Thursday, December 4, 2008

What will Oil and Gas Bust do to Alberta real estate?

Several months ago, there was a poll on this blog that talked about the ramifications of lower oil prices on Alberta. The consensus then was that anything below $50 would be bad. If $50 were bad, what would $25 oil do to Alberta? And what will be the impact of $3 or $4 natural gas?
Many educated commentators on this blog have long made the case that the Alberta real estate boom had less to do with the commodity prices but more with the rampant construction activity and easy credit/speculation.
But we can't deny that at least there was some component of the increased demand from people who moved to Alberta in search of work. Now that it looks an oil and gas bust is a fairly probable if not likely event, what will happen to all the new Albertans who moved here just for jobs? They will likely move to places (in east or west) that have somewhat more diversified economies.
I've a few friends who moved to Calgary in EPC companies from all over Canada during the last few years. The EPC companies (Colt, Jacobs etc) recruited massively in the last few years in anticipation of the hundreds of billions of oil sands spending that everyone was counting on. With almost all the upgraders now canceled or indefinitely delayed and the spectre of $25 oil seriously threatening mining projects in Fort Mcmurray, I expect massive layoffs in EPC sector soon.
And that is just the start. Even though there are still lots of jobs in Calgary, almost everything in province is built around oil and gas. We have discussed in the past how our half trick pony energy industry manages to kill everything in the boom years that is developed during the bust years.

If the commodity bust really unfolds as I am afraid it will, expect the following:
  • Sharp fall in provincial government resource revenue (this will be impacted more by natural gas prices) leading to fall in government spending, hiring freezes and potential layoffs in government. Let's hope it won't be 1992 all over again for government employees.
  • Very few oil sands projects will continue to produce leading to sharp fall in profitability of oil and gas sector and consequent retrenchment of workforce.
  • Since everything in Alberta is built around the energy industry, everyone ranging from accounting firms to staffing agencies will be impacted.
  • A sharp slowdown in construction employment sending the transitory labour force home.
  • Rental vacancies climbing and reaching 10 per cent or more.
  • Flippers, speculators and others in the same genre who have been saved so far by a strong rental market will start hemorrhaging cash and will run to exits.
  • Start of noticeable foreclosure activity in Alberta at this stage.
  • Combination of layoffs, falling employment, tighter credit, foreclosure will pull the prices further down.
  • And the vicious cycle will continue.
Of course, this is not a chronological forecast of things that are about to unfold but a likely scenario that can play out in several different ways but will most likely feature most of above mentioned items.

In most of the posts in the past, I avoided making a case for collapsing values in Alberta real estate based on the fundamental economic factors. But the dreadful bust scenario is now knocking on the doors of Alberta and the last few years of greed, speculation, excesses, lack of public policy will only exacerbate the problems.
It looks like the fat lady has sung on Alberta's most recent boom.

Anyone who is thinking of buying at this time is either too rich or too stupid.
blog comments powered by Disqus
Real Estate Blogs - Blog Top Sites