Tuesday, February 26, 2008

rising tides

(click to enlarge)

I read this article over at the TYEE - Homeless Hell Hole - and it got me thinking more about the Olympic schmozzle.
Judy Graves has spent the past dozen years touring Vancouver's dark parks, garbage-strewn alleys, and mouldy abandoned buildings. Graves, who co-ordinates the city's pioneering street outreach program, said the roughest place...is located directly beneath the glistening dome at Telus World of Science.

"This is the worst," Graves said...on a tour of the murky labyrinth at the eastern edge of False Creek. "This is the place that scares me the most."

It's a place that one must be either mentally ill or drug addicted to endure. Yet..there is no shortage of such visitors.

And it's a place literally soaked in irony: even as the Olympic Village for the 2010 Winter Games rises next door, the piers beneath what was the signature structure of Expo 86 have become a last refuge for Vancouver's most desperate residents.

...Some Vancouver parents may find it upsetting that such misery endures within sight of any observant child gazing out the Science World windows or playing in the adjoining park. But experts who study the long-term effects of mega events such as Expo 86 and the 2010 Olympics would not find it surprising.

The Olympic games alone have displaced more than two million people during the past 20 years, according to a 2007 report by the Geneva-based Centre of Housing Rights and Evictions. Very few of those evictions were caused directly by Olympic organizers making way for venue construction. The vast majority were instead the result of speculative development in advance of the Games themselves. (emboldening mine)

In Sydney, for example, rents rose by 40 per cent during a five-year period leading up to the 2000 Summer Games.
Here, rents have gone up, but thankfully, we have rent controls. RE prices are another matter.

These lines inspired this post;
As recently as last June, the Vancouver Police Department's marine unit was called to rescue a homeless man who became stranded at high tide.

"A fella' who was living in the area went under there at low tide, then the tide came in and trapped him,"
I can relate to that guy (though thankfully, I am not homeless), in that I feel like I have become trapped in a decrepit rental by the rising tide of RE values.

It is said that a rising tide will float all ships, but I would argue that it will also drown a lot of rats. A lot of those ships of fools will also be smashed on the rocks of ignorance when the tide floods out.

Nice work Poole, Rennie, Campbell, et al. It really must be the Best Place on Earth - people will even sleep under piers, with rats, to live here.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

the puppeteer - manipulating you and me

I came across this story over at coco's blog. It explains that "Developers are the Games’ real winners" (speaking of the 2010 Olympics). Yeah, no shite Shirley. I never had any doubt about that, and it has always pissed me off. Sure, a lot of speculators have been winners too, but they are more of a participating audience than players.
A former developer himself, Premier Gordon Campbell holds the purse strings to an Olympic-size sweepstakes payout.

The 2010 Olympics were still a gleam in Jack Poole's eye when he addressed a roomful of real-estate developers in the spring of 2002. Vancouver had been shortlisted for the Games, but it would be more than a year until the winning city was chosen.

The outcome of the race to win the Games didn't seem to matter to Poole, who headed the 2010 Vancouver Bid Corporation. Western Investor editor Frank O'Brien sat in on the talk and later editorialized that, according to Poole, "the real purpose of the 2010 Olympic bid is to seduce the provincial and federal governments and long-suffering taxpayers into footing a billion-dollar bill to pave the path for future real estate sales."

Indeed this was Poole's opinion. "If the Olympic bid wasn't happening," he told the developers, "we would have to invent something." Long-time developer Poole had it right. The Olympics are about real estate.
(emboldening mine)

It verges on criminality,in my mind, but "we" asked for it - if not begged for it. Now, the average citizen of Vancouver cannot afford to buy the lowliest crack-shack, while these rich bastidges get richer - at our expense.
B.C. premier Gordon Campbell knows well how taxpayers subsidize developers. Campbell was all smiles when he announced that Marathon would be glad to sell the land to the province at a good price. It was still worth three times as much as its value before the city rezoning.

Campbell...boasted that he got the property at a rock-bottom price before others became aware of what the stadium would do to land values. He built a hotel that was completed at about the same time as the stadium.

Twenty years later, Campbell holds the Olympic purse strings, and as Poole pointed out, it's payday for developers.
The whole article is worth reading. It demonstrates what g-damned fools the populace of this fair city are - sucked in to voting for the Olympics without a clue as to who would really pay for them, and who would benefit.

As you may have gathered, sometimes my postings are more about doing the photoshops, than any serious commentary, though this one is about both.

Do a Google image search for "Bob Rennie", and two of my photoshops come in in the top 9. One of them is the first. That makes me laugh. Let's see if this one shows up on a Google search for "Jack Poole, Bob Rennie, Gordon Campbell".

Saturday, February 23, 2008


Just a cheap quickie of note.

The Eden Group, who canceled The Elyse project a few months ago, has now canceled Sophia at Sophia and 11th. link

The reasons were cited as financing problems, and labour problems. The project was 85% completed. Tough tanks if you bought a presale there.

The Eden Group is headed by a guy named Eden. Has he never heard of numbered companies?

li'l solipsist is having his first birthday tomorrow, so I am not sure if I will get up my smoking photoshops and post, but it will be worth checking back for.

Have a grand week-end!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


These are very strange times. I am concerned.

Today oil spiked above $101/bbl. That in itself does not concern me so much as the reason why.

It seems that traders see oil as a currency hedge. The Fed is speculated to cut rates soon, which will mean a further hit to the US$. That will be a hit on the Americonomy, since it is based on consumption. More expensive goods mean less consumption - cut the rates - dollar drops - everything goes up... in flames.

It's a good article, and there were lots of things that I wanted to quote, but I liked this;
But the prospect that the Fed will reduce rates proved too strong, feeding a new buying frenzy, analysts said.

This is all about momentum and driving [prices] higher right now,” Mr. Flynn said.

Despite the return of $100 oil, and now $101 oil, there are concerns that high oil prices — and the higher gasoline and heating oil prices they spawn — are sowing the seeds of their own destruction by contributing to the economic slowdown.

“The price gains raise questions about their sustainability in the face of eroding fundamental strength,” said Antoine Halff, an analyst a Newedge USA LLC in a research note.
emboldening mine - ah, just imagine the whole quote is in bold type. It is the same story as RE, just a different product.

So someone else's arbitrage means that your gas costs more (not to mention the 2.8 cents a litre carbon tax coming in July), so does your heating fuel, and food, and building materials, and labour, until no one can afford anything any more.

Still, oil is priced in USD, so a sinking dollar takes some of the edge off for Canada (imagine if our dollar was at $0.65), but that is cold comfort to the laid-off auto worker, or forestry worker, etc.

I don't know about you, but I am getting dizzy as this whole global economy, and beyond, spins ever more out of control.

Monday, February 18, 2008


'The great boom is winding down'

Globe an Mail Update

February 15, 2008 at 4:39 PM EST

Resale home activity caught a case of the winter sniffles in January, a further sign Canada's mighty residential real estate market is finally in a slowdown.

Last month, seasonally adjusted unit sales declined by 0.4 per cent from the month before and 8 per cent from January, 2007, according to data released Friday by the...(CREA).

“With the further dip in January, Canadian home sales are now well below year-ago levels, adding further evidence that the great boom is winding down,” said Douglas Porter...

Steadily rising home prices have benched potential buyers, particularly in Alberta. In January, unit sales in Calgary dropped by 30.9 per cent from the year before and by 21 per cent in Edmonton. At the same time, new listings in those markets surged by 35.3 per cent and 61.1 per cent, respectively.

What's up with that? Alberta has mountains, they had the Olympics, Calgary has great weather when the chinooks roll in, and they have all that oil, and the jobs that go with it.

Well, at least some of the MSM have got the sniffles.

It is notable though, that;
Stronger markets included Newfoundland and Labrador, where home sales rose 47.5 per cent from the month before and the average price rose by 17.1 per cent.

Saskatchewan was also strong, with sales in Regina rising by 43.7 per cent while the average price rose 69.1 per cent, and in Saskatoon by 37 per cent with the average price up 36.5 per cent.
I think that a lot of people who made lots of money in oil, and RE in Alberta, are cashing out and going home to Saskatchewan and NFLD with enough money to buy whatever they want.

Either that, or the speculating horde went where they could create and ride another wave of frenzy.

It is just a matter of time here - even if we do have some special, magical status that will keep our BC ski resorts immune from global warming.

Oh, and I don't check your spelling and grammar, but it seems as if the Globe and Mail has changed its name to the Globe an Mail

Saturday, February 16, 2008

of chickens and eggs

I managed to bust my head out of the box ever-so briefly this afternoon, and wondered what really drives the RE market.

There are lots of boffins - be they economists, policy wonks, finance ministries, schools of business, etc., and we hear from them all the time. But what justifies their positions? I did not hear many of them predicting price reversals in London or San Diego, or Paris, Texas for that matter. I don't really remember anyone saying that prices would ratchet up so much before it began, either.

I really doubt that people who bought in 2001-2003 really thought that they would see the values sky-rocket as they did. Few who bought in 2004-2008 were likely see the impending correction in values either.

Seems that the market may have a mind of it's own.

Corporations are considered as "persons", and are afforded rights and privileges commensurate to actually being a living human being. Of course, corporations are made up of a bunch of people, all performing more or less correctly, who are made up of a bunch of mindless cells that perform their functions more or less correctly. Those cells are in turn made up of atoms made up of protons and electrons, which are made up of sub-atomic particles.

So, back to the macro - All of those corporations seek growth, and the RE related companies do likewise. Pretty soon it is rolling on it's own, and all of we perform our functions more or less correctly to keep it going. The problem is, the market is feeding on us, rather than feeding us. Pretty soon, the cells are not able to function correctly because of the stress on them, and they turn bad. The body becomes tired and ill, and ceases to function correctly. Then the vultures and bugs come to pick over the carcass.

So, does the market drive "us"? or do "we" drive the market?

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Back to my normal, if odd, look at things.

I had a dream last night that I bought the green monster house with the hellacious eyebrows.

I went to an open house - just for laughs - and the house sucked me and my family in, and started feeding on us. Every month it demanded more and more from us. It was horrible! It reminded me of the mother in The Wall.

Suddenly, I was in the developer's dream. I was so glad to escape my own, but his was even worse. He was a green monster fanatic, and had torn down many simple family homes to build many dun-coloured dominatrix dens. He had angered the spirits of the simple people that had raised families in those homes with his greed, and they had chained him until he lost everything.

If you happen to go to an open house, and get a weird feeling, don't even think of buying it!

Of course, all of that is nonsense, and is untrue, but I just had to do some photoshopping, and write a silly story, to make myself laugh.

Maybe this could be a mascot for the anti-olympic committee.

You didn't expect stats, did you?

Saturday, February 09, 2008


An endless source of amusement is the blurbs written to sell very expensive properties in Vancouver. 1/153 is not too bad, but most are almost as terrible as the drunken-sailor photographs that represent 3/4 million dollar properties.

I have cherry-picked a few blurble lines below for example, and have added my own snarky, somewhat-drunken rejoinders.

All of these blurbles were for places listed at over $750k...

By-the-by: I am available to take decent photo's photographs, and write decent copy, for $150 per listing.

Public Killarney area. Covered sundeck over the single garage

Are they selling public land in the parks now? And, how can a covered deck be a sundeck (sic)?

Updated kitchens, hardwood on Main Floor, all original, granite countertops, 4 bathrooms.

All original but for the granite counter tops. That's great! 50 year old furnaces, single-paned windows and leaking roofs are all the rage. So are granite counter tops (still?).

Hard to find mortgage helper downstairs with 2 bedrooms and den and 1 and half baths. Covered sundeck.

Huh? Practically every listing has a mortgage helper or two. Trouble is, they don't help the mortgage nearly enough. And there is that covered sundeck (sic) again. Is that blurb-speak for a car-port?

same European Owner many years

Yeah, so? Does that mean that you paid $119k in 1976 and I can hammer you down to $220k?

High-ceiling unfinished basement.

Grow-Op Alert!

Owner spent over $70,000 in renovations.

And we want sextuple that back!


So please don't! We had a drive-by last week.

Motivated Seller.

How motivated? 50% off list price?

& an entry door with a lock to make the house more secured.

That is a definite selling point! I can't tell you how many open houses I have been to that the door swung freely on its hinges!

new winds,

That's right. New winds. A hard wind's gonna blow.

Note: lower level suite rented for $750 per month. Price $769,000.00

So that's what? a more than 1000x multiplier? Investor alert!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

quelle choix

Oh my. I have $800k burning a whole in my pocket, and I have capitulated. The market can only go up - what with the Olympics, and all of this wet will surely cause the available land to shrink when it dries out.

So I decided to see what was in my range. Two caught my eye as possibilities.

This one (v649911) is great because it is right on Knight St., and that will make it easy to get to Richmond and the ferries, and the airport. That is important because I like to jet-set around the world, and take leisurely vacations in the Gulf Islands. I know that it is built well too, because it is older, and all the kinks will have been worked out already.

This one (v667863) caught my eye too. It's nice and close to the Trans Canada highway which will make it handy for my ski vacations in Whistler, and the wine-tasting tours in the Okanagan. The problem is that it is tucked away on a quiet street, and all that lovely landscaping is a bit of a bore. I'm kind of turned off by the well-written features sheet though. There must be something seriously wrong with the place with all that flowery writing, and the price, it's so low! And who wants three levels in their home? All those leaves on the trees indicate that it has been on the market since last fall at least. Obviously there is something wrong with it, or it would have sold with multiple offers in this smoking market.

Most people are as concerned about where they live as the home they live in. This lovely East Hastings property fulfills both requirements perfectly. Features include 3 bdrms up, mortgage helper suite below, 4 baths, a huge main level playroom, completely private & secure backyard w/ bountiful fruit trees. All this is set in a serene family neighbourhood w/ Templeton Community Centre just a block south w/ its pool, track & park. Schools abound. Only a block north you'll find locally-renowned Donald's Market, bakeries, green grocers, coffee shops, & restaurants. Plus only minutes to downtown or the #1. A truly wonderful combination of property, location & amenities.

It's a tough choice. They are the same price ($775k). Which would you take?

Monday, February 04, 2008

gotta go

I did this screen-grab (click to enlarge) for your edification (McLovin provided the link on a couple of local blogs). It's beautiful, and coming soon to a neighbourhood near you.

If you are facing or considering foreclosure, you're not alone.

Are you stressed out about your mortgage payments?
Do you have little or no equity in your home?
Have you had trouble trying to sell your house?
Is your home sinking under the waves of the real estate crash?
What if you could live payment free for up to 8 months or more and walk away without owing a penny?

Unshackle yourself today from a losing investment and use our proven method to Walk Away.
Then there is this:
Can't Pay Your Mortgage? Trash Your House and Leave

Wachovia's current losses in California are originating not from subprime buyers fallen on financial hardship, but from homeowners who can pay their cleverly structured loans but are just choosing a different fate. "They've been from people that have otherwise had the capacity to pay," a Wachovia spokesperson said on the call, "but have basically just decided not to because they feel like they've lost equity, value in their properties. It's hard to know right now, but we may have seen somewhat of an acceleration problem…as people have reached that conclusion."

But that is what things usually do when you drive them off a cliff: Accelerate, ever faster. The open secret about the current housing crisis is that it is almost wholly built upon debt, which is to say the opposite of money. Everyone owes everyone: American banks borrow money from overseas, structure bizarre loans at home for Americans, which are then sliced and diced into securities and sold back to the international debt markets. The whole thing is a feedback loop made of bills needing to be paid. The best-kept secret of the crisis, however, is that homeowners at the mercy of those greedy banks and lenders -- including Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo, who sold off his stock before the crisis to net a cool $290 million while the company's value shrank to practically nothing -- are bailing out and leaving the banks and lenders to sort out the mess of past-due notices themselves.
There is a lot more to the article, and links to stories from the people who make good money cleaning up the abandoned houses, which often are stripped of anything of value, and the contempt of the owners is evident in the feces left on carpets, in pools, etc.

I don't know that we will see that kind of behaviour here, but ya gotta wonder.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

war games

'Thousands' of troops pledged for 2010
Security to be a priority for Olympics, military official says
Derrick Penner, Vancouver Sun
Published: Thursday, January 31, 2008

VANCOUVER - The military is preparing to commit "thousands" of troops to ensure security at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

Pile said the 2010 Olympics are a "no-fail mission" for the military.

"It is our No. 1 domestic priority, and we will field the naval, air and land forces necessary to support it," he added.

Support, Pile said, will include such things as venue security, air, sea and land surveillance and logistical support.

I didn't know that the military could have domestic concerns - except in a state of emergency, or martial law. And I wonder what the "no-fail mission" really is...to kick hippy protesters' asses?
Canada was listed as the fifth most important "Christian" target behind the United States, United Kingdom, Spain, and Australia by al-Qaida in 2004, Canadian Lt.-Gen. Marc Dumais wrote in a report made public last spring.

The 2010 Olympics, his report said, "could offer opportunities for terrorists [international and domestic] and extremists to further their agendas," to attack Canada or other participating nations.

Pile, on Wednesday, would also not comment on...what the military is preparing to address in 2010.

He would only say the Armed Forces have made a threat assessment and will ensure they're capable of dealing with any potential changes in the future.

Some 12,350 RCMP, police and private security are also expected to be part of the Olympic security effort.

The Games' security budget has proved to be a controversial topic with the RCMP, last summer, admitting the $175 million established for Vancouver's Olympic bid will be inadequate for the security task.

Military observers have suggested the Armed Forces contribution alone could run in the half-billion-dollar range.

A RCMP report made public noted the integrated security unit is being asked to secure 100 venues and locations, almost five times the numbers spelled out in Vancouver's bid.

These guys must have read my prediction of the other day.

I do not like the sound of massive military, and para-military forces patrolling the streets of this fair city.

I'm moving to Montana soon...