Sunday, March 31, 2013

To all who drop by today...



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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Vancouver's vacuous economic engine

Excellent commentary in the local 24 hours newspaper on Wednesday titled: Vancouver needs corporate offices more than condos
On the sleepy West Coast, despite the spin coming out of city hall, Vancouver remains a backwater when it comes to attracting or developing corporate headquarters.

Planners blame a lack of housing affordability, which discourages companies from setting up shop here. Civic politicians point fingers at our obsession with cyclical resources such as forestry and mining, rather than trying to grow the small, but emerging green economy.

At the end of the day, most homeowners are not fussed about a lack of a corporate presence here in Metro Vancouver. But they should be. Compared to Seattle, which generates significant tax revenue and jobs from industry titans such as Microsoft, Boeing and Starbucks, we are bit players.

Our jobs and growth plan is based upon condo development and land speculation. However, take that away, and our local economy is as emaciated as your average catwalk fashion model.

For far too long, we have associated new condo towers with rising property values. In other words, our region has convinced itself we don’t need jobs to increase our personal wealth — we merely need a hot property market.

It is painfully obvious we have lulled ourselves into believing we have a “real” economy. The sad reality is we are only one real estate crash away from finding out that we don’t.
So true.

Speaking of real estate and the slowing market, Landbaron over on VREAA notes that when you a 'Vancouver' craigslist rental search, over 10 pages of 100 rental listings are returned on March 28th alone.

As VREAA notes:
The idea is that some properties held empty (speculating upon future price gains) start coming onto the market as rental properties if they cannot be sold for the ‘right price’. That way, when the crash comes, an entire extended families RE holdings go underwater, rather than one home being battered with a price drop.

Multigenerational wealth destruction.

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Friday, March 29, 2013

Rent a reporter? Journalist ethics at their finest!

On Thursday we talked about a recent article that has been all over various internet discussion sites.

The Financial Post profiled an aging Boomer couple who was preparing to retire. The column was about  unlocking the potential wealth of their bubble inflated home without selling and downsizing.

The article then profiled a Vancouver mortgage brokerage company (Invis Team Rob Regan-Pollock) and spoke to it's owner about solutions that could be utilized for the couple.

It was a great, informative article and fabulous PR for Invis Team Rob Regan-Pollock (Team RRP).

But what you weren't told was that the husband from that aging Boomer couple just happens to be an employee of Team RRP, an omission which raised shades of the MAC Marketing deception last month wherein company employees were planted in a media story.

The big difference is that MAC outwardly lied about the identity of the employees.  This time the identity of the Team RRP employee is conveniently not revealed.

When the online community discovered the omission, the first question they asked was "why is a Toronto writer profiling a Vancouver mortgage broker for information about a finance issue when there are so many sources in Canada's financial centre?"

(and why use one of the broker's employees to profile with a professional news photo shoot?)

Sharp-eyed sleuths noticed that the author of the article, Denise Deveau, appears to work for a communications company known as BlueSky.

BlueSky Communications specializes in obtaining media coverage for their clients. So was Denise Deveau working as a reporter for the Financial Post when she wrote the article or was she working as a communications specialist with BlueSky?

Making this story even murkier is this website for Echo Communications

Echo Communications appears to specialize in the same field as BlueSky:
At Echo, our focus is on creating echoes - crafting the right message, spreading the word, and hearing it come back in a stronger and bolder form. Our echoes close the loop between strategic public relations planning and program execution... Today, Echo provides a range of public relations, corporate communications and business writing services that exceed expectations... Our team includes a network of highly experienced consultants, each with no less than ten years of experience and the same unwavering focus on delivering results.
Echo profiles the members of their 'team' and curiously there is a Denise J. Deveau who works for Echo too.

It's a background description very similar to the Denise Deveau at BlueSky Communications:

LinkedIn shows a Denise Deveau out of Toronto who is a freelance writer and contributes to several publications including the Financial Post:

The questions multiply: when Deveau wrote the Financial Post article, was she working for the Financial Post as a staff writer, a freelance writer or was she working for one of her clients at one of these Communications firms (or others)?

Did the story get "placed" in the Financial Post like the recent  'news for hire' controversy we recently profiled in the Vancouver Province? If it's a paid 'newsertising' piece and we're not informed it's an advertising feature, that's despicable enough.

But what if there a third, disturbing element at play here?

Both BlueSky and Echo promote their ability obtain media access.  As BlueSky says: "We are particularly talented in getting continuous media coverage for our clients that communicates directly to the target market."

If Deveau was working for the Financial Post as a freelance writer AND was also working for a communications company on behalf of Team RRP, doesn't this become a situation where her access to the media is being leveraged for profit?

If a cop or a politician does this, it's called bribery. It's illegal and a violation of the public trust.

What would this say about the trust we have in our media if that's the case here and it's not disclosed?


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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Thursday Post #2: Another media scandal from the real estate industry? News article appears to be contrived shill piece from PR company.


Update: Information has surfaced connecting the reporter in this story to another communications company as well. See our follow up post here.


Meet Invis Team Rob Regan-Pollock, mortgage brokers in Vancouver. From their website:
Rob Regan-Pollock and his team of Accredited Mortgage Professionals (AMPs) arrange residential mortgages and small cap commercial financing. Based in Vancouver, we finance purchases, re-finances, new construction, equity take-outs, renewals, and debt consolidation. We are certified Tax Deductible Mortgage Plan (TDMP) consultants and members of MBABC and CAAMP.
You'll notice one member of the team is hilighted in the picture above with a yellow arrow.  That's Allan Hoegg. The website profile tells us "Allan joined Team RRP in 2003. He retired for about 10 minutes in 2007, returning part time later that year. He has enjoyed a career in Financial Services and is originally from Calgary."

We'll get back to him in a moment.

It appears Team RRP has been yearning for a little media exposure. To that end they seem to have turned to BlueSky Communications Company. BlueSky promotes itself by telling clients that:
Whether we are securing regular media coverage for you, making you the topic of online discussions or developing impactful marketing pieces, our integrated, big-picture approach is intrinsically linked to where you want to bring your business. And at better value than what you get from those big-budgeted agencies.

Media Relations: Our outstanding results speak for themselves. We are particularly talented in getting continuous media coverage for our clients that communicates directly to the target market. And after engaging us for a period of time, you will see the impressive impact media coverage has on your business.
One of BlueSky's employee's is Denise Deveau. Here is what BlueSky says Deveau can do for her clients:
Denise has over 20 years of journalism and corporate communications experience. She handles a wide variety of writing and research assignments in the high tech, financial services, retail, government, education, oil and gas, and consumer sectors.

Whether it’s a thought provoking article, or compelling marketing collateral, Denise is able to deliver an effective piece that will meet your business objectives.

Remember last month when we told you about the MAC Marketing scandal?  In that farce, MAC had two of their employees play the role of young Asian condo buyers for a TV interview. When it was discovered they were actually MAC employees, the episode was rationalized as an innocent error in judgement; the MAC employees were simply standing in for 'real' Asian buyers who had bailed on the presser at the last opportunity.

The implication?  Where is the harm? The employees are simply 'playing' the role of actual customers who are out there.

Of course if CBC-TV and CTV-TV knew they were actually talking to two MAC employees, do you think they would have run the feature?

Not a chance, because the deception cuts to the heart of journalistic integrity.

Back to BlueSky employee Deveau and Team RRP.

A curious article appeared this week in the Financial Post titled "Home is where the retirement money is".

With a byline attributed to Denise Deveau, the FP article invites Team RRP's boss (Rob Regan-Pollock) to outline strategies to help aging Boomer's unlock the power of their bubble inflated house to aid in their retirement plans - a service Team RRP specializes in.

To set the stage, readers are introduced to a Boomer couple nearing retirement. Here's their picture from the article:

Recognize the man?

Yep... that's the same Allan Hoegg who works for Team RRP.

So what does the article tell us?  Do they say Hoegg is an employee of Team RRP?
In 1995, Allan and Karin Hoegg were mortgage-free. But no more: today their Vancouver home is a valuable source of income as they plan for full retirement.

Sean Morphy and his wife got a very competitive mortgage rate when they made the jump to home ownership a little over a year ago but it took a long-term relationship with a mortgage professional to get them there.

Allan Hoegg says when their son and daughter-in-law wanted to buy a house, they took out a variable-rate mortgage so they could help them out. “We wanted to take advantage of the stability of the current rates.” To cover the mortgage payments, they rent out a suite in the home to students.

The couple also established a home line of credit that allows them to free up cash for investment purposes when they need it. “It gives you maximum flexibility and you can pay it any time you want without penalty,” he says. “It’s dead easy.”

Like many people planning their retirement, there’s a sentimental side to keeping their home, he says. But there are just as many practical reasons. In the Hoeggs’ case, selling to downsize would mean substantial commissions and moving costs. “Besides, real estate is a very good investment in Vancouver,” he says. “The longer we can stay here, the greater the possibility of no-tax capital gains.”
It's a great, informative article and fabulous advertising for Team RRP. But nowhere is Hoegg's affiliation to Team RRP mentioned.

Doesn't the Financial Post have an obligation to tell us Hoegg is actually an employee of the company featured in this story?

More significantly, doesn't the Financial Post have an obligation to tell us that the story isn't being written by one of their own journalists? That the writer is, in fact, a communication specialist who shills for clients and whose sole job it is to place this type of promotional piece in newspapers for her client?

Could it be that the the Financial Post didn't do any fact checking (and simply accepted this article from a communications company) because it was submitted as a paid feature dressed up to look like a "news" story... something similar to what we saw in the Vancouver Province?

Someone out there has to step up and protect the public interest. Prominent disclaimers should be mandatory if this practice is be allowed.

When did our print and television media become an endless source of contrived "news" to promote the real estate industry?


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Newsvertising: the issue here is journalistic integrity.

It's been interesting to see some of the reaction to our two recent posts about "Newsvertising" (see here and here).

The issue: paid advertisements dressed up as legitimate news stories, particularly when presented in a way which doesn't clearly inform that what you are reading isn't news.

There are those, like realtor Arnold Shuchat, who understand the importance of what we are saying. From a comment he made to our post on the topic:
Obviously, the real trick these days is finding people with a modicum of integrity. People have a tendency to believe the printed word and to be more ready and willing to accept journalistic reports from a major news source as facts. Well, the newspapers and those who rely on them for their latest market intelligence deserve each other!

One would probably be better served to take a contrarian approach to most newspaper reports dealing with real estate investment. As has been said before, "buy on bad news and sell on good news".

At least when it comes to reporting, the "Blog" has shown that it can weather criticism and using the strength and depth of its readership, can unearth truth to a greater and more objective standard.

Good report Whisperer.... story needs to be told!
Shuchat is absolutely right, this is a story that needs to be told.

Unfortunately there are others who simply don't get it:


The point is that the Vancouver Province/Sun conglomerate has already demonstrated they are willing to take paid advertisements and present them as actual news stories with little or no indication that what you are reading isn't real news.

By doing this, they bring into question the integrity of all the other news stories they publish. The two gallery spots that we focused on yesterday are just examples of the doubt that is raised.

Let's face it, how does a posting comparing the insane real estate in Vancouver with another city in North America end up being profiled in the Vancouver Sun within hours of it being originally posted at Pricey Pads?

To get published in the Vancouver Sun that fast means that the Sun would have had to independently came across the PP article within moments of it being posted, which defies all rational credulity.

Which is why it raises the spectre that the Sun's Gallery feature is probably a paid advertising feature. If it is advertising, the public deserves be told so:

This isn't an issue about Pricey Pads having done something wrong (they haven't, at worst all they have done is bought advertising to promote their site), it's about journalistic integrity.

And when that integrity is brought into doubt, you start to question everything.

Take this Gallery which appeared in yesterday's paper.

From the description:
Architect John Hollifield has taken 20 years to completely rebuild this family home, now listed for $2.68 million. The main floor boasts light open space, with flowing principal and natural light pouring in from the adjacent sunroom. Located in Vancouver's exclusive Point Grey neighbourhood, this home is close to some of the best schools that the city has to offer, as well as the almost limitless amenities of West 10th Avenue and the sandy beaches of Spanish Banks.
From the photo caption:
Architect John Hollifield has taken 20 years to completely rebuild this family home. The main floor boasts light open space, with flowing principal and natural light pouring in from the adjacent sunroom. Located in Vancouver's exclusive Point Grey neighbourhood, this home is close to some of the best schools that the city has to offer, as well as the almost limitless amenities of West 10th Avenue and the unique sandy beaches of Spanish Banks. For more information, visit Sotheby's International Realty Canada.
News story or a real estate ad?

Some might argue that because a well known architect has been labouring for 2 decades to bring this property to market for sale, it's a noteworthy news story. But if you click on the Sotheby's link, you go to actual real estate listing.  There you learn "this home represents the culmination of a full 20 years of progressive refinement."

Progressive refinement?

So basically this guy (who works as an architect) has been doing ongoing improvements to the house he's lived in over the past 20 years and now he's decided to sell it.... and somehow this is news?

It looks like another dressed-up real estate ad to us. 

The Vancouver Sun/Province shouldn't be in a position where people are questioning whether they are looking at actual journalism or if they are looking at an advertisement.

Journalistic integrity is the basic foundation of any news organization. Even Alphabet Arnie understands this.


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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Newsvertising 2: Are there other sections of the Vancouver Sun/Province that are nothing more than real estate advertising dressed up as news?

Yesterday we introduced you to the topic of 'Newsvertising',  a disturbing trend wherin our City's major daily newspapers publish paid advertisements dressed up as legitimate news stories; executed in a way that doesn't clearly tell you that what you are reading isn't news.

You pay them and they make it look like news.


It's a disturbing journalistic development, especially when leveraged by a real estate industry desperate to 'massage' rapidly falling consumer confidence; confidence which we are now told is dropping faster than ever before.

It begs the question: what other news sections in the Sun/Province portfolio are the editors prepared to journalistically pimp out?

Did you happen to catch two more of those real estate Gallery portfolio's that the Vancouver Sun ran over the past week? You know... like the one that profiled the infamous fake mansion in West Vancouver.

There was this one on March 21st which compared what you could buy in Vancouver vs. Roswell, Georgia.

And then,  on March 25th, the Sun ran another comparing what you could buy in Vancouver with Beverly Hills, California.

In each of these cutsie infotainment-style news pieces the Vancouver Sun gave credit to the originating source, a luxury real estate blog called

Faithful readers probably recognized the comparative style format at play from local blog The Thirties Grind. That's where writer Melissa Carr has spent the last year cranking out real estate comparisons in a feature titled the Absurd Vancouver Property of the Week.

Carr has been earning a certain level of notoriety as Global TV and CKNW radio have taken to regularly inviting her on-air to discuss the insanity.

Enter Pricey Pads.

Pricey Pads (PP) has a strong local Vancouver presence and bills itself as a "luxury real estate" blog.  Run by Mitch Cal, he says:
Pricey Pads was created as a way to showcase the greatest Estates and Mansions around the world. It continues it’s goal to compile updated lists of the world’s most expensive luxury Real Estate and Rentals in todays market. Keep checking back for frequent updates and new and exciting features! Be sure to “Become a Fan” of Pricey Pads Facebook Fan Page to see much more content.
Interested advertisers can contact PP for property listings, advertising and support/requests.

Cal even boasts that PP has "worked with the Auctioneers auctioning Sheryl Crow’s Estate on an advertising campaign and have been involved with a number of Realtors from Canada, Brasil and the United States to help market their properties."

Real estate promotion seems to be PP's gig.

One thing PP doesn't regularly do, however, is profile Vancouver properties in a value-vs-value format with other North American cities. From what we can see, this is something new for them.

Incredibly this hasn't deterred Pricey Pads from achieving an astonishing level of success in garnering media attention with their new concept. One can only marvel at the speed in which they were able to gain major newspaper coverage not once, but twice in the same week with their new feature.

It took Melissa Carr and The Thirties Grind over a year to crack Vancouver's major media and gain exposure.

PP seems to have pulled it off in less than a day.

You see, PP published their Vancouver vs. Roswell, Georgia comparison on their website on March 21st. Later that same day it appeared in the Vancouver Sun.

That's impressive.

Presumably some sharp, eagle-eyed editor just happened upon the Pricey Pad piece the moment it was posted and said, "wow... we need to pick up on this and print it in our newspaper. Our readers would find this very interesting!" 

Suddenly the Sun has their latest real estate oriented human interest story for us and Pricey Pads benefits from unexpected media attention to their website link in the Vancouver papers locally, and nationally as the gallery feature syndicates across the country.


You don't suppose Pricey Pads paid the Vancouver Sun to feature them in their little infotainment Gallery, do you?

How can this be though?... There's no indication that what we are looking at is a paid real estate advertising feature. No indication that the Sun is actually running a promotion to drive web traffic to a for-profit website.


It's the formula by which a once respected news organization sells it's journalistic integrity and soul in a misguided attempt to financially survive.

Based on what we have shown you the last two days, how can you trust the actual motive/source behind anything printed about real estate from an organization employing this formula?


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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Newsvertising: First we had 'fake' helicopter tours. Then we had 'fake buyers. Next came a 'fake' mansion. Now do we have 'fake' news?

First we had "fake" helicopter tours.  Then there were 'fake' asian buyers for Chinese New Year.  Next we had a "fake" mansion.  Now do we have "fake" news created so that our cities' major daily newspapers can sell real estate advertising?

Last decade news entertainment, or “infotainment,” dominated the news landscape. Sharply scorned by many traditional journalists and academics for focusing on “entertainment” rather than “news,” the practice has taken hold notwithstanding.

The trend has been for news programs to make their broadcasts more entertaining to gain ratings. By incorporating more lighthearted presentations or human interest stories into newscasts, they could hold their audience. While there is still a line between a traditionally hard news approach and infotainment, the current media climate has blurred the distinction.

This decade, with the rise of the internet and the explosion in social media, that line is being blurred even more as print media fights for their very survival.

To stem corporate losses, newspapers have taken to raising the price of their subscriptions and news-stand copies. They have also taken to instituting 'paywalls', methods of charging readers for online content. But it's not enough.  An in desperation another disturbing trend is starting to emerge.

The news media has always been targets for product pitches of one form or another.  Businesses and politicians have always bombarded mass media with press releases designed to promote self interests. From time to time media has picked up on these 'press releases' in the name of informing about 'public interest' stories. And no sector of society has seized on this tendency like real estate marketers.

Stories with a real estate theme have reached legendary status on the Wet Coast, particularly when it is revealed these stories are nothing more that shills or manipulations of the media. (On that note, The TYEE has an excellent article out by Shannon Rupp worth reading titled: Why Blog when you can Flog which outlines the Industry's attempt to manipulate the blogosphere)

But what is disturbing here is that the print media now views the rapacious demands as something to exploit. And exploit it they are. It's a trend we call "Newsvertising."

Real estate marketers crave media spots in the news. And nothing garners attention like a news story profiling your development in a positive way.  Until now that sort of attention has been free!

But not anymore.

Rather than be the lackey who provides 'free advertising", print outlets like the Vancouver Sun/Province appear to be seizing on an untapped opportunity to sell their journalistic souls.

It used to be, if you wanted to advertise you product under the veil of a news story, you had to suffer the ignominy of having a banner placed above your 'fake' news story that read "ADVERTISING FEATURE"

However the moment people see the term "ADVERTISING FEATURE", they tune it out. Makes selling that sort of advertising virtually impossible.

Enter the Vancouver Sun/Province's latest gambit: incorporating advertising so that it appears as "news" without outwardly announcing it's not.

"Newsvertising": the next step for print media.

You can see the tactic here:

This March 21st Vancouver Province story has all the hallmarks of a human interest real estate news story, but it's not a news story.It's an "advertisement feature" cleverly disguised as a news article.

Scroll to the bottom of the 'story' and you will see this:

When you go to the link: you are instantly taken to the Vancouver Sun/Province advertising rates page. This little blip at the bottom is all there is to discern this as an 'ad' from other regular news articles.

And it doesn't stop at fake human interest news stories, The Province appears to be faking hard core news too.

On March 15, 2013 the Province ran this "ADVERTISING FEATURE" dressed up like regular news: 

The headline screams: "Real-estate sales finally recovering: Tighter mortgage rules had put a freeze on activity"

(This while some of the past decades worst year-over-yeary monthly sales figures are recorded) 

Just like the real estate human interest story from March 21st, the bottom of this feature also has that small direction to the province/focus section. Only this time it isn't a hyperlink. You can't click on it and discover you were have been directed to a page detailing advertising rates.  This time you being have to go the extra step of copying and pasting the url into your browser to discover it's an ad.

If you had a print copy of the newspaper, it's even worse.

For all intents and purposes it looks just like a real news article:

Presumably all of this is perfectly legal. But is it ethical?

What are you going to do?  Go find a computer to find out your reading an ad in your hard copy newspaper?

We showed this story to 41 different people on the weekend.  NOT ONE realized they were looking at an advertisement.

Who paid for this ad? What company placed it? You don't have a clue.

The major daily newspapers in our City appear to be so desperate for ad revenue that they have taken to prostituting their journalistic ethics for a quick buck. All while the public is being served up highly misleading advertisements presented as news.

Each and every one of the 41 people we showed the article to felt manipulated and deceived when they were shown the 'news story' was actually an ad.

The Canadian Association of Journalists principles for ethical journalism state:
Journalists have the duty and privilege to seek and report the truth, encourage civic debate to build our communities, and serve the public interest. We vigorously defend freedom of expression and freedom of the press as guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We return society’s trust by practising our craft responsibly and respecting our fellow-citizens’ rights.
Presenting these ads in this fashion, in our opinion, isn't responsible. Nor is it properly presenting the truth. And we certainly don't think it's serving the public interest.

If you agree and wish to complain about these practices by the Vancouver Sun or Province you can file a complaint online with Industry Canada about misleading advertisements.

You deserve to know when you are looking at an ad instead of a news story and you deserve to know who is responsible for placing that ad.

You deserve more from your print media.

If they won't give that respect to you, maybe it's time to start demanding it?


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Monday, March 25, 2013

Real Estate info war: Rogers enters the scene

On Saturday we talked about realtors who are stepping up to the plate to provide information to potential buyers of real estate from the restricted (yet massive) data based held by the various real estate boards.

This comes after we talked about an example of that secret information which was released (and subsequently removed) on a local real estate discussion board.

Access to that sort of secret information has been a topic of considerable tension over the past few years as realtors and real estate associations have fought hard to maintain their almost exclusive access to the rich Multiple Listing Service data.

That battle even found it's way to Ottawa’s Competition Bureau.

And when the real estate associations reached an agreement with the Competition Bureau, the end result did not give the public direct access to the MLS or systems. But it did open up the possibility for change.

Industry watchers have long yearned for a competitor to appear in Canada like Zillow has in the United States. Zillow provides a massive amount of information to the American public. Info which, in Canada, is kept under wraps by the real estate associations.

But now that Canadian competitor may be on the horizon as Roger's has just announced it plans on entering the real estate business:
Rogers Communications is expanding into the real estate business.

The mobile and cable giant has applied to become a licensed real estate brokerage right across Canada and is aiming to relaunch its five-year-old website in May as a unique, one-stop-shopping site for homebuyers.

It’s aimed at going far beyond U.S.-based property listing services such as Zillow and Trulia which have revolutionized house hunting south of the border by providing critical data that can help potential buyers assess the value of a property from the comfort of their home computer.

While those sites link to licensed realtors who buy spots on the sites, Rogers intends to go a big step beyond that: Zoocasa will make sure its online directory of agents are vetted, knowledgeable realtors with a proven track record of making sales and providing superior customer service, said Zoocasa president Carolyn Beatty.

Beatty stressed the new site isn’t meant to cut realtors out of the home-buying equation but, instead, ensure that consumers now looking for houses online can go the next step digitally as well, finding a realtor they can check out through the site and feel they can trust to finish the deal.

Buyers will flock to wherever they can access the most information in the easiest way possible.

As we saw in the real estate board screenshots that were the subject of last week's controversy, the cabel has a massive, accessible database already in place.  Much of that information is restricted in a vain attempt to protect the integrity of the frankenumber HPI.

The question now is can the real estate boards move quickly enough to establish themselves as the "go-to" source of information by the average Canadian looking for critical data from the comfort of their home computer.

They have the leg up, but will they change their secretive ways fast enough?

It's going to be an interesting time as this story plays out in the months ahead.


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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Information: three real estate agents who are stepping up to the plate

Have you ever noticed how so much of the real estate industry seems geared towards sellers? 

When it comes to buyers, the industry (on the whole) seems to obsess with whipping them into a frenzy and urging them to snap up property at going rates (or higher).

Who is there to guide their interests and provide them with the data they need to make critical decisions?

This is why critics the frankenumber HPI.  As Garth Turner recently said, "the HPI is to houses what moving averages are to stocks. Instead of telling you what properties sell for now, it tells you what they averaged over time. Realtors love this since it filters out peaks and valleys, making markets seem serene and predictable. But the HPI is as useless to a serious buyer as a four-month-old stock quote is to a trader."

As credit tightens and the easy marriage of sellers with hyped up buyers becomes a distant memory, there are astute realtors who realize buyers need quality information about what is going on in the market today. 

And there is nothing more important than information that gives them both an accurate view of current pricing and information which reflects current market momentum – elements critical to an informed home-buying decision.

On Thursday we showed you how realtor Larry Yatkowsky is now providing median prices of Vancouver homes which, while imperfect, is a tremendous asset for buyers.

Yesterday we profiled the latest market report from realtor James Wong who gives a frank, upfront assessment of the current market conditions.

And today we bring you two of  'Alphabet Arnie' Shuchat's latest contributions.  The first is the Top Price Reductions on Homes for Sale in Richmond.

(make sure you click on the link to see the full list. Screen shot only shows part of the list)

And the second it AA's Biggest Price Declines for Homes in Greater Vancouver. From Arnie's narrative:
A list of every price reduction in the Greater Vancouver market within the Real Estate board of Greater Vancouver (not Fraser Valley) within the last 7 days. I have included the addresses of every price reduction in excess of 5%. To be honest, the current number may only be an indicator of original delusion and may not "yet" reflect a "deal". The property could well have started off too high. I would have to look at each property specifically to see if it could be called a "deal". But the list is a starting point for interested shoppers. You can search the details of the addresses of interest by going to the "Properties" tab on our homepage and clicking on "address" search. I appologize if you are unable to determine what the selling areas are, but they are all encoded. If you are interested further, do not hesitate to call. Shockingly, the total list for the last 7 days for all price changes amounted to 244 properties of which 149 were in Richmond!

It's the buyer's biggest ally and there is tremendous opportunity ahead for agents who go out of their way to service this need.

(Note: we would be remiss to overlook a shout-out to Realtor Paul Boenisch who provides the daily inventory stats we use on the right of this blog and whose motto is "knowledge is power")


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Friday, March 22, 2013

Richmond Real Estate Agent: "CNY non-event, actual sales hard to come by."

Real estate agent James Wong is out with his latest assessment of the market in Richmond. Refreshingly frank, Wong once again pulls no punches on the outlook:
Home sales in Richmond for February, 2013 at 219 homes was a 33% improvement compared to the previous month. But, it was 32% lower than the sales registered a year ago in February, 2012. Home prices continued to drift down, and price discounting continued by motivated sellers trying to sell their properties. The supply of homes spiked up 12% compared to the previous month as more sellers put their homes on the market in anticipation of a better spring market.

The overall months-of-inventory (MOI) moved back up from 10.50 months to 12.27 due to the higher supply of homes. The housing market in Richmond leads the lower mainland in having the highest MOI. The Chinese New Year effect sellers were hoping never materialized. The busier viewing activities the past few weeks did not translate into a recovery in the housing market for Richmond.

Richmond real estate market outlook

The busy spring season is with us now. But, the large price gap between sellers’ asking prices and buyers willingness to buy, had resulted in lack luster sales. The standoff is expected to continue as most sellers are holding off making deep discounts to their prices. Homes that were sold were mainly those priced at or below their city assessment values.

The Chinese New Year effect proved to be a non-event for 2013. While viewing activities were reported to have increased significantly, actual sales were hard to come by.

More listings can be expected for Richmond in the coming weeks. The negative market sentiment and buyers holding off buying the next few months will continue to exert pressure on sellers. The current MOI at 12.27 months is expected to move higher to re-test last year’s height of 14.09 months in September, 2012. Richmond’s housing market will continue to suffer due to high inventory and below average sales. Further erosion in home prices in Richmond can be expected in the foreseeable future.

A housing market recovery in Richmond is best tracked by monitoring the MOI. Buyers should exercise caution when buying. The current housing market in Richmond is still trending down. Buying now should be mitigated at prices discounted deeply, and well below current prices. 
Tough challenges for Richmond home sellers

The stand off between Sellers and Buyers will not be solved soon. The slow housing market in Richmond is expected to continue into next year. Motivated sellers who need to sell will bring homes prices down. The only way out for them to sell their homes is to lower their prices significantly to attract buyers. As home prices decline, buyers will stay on the side-line and wait for a suitable time to buy. Until the market stabalizes, the number of buyers willing to enter the market will be curtailed.
Meanwhile the Vancouver Sun has come out with the type of stark housing comparison normally reserved for the blogosphere.

Readers are shown this eight bedroom, 12 bathroom mansion in Roswell, Georgia.

It sits on 3.2 acres and is a 37 minute drive from downtown Atlanta. It includes 23,000 square feet of floor space, a million-dollar pool, a ballroom big enough to display a 10-car collection and a 3,200-square-foot courtyard. 

Asking price? $3.75 million:

Or, if you can go as high as $3.99 million, you can grab this this four-bedroom, three-bathroom ‘solid liveable home’ at 1050 Laurier Ave. in Vancouver's upscale Shaughnessy neighbourhood.

And we didn't even have to airbrush in a fake mansion to get this one on the pages of the Vancouver Sun.

I guess that's an improvement.


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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Thurs Post #2: What is the real estate industry afraid of?

On Tuesday we linked to a post on the real estate discussion board Real Estate Talks, a site run by realtor Ozzie Jurock.

Jurock promotes the site in it's masthead as "a friendly, interactive exchange of information on all Real Estate related subjects."

This week that site did not seem quite so "friendly".

Stunning screen shots had been posted there from the statistical data bank of Vancouver's real estate board revealing average and median prices for several neighbourhoods in the suburb of Richmond.

After being on RET for almost a full day, we linked to the post.  Later Garth Turner's site did as well.

Shortly after this, RET wiped the info clean.

The information was so stunning because it provided an intriguing glimpse behind the deceptive curtain of the HPI,  the MLSLink® Housing Price Index. 

Each month the HPI is trotted out by the local real estate boards as a measurement of how the market is doing. But while the Industry was telling us the HPI had declined in neighbourhoods likeTerra Nova by a mere -4.6%, the average sales price in the past year for that area was actually down by -38%, while the median price had crashed -50.4%.

Those are shocking numbers.

In the Riverdale area of Richmond, the data dump on RET showed the average price last month was down -27.5% and the median lower by 28%. In Seafair, the average price was down by -34% and the median by -25%. Compare this with the Industry's published HPI for Riverdale (-9%) and for Seafair (-15%).

How can the public not feel they are being deceived?

So what is the HPI anyway?

Vancouver’s real estate board is the home of the original Frankenumber, the MLSLink® Housing Price Index (HPI) composite benchmark price, blatantly intended to smooth out peaks and valleys, giving the impression of an eternally stable market. 
Critics charge that Home Price Index is designed specifically so that it does not give an accurate view of current pricing or reflect market momentum – elements critical to an informed home-buying decision.

Instead it’s there to mask those swings, obfuscate reality and create an ‘it’s-always-a-good-time-to-buy’ mentality. 

The HPI, as a statistic, is ridiculed as existing to help realtors sell houses - not help citizens know when to buy them. As such it is so complex and convoluted that it takes the Industry 25 pages to explain how it is calculated.

Those screen shots which appeared on RET are significant because they show that the real estate industry clearly values keeping track of average and median prices.  They even track these stats neighbourhood by neighbourhood.


Because they represent critical elements crucial to informed home buying/selling decisions and even realtors find access to that data to be valuable and important.

But those stats are off limits to the buying public.  They are secret, for realtors only. Presumably that's why RET yanked them.

In the meantime, are the real estate boards on a witch hunt to find out who released the information?

More importantly, why restrict the data?  What motivates the Real Estate boards to keep this from you?

Is it because for almost a year now, Real Estate sales in Vancouver have been tanking despite Industry attempts to berate buyers who are waiting for the market to collapse. Meanwhile burgeoning inventory is hitting all time highs, despite Industry jawboning that sellers won't be putting their properties on the market unless buyers are prepared to pay market value.

These trends are followed by reports today that headline: "Nearly a quarter of Vancouver’s condos are empty", and suggestions about that our market is frothing from the excesses of a speculative frenzy.

Is information repressed as part of an attempt to protect asset prices? It certainly looks that way.

If buyers read that median prices were crashing by -50% in the newspapers and on TV, do you think buyers would be eager to make transactions?

Yesterday we issued a challenge to realtors to come forth and release average and median price data so that the public could balance the publication of the Home Price Index (HPI) with data which, while imperfect,  provides buyers with a more accurate view of current prices and market momentum.

For as Garth Turner notes:
The HPI is to houses what moving averages are to stocks. Instead of telling you what properties sell for now, it tells you what they averaged over time. Realtors love this since it filters out peaks and valleys, making markets seem serene and predictable. But the HPI is as useless to a serious buyer as a four-month-old stock quote is to a trader.
Ideally the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) and the British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA) will make it a part of their monthly statements.

In the meantime I'm happy to report that one Vancouver Realtor is accepting that challenge.

Realtor Larry Yatkowsky is out tonight with a post on his blog titled: Median prices of Vancouver Houses.
If kept in perspective Median Prices can be useful information to anyone considering the sale or purchase of a Vancouver property. As is normal practice I bring to my clients all statistical information possible when discussing the sale or purchase of their home. It is also my normal practice that if such graphical information is not readily available as a service from my board I will based on their data, build it. Such is the case with this Median graph. Additionally, in the past while commentators have expressed an interest in having a Median Price graph for Vancouver properties. It seemed appropriate to share this with them. I hope it will serve all well in your Vancouver home selling or purchase deliberation.

Does your real estate salesperson offer this service? If not, you might wish to consider giving me a call when life moves you.

Caution: In the graph below you will find a Median Price graph that includes Vancouver West, Vancouver East, West Vancouver and North Vancouver – the four communities within my service area. Remember that the Median Price is merely another statistical tool to help you make a Vancouver home buying or selling decision. It is a starting point.

Now... anyone care to tell us how much those median prices for February 2013 are +/- from January 2013?


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