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April 5, 2017 | Maybe

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.

Maybe it’s nothing. But maybe it’s something.

In the last 24 hours two people I work with have discovered there’s another side to the nation’s most oversexed real estate market. Dismay. Disappointment.

Jane lives in one of the hot burbs north of the Big Smoke, in an updated townhouse complete with a new kitchen. A few weeks ago a lesser version of the same place changed hands in a bidding war for $913,000, so she listed lower (on her realtor’s advice) and eagerly awaited Offer Night.

Fifteen showings in a couple of days, then this note yesterday:

“There were no offers forthcoming tonight. The agent is taking down the listing in order to relist it at $800,000, and not holding offers, so any will be looked at as they come in. This is a very different scenario than two weeks ago. The agent said the number of listings in the area has jumped from approx 80 to 300 in the last 10 days. So it’s a wait and see approach. No big bidding war here!”

Not far away is a big, splashy detached house with a fab workshop where Derek keeps his vintage cars. He wants to retire and get out of Dodge. So he listed at the outrageous price of $2 million (“I figured, what the hell…”), then won the lottery

“Sold it tonight for 2.25 !!”, he texted me.

Then yesterday – just four days after the bidding war – this:

“Crap !!!
Now buyer is getting cold feet. He hung up on my agent today.
Apparently husband wants but wife getting cold feet.
What are the implications of this? Also have a call into my lawyer.”

Coincidence? Maybe. But perhaps not. There comes a moment in the life of every asset bubble when valuations turn so absurd even terminally horny investors take a walk. This may be now, Or yesterday. Last Monday. Whenever. It will come. Meanwhile the shift in a market characterized by a tidal wave of buyers and drought of listings may already be evident. Residential listings in the sprawling GTA just bubbled 15% higher in March, compared to the same period a year ago,

There’s every reason imaginable why sane buyers would be putting it back in their holsters. The average home in the region cost $916,567 last month, a jump of almost $229,000 in a single year. And whose income has increased enough in twelve months to swallow that? The average detached in 416 sells for $1.6 million, while a single home in the burbs (for the love of God) is now $1.1 million. Overall, prices in March were up 33% from the winter of 2016. It was, as forecast here, an historic monthly report. Never before has there been this kind of an increase, because never has an urban area in North America this large seen its locals go so starkly insane over piles of bricks. This is tulip time. Bre-X. Nortel. Dot-com. Bullion. And soon it will end in similar fashion.


While probably croaking under its own flab, this market may be further murdered by politicians. After all, these monthly sales stats have everyone clucking about ‘doing something.’ The mayor is growing closer to an Empty Houses tax by the moment – something draconian in a city with an inventory of over 20,000 unoccupied condos. The province is mulling a speculation tax and a foreign buyer tax in its April budget. The latest poohbah to speak out is the head of Canadian banking at Scotiabank who says: “Double-digit price increases are not sustainable and they’re not healthy. This market has been going straight up for a very long time. So it’s going to come to an end at some point and it’s a question of how it ends. And we want to see it correct smoothly, we want to see a soft landing and what that would argue for is actions sooner rather than later.”

A soft landing would be astonishing. This giant Airbus of a market is fully-loaded, at the end of an epic flight, running on fumes, with flaps down and underwear clogging the landing gear. The pilots are on leave from Love it Or List It, Brad Lamb’s manning air traffic control and the runway’s covered in hormones. It’s all hurtling earthward at 858 km/hour, and people expect a soft landing?

Says an experienced GTA realtor: “I see routinely in the last week that on bidding day no offers come. The change is very drastic. Just in a week.”

Hope you sold.

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April 5th, 2017

Posted In: The Greater Fool

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