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March 27, 2017 | Last Call?

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.

“We bought a house in Oakville in 2013 for 506K,” Brian writes me.  “We could sell that property now for 950K.  I’ve done nothing to warrant that gain, just painted and a few minor upgrades.”

Sweet. Windfall profit. So, whaddya going to do about it?

“I’ve debated the idea of cashing out now and just buying a nice townhouse in the area for 500K.  I’d be liquid then with a paid off home (overvalued at 500K but whatever).  we are 36 with 2 young kids in school.  They would be in the same schools with the move just with a smaller backyard, they can go to their friends houses for a swim if they want.

“We’d be freeing up 2k a month in mortgage fees, half of that could go to investments, the other half could go to lifestyle/travel. We already have pensions and savings plans for kids school. Any thoughts would be great.”

So I replied:

At what other point in your life could you make $450,000 in four years, tax-free, while reducing your debt and increasing your cash flow and future financial security?

What’s to debate? — Garth

And Brian replied:

“My thoughts exactly, why does everyone tell me it’s madness then?  The fear of missing out on future growth?”

Now, I’ve no idea who this guy is, other than he reads the blog and is therefore (naturally) a superior being. High IQ. Likely brawny with rakish whiskers, confident dog, planning to rescue wildlife this summer holiday, work on his doctorate, then buy a Harley. Typical. Or, maybe he’s the normal Globe or HuffPost reader, incapable of acting on rational thoughts because he’s under the emotional thumb of his dominant MIL and nest-happy spouse. Because, you know, real estate always goes up.

Thus there are two kinds of people when it comes to this all-consuming topic. One group believes house price growth is infinite and only idiots would leave the table. The other (much smaller) group are astonished at the bubble, understand it’s irrational, assume reality will return, think Mom is a loon, and know they’re staring a gifty nag in the snout. Brian, for example, realizes his house made more money than he did every one of the past four years, and tax-free. He also understands what goes up can come down as easily. Especially in a world of rising rates, Trumponomics, a 74-cent dollar, pervasive house porn, epic debt and rampant financial illiteracy.

Speaking of property lust, Jamie’s just sold a business in the wild fringe burbs of the GTA, now wants to downsize and move to Hicksville. The boring house he and Dawn own cost them $650,000 in 2007. “I told the realtor I want two million for it,” he told me on Friday, as they prepared to list it Monday. But that day at noon, a bully offer – $2.3 million, after the agent yakked about the property in his office. Will he take it? No showings. No stress. No vacuuming.

Nope. “I’m not leaving any money on the table.”

Well, this will be interesting. Ontario’s government revealed Monday it’s on the verge of bringing in one or more measures intended to douse the market’s flames next month, making legends out of guys like Brian and Jamie. The premier calls it a “comprehensive set of plans” to deal with out-of-control house prices in the vast GTA area, which has now infected locals all the way from Prince Edward County to Georgian Bay to the shores of Lake Erie.

Among the possible moves: (a) a foreign buyer’s tax, like in YVR, although local realtors say offshore buyers are just 5% of the market; (b) a special speculation tax levied on people who buy non-principal-residence properties; or (c) the ask Ontario made to T2 before the last federal budget, to increase the capital gains tax on secondary properties in order to nail flippers. We won’t know if one (or all) of these emerge in some form until the Ontario budget, now expected in a few weeks.

If Vancouver is any guide – where a narrow tax on foreign buyers ended up collapsing sales within just a few weeks in an unbalanced, frenzied market – the Big Smoke could be in for a jolt. It might be the Ontario budget, or higher mortgage rates later in 2017, or the simple fact listings are disappearing because nobody can afford to move, but rest assured some catalyst will occur.

The house pumpers will then sit around on this pathetic blog, stare into the campfire and say, ‘why didn’t we see that coming?’

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March 27th, 2017

Posted In: The Greater Fool

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