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November 2, 2015 | Yellow Peril

A best-selling Canadian author of 14 books on economic trends, real estate, the financial crisis, personal finance strategies, taxation and politics. Nationally-known speaker and lecturer on macroeconomics, the housing market and investment techniques. He is a licensed Investment Advisor with a fee-based, no-commission Toronto-based practice serving clients across Canada.


“Wrong again Garth.”  That was a refrain on this pathetic, mongrel blog yesterday, as all the xenophobes in VYR woke up to the latest yellow journalism of the local (dying) newspapers. “Your myopic politically correct thinking continues to blind you from the truth,” a fan wrote. “Those of us born and raised here have known the truth all along, but you’ll never admit you were wrong. You’ll just attack the methodology.”

What’s the big deal? What caused the Sun and the Province to turn over their front pages to a massive anti-Chinese assault? Here, look at this…

HAM 1 modified

And here’s the story. A local Dipper politician (David Eby) pulled land records for 172 sales in one small area of Vancouver (on the ultra-expensive Westside) and handed them over to a researcher for analysis. By the way, 172 sales represents 0.52% of the 33,116 residential properties that changed hands last year, and closer to 0.4% of the number expected to trade in 2015. In other words, it’s statistically meaningless.

But that never stops a good story. So Eby’s guy then looked at the names of the 172 buyers, screening them for ‘non-anglicized’ Chinese names, which is a racist little thing some people do in Vancouver to try and ferret out Asians who might be more Asian than the vast number of locals of Asian heritage. Of course just looking at names does not reveal if the buyers are Canadian citizens, landed immigrants, permanent residents or the children and spouses of people working abroad but investing here.

To David Eby’s shock and delight (the media now loves him) the researcher concluded 70% of the names looked like they belong to people from China. And to further rattle the city, it was revealed that 82% of the purchases involved mortgages – so obviously the banks have been in collusion with the billionaire communists. (Even though it kinda squelched the meme of  crooked Chinese investors arriving with bags of cash.)

To recap: an analysis of a handful of sales in one area very popular with Asian buyers, representing one half of one per cent of all Vancouver sales, found seven in 10 have names that might suggest they’re possibly from China, but could actually be Canadian residents or citizens. Wow. Front-page stuff. But it didn’t stop there. Dig this bit of reportage from one of the biggest China-bating media outlets in Canada, the Globe and Mail:

“Mr. Yan (the researcher) acknowledged he could only deduce that buyers were purchasing with money from mainland China. But, he argued, it’s not much of a leap, considering the median income for 25- to 55-year-olds with bachelor degrees in Vancouver is $41,981. Those dependent on the local job market couldn’t compete.”

The average price for a detached property on the Westide of Vancouver – where the richest of the rich have always made a home (like Toronto’s Bridle Path or Montreal’s Westmount) is $2.8 million. Does anyone expect a person with a ‘median income’ and a BA to be in the market for a house like that? Or that a mansion-buyer would actually ‘have a job’ as opposed to being a business owner, entrepreneur or beneficiary of old stock money?

WESTSIDE modified

Well, the feeding frenzy continued Monday.

“Unless somebody tells me that it’s suddenly possible to make a ton of money selling cellphones at Parker Place Mall in Richmond,” Mr. Yan said, erasing any lingering and generous doubt that he’s an idiot, “this situation is problematic for locals.”

At this point it’s worth recalling that when looking at the market as a whole – not 172 sales in a particular hood – the BC Real Estate Association has said foreign buyers account for about 5% of deals, with the locals chiming in for the other 95%. The Van real estate board itself puts the number at 4% (I published its stats here a few weeks ago). The BC government agrees with this assessment. And across the ditch the Victoria board lists offshore buyers at 1.6% of total sales.

Now, in fairness, the argument supporting the view that this small group has screwed things for everyone has some validity. It goes like this: when foreigners buy expensive digs it makes everybody spend more money in a ‘trickle-down’ effect that ends up jacking the prices for crap houses on the downtrodden east side to over a million. Then you get whiny moist Millennials having sad rallies and sending out #donthave1million Tweets, cries for politicians at all levels to ‘do something’ about the barbarians at the gate and reporters cruising around Dunbar looking for yellow dudes in shiny suits.

Why would reasonable, normal, employed middle class people actually care about fools buying $5 million houses over in the most affluent part of town? Because, if they own real estate, it might make theirs worth more. Because, if they don’t, they want someone to blame. Because, if they sell it, they want buyer panic. Because, if they finance it, they score. Because, if they write about it, they matter.

Vancouver’s a great city, working tirelessly to be otherwise.

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November 2nd, 2015

Posted In: The Greater Fool

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