Sunday, February 24, 2013

MAC-gate helps expose the myth of HAM (Hot Asian Money). Early stats show Chinese New Year a sales disaster

One of the side bonuses to the MAC-gate scandal has been the exposing of the myth of HAM as something that is going to keep our housing bubble afloat.

The media has been quick to identify the main reason for MAC's media lie - perpetuating the import of the Chinese property buyer.

The deception was intended to create the impression that Chinese buyers were still queuing up to buy into Vancouver's teetering real estate market, which has long been fuelled by money from China and is now rated as the second least-affordable city in the world, behind Hong Kong, according to the Demographia consultancy.
(Note: the google translation incorrectly translates the figure as a 7% drop. The news article does actually use the number 70%.  Not sure why google turns a 70 into a 7).

... to an article in yesterday's Globe and Mail newspaper titled: There’s scant evidence behind the myth about foreign buyers of Vancouver real estate.
While the stunt was roundly slammed, it also reignited a debate among real estate observers: Just how much truth is in the long-standing narrative that foreign money is driving the local market? Anecdotes abound about foreign investors scooping up Metro Vancouver real estate, driving up prices and creating anxiety among locals – a bogeyman haunting the dream of home ownership – but evidence to support such a claim is scant.
... the word it out.

Don't get it wrong, all rumours have some basis in fact and the myth of HAM is no different.

But the excessive manipulation of this myth has been a criticism of the online community for years.

Garth Turner has spoken about it lots beforeand railed against the deceptive media ploys that have been used:
As many people now know, Amanda is a young administrative marketing assistant at MAC Marketing Solutions in Vancouver, a company developers hire to flog condos to the rabble. She crossed the ethical line last week when the company tried to (once again) milk the incredibly lazy, gullible and bush-league Van television media...

Of course, this is not the first time. In 2011 you might recall Cam Good, head of The Key – another house-flogging, Van-based professional pumping outfit – hiring a yellow helicopter to ferry around “Chinese investors” with three TV crews stuffed into the back of the chopper. The intentional buzzing of defenceless places like White Rock was intended to goose the myth of HAM – Hot Asian Money – and feed the meme that legions of oriental Donald Trumps were about to gobble up the region, pricing the locals out forever.

But as this blog pointed out days after Global and CBC ran their yellow peril stories, the Chinese dudes were actually Canadian realtors from the burbs, posing as rich vultures from Guangdong. Mr. Good’s company also tried to pass off an employee as a consumer in a weird scheme that brought the Groupon concept to selling condos.
And there have been many condo marketing ploys besides these. How about the fake condo sale line ups to create the media and buying frenzy?  As Turner notes:
People (Asians, preferably) were offered money, plus lawn chairs, portable heaters, food and porta-potties to camp out in from of a sales centre for 24 hours prior to opening. TV news crews were invited to come and witness the spontaneous news event and the stories they ran begat longer lines, people being the lemmings they are.
Turner originally covered this story in Feb, 2011 and we followed up on February 17, 2011 (with citations from numerous craigslist ads by VREAA).

The selling period associated with Chinese New Year (CNY) for 2013 is now coming to an end and statistics are proving the fabricated hype is once again just that: a fabrication.

The dedicated contributors to the comments section of Vancouver Condo Info show us the reality.

In the supposed HAM hotbed of Richmond there are 399 homes on the market with an asking price of over $1.4 million. That's a MOI (months of inventory) of 28 months!  There are 65 homes on the market asking over $2.4 million.  Only 15 such homes have sold in the past 12 months meaning there is a stunning 52 MOI!

Contributor VMD shares with us this translated Chinese news article revealing that there has been a 70% Drop in Home Sales Since Chinese New Year.

Contrary to what the condo marketers were telling us, there actually was no rush of buyers coming into the market this Spring. The CNY sales period has been a disaster.

As Garth Turner observes, there have been lots of high-end houses bought by people who made their money in Mainland China, and that will continue. But many of the realtor shenanigans portrayed in our local media as 'news' are nothing more that the work of shrewd marketers out to create anxiety and competition amongst local buyers.

This time one of those marketers got caught.

In the coming weeks it's crucial that the governing bodies that oversee the integrity of the real estate industry take severe and strong action to ensure these "dishonest tactics" aren't used again.

The people of Vancouver deserve nothing less.

(hat tip: yvr2zhr, VHB, VMD, VREA, Vancouver Condo Info)


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  1. not a feng shui expertFebruary 24, 2013 at 5:23 PM

    Whew, I'm really struggling to grasp the Google translation of that Chinese-language article, ha ha.

    I think I get the gist of it, but I'm not entirely sure.

  2. I think the short version is... "your turkey is done sir"

  3. The thing I don't get about all the what's HAM and how much is foreign discussion is why it's only viewed at in terms of residency of the owner. The so-called HAM usually ends up in the hands/house of a Canadian resident. Kids or parents come over and money seems to magically show up in a house or condo purchase. How much of this money is after tax proceeds of Canadian taxed income?
    That's where I find it so hard to compete or chase house prices. The money is being made somewhere else and then is redistributed to the Canadian residents in the family. How can a Canadian taxpayer compete with untaxed money? We get to pay 44% on income. There isn't much left over relative to our house prices. How many new Canadians are actually making, and paying tax in canada, on the 300k to 400k it takes to justify owning a $2mil house? Just because a 45 year former mainland Chinese kerrisdale home owner has Canadian residency does not make the money local. If They have never had income in canada, it's foreign money.

  4. Hong Kong has introduced stamp duty to discourage foreign investment and speculation, which drives up prices to unreachable levels to local buyers. Since then, they have now increased the stamp duty twice. Hong Kong is the most unaffordable real estate in the world, Vancouver is rated the second. Why is it that Canada has never even considered taxing foreign ownership of real estate? Do you know how many other countries tax foreign real estate investments?

  5. If HAM truly existed CNY should have done well in Ditchmond this year.

    Facing traditionally weaker sales prospects come summer/fall, barring any changes this market is about 3 months away from being cooked for 2013.