Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Beyond Reason-It's a matter of faith now

I'll not get into the details of numbers of Edmonton or Calgary as they have already been discussed at Bob Truman's and Sheldon's blogs.
I am quite astonished to see the 'shouting match' going on between 'bitter renters' and the happy and prosperous flippers and investors on Shelodon's blog. We now have almost 4 months of data related to Edmonton and each month getting progressively worse than the previous.
Consider the following picture of Edmonton over the last few months:
Tsunami of inventory first hit Edmonton in June, followed by rapid increases in July and August. September still brought close to 1000 properties to the market, though the rate of inventory increase clearly slowed. The median and average prices have been falling across the board all this time. Sales volumes are down to historic lows. Last month was around 50% slower than September 2006 for Sales volume.
Inflow of people has reduced to Edmonton and far fewer people are coming to Alberta recently. Housing construction is still at multi year high and over 15,000 properties will be added within a year's time. Lending standards are tightening. Loonie is trading at near all time highs making a significant dent in industry and government inflows. Industry is threatening with significant investment withdrawals from Alberta if the royalty changes are implemented.
Yet, there are 'bulls' and 'investors' who fervently believe that this will have no impact on real estate price. After the current 'little correction' is over, prices will resume the normal ascend of 5 to 8% come January. Why? How?
The answer is in faith. A lot of sellers have this same belief, that's why a lot of them want short term rentals to carry them through to next spring when this 'correction' will be over. The only question all these sellers need to consider is: What if that does not happen?
What if the price decline accelerates after every month of waiting? What is there's an external economic shock?
If you are a buyer, consider this bull scenario- If the bulls are saying that the prices will rise only 5 to 8% from here on, what's the hurry to buy. By next spring prices will have merely (if at all) recovered to the levels last seen in May this year.
On the other hand, if you go beyond their belief and see what the macro numbers and the real estate fundamentals are telling you, this is probably the worst time to buy. If the prices fall another 10% by next spring, and more after the spring turn around does not materialize, how much will you lose? Especially considering the great rental deals that are available right now.

Finally, why does one argue with a real estate agent about the time to buy? "It's always a great time to buy and build equity." So what if equity is negative for the first 10 years of your 'ownership'.
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