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2013 real estate and economy predictions
December 31, 2012 5:27 PM   Subscribe

Garth Turner, the former politician and now cranky (but funny and more or less accurate) blogger opines on real estate and the economy for 2013.
posted by anothermug (26 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
I've linked to Turner's blog probably half a dozen times from here over the last few years, and read it regularly. His detractors argue that he's just a doomsayer and iconoclast, and a stopped clock is eventually right.

Me, I reckon he's been pretty much spot-on, and it should be astonishing (but sadly, isn't) what a distorted picture the Canadian media (at least until the last couple of months) paints of the real estate and overall economic situation there.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:52 PM on December 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


The problem with real estate in Canada is that there is no one market - there are only local markets, so it's difficult to get an overall picture of what's going on.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:02 PM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think everyone can agree that the Toronto condo market, at least, is going to pop sooner rather than later. I can't believe that there are enough people willing to move to this city to make the skyline look like this.

Besides which, the condos are built so cheap, with concrete balcony radiator fins and soon-to-leak, totally un-shaded glass wall construction...
posted by anthill at 10:08 PM on December 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


KokuRyu,

Yes. I'm tuned to hear 'Toronto condo market' when I hear 'Canadian real estate'. Myself, both my wife and I are professionals who have pensioned public sector jobs in Victoria. We're 37 and have two small children, so well in the 'fucked' category, if you believe him. We own a house right near Oak Bay Village, I'm mortgaged to the tits (about $550K left to go on a house that's probably worth $615-$620K). I'm floating at 2.15%. Am I worried? No. It will be painful if my rate goes to 5%, but I can't see that happening without the corresponding US recovery and inflation well over 2% consistently. It's not happening for a while, and meanwhile I'm paying $1200/month to principal.

SFH in Victoria/Vancouver isn't going anywhere anytime soon. It's land value that causes the high prices, and in the warmest place in one of the best economies in the world with an abundance of single family houses so close to the core it's not really the houses that are overvalued - it's that the land is underused and has been protected by a lack of political will to infill these inner city neighbourhoods with higher density, more affordable housing.

If you're worried about year-over-year in the real estate market....well...that sounds like a baby boomer talking. Fuck I hate these jerks with a bunch of money and a paid off mortgage looking down their noses at us 'wasting the year by paying off 2% house mortgages'. Fuck you. I have kids and I'm trying to give them a good life. It wasn't me who ran the market up. I had to get two degrees to do the job that you did with one, work my ass off to be where I wanted only to buy a house that's twice as much as when you did.
posted by jimmythefish at 11:42 PM on December 31, 2012 [7 favorites]


The problem with real estate in Canada is that there is no one market - there are only local markets, so it's difficult to get an overall picture of what's going on.

It is a truism that real estate is local, but the systemic changes in this decade-long runup in Canada means that even though the fallout will reach varying depths in different places (the Maritimes are not as exposed as Vancouver or Victoria or Kelowna or Toronto, for some examples), there's still a Major Event that's just getting underway, and it's going to have an impact everywhere.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:44 PM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


there's still a Major Event that's just getting underway, and it's going to have an impact everywhere.

Even Turner calls it a 15% correction. I hardly see this as being a 'major event'. People point to the income:debt ratio as a predictor, but I'd argue that it's much better mortgage debt than the US had. My income:debt ratio is huge right now, but I own land in Victoria. I don't own a ghost that's been leveraged on a bogus future value like what happened in the US. There aren't the same mechanisms at work here. Land has historically been undervalued and things are changing.

Take a look at real estate prices in Paris. Crazy right? Is there a bubble there too?
posted by jimmythefish at 11:51 PM on December 31, 2012


His detractors argue that he's just a doomsayer and iconoclast, and a stopped clock is eventually right.

They argue that because he keeps making the same predictions year-in year-out. Last year's predictions are right here: the condo market crumbling (hasn't happened yet), house prices collapsing (nope), asset prices falling (nope), the Bank of Canada hiking interest rates (hasn't happened yet), and the markets will be volatile but a diverse portfolio will see you through it (this is barely even a prediction).

It doesn't take a genius to say "look, eventually the Canadian housing market will eventually have to drop its prices in order to survive, and interest rates will have to be hiked" because no fucking shit, okay? Reading long-term macroeconomic trends isn't that hard. But Turner's schtick is to pretend he's the only person who realizes this and then claim that this is the year it's all going to go tits-up and you'd better be prepared. That's why he gets called out for being a doomsayer: because he claims to predict the future. Except he's not really any good at it.
posted by mightygodking at 12:01 AM on January 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


Here's his predictions from the end of 2008.

As the saying goes, Garth Turner has predicted 12 out of the last 3 housing market drops.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 12:25 AM on January 1, 2013 [11 favorites]


There will not be another 2008 in this generation as Europe has a further year of stabilization, the US economy grows, unemployment falls, American house prices and sales rise and corporate profitability augments

He's wrong about that. He is just wrong. 2008 was a direct consequence of the bailouts of 2000, and 2000 was a direct consequence of the bailouts of the mid-90s. There will be more bubbles and more pops and more destruction, because that's what printing money does. Liquidity seeks inflation, and exacerbates it, causing bubbles and collapses.

Each new bailout/inflation/collapse cycle gets bigger. Eventually, we will transition from 'too big to fail' to 'too big to save'.
posted by Malor at 12:30 AM on January 1, 2013


I can't see Victoria experiencing a correction for residential real estate. We live on an island, and are surrounded on three sides by water, with mountains to the north. The economy is doing fine, with very low unemployment. Condos, on the other hand, are going to slow down - they are slowing down. The Duet project in my neighbourhood has stalled after a tremendous amount of hype. I'm just thankful the Union project at the foot of Discard is still chugging along.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:33 AM on January 1, 2013


But Turner's schtick is to pretend he's the only person who realizes this and then claim that this is the year it's all going to go tits-up and you'd better be prepared.

Well, no, it really isn't. But shrug. I have no skin in the game in Canada, and will continue to watch and wait.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:20 AM on January 1, 2013


As the saying goes, Garth Turner has predicted 12 out of the last 3 housing market drops.

I have an ex-colleague who hangs on Turner's every word and is always sending his posts out and repeating his wisdom back to the rest of us. If I hear the words "preferred shares" once more my eyes will roll out of my head. He has been looking to by a house for years here in Toronto but is waiting for the big crash GT is always predicting. Meanwhile the house I bought despite my friend's dire warnings has increased in value such that even if it were to reduce by 50% at this point (beyond anything even Garth predicts I think) I'd still be in good shape, not that it makes any difference to us anyway as we're not moving.

It's great to be risk averse and well read but I am very wary of the enthusiasm of these doom-mongers rubbing their hands together. I am Irish and used to have friends who subscribed to and read The Property Pin - a the-end-is-nigh property forum in Ireland - and their delight, glee, and gloating when the bubble there finally popped (despite their friends and family being in a world of pain which most of them are still in) was pretty ugly. I know Garth and his commenters will be the same.
posted by jamesonandwater at 5:22 AM on January 1, 2013


The condo market in Toronto isn't as fragile as everyone thinks it is, simply because it's not a market for buyers; it's a market for renters. There has been pretty much zero rental housing built in Toronto in the last 20 years. Most new condos end up with 40-50% their units rented out. The demand is so strong that even the current pace of construction isn't keeping up.

Plus, the choices in the Toronto area are pretty stark: live in a condo in a dynamic neighbourhood with good transit, or a remote cookie cutter subdivision on the suburban fringe. More and more young people are indifferent to car ownership so a condo is the logical choice.

Unlike the US in the aughts, the things fueling the demand for condos aren't illusory. Canada doesn't have NINA loans.

As for Turner, in the same post he says that condo dwellers won't be able to afford to "upgrade" to single family homes because of their falling equity, while simultaneously saying retiring boomers will flood the market with single family homes in their attempts to downsize. Give me a break.
posted by dry white toast at 5:53 AM on January 1, 2013


The thing that killed residential real estate was easy credit; loans going to people who shouldn't get them, and so on. That doesn't mean that the urbanization trends that have been holding for the last century are going to stop or that people who can buy something won't. Cities like Toronto are a lot less likely to have a bubble pop than cities built on suburban models.

I don't doubt that some of those condo towers won't get built—permitting is a long and painful process—but I doubt it'll be because of lack of demand.
posted by sonic meat machine at 6:36 AM on January 1, 2013


Born in the Seventies? Too bad. A grovely economy with imperceptible job growth...

The *what* economy now?
posted by rodii at 7:54 AM on January 1, 2013


I'll believe that Toronto's housing market is going to pop - and I'm talking a real pop, not a wimpy 2% or whatever reduction like we had a few years ago - when it actually happens. I've been reading these predictions (by Turner and many other people) for going on ten years. There aren't even enough houses/apartments for people to rent, let alone buy.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:48 AM on January 1, 2013


Take a look at real estate prices in Paris.

As Garth would say - Victoria ain't Paris.
posted by davey_darling at 11:25 AM on January 1, 2013


As Garth would say - Victoria ain't Paris.

I never said it was.
posted by jimmythefish at 12:26 PM on January 1, 2013


I totally understand people's reticence to put much stock in Turner; there is a strong boy-who-cried-wolf aspect there, and, as mentioned, the doomer-brigade commenters he attracts are distasteful at best. That said, there's no shortage of analysis out there that supports his contentions (even if they've been pretty woefully ill-timed -- it's a valid criticism that if he keeps saying long enough that things will implode, he'll eventually be right, even if I tend to think he's been right all along, and it's just that the whole continuing runup has been more insane than anyone could have predicted, and the deflation really should have started long ago) that the prices of domestic RE in much of Canada has risen (against all logic) to an unsustainable level.

There is quite a lot of credible support for this: here are just a few examples from the Economist and The Globe and Mail to analysts like Pacifica Partners and Leith Wheeler.

For my part, I'm interested in numbers over anecdata when it comes to this kind of thing, and the numbers tell a pretty clear story. Like Turner, I've been expecting the break downwards to happen for a while, and constantly been amazed when it hasn't and the frothy foolishness continued.

The numbers seem to indicate at this point that the unwinding has actually begun, though. We shall see.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:40 PM on January 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


SFH in Victoria/Vancouver isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

It already is, at least in Vancouver.

You simply cannot indefinitely sustain a median home price of over $1,000,000 when the average household makes less than $70,000. The zero-down and cash-back mortgages are gone, as are the CMHC-insured mortgages with amortizations of 40, 35, and 30 years. Not only is the government no longer pulling out all of the stops to keep housing prices rising, it's pushing a few back in.

I don't own a ghost that's been leveraged on a bogus future value like what happened in the US.

Real values of real estate can't rise above what people can afford in the long term. Incomes in Victoria haven't gone up nearly as much in the past ten years as housing, and it doesn't look like the provincial or federal governments are going on a spending spree anytime soon.

The idea that desire equals demand is silly. It's desire plus money. It doesn't matter if a billion more people want to buy a house in Toronto if none of them make enough money to spend $400,000 on it.

delight, glee, and gloating when the bubble there finally popped (despite their friends and family being in a world of pain which most of them are still in)

The damage to their friends and family was done during the runup, not the correction.

Unlike the US in the aughts, the things fueling the demand for condos aren't illusory. Canada doesn't have NINA loans.

If only. What do you call it when mortgages can be more than one of: stated-income, zero-down, and cash-back? It's a good thing that this was tightened up over the summer. The banks are still all too happy to lend you enough rope to hang yourself with because they won't take the loss; CMHC will.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 9:58 PM on January 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


My income:debt ratio is huge right now, but I own land in Victoria.

Replace "Victoria" with "Miami" and I can see why people say that Canada is just like the U.S., but five years behind.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 10:01 PM on January 1, 2013


I just enjoyed the wall of Canadian financial shibboleths. Toronto's condo market will indeed eventually pop but it remains to be seen whether that has any broader impact.
posted by GuyZero at 10:29 PM on January 1, 2013


Replace "Victoria" with "Miami" and I can see why people say that Canada is just like the U.S., but five years behind.

There is nothing similar between the two. There's very little housing speculation in Victoria - I own one house, on one city property. Not four. We're in a pretty conventional lending environment at the moment - and I see the drop in prices corresponding with the change from 30 to 25 year amortizations. If there were a bubble, it would have had a much more elastic effect on pricing and we would be seeing a bit of a crash. This is not happening.

The difference between what happened in the States and, say, Victoria or Vancouver is that there is real demand for housing in the core as opposed to demand for housing created by speculation. Land values are way too high to support SFH that close to the downtown. The way you come out from under the unsustainable housing prices isn't reducing the prices - it's creating higher-density, more affordable housing in the core. They're trying to do this but politically it's very difficult to touch inner-city SFH in Canada. It'll change, but slowly.
posted by jimmythefish at 7:28 AM on January 2, 2013


There is nothing similar between the two.

Other than the fundamental factor driving up housing prices—access to easy and cheap credit. It's spectacularly easy to buy a house with other people's money. (This applies equally to the land and the structures on it.)

This doesn't fix the underlying problem, though. From 2006 to 2010, housing prices in Victoria went up 32.7%. Household incomes only went up 8.8%. And as I've noted above, it doesn't look like the average Victorian will suddenly make a lot more money anytime soon.

Abnormally high housing prices are sucking money out of the actually productive economy. Prices returning to historic norms is a good thing overall, even if it's not good for every individual.

If there were a bubble, it would have had a much more elastic effect on pricing and we would be seeing a bit of a crash.

That change was only made in July, and the ban on cash-back mortgages was only in November. Nobody's housing bubble popped over a weekend. It's not different in Canada.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 8:01 AM on January 2, 2013


Whoops, meant to address this also:

The difference between what happened in the States and, say, Victoria or Vancouver is that there is real demand for housing in the core

With median household incomes in Vancouver and Victoria increasing, respectively, at 1.6% and 2.1% annually, there has not been a huge jump in demand backed by the purchasers' income; it's largely borrowed. That's not real, sustainable demand. (I might like to live in Vancouver, but that doesn't mean I have the money to do so. Neither does the average Vancouverite.)
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 8:08 AM on January 2, 2013


Cooling house market could undercut retirement plans
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 5:40 AM on January 8, 2013


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