Tuesday, November 10, 2009


So, we've hit the century mark! A big day in a blogs life, much like drinking your first beer, or discovering masturbation... not that I have any particular memories of either of those events, nor will I of this, but it's a milestone none the less.

Whodathunk someone with no particular ability to write, even less influence, and nothing especially interesting to say would fill so many pages?! Well, actually that pretty much describes most bloggers, so maybe I'm not so bad. After a little drifting early on, I like to think I fell into a groove and have carved out a nice little niche for myself in the blogosphere.

It's been about ten months, and a quite eventful ten months... yet it seems nothing has really been solved and the future is just as uncertain now as it was then. My perhaps naive and optimistic hope that we'd just accept that economic pain was coming and try to get it over with quickly proved politically undesirable.

Why flush out all the toxins in one fell swoop and get on with rebuilding, when you can dump money on the problems, make the short-term less worse all the while making the longer-term much more-so?! Really that could be said for our financial mess and the housing situation.

As per housing here, prices and sales plummeted, then prices rallied and sales soared. If you ever doubted the influence of interest rates on the housing market, you'll probably never see another period as good as the last six months to witness the effects of interest rates in a vacuum.

People went out en masse and were suddenly buying houses as a record clip, while incomes certainly weren't improving and prices were in the same range as just a few months earlier when sales were at record lows... all during the biggest recession since The Great Depression. Amazing what interest rates dropping can do, huh?!

Of course that shot my predictions for the year all to hell, but I knew that as soon as rates started getting slashed. I guess I should have took heed of that old economists mantra, "if you give a number, don't give a date... if you give a date, don't give a number". Oh well, doesn't seem economists heed it either.

In any case, my long term stance that we're overpriced remains, and that prices will eventually return to affordability. The trip is just going to be longer, and thanks to another wave of over-leveraged first time buyers that got swept up this summer, more painful.

I guess if there was one group of real winners of the resurgence in my opinion, they were the builders holding excess stock, this gave them one more chance to clear it out. There was a real big glut there and this would have helped flush at least part of it out. Though there still does appear to be apply attached inventory still out there, large portions of entire developments continue to show up occasionally on the multiple listings service.

Not sure anyone else is going benefit much from it in the long run. The problem that got us into the mess was too much debt, and we seemingly doubled down on it in an attempt to re-inflate the bubble. It worked short-term sure, but long term it's just made all the problems that much worse.

Whatever good effect that was experienced on the inventory front, will more than be erased by the resulting increase in defaults that will come. Lending standards have already been stripped, so many of these first timers were those that couldn't even qualify for financing before, thus required the low bar AND incredibly low rates to get in. Now we have a whole new wave of foreclosures waiting to happen, what was likely going to be at least a moderate problem before will very likely become a big problem in the coming years.

Of course interest rates aren't local, and neither was the '09 real estate boom, it was nationwide. In a lot of markets things just went wild... in Toronto for example the average price rose over 23% from January to October ($343,632 to $423,559). Many cities hitting all time highs as irrational exuberance reigned supreme. Misery loves company, now we have even more!

We here in Edmonton are actually sitting about the same as we were in January pricewise, perhaps lucky we had such a large glut of inventory saved us from returning to the multiple-offer/bidding wars that were all so common place during the run-up.

While little solace for those who bought recently when prices inevitably start to fall again, but it could have been worse. Fortunately our major boom had already played out, who knows the heights the may have been reached if we were still in the run-up, rather than two years removed.

The rocketing of real estate prices across the country became so pronounced, as the fall arrived the dreaded "bubble" words started to be bandied about in the major publications. Even some big players in political circles have acknowledged it, and no surprise the onset of finger pointing soon kicked off with Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney calling out lenders.

As this thing unravels there will be more, lots more. As to who's to blame, we'll leave that for another day as I'm already running long. So buckle up guys and gals, it's gonna be a bumpy ride... and I have a feeling we'll be celebrating many more century marks along the way.

Signing off,