Tuesday, September 1, 2009

As Summer fades the time has come to re-evaluate the bear case

The last twelve months have been very interesting. This time last year the financial crisis was galloping along and taking with it the highly speculative Vancouver Housing market.

We hit a no bid situation as everyone hoarded money, wondering which banks and even countries (eg Iceland) would be closing down. MOI hit twenty months, the stock markets lost 50% in half a year and it looked as if the bears' most dire predictions were coming true and we would all be carried off the cliff.

However the central banks and governments of the world, having done NOTHING to stop the speculative bubble, acted en masse using Trillions of our money, and promising obligations to future generations not yet born, to stem the bleeding.

The result was an abrupt turn around in the Vancouver market.

We really hadn't seen much of a recession in BC early in 2009. The Liberals were still talking about small and manageable deficits, there were lots of large Olympic and non-Olympic related building projects and suddenly we had the lowest mortgage rates in the last 40 years, lower gas and heating bills and Federal tax incentives.

The result was that the fire was reignited. SFH are within spitting distance of the previous highs.

Here is Larry's up-dated price chart:


Now it gets interesting. There are a few things worth noting:

1) The Provincial fiscal situation is not good. We are headed for a $2.8 Billion deficit and that assumes the worst is over, which I personally doubt. Cuts ahead, I expect the Federales who are $50 Billion in the hole to follow suit too and start cutting.

2) Unemployment will continue to rise and will do so even if we have the anemic recovery that would be my best case scenario.

3) The big projects are done...Canada Line, Golden Ears, Whistler Highway..where will these folks get hired now?


The boom that we have seen over the last 6 months or so has been pretty selective. the bubble was everywhere...Vancouver, Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island and the Okanagan and in all types of housing.

The bounce has been mostly in Vancouver and Victoria SFH. One look at Larry's chart will show that. In fact while SFH prices are up an astounding 10% YOY, condos and Town-homes are down 1% YOY.

Similarly the housing situation outside of Vancouver has been much more subdued. Many place are still falling (even beautiful cities, if they are resource based) others just stopped dropping and stabilized but are vulnerable to a dip.

The current graph of house prices is completely compatible with the bursting bubble graph :


However if prices keep going up, despite a worsening economic environment and a bubble graph which is calling for an imminent drop, then we will have to rethink the basis on which we have made our assumptions..ie we were wrong!


  1. Markoz here... Laneway housing and suites within suites will help sustain (and boost) bubble pricing. IMHO they will also lower the quality of life for Vancouver residents as droves of people use the new "eco-density" options to allow them to take on even greater debt and live in ever more constrained and crowded spaces. Can't afford to buy? You can if you rent out your basement, your garage and one of the upstairs bedrooms! That leaves you with a colossal mortgage and less square footage to live in than an average condo, but what an investment! Sigh...

  2. We were not wrong.

    BC is quickly going down the crapper and Vancouverites in over their heads are going to wonder what the hell hit them.

    It's over....

  3. West Vancouver 11 news listings. 1 price reduction. 1 sale.

    I'll look at other areas next week, but I am keeping my eye on West Van as I think it is one of the most horrendously over-priced areas.

  4. Well, speaking for me (and I've been haunting the bear-o-sphere since VHB started), it doesn't really matter if Vancouver corrects or not.

    It's still really overpriced. Of course, I feel the same way about Prada, and there are people who buy that too.

  5. That bubble life cycle graph.....I very much want to believe in it. Does anyone know how the dude who came up with it came up with it? Is there any scientific explanation of why a bubble would behave that way? It seems to make sense, but so far I've held off my wife from wanting to buy in this bubble using numbers, data, and facts. It's getting tougher the longer this drags on, and I'd love to show her that bubble lifecycle chart and say "Look! We're right at the precipice! Don't give up now, Dr. So-and-so proved that humans are sheeple and act in this way because of X Y and Z!"

    Anecdotes are great and everything (they kept me from buying last summer) but I likey the data.....

  6. Jason

    I fully understand what you are saying. Economics is called a dismal science because of it's poor ability to forecast events (like the mess we are now in), add in psychology which also is not very good at foreseeing future events and we have a very dubious cocktail at best!

    It is like technical analysis, the patterns always look obvious in hindsight, but no one can make money off it.

    Despite that there are some remarkable patterns that repeat themselves in history, driven by greed and fear.

    I will put up a post on the matter shortly and we can all decide how likely (or not) it is that the pattern will play out.

  7. FYI the number of local employees on the Golden Ears bridge was probably in the single digit percentages. Managers and Engineers where European and labourers were Filopino etc.

    Not saying its the same on Whistler highway which was a much longer project, but I know for a fact that the amount of local labour at Golden Ears was WELL below 50%.