Saturday, August 30, 2008

bill's overdue

Do we need some tragi-comic relief?

Well, maybe a trip down memory lane to January 31st of this year, when semi-anonymous bill left the nuggets quoted below, along with some other stuff about how he bought a place by borrowing the down payment from his parents, and it will only go up, and he will never lose his job, and the economy is solid, and other stuff like that. He promised to come back in the summer, and he only has 19 days left to do so.

I've got a crow on the barbie for him, and he is overdue. The crow is pretty well smoked too.
Anonymous said...
Anyways, enough of my ramblings. I will leave you boys alone to discuss *when* the market will crash, as you all have been for the past few years. Must be like waiting for paint to dry, eh?

1/31/2008 12:02 AM
Anonymous said...
PS: Please remember my posts. Really. Please do. My name's Bill. I will check back in the summertime, when things get *ugly*, as you say. Haha. In the meantime, keep posting, keep the ideas flowing, and never forget - there's two sides to every coin.

I have not forgotten your posts Bill. What a sexist! In assuming that we are all "boys" here, you excluded mk-kids, and a lot of other women. Good luck with the girls, you swinging bachelor, you.

Oh, and Bill, the paint is peeling off the facade.

Heads I win, tails you lose.

"W" is for Winner (or wiener).

Friday, August 29, 2008


I've been as busy as the bees captured above; hence the dearth of posting. It's not just the usual vagaries of life, diapers and baths, and paying bills, and all of that, I have been immersed in other studies (besides real estate) as well.

I'm a political junkie, and have been for many years (thanks, Grandma!). I have belonged to no party, and never will, and can swing either way, though as I get older, I tend to "dress to the left" more and more. I guess that I just am becoming mellow with age. Anyhow, there is an interesting situation coming to a head in our own Canadian politics, and I have been plunged into that (from a reading/time perspective).

I have been unsettled for quite some time (years), but now, am more so. I'm not going to turn this into a political blog (just yet), but it is the big picture that I look at, and it seems more tenuous daily. I feel that real estate is going to be one of our biggest problems, while at the same time, the least of our worries in the next few years. I fear that it is going to get much more basic than stainless steel and granite, and flippers and pre-sales.

My fascination with politics tends more to our own, but I also keep an eye towards global politics. I've had much less of an understanding of global affairs (generally hindsight), but feel that it is important to keep an eye on them. The US situation will always affect us here - and no wonder, it affects the whole world - but it is truly fascinating these days. I don't root for anyone, so much as revile the worst of two evils, but this coming election in the US in November is one of those cross roads of history, I believe, and not because Obama is a "black man", though that aspect is pivotal on the long run. I don't delve too deep, but I see little difference between the policies of the two front runners. What would thrill me, is if the likes of Ron Paul or Ralph Nader won. In the state that the US is in (serendipitous pun welcomed), either would be better for the country, and the world. I worry about what mischief Bush will get up too before January 2009.

I started reading Linda McQuaig's book The Cult of Impotence, and, whoa. It makes Dark Age Ahead look like The Sound of Music. I have not got that far into it yet, but it rather starkly confirms a lot of my weary (and wearying) rants about serfdom, etc. This excerpt greeted me in the first few pages :
AN EXPERT...on CBC Radio's "Sunday Morning"...Dr. Ian Angell, the London School of Economics, is explaining how most of the working population will soon be redundant.

"Isn't there an economic cost to writing off the world's workers?" asks host Ian Brown.

The question suggests that Brown has bought the basic parameters of the debate: that we discuss only economic cost. Brown is asking:

How does the unemployment of most of the world's population fit society's basic business plan? No one mentions human cost. Still, the question doesn't suit Dr. Angell. Impatience is detectable in his voice. "This requires a total rethinking of the institutions of the industrial age. You must throw them away;' says Dr. Angell..."All your thinking has to be different'

As the interview progresses, Brown becomes increasingly sceptical... His questions reveal that he's struggling to see how all this unemployment helps ordinary people.

Answer: it doesn't,

But that's not the issue...

An emboldened Ian Brown asks something about how people are to survive. Dr. Angell is getting a touch irritated with these repetitive questions about human needs. Brown just doesn't seem to get it, The point is that we're in a brand-new age, the information age. Technology and globalisation have made all these questions about human needs irrelevant. That's part of yesterday's menu. Today, simply watch as the technological juggernaut rolls on, squashing our needs.

"Is this a world you look forward to?" asks Brown, trying to make some sense of it all.

"That's neither here nor there;' responds Dr. Angell.

"Is there some way we can stop this?" Brown asks anxiously. Is there nothing we can do to avoid this dark future?"

That's when Dr. Angell snaps. "That question reflects the thinking of the machine age" he says curtly.

Hold it. Let's play that again slowly. This line is more subversive than it first appears. It is perhaps as subversive a thought as it is possible to have. Dr. Angell is saying it's just that we can't change things, but we can't even think about the possibility of changing things; to do so is to engage in old-style thinking.

So, it's not just that we're powerless to stop being pushed over the edge of the cliff in the new global world order. But to even try to prevent ourselves from being pushed over the cliff is a sign of regressive thinking.

The new way of thinking, as outlined by Dr. Angell, requires acceptance of powerlessness, resignation to a world without solutions - a world of inaction and helplessness. That democratic impulse to assert one's rights must be contained, thwarted, rendered mute and inoperative. Never mind the democratic impulse. It's actually the human impulse that's at stake here. The human impulse to act, to build, to create, to improve, to shape our lives, to use our brains to do better. It's called being alive.

It's just got to go.
There is much more, I have just started reading, but pulling back, and applying these words to our life today, it makes one see how we got to where we are, with the mindlessness of people chasing clouds and faeries today (the book was first published in 1998). All the power of the media has been focused on people's abnegation of common sense and personal determination. "We must buy a POS before we are priced out forever", etc.

There are 117 banks in danger of collapsing in the US at present, with more to come. Trillions in debt needing servicing, and the money is becoming ever scarcer. This is what McQuaig's book is really about (as far as I can discern so far), the power of money, and the powerlessness of governments to make sure their citizens lead a decent life, let alone on an individual level.

It has been a tough week, and I have been doing some tough reading, thus my somewhat dejected outlook right now. I'm finding it hard to be passionate, or even interested in RE these days. Hopefully, the weekend will refresh me.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

she's come undone

She's come off the rails, and it doesn't look like it's going to be a slow-motion train wreck. Everything is looking down from here.

Calgary had a major project cancelled on Friday. I read a snide comment somewhere wondering if Calgary had run out of oil. Infinity Towers in Vancouver sounds rather uncertain, and anecdotal to what I read over at Rob Chipman's, sales prices are dropping in the double digits. The smart ones have bailed already, and the hangers-on are starting to catch on. Throw in Death, Divorce, Transfer, and add a dollop of economic downturn and unemployment, and things are looking grim for the last fools out.

Sheesh, even mohican got metrics to work for him, and bought at a twenty percent discount.

Yee-haw! I'm looking forward to the autumn apocalypse.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

broaken dreems

I heard a piece on CBC Radio today about Brian Howell, who has been taking photographs of abandoned houses in Surrey. At first, I was wondering at why there were abandoned houses in Surrey; is it really that bad in there? Has the market really melted down, and it just escaped my attention? Upon reading the article (linked above), I realized that it was old (1950s, and '60s, and '70s) houses - on large lots that were being subdivided to build a bunch of small houses.

It is poignant to look at the photographs though - at one time, these were brand-new houses that people were proud to build and own. 50 years of Christmases, Hanukkahs, Easters, Diwalis, whatevers, birthday parties, first kisses and gropes in dark basements, fights, divorces, deaths, births, grandparents and kittens. Good grief, I'm getting maudlin and overly sentimental...

Really though, it's just about densification -
The population of Surrey is approaching 420,000. The city gains 1,000 to 1,500 new residents each month. Within 20 years, Surrey's population will be greater than Vancouver's.,
and houses are not (yet) being abandoned by distressed RE debtors.

That comes later.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

fud (edited for accuracy)

I can't make any sense of anything anymore. Everything that I read says something different. Over at Rob Chipman's, there are some claiming that prices are down 15%, while The Financial Post says "The result was Vancouver home prices actually fell 1% in July from a year earlier...with an average price of $575,256.".

So, varying numbers, depending on what one reads. The only number I pay attention to is an MLS search for houses between $300K-$400K in all of East Vancouver. There is still only one, which I reported last week - V726309 - $335K on a 55 x 37.22 lot. Rented out at $945/month, an investor only stands to subsidise the rent by $1505/month (with 5% down). Wow! What a deal. I don't really plan on spending that much money when I do buy a place, but $400K was my drop-out level on the way up, and I won't be grabbing at any knives on the way down. When I can buy a renovated Craftsman bungalow in the Commercial Dr. area for $300K, I will be thinking we are near bottom. Unless, of course, there is a cataclysmic meltdown of some type, and then, none of us will be thinking much of buying anything.

I have been thinking of physical gold and silver lately, and that is kind of weird, as I am pretty leery of commodities. Maybe I'm just fatigued by it all. Gold is down some 20% since Rubberbladder was pumping it a while ago, and the US$ is inexplicably up. I read an interesting article on the subject of the US$,
Economists who now see American troubles spreading around the world are predicting that foreign central banks will ignore the gathering inflation threat and follow the Fed down the rate cutting path. Similarly, they argue that since the downturn began here, the U.S. recovery will likely be underway while the rest of world is still decelerating. These assumptions have prompted a rally in the dollar, a sell-off in gold, commodities and foreign stocks, and have cast doubts on the ability of foreign economies to “decouple” from the United States. Investors should not take the bait.
Read the whole thing if you are interested. This article on gold was interesting, stating that the US Mint has suspended gold coin sales. From the article;
The suspension is overwhelming evidence that the futures contract price of gold on the commodities exchanges is substantially below the physical market price and that, indeed, the commodities exchanges are being used as GATA long has maintained -- as part of a massive scheme of manipulation of the precious metals, currency, and bond markets.
I just can't make any sense of all of this gobbledy-gook. It is just FUD, to me.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

the view from here

Things still look stoopid out there. Prices and quality are all over the place. I gave up on trying to keep track of asking prices for comparison a while ago, I just don't care that much. My new criteria for judging how things are going is to do a search in the whole of East Vancouver for places under $400K. I found one today; MLS V726307 It's a crack shack on a 55' x 37.22' lot for $335,000. Monthly payment (with 5% down) is $ 2,450, Household Income Required $ 91,866. Great deal for that high school principal. The adjacent lot is for sale as well, and I presume for much the same price, so a 110' x 75' lot will cost you less than $700K! Don't worry about the dubious address, something good will happen.

I have noticed that I don't get the flyers in my door telling me that such and such agent has a buyer for my house (whether it's for sale, or not), and I don't get the free note pads from William Wat and his cohorts anymore. The heady days of lots of paper for shopping lists are over. A free note pad to whomever can guess what the picture above is!

My neighbour had her flipper house for sale for the high $800's, for a couple of months with no bites. She cannot sell it for less without losing money. It doesn't show up on MLS anymore, though the "For Sale" sign is still up. It is now some kind of rooming house that violates the zoning. I am not a jerk enough to complain to the city, and it's kind of cool living next to a rabbit warren anyhow.

It is getting easier to spot flipper houses, the prices don't seem to drop, and they sit empty. People are reporting serious price drops over at the cool blogs like the pope's and Rob Chipman's, but I don't follow individual places closely enough to comment. I still see some old favourites on MLS, but I can't make comparisons to 3 months, or 6 months, or longer ago. Could be a slow bleed. We will have to wait for the economy to worsen. Or, not!

It sure looks like down from here. I heard it on the news!


The picture is of the interior of a plastic watering can with the setting sun high-lighting the tulip pattern embossed on the side. I dunno, there is something poignant about the setting sun, black holes, tulips, RE... I just played with it a bit.

tony danza and blue skies came closest in the contest (the only ones! sheesh!), in that their conjectures involved aqueous solutions.

Unfortunately, the contest is now over, and no note pad prizes were awarded.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

monkeys and money

Tom Waits interviews himself on NPR, and leaves us with this pearl;
Q: What's wrong with the world?
A: We are buried beneath the weight of information, which is being confused with knowledge; quantity is being confused with abundance and wealth with happiness. Leona Helmsley's dog made $12 million last year... and Dean McLaine, a farmer in Ohio, made $30,000. It's just a gigantic version of the madness that grows in every one of our brains. We are monkeys with money and guns.
Yeah, so, whatever that means, Tom. Your hazmanhatten is a treble clef.

I watched a re-run of The Passionate Eye last night, in which it stated that there were 2 million families in the US whose houses were in foreclosure. That was in October 2007. At ~ 2.4 kids per family, that is around 9 million people "out on the street". That is a huge number of people. Add on the people who were displaced (oh, so gentle and sanitized a term) by Hurricane Katrina, and the smell of civil unrest begins to permeate. Of course, that has nothing to do with us here. We have the moun...the Olym...the weath...running out o..., well, you know... We're special.

anon. left a link to the Seattle meltdown in the comments section of the last post (go look, I'm too inebriated to provide a a link - just kidding about the inebriation), and I particularly liked the reduction on this one;
Total Loss: $132,000 Percent Loss: 19.4%
Asking Price: $548,000
Bedrooms:3 Baths: 2.5 Sq. feet:1888

Previous Sales:
Sold on 2008-04-25 for $680,000
Sold on 2007-02-26 for $1,850,000

Some of the numbers don't quite jive, the listing detail says that it was built in 2008, but the sale of February 2007 says that it sold for $1.85 million, and it is now listed for $548K. That's about a 70% reduction from peak, by my quick math. Yikes!

Last week this reckless, classless little blog got the most visitors in one day, ever, as far as I know. I don't pay too much attention to those numbers, but it made me curious; was it some kind of notoriety, or infamy, for my part in taking out a blog that spewed more nonsense than I do?, or is the general populace exhibiting a sense of the trembling of the tectonic shift in their "net (if un-actualized) worth" - vis-a-vis their RE holdings, and checking the Interwovennet for anything with the term Real Estate in it? I guess they did not read the (un)real part of the blog title. Did they read that 40 Year/0% down contract comprehensively?

Something about Waits' allusion to monkeys and money starts to become more clear.

The keyboard has been drinking, not me...

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

shrink wrap

I feel like my head is shrinking. Mrs. solipsist calls it baby-head, I call it brain dead.

The blogging pool has shrunk, a bunch of bears chased a disingenuous realtor off the web, which was never my intention, but c'est la vie. There is a lot of talk of this being a buyers' market, but I don't see it that way. I see it as being a faltering market teetering on the brink. It is not even a balanced market according to Rob Chipman.

The CBC has been reporting that sale prices have shrunk 2.1% over last year - erp, that is since May./edit This morning I heard Cameron Muir being interviewed, and he had the regular spin-sheet in front of him, from what I could hear (li'l solipsist was making a racket). I also heard the head of Freddie Mac throwing out some astonishing numbers, and contending that the US market is only half way to the bottom. It's a good thing that Vancouver is not subject to market cycles, and...oh, wait, sale prices are down YOY, and inventory is way up. Ah well, it's a buyers' market now, and prices are as low as they will go.

CBC Newsworld had an item the other night about the treatment of Beijing residents in the run-up to their Olympic Games. There has been a lot of squawking in Vancouver about SROs being converted ahead of our Games, and their tenants being evicted, but it is nothing compared to what has happened in China's capitol. Something like a million people have had their homes bulldozed, and they have been turfed out without any compensation. Businesses are not immune either, with many being forcibly shut down so that the marathon runners do not have to look at them as they run by. Beijing has been gutted. It could be a lot worse here if we had a totalitarian government.

India's economy is reversing and shrinking (and China's probably is too). The demand for oil has been shrinking, and along with it, the bbl price. Tourism is shrinking, but the gas prices at the pumps are not. When the bbl price of oil goes up, the prices at the pumps go up within 24 hours, but even with decreased demand, higher than expected fuel inventories, and the bbl price down over 20%, our pump price is just slightly less than it was when oil was trading at almost $150/bbl. We are being screwed, as usual.

Air Canada, Bell, GM, Ford, forestry, etc., have all been shrinking their work forces, and a lot of people are out of their jobs. The plywood mill that burned down in Prince George will not be rebuilt, and hundreds of jobs there are lost. I suppose that the demand for plywood has been shrinking too, with the demand in the States having shrunk so much.

I was considering shrink wrapping this blog, what with my available time to read, think and write having shrunk so much, but I am loathe to do so, with things just starting to get interesting.

I caught this shrunken house in my perambulations, and thought to share it here. There is something about it that makes me think of the future of Vancouver RE.

Everything shrinks.