Sunday, September 23, 2012

Speaking of rising household debt...

Yesterday we posted about CTV squaring off Garth Turner vs Sommerville/Pastrick over the topic of a real estate collapse over rising household debt.

It's not a theme exclusive to Garth Turner.

In fact CBC was, on the very same day, discussing that very topic.

Reporter Neil MacDonald (pictured above) was describing how a US style housing nightmare could hit Canada and how Canada resembles a slow motion replay of the American crash.
Stories are now routinely surfacing in the Canadian media suggesting collective madness when it comes to affordable living. I watched America's nightmare unfold, and it appears pretty evident to me that a sequel of some sort is coming to Canada. So I ran that thesis past Robert Shiller, of Yale University, probably the foremost authority on real estate in America. He co-founded the Case-Shiller Home Price Index and predicted the American collapse in 2005, a year before it happened. "I worry," he told me, "that what is happening in Canada is kind of a slow-motion version of what happened in the U.S."

The worries Shiller was getting at — and the Bank of Canada — is the debt Canadians are carrying. Contrary to Sommerville and Pastrick, both Carney and Shiller agree with Turner that rising household debt is a serious threat.

Household debt in Canada has grown by leaps and bounds. In the early 1990s it was a manageable 75% of household income. Today it has ballooned to 150%. That's just about exactly the level Americans were at when everything imploded there in 2006. Worse, there are concerns about the way the debt is concentrated.
As the Bank of Canada has been pointing out, Canadian debt is disproportionately concentrated in the most vulnerable households, defined as those devoting 40% or more of household income to paying interest charges. That means those households are extremely sensitive to any sort of shock — be it a rise in interest rates, a drop in home prices, or, worst of all, job loss. The central bank's analysis suggests that if interest rates rise to 4.25 by mid-2015, fully one fifth of all Canadian debt would be held by those households least able to finance it.
Don Drummond, a former chief economist of the TD Bank, says that's "rather scary."

Robert Shiller says;
"People are investing in real estate that is tough for their budgets because they think it will make them rich, and that can continue only as long as [prices] keep increasing. "When they stop increasing," he says, people back off, and the bubble then collapses. "So it has its own internal dynamic."
And it's that internal dynamic which Turner was warning is the trigger which is starting to send values cascading down today.

Of course who are you going to believe? The likes of Garth Turner, Mark Carney, Don Drummond and Robert Shiller?

Or a man you makes his living teaching university courses in Real Estate Finance and depends on a growing real estate market for his academic income?

Not really a tough call to make now, is it?


Click 'comments' below to contribute to this post.

Please read disclaimer at bottom of blog.


  1. Yale sounds rather plain. Must not be as good as our UBC, right? ;)

  2. Well, speaking as one who got out just in time in 2011, and even that was hard, I feel for those who are now stuck.
    Naturally, they will deny, ignore, and even wage war against the facts, as many stand to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars and even go bankrupt as a result of this.
    Already I would bet that thousands of realtors and brokers are living on credit in hopes of a turnaround. Expect to see dozens of leased Mercedes being repo'd in the near future.

  3. is about to get busy!