Monday, September 12, 2011

Our housing bubble "bound to burst"

One of the greatest complaints in the local blogosphere is that our mainstream media seems so beholden to the Real Estate industry because of the tremendous revenue stream they deliver via advertising.

That's why an article on Friday in the Vancouver daily newspaper, The Province, is such a pleasant surprise.

Saying what the blogosphere has known now for several years, The Province headlined "Housing Bubble Bound to Burst: When it does, the result isn't going to be pretty, economist says"
  • With fresh signs from the Bank of Canada that interest rates will stay lower for longer, Canada's still-hot housing market has many of the hallmarks of the U.S. situation just a few years ago.

    House prices dipped during the recession, but bounced straight back and have kept climbing since. And homebuyers are taking on record debt to buy houses at historically high prices.

    When interest rates eventually rise, some forecasters warn the result isn't going to be pretty. "Our view is that we are in a housing bubble, that housing prices have risen very sharply over the last 10 years, and that there is a big disconnect between housing prices and fundamentals, including interest rates," said David Madani, an economist at Capital Economics in Toronto.

    "It really does look like a housing bubble that will have a very unhappy ending."
Now the economist making this prediction is David Madani of Capital Economics.  We have profiled Madani before and these statements are consistent with comments made earlier this year.

What is so surprising is to see one of Vancouver's two main daily newspapers headlining the news is such dramatic fashion.

The article notes what I believe will become a crucial point in the coming years when the collapse is well underway:
  • "The government, fretting about high debt levels, is working to engineer [a]  soft landing with tighter rules for government-backed insured mortgages that took effect in March. The changes cap mortgage terms at 30 years rather than 35 and cut the amount homeowners could borrow against their homes to 85%  from 90%."
The Government is aware.  We have seen that in the comments of both Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.

Benjamin Tal, senior economist at CIBC World Markets says what is becoming the accepted wisdom on our current housing bubble:
  • "In order to crash you need two preconditions: a huge increase in rates as in 1991, which is unlikely, and a subprime type situation, namely very low-quality mortgages."
The faith in low interest rates is tied to the worsening economic climate and level of sovereign debt. For 20 years now we have enjoyed artificially low interest rates to support the economy.

Faith in this going forward is folly but not as much folly as what Tal the Province article closed with:
  • "Canada's national banks are more conservative lenders than America's fractured regional banks were, and there is virtually no sub-prime market, where riskier borrowers end up paying higher rates. Mortgage interest is not tax-deductible, so the incentive to buy a home is less. And a large slice of the mortgage market is insured by the government."
We have covered the folly of this extensively.  CMHC has enabled the lending through our banks and there most certainly sub prime borrowers out there... and in numbers that we believe will be proven to be far greater than in America.

So while it is pleasing to see the media cover the fact that this bubble will burst, it is disappointing to see the primary cause of the collapse continue to be justified.

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  1. Europe is burning to the ground!!

    The European banks are in severe trouble. Here are some of the percentage losses of the major banks in Europe:

    Deutsche Bank( Germany's largest bank) down 8% today.
    Societe Generale (the second biggest bank in France) down 11%
    BNParibas (France's largest bank) down 11%
    Credit Agriole: (France's third largest bank) down 12%
    Nation Bank of Greece down 7%

    watch your wallet..

  2. If Canadian Banks are more conservative and Canadian consumers are more prudent than their American counterparts, I would like to see Benjamin Tal explain how Canadian households have more debt than the American households?

  3. Yah, and the fool will change his song and tell you that - "...debt size don't matter as long as debtors can service it..."