Monday, July 23, 2012

They say all advertising is good advertising... how about a little notoriety?

'There's no such thing as bad publicity.' 

It's a famous phrase often associated with Phineas T. Barnum, the 19th century American showman and circus owner. Barnum was a self-publicist of the first order and never missed an opportunity to present his wares to the public.

The idea that no publicity can do harm is clearly open to question.

For someone seeking notoriety and a somewhat scandalous reputation, like Mae West in days gone by, or Paris Hilton in our era, that may be true.

Realtors often crave notoriety though. How else do you explain the antics of Cam Good or Ian Watt?

And certainly Watt has leveraged the car cam and youtube to that end.

So what happens when you set out to utilize youtube for attention and exposure, and you suddenly achieve a sudden surge of exactly what you were looking for... wouldn't it be cause to celebrate?

On Saturday we introduced you to Mary Cleaver and told you about several videos she had posted.

It appears her folksy youtube chat about the merits of Real Estate vs the stock market is garnering lots of attention. Specifically her dismissal of the mainstream media's commentary on the housing bubble and a pending collapse.

But is it too much attention?

After being bombarded with comments, Cleaver first disabled her comments section on youtube... and then she deactivated her youtube account altogether.

For the record, the youtube video description in her post (May 2012) where she countered the 'housing crash' stories on CBC's National back by insisting Vancouver isn't in an overheated market stated:
Contrary to general statements made regarding the real estate market in Canada, the Vancouver housing market is far from over-heated. April stats tell a story of lots of inventory and fewer sales than in both March of this year and April of 2011. With the exception of parts of East Vancouver, much of the city is in a balanced market and trending toward a buyer's market. Buyers find themselves with plenty to choose from, time to make a good selection, prices in many areas stable or even lower than in the last year or two, and historically low interest rates. For Greater Vancouver statistics for April, go to For more information and to contact Mary, go to
And her post in January 2012 offered this advice:
Q: I’m renting right now and thinking about buying my first condo, but price is a big concern. Is this a good time to buy?

A: I’ve had several questions asking about affordability in Vancouver. When it comes to housing, those two words are rarely spoken in the same breath. We live in one of the most beautiful, temperate, culturally diverse, exciting cities in the world. It should come as no surprise that it is expensive to live here and that housing prices are high compared to most regions in Canada.

The easy answer is that it is a good time to buy property when it is a good time for YOU. Are you keen to begin building equity and pay yourself instead of your landlord. Do you have a down payment saved or can you borrow money from a family member? Is your employment relatively secure?
There are several programs available to first-time home buyers that can save you money. Details on these incentives would fill a whole other column, but your REALTOR® can go through them with you and help you take full advantage.

But you want to know whether now is a good time in comparison to sometime in the future, so let’s look at current market conditions first, and then at interest rates.

What is the market for condos like? Is there a lot of supply? How does that affect prices?

Over most of the last ten years, Vancouver has been a seller’s market. Anyone who’s been in the market to buy property during the hottest times knows all too well how that goes: seeing 19 pairs of shoes at the front door at an open house; dealing with the stress of multiple offers; bringing our home inspectors along with us to showings, and listings that are sold before we even get a chance to see them. I very clearly remember the frustration of searching for my home during one of those times in recent history.

But Vancouver is not a seller’s market right now. We determine what type of market we are operating in by dividing the number of homes available for sale by the number of properties that were sold last month. That calculation gives us the number of months’ supply.

A Seller’s Market = 0- to 5-month supply
A Balanced Market = 5- to 7-month supply
A Buyer’s Market = more than a 7-month supply

Vancouver is presently a balanced market, though we are leaning a bit toward a buyer’s market in many housing segments including apartment strata units. In the city of Vancouver, there are almost 20% more listings on the market than there were this time last year. If you’re shopping for a home in much of the city right now, you will find that you have choices, a lot less pressure, and a bit of time to make a good decision. Average prices for strata units are presently very close to what they sold for two years ago – they have come down a bit since the spring. This is obviously great news for buyers.

But there’s even more good news for buyers, this time in the area of interest rates which, somewhat surprisingly, remain at an all-time low.

First-time buyers will often borrow as much as they can afford and are most comfortable with a fixed-rate mortgage so they know that their payments will not increase over the length of the term. Today’s qualified buyers can lock in for as little as 3.39% on a five-year, fixed-term mortgage. Historically, this is about as good as it gets.

So, there is choice in the market, prices have come down from their highs of earlier this year, and interest rates are at all-time lows. Assuming that you’re in a position to buy, the only reason to wait would be if you believed that prices were going to come down even more. But trying to time the market precisely is simply not possible and prices could well increase while you’re waiting.

Real estate prices in Vancouver go up over time. Historically, if you bought a home that you lived in for several years; you made money when you sold. There is no reason to believe that will not be the case for you now. This would hold true even in a seller’s market with average interest rates. The fact that market conditions and interest rates are in your favour is a significant bonus, and those conditions won’t last forever.

I came across this quote yesterday that illustrates the point:

“Don’t wait to buy real estate. Buy real estate and wait.”
As you can see, Mary had strong views which she wanted to share. So why run and hide when her message starts getting attention?

In the blogosphere she has achieved her goal of publicity... and gained a little notoriety in the process.

But rather than revel in the spotlight and push her message, she has run away from the attention.

Barnum would be so disappointed.


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  1. So, we've seen the graphs showing inventory levels by year. Does such a thing exist for transactions? I've seen some rough data for the current year but not how it compares to prior years.

    I ask this because I'm wondering if is inventory going up and prices down because there are less buyers then normal or more people listing (boomers) looking to cash out. All evidence points to lack of buyers, but I want actual data.

    In the US the market started correcting because of both a lack of buyers, everyone who was in got in, and over supply from builders racing to the top. Today it was announced that the recession in the US, if you look at wages and not GDP, actually started much earlier then though, in the last three months of 2006. So another interesting metric to look at is whether wages are increasing or decreasing. Unfortunately this data is usually available to us when the party is already over but it would be helpful.

  2. Financially illiterate professionals of all fields are the Norm not the exception. I know of a mortgage broker in Van. who has not a clue about the first thing about money and investing. Yet she has been a business owner, worked in a bank and has now been a broker for many years...This is true not just of Realtors but of financial planners and investment advisers in general. In good times they are 'successful' by default; in bad times they scratch their heads and wonder what hit them! I bet Mary Mary quite contrary is in that camp now. She has no answers to give for her claims because the answers just do not exist.

    1. I don't know if I would call them the norm. Knowing of one broker that is a bad apple or a hollow one doesn't mean that all mortgage brokers are. Even reading this article doesn't convince me of that. It is true that many inexperienced people get jobs that they shouldn't have. There are, however, many professionals in Vancouver and elsewhere that know what they are doing and are trying to improve the market for themselves and for their customers.

  3. We really need to clean up the real estate business in this country. Perhaps we can start by setting out some very specific rules stating that realtors may not refer to homes as investments or make suggestions regarding future worth.

    They really are crossing the line when giving financial advice. Mary's opinion is just that. It is an opinion and so it has very little worth. If an innocent buyer were to rely on it though you might think they would have a legal claim against her down the road.

    The folowing line is just one example of what I am referring to. Mary writes:

    "Real estate prices in Vancouver go up over time. Historically, if you bought a home that you lived in for several years; you made money when you sold. There is no reason to believe that will not be the case for you now".

    Does anyone else see the problem with this remark? This foolish woman is asserting that home prices will keep rising in the future. That is clearly bad financial advice under the circumstances. Closer to the truth is that a buyer at the peak will have to wait 8 to 12 years to see prices return to what they paid. Assuming they don't bankrupt in the meantime. That is much more usual following a bursting bubble.

    This gal should review the terms of her license and study the chapter on ethics and advice. Either that or get certification in some area of finance before she shoots her mouth off about the future of home prices in Vancouver.

  4. Someone had put a comment on there involving sexual stuff. Something about "There should be a penis in your mouth and anal would help too". I spit up my water when I read it laughing. She seemed like a very traditional gal and probably cried when she saw it. Pretty pathetic for her to cancel her account. My guess is, she is no longer a realtor and that is why she cancelled it. Someone said she only became a realtor 10 months ago. No new realtor would survive this downturn. Even seasoned realtors without connections will struggle. Her website only shows 3 listings, all of which seem pretty old. So you asked why she wouldn't want publicity? Because she isn't a realtor anymore, is my guess.

  5. Someone had put a comment on there involving sexual stuff. Something about "There should be a penis in your mouth and anal would help too". I spit up my water when I read it laughing. She seemed like a very traditional gal and probably cried when she saw it.

    ^^ you know, I watched her video and cringed a bit when I heard her claims. Not anything I haven't heard from other realtors though (many men in fact). I don't blame her for canceling her account, at least temporarily. Some of the comments were absolutely sexist, misogynistic etc. Garth had comments on his blog (from posters) calling her a s**t and a c-word. I mean, please. If you are going to insult - do it with a grain of integrity. Personally I don't see any need to make sexual comments. If we had watched a video by a male realtor saying the same things none of those things would have been posted. Makes me sick to my stomach that this is the world that my daughter will have to grow up in.