Monday, October 29, 2007

msm report - ship hits dam

I found this little piece of joy over at The Sunk, er, The Sun. I hacked it up below, but feel free to wander over there and read the whole thing. Interesting such a piece surfacing there (even though noncommittal on the cost of RE in Van.). The impending doom really is starting to show it's face. They actually do use the word "bubble"!

Who, in the real world, can afford to live here now?
Miro Cernetig, Vancouver Sun
Published: Monday, October 29, 2007

By the standards of our gravity-defying real-estate market, it didn't sound all that irrationally exuberant: a well-appointed Kits Point pad, with about 1,300 feet of space and a view of the ocean.

Price: a cool $1.25 million.

I don't raise this particular listing as a comment on the value of real estate in this town. (you ought to!) When a condo atop the Hotel Georgia goes for $18 million, I guess even a million-dollar basement suite in Kits Point is easily within the realm of possibility.

But, yikes. Wasn't it only a few years ago you could actually get a penthouse, or something at least above the garden, for a million? Now it's the entry level for a Kits Point basement.

What's really notable -- and worrying -- about this Kitsilano basement, though, isn't just the price tag. It's emblematic of a larger social squeeze now changing the social fabric of this city.

Who, in the real world, can afford to live here anymore? New immigrants? The working class? The middle class? Students? Your own kids?

Of course, the banks are willing to help. As the RBC notes in its survey, a Vancouverite's average mortgage payment of $3,230 a month on a two-storey house could be reduced by $400. The catch? You need to sign up for one of the new, 40-year term mortgages, instead of the 25-year term your parents got.

So, take out a mortgage at 25 and at 65, you can retire a homeowner. What a deal.
Unless you lose your job, or your health, or your partner, or the interest rates are at 12% when you have to renew.

Wait 'til the ship really hits the dam. It will make for some fascinating reading in the MSM.

But could it get so much worse?

Areas that are already hit by the foreclosure crisis will now be hit by investors who are buying up properties to rent them out, which makes neighbourhoods less stable than owner-occupied housing.
Jim Davinie,
Minnesota State Representative
read here

Saturday, October 27, 2007

the slowpokes and the pompous

I suspect that a lot of what I write here may not make a lot of sense, n'or even seem contextual. I tend to think in very broad swathes, and pick up little pieces of information, and junk thought, and imagery, and so on, and try to build a diorama of sorts to understand the world at large. This is a part of trying to understand myself, and my own place in the big picture. Writing is a kind of leavening of all that disparate noise for my own understanding. Ultimately, it is a kind of Unified Theory, and as such, the ideas are ephemeral, and building of that understanding is very slow going.

It is something that I think that we all do, on different levels, and in different ways. How can the RE market reach such unbelievable levels of stupidity? What is really behind it all? How do we end up with the governments that we end up with - who implement legislations so contrary to what we, the people, are really aiming for? Why do people prefer granite countertops and stainless steel appliances? What makes people think that Vancouver is the Best Place on Earth(TM)?

I think that maybe people want Vancouver to be the Best Place on Earth, because they came here, and would not want to think that they had made a mistake. Maybe that is where all the comparisons to NYC, London, Paris, etc., come in. But we are none of that, and ironically, we have destroyed the Vancouver that we loved when we came here. High class in borrowed shoes, but still an unsophisticated street urchin. It amuses me to read on some fora the views of the newly escaped from the Big Smoke called Torrono, who want to turn Vancouver into the very thing that they have fled. Handles like "The604", and such, bely the origins of their holders. As do their writings.

Kevin Potvin, over at The Republic of East Vancouver, posited that;
We tend to think here, in chronically self-congratulating Vancouver, that everyone who comes here was motivated to come to this place rather than to go away from another place. The truth is Vancouver is a refugee camp for dissociated, abused, and discarded people from all over Canada
, and being one of those "dissociated, abused, and discarded people" myself, I would tend to agree somewhat. I never really had an interest in Vancouver until I came for a two week sojourn in 1988, and once here, I liked what I found, and never left. That was 20 years ago though, and that Vancouver is gone. Now, the "dissociated, abused, and discarded people", are looking to Grand Forks, Castlegar, Roberts Creek, etc., for what they once found here.

I lifted the above image from here, because it just seemed so pertinent. The Cafe Pompous - situated at the corner of Malaise and Ennui - where the observation is: Everything is so banal. It makes my lack of context somehow...contextual.

I also just had to lift this quote from the same place:
The name “Slowpoke” comes from an appreciation of the need to slow down to appreciate life. Slowpokes, according to the author, “value quality over quickness” and so don’t always fit into the modern world. The four-panel strips elaborate on that theme, whether presenting personal character insights or larger cultural commentary.
I would have approved more of a quality evolution of Vancouver over a quick one, myself.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

investor alert!

In my last post, I compared a house in Arbutus to a house in Killarney. I mumbled about moving 40 blocks west, and the price about moving 4,000 kilometres east? For less?

I was just fiddling around, looking for some info. for a post that I was thinking of, and serendipited (I think I made a word up) onto this place in Kitchener, Ont.

It's a 20 unit walk-up apartment building, that appears to be fully rented, for sale @ $1.075 million. That is a bit cheaper than the Arbutus shack featured @ $1.089 million, though it does not have the prestige of that W. 16th Ave. address (snort!) The thing is, the Arbutus address is in serious need of a wrecker's ball, and another $300 - 400K to build a swish place that befits it's neighbourhood, and it would have no revenue to off-set your $8100/month mortgage (plus taxes, etc. - and don't forget the new construction...).

Here are the numbers - in case you are interested.

Now, I know that this is not apples to apples, and you would still be augmenting the payments by ~$25K/year, but if you lived in one of the apartments, you could eliminate the superintendent's and management's salaries, and you would only be down about $12K/year. You could probably make that back in appreciation (or is the place way past it's best before date?), and jack the rents up a bit, and you are on the road to riches. You would not need an income of $303 G's a year to qualify either - hell, just about anyone with a minimum-wage job could qualify.

I know that these are very different prospects, but if I was going to dump over a million bucks into a dump, it would be a dump with some income.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

east to west

I had occassion to go out to UBC today, and made my route along 16th Avenue. I did not see a lot of "For Sale" signs (west of Cambie), and the few that I did see, had "SOLD" plastered on them. That struck me as interesting - as I have been seeing an ever-increasing number of signs up east of Main St., and most just sit, and sit, even with "Price Reduced" as an incentive. It seems as if the low high-end on the West Side is still selling, while the lower stratum on the East Side, are not.

Intrigued by this, I did an MLS search of Arbutus, Dunbar and the University Lands. Arbutus has nothing under $1 million, Dunbar has 2 under $1 million (in the high 800K's), and the University Lands has none under $1.1 million.

This place in Arbutus (W. 22nd Ave.) is a cool $1.089 million. A 33x120 lot with a "tear-down"? (and the realtor cannot even be bothered to take a decent photo' for that kind of money...)

So, I thought I'd look for comparables on the East Side, and found this place. (at least the agent looked through his view-finder)

Dang near identical houses on more-or-less the same sized lot, but the second house is in East Van., in Killarney - one of the more "desirable" areas in East Van. The East Van. house is larger by 100 sq' to boot, but is priced at $535K - a bit less than half the price of the Arbutus house. How can travelling 40 blocks west make a shitey shotgun shack "worth" twice as much money?

Something else that I have taken note of, is that most of the blurbs from the East Side tell about how much the house can pull in with rent. This is further indication that this market is all about speculation - never mind "a great house in a great neighbourhood, great for raising your young family". So houses are just another commodity, and as such, are just as prone to boom and bust.

Incidentally, the Killarny blurb says Easily rentable for $1,700 or more for month. Yeah, right. I'd pay $1200 on a good day, but even at $1700 - you would not come close to positive cash flow.

What a disconnect.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

grief in 5 easy stages

Thanks to zed for sending me this link to CBC's story entitled Canadian real estate sales slip. (I have copied their style of a bold red font for the headline. It's like the colour of...blood in the streets. Very provocative.)

There is a lot of blah, blah - pointing out how things are down, but from a giddy escalation. Good news with the bad news, wot?
Vancouver's real estate market once again topped the country's most expensive. The average home sold for $582,354. That's down by about $5,000 from August, but still represents a better than 10 per cent hike in the past year.

"The underlying economic conditions in Canada that affect real estate are still very strong," said CREA president Ann Bosley in a statement. She attributed lower overall sales to the "volume of new listings."
And just what might be driving that "volume of new listings"? Has someone accepted the diagnosis of terminal bubblecoma?

As I read all of this, and along with everything else, I was minded of Kubler-Ross' Five Stages of Grief, and wondered if we were into acceptance yet. The bargaining is yet to come, and then, the depression - in my rosy view.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

between the lines

I just don't get what's going on anymore. I've been trying to get some reading time in, and everything seems confused, confusing, or just plain crazy. But we all have had our fill of crazy, and there is little to say anymore, so I will give you this excerpt from the Grim and Malevolent, and let you read between the lines (I like to focus on Vancouver, but...)

Are we the ones that are crazy? I sometimes wonder.

Towers built on fast food fortune

A Korean entrepreneur who has built an empire from a fried chicken chain is set to transform central Surrey into one of the biggest urban hubs outside of Vancouver.

Just like living at McDonald's?
...suites for the complex near the King George SkyTrain station will go on sale starting at $179,900.

...touted as the highest residential tower in B.C. outside of Vancouver. Construction starts in two months and the move-in date is set for 2010.

Where do I sign my life away - er- sign up?
MAC Marketing Solutions...'s already got a waiting list of thousands of people waiting to buy into the development.

"I wouldn't be surprised if we didn't sell one tower in a day,"..."We are having incredible demand.

"People recognize this will probably be the second largest urban hub outside Vancouver and they're trying to get in early."

Probably? Just the 2nd largest? Ah, outside Vancouver is the new line. Eat your heart out MAC, Rennie could tout OMA being just a minute away from Vancouver.

Mr. Yang...His vision is to transform the previously troubled area...
Sounds like Woodwards. Are they on to something?

...condo prices in downtown Vancouver are estimated to be $800 to $1,500 per square foot, Surrey's price of $450 to $550 is reasonable.
Maybe for top tier places you'll ask for $800-$1500/sq', but there are plenty of CONdo's for sale for less than that, and how can $450-$550/sq' be reasonable in Surrey?

"Surrey...The demand is there."
Whatever you say.
Mr. Yang still owns...South Korea's version of KFC...and Mr. Yang won't stop there.

"He is committed to do more things in Surrey,..may be expanding our operations to other cities.
Spare us Mr. Yang. We have had enough.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

black gold standard

black gold museum

I think that I may have mumbled something about this somewhere in the context of the Gold Standard, Bretton-Woods, foreign exchange, fiat currency discussions (most of which bores me to tears - so no discussion on gold will be tolerated This is about oil).

Since "They" don't like gold for some reason, why not use a barrel of oil (or a gallon) to back our currency? OK, oil is not quite as durable as gold (evaporation, rapid oxidization, etc.), but it is certainly more useful, and becoming just as "scarce". I also recognize that They don't really want to back the currency with anything materially tangible. Electrons and fantasy will suffice.

(Just to keep this in the realm of RE, we use oil to heat our homes, take the garbage away, bring the building supplies in, etc.)

Our dollar certainly has been riding the oil wave. Oil up = $ up, so in essence (pun intended), we are backed by petroleum, and lots of it. An unintended, but beneficial side-effect may be the hoarding of oil (less burnt/global warming blah, blah, blah), and the recognition and respect of it's real value.

Black Gold. Y'see?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

when is a deal not a deal?

I'm proffering a deal of the week that is relative. I write "relative" in the sense that there are no good deals around by my measure.

This house sits on a huge (for East Van.) 57'x115', 6581 sq. ft. lot. That could be subdivided, built on, and turned around for profit. The blurb claims the possibility to live on the main, while renting out the top floor and 4 basement "suites for a gross of $3k/month. Their arithmetic is a bit unsteady though - they claim that 4x$450 = $1900, so they might really be asking $749K for the place.

It is interesting that the house is built of "stone and brick", that is very uncommon here. You can indeed see a stone foundation, but the brick has disappeared behind some hideous plastic siding. The house is 3150 sq. feet, so it is big, and the numbers do kinda work - you could end up paying about $600/month to live on the main, while having a rooming house atmosphere in the rest. Too bad, because it might be a nice place to buy and restore, with a nice big yard for my kids. Not for $828K though.

The blurb (below) mentions a 150 sq' basement too - perfect for a little grow-op to augment the mortgage payments. While I'm on the topic of the blurb, it is a bit over-blown - nestled in quiet alcove, I found jarring. How do you nestle a 3150 sq' house anywhere? - let alone an alcove. And the mention that the house will stand for at least another 40 years is comforting - especially if one opts for a 40 year amortization.

ADDENDUM: I forgot to mention that the picture seems to be from last fall/winter, and the MLS# is 50,000 older than current, so this place has been on the market for quite a while. I wonder if it has some heritage designation or covenant prohibiting subdivision.

Price $828,000.00
Incredible 1910 brick & stone farmhouse w/panoramic views, nestled in quiet alcove & steps from ALRT Skytrain. Totally rebuilt inside the brick outer shell - new fibreglass roof, all new plumbing, electrical & wiring, studs, drywall, insulation, baths, kitchen, flrg, 2 hot water tanks, high efficiency furnace & wndws. Feels like a new home, must see inside to appreciate. Has front entry driveway usually mistaken for side lane, but is actually part of huge lot. Solid & has stood the test of time. Live on the main flr (9 ft ceils) & rent out top AND bsmt & get $3,000 in rent!! Work the numbers. Needs new deck, but can be worked into the price. Check out the antique walnut F/P & some of the original 5 ft high wainscotting/fir flrs, 3 bdrm (possible to convert to 4!!) main flr suite. Top floor separate 3 bdrm unit w/gable balcony; Basement 4 bdrm houses 4 students @ $450 each ($1900/mo). One of the biggest lot sizes in Renfrew Heights. This house will stand a minimum of another 40 years. Unfin bsmt 150 SF.

I've been deep in the doo lately - computer troubles have been overwhelming, and led to major data confusion. I have not yet totally worked it out, but will post as I am able. I'm juggling an incredible amount these days. Babby Solipsist is crawling around like a crazed hyena, The Missus is knee-deep in naps and nappies, business is booming, cyber reconfiguration has etched the blue screen of death into my being, and even though I am the administrator, I cannot figure out how to give myself universal privileges. I have not given up, just been overwhelmed. Blogging seems to be a challenge for many right now. Mercury retrograde perhaps?

Sunday, October 07, 2007

so what gives? - prices, that's what

A couple of weeks ago I brought this place to your attention here (well, 28 days ago). It was listed at $749k. Today it is listed at $728k. A breezy hair cut of $21k - $750/day. Just wait a year, and you can save yourself a cool 1/4 $million, though they may start dropping the price by $1k/day soon.

The cracks are starting to appear in the "sellers' market".

"Bears" will be vindicated.

I have added "dropping prices" to the labels - so that we can follow things down. Finally!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

cheap post 2.0

I'm still plagued by alligators. Just a cheap post to cheer me up.

I know a guy who lived in a kids' playhouse in someones back yard once. Really - that's true. He didn't buy it though, and he didn't even pay rent.

Now here's a new rage - tree house living. Strata-titled, a true shoe box for the growing family. (I don't know where I got the picture, but it seems to be from MLS)

What do you see when looking through your window to the future? I don't like what I see, and I am trying to cheer up, so I'll just leave that hanging... (I lifted this image from The Republic)

Yes, poor people do suck because they whine. I much prefer the braying of bloated parasites myself.

I didn't dig up an image for 2007 (I do still have alligators about), but the image below illustrates that there might be a lot of "poor" people that bought houses in the last few years.

And there's my cheap post for this week end.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

up to me arse in alligators

Sorry folks, I'm up to me arse in alligators again...configuring computer, configuring network, configuring babby, etc.

I'll be right back...soon.