Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Real estate surge no ‘blip,' TD says

How do you categorize the definat housing market in face of rising unemployment, continual contraction of the economy, global recession, massive problems in the economy of our largest partner, surging trade deficit and {add your list of other problems with the economy here}? Here are the choices:

a) It's a bubble.
b) It's a bubble on steroids fueled by the greatest fools who have learnt nothing from the real estate debacle in the US, UK, Dubai and several other parts of the world.
c)It's based on strong fundamentals.

If you answered c, you can get a job as an economist with the TD Bank. But seriously, why would you answer it any other way? If you make a good chunk of your money by lending obscene amounts of money riskfree to the greatest fools in many generations, this would seem an appropriate response.

Let's talk a little bit about the fundamentals here, since we haven't dealt with those in a long time. I'll focus on my favorite ones-the ones that use the cost of production model:

-How expensive should land be in a country like Canada where there's no dearth of land? Especially in Alberta where there's usable land. Why are lots in Calgary sub division three to four times as expensive in Texas? New Mexico? Colorado?
I won't even mention the lot sizes here. The newer lots are a fraction of the size of older lots in the same city. I won't dare do a comparison with the US suburbs here. Everything is so much smaller. Because the developers can get away with it, just as retailers, auto makers, cell phone providers and everyone else in our country can get away by milking the sheep-would be Canadian homeowners.

-Why should there be so much difference in cost of construction across different parts of Canada? Yes, excluding the cost of a lot, why does it cost so much more to build a house in Calgary or Vancouver than in say Guelph or Barrie? I won't even venture to do a comparison between the US construction costs and the Canadian ones. We no longer have the problems of 'surging labour costs' as evidenced by the nearly 8% unemployment in Alberta.

What are the real fundamentals behind the house price increases? If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know the answer. And it's a four letter word.

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