. The suspension of this condo project proves that inner city fundamentals in a healthy economic environment are sometimes out of touch with reality.

But of course, Calgary is different than the rest of the world.