Friday, May 29, 2009

Weekend Open Thread

Happy days are here again....
  • Loonie up to 91 cents and change. Will we see parity again soon? Who knows. Ontario and Quebec are going to be in more trouble and manufacturing hit again.
  • Oil up to $66. Are we going to see $100 oil again? Who knows. In any case, we sure seem to be running out of space for holding the excessive oil produced during the last several months.
  • Up is down, good is bad, bad is great....fundamentals don't matter. Once again. We do know how this ended the last time, but everyone (Banks, Hedgies is back in the game with a vengeance, supercharged with the massive guarantees given by the governments of the world and inspired by their dedication to do 'good' to the world.
  • And it's not misplaced. If they can all succeed in restarting the commodities bubble, so many problems will be solved. Like all those unemployed engineers and tradespeople in Alberta can start working on the oil sands again which will help energy companies produce more and generate more tax for the governments at all levels. Never mind the drag higher oil prices will have on the rest of the world and wilt the 'green shoots.' And we seem to have forgotten how the oil bubble ended the last time. But that was all so last year.
  • The local real estate seems to be doing just fine again. For all those bullish on real estate, the only thing that matters is- but prices are going up and the sales are strong. This is all bolstered by the arguments specific to a locale- oil, weather, diversified economy etc. We all know how this has ended at other places but given we never completely fell down the cliff and miraculously got a lift on our journey downwards has revived many a faltering spirit. May be we are really different here. As many people would say- this is the last chance to get into the Alberta's faltered real estate market. Sigh.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Nortel Building Bought by City of Calgary

Some of you who are looking at commercial investments in future might have caught this one. The city of Calgary bought the Nortel's calgary campus for around $97 million.
Is it a good value? The city of Calgary assessed the property at around $125 the city is saying that for commercial properties the actual value should be discounted by at least 20 per cent?

And you might notice that I've implemented a new comment system. It will make it much easier to get rid of the trolls and hopefully have a few moderators.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


This post was submitted by our regular commentator ...."Carioca Canuck". Guest articles are welcome and can be submitted to

This article reflects "my personal views and opinions" and expressed under the charter and its posting here is not a defacto endorsement by the blog owner nor GOOGLE.

Just what is news anyways ?

The collapse of a government, the egregious murder of a citizen by a criminal, the theft of money from a restaurant, the opening of a new neighbourhood business or a school, a proposed increase in civic taxes, transit parking being converted from free for the day to $3.00 a day....etc.....this is what is commonly referred to as news. Hard news. The Calgary Herald, and the other "newspaper" minions of Canwest Corp, in addition to the Canwest GLOBAL TV stations call themselves a news organization, but today, as they have many times in the past, they have crossed the line once again. Using the term "news organization" when describing this company should be taken with a grain of salt, no wait, you're probably going to need a dump truck full when you are done reading.

All over this continent the print media is losing revenue dramatically, companies are collapsing outright, employees are being laid off in record numbers, assets are being sold to fund operations, and that staple core of the print media's revenue, the advertiser, has run for the hills with their wallets firmly in hand, wherein they have found that the greater consumer reach and lower cost of the internet to be to their greater benefit.

So where does this leave The Calgary Herald, other newspapers, it's TV stations and their owners Canwest Corp ? With a .30 cent share price, you guessed many other "news organizations" they are on their death bed in the opinion of some analysts, potentially facing bankruptcy and struggling for revenues. So what is a "news organization" with the power to spread whatever message they wish, as no one controls what they say or print, to do in these tough times whilst trying to stay afloat ? Grow revenues of course !! When I was young, I tried to make a deal with the devil. I said "Satan give me $1MM and a Lamborghini and you can have my soul when I die"........well, I never got the money or the car, so IMHO on that day, the devil did not exist. But today I am of the opinion that there is a devil....and it is the "Real Estate Industrial Complex" or REIC. The REIC is comprised of the media, home builders, real estate sales organizations, lending institutions and the government. So, is Canwest making a deal with this devil, or have they already done so ? Let's see shall we........

In the weekend edition of the Calgary Herald, you will see an abnormally high page count of advertisers from the REIC. The Herald's usual Saturday and Sunday editions which on some days are comprised of 120 + pages have had between 40-50 full pages of RE specific advertising over the last two years. In fact I have commented on this point some 5 + times here on this blog over the same period. Now what is wrong with that you say ? Well, nothing quite frankly, newspapers have to sell advertising to stay in business in order to print the "news". But the wheels at the Calgary Herald have fallen off the wagon some time ago.

Kathy McCormick is one of the real estate writers for the newspaper. I am not going to criticize her personally for the content of her articles, for if she didn't do what she was told to do, she'd probably be pouring coffee for Timmies. Here is her latest scribe, entitled "Dream Within Reach" in which she waxes eloquently about how record low rates, dropping housing prices, etc, etc, you know the story, make it a perfect time for first time buyers to pull the pin and figuratively blow themselves up financially down the road. Read the article closely, and you'll note that the Calgary Herald is going to do a 6 WEEK series on this phenomena !!!! Geesh......I wonder how much that cost the REIC ? Did any of you who read it see the disclaimer "ADVERTISING FEATURE" posted prominently anywhere in the text or heading of this "news" article as well ? Didn't think so. They won't even let us leave comments as that feature has been disabled for this article......ROTFLMAO !!!!

And then you have the eternal "permabull" Calgary Herald writer Marty Hope. He also can't be faulted for what his pen, or keyboard puts forth now can he ? After all, delivering the Herald as an unemployed writer would be most humbling. In the same edition, he gets his turn to glibly inform us of the power of that mysterious naive and clueless milquetoast......the first time home buyer. He appeals to them mercilessly, as they are the only group that can save the REIC from total and utter collapse. Again though, you see no "ADVERTISING FEATURE", nor comments section, indicating that this hyperbole must be the gospel truth and is not to be decried by those pesky basement dwelling renters.

Now Derek Sanker from the corporate parent CANWEST "news" service has his turn at bat in the same edition as well. "Paul Anderson and his wife Sue felt like they could only dream of home ownership. Much to their surprise, and after some negotiating, the couple was approved. "I looked at my wife with a tear in my eye and realized I might get a house," says Paul, 42." Please excuse me while I get a towel.......not for the tears, for the puke on my keyboard. Absolutely positively none of these articles are "news" or even "news worthy" in the clearcut journalistic sense of the word......none of them have "ADVERTISING FEATURE" posted cleary, nor a comments section. And here's why........

Mario Toneguzzi ("toneguzzi" is Italian for pile of gibberish) recently posted another "news" article for the Herald about how buyers are coming back into the market and raving about how sales have gone up over last month. Doouuh !! Look at the historical patterns and you'll see that happens every year at this time. Yet in this "news" article they left the comment feature on, and that is where you'll find the most accurate and digestible information about the state of Calgary's real estate decline. But it pisses off the REIC when they do that.......bloody basement dwelling renters again with their opinions.....heh.

So what do you, Bubble Bloggers, have to say about the Calgary Herald and the Canwest GLOBAL news organization ? Are they in bed with the REIC ? At $10,000 + per full page of Calgary Herald advertising is the REIC the only thing keeping them afloat ? While you are formulating your comments which I eagerly await, I will remind you of one thing beforehand. RE/MAX is the sole sponsor of the Canwest/GLOBAL TV evening "news"............

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Analysis of New Home Price Index

While some people are celebrating the spring with the signs of the shoots, bottoming of the real estate market, rebound in oil prices, it could just be another case of triumph of hope over reality. Patience is the name of the game and those who are sitting without any interest in the markets can afford to wait out. There's no urgency. There's no rush.
The fluctuations in median/mean prices of new homes in Edmonton and Calgary could just be noise though the incontrovertible fact is that prices have been falling for almost 2 years now. That is if you bought anytime in 2007 or 2008, you are in the red.
The new home price index in Alberta gives an interesting perspective as it represents a more controlled set of sample space. In the index, they get information from the same representative builders/contractors who sell largely same/similar homes.

"The New Housing Price Index (NHPI) is a monthly series that measures changes over time in the contractors' selling prices of new residential houses, where detailed specifications pertaining to each house remain the same between two consecutive periods."

The new house price Index is down to 230.8 in Calgary from a peak of 248.2 in 2008. The Edmonton index has fallen more rapidly to 213.1 from a peak of 236.2 in 2008. Please not that the monthly peaks could be higher than the values I have as I did not want to give $6 to StatsCan for getting the montly data that should really be freely availalbe. And if that is the case, then the over pricing will be even more spectacular.

Given the humble readings of 137 and 147 for Edmonton and Calgary in 2005, one can easily see the 'bubble' there. From 100 in 1997 to around 150 took over 8 years, yet the index gained another 100 points in less than 3 years. And for all the arguments about increasing population etc, Alberta's population grew just as fast in 1996-2001 than it did between 2001-2006.

Why did the prices rise so much and so fast? For the same reasons it rose in just about all parts of the world. Easy credit. Speculation. 'Real Estate always goes up' mantra.

That game is over now, except in the minds of a few who are invested heavingly in real estate, either via vocation or investments. For us, we are losing our affinity to this province as we don't work in the Energy sector and our small business is taking off in a big way. As and when we decide to expand, we don't want to be based in Alberta for reasons we witnessed in the last few years. So we really have no interst in the market, except as an observer.

On a broader scale, what we are seeing now is a desperate attempt to revive the 'decoupling myth'. That's why the rush to commodities currencies, oil and everything else. OPEC has so far cut about 3 mbpd production and yet we keep on talking about supply constraints. Everyone (banks, hedge funds etc) is trying to play the same old game(lower dollar, higher commodities, rising stocks) because this is the only game they know. But alas! the numbers tell something else. Chinese exports are still falling hard (down 23% YOY) and it seems most of the stimulus China is providing is going into building more new factories even when the power consumption and utilization is all going down in the existing factories. But that's the only thing the Chinese government can do since it doesn't have any banksters to bail out.

Returning to the index of new home prices, if the prices were to keep pace only with inflation of 3% per annum, then we would see price index of roughly 143 or so in both Edmonton and Calgary, last seen in 2005. I recall that several long time investors who bought during mid 90s bust in Alberta sold in 2005 because the market was getting frothy at that time.

For a new home that is now selling at around $400k in Calgary, it's inflation adjusted price based on 1997 base of 100 should be $400*143/236 or around $242k. Remember, 143 is the inflation adjusted index based on an anuual inflation of 3% since 1997.
A similar home in Edmonton should sell for $400*143/213 or around 268k.

Which means, we are not even half way through the declines yet, assuming there's no over swinging of the pendulum to ther other side.
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