Wednesday, February 3, 2010

You buy a house for half a million dollars and... early evening(8 pm) you hear a doorbell. You are surprised to see someone who resembles your neighbor. He asks if the sound of music that he's hearing is coming from your house. You wonder, what sound is it? And then you remember, oh yes, it's your 4 year old who is listening to the nursery rhymes on youtube and hooked up to your 10 year old Philips stereo. You politely say yes...and promise to turn the volume down.
This is not a hypothetical example. A friend of mine who is renting a place in NW Calgary had this exact experience a few days ago. Without getting into the legalities of the situation(was it too much noise, 8 pm late enough etc) and the 'home owners' rights, the question that needs to be asked is- what the heck is going on?
We all know the story of rows of houses getting gutted in Edmonton because there was too small a distance between the homes.
A house that sells for nearly half a million and you have neighbours complaining of noise. And this isn't unruly teenagers doing a late night party, but the sound of nursery rhymes.
Also, these houses don't share any common wall, but the distance between them is no more than a couple of feet. After all, the developers, the city and everyone else needs to account for such massive scarcity of land in Calgary, right?
If this were attached houses, apartments, condos etc, such complaints would be understandable.
But if after spending close to half a million dollars, your little kids can't dance to a nursery rhyme at 8 in the evening at slightly higher volume, you are forced to wonder the entire point of buying a house.
And you recognize that something is seriously wrong with the situation. The bankers, realtors, mortgage brokers and pretty much the entire real industry complex wants to sell overpriced shoe boxes to naive young families and push them into debt subservience for most of their productive lives.
So may be this is a warning to those who are thinking of jumping into the housing market at this stage for lifestyle reasons-that their kids can have room to run around and play-Beware! What you buy might appear a bit spacious than the townhouse or condo you are currently living in, but don't expect a lot of space for yourself or your family. You'll be living in a tight and cramped subdivisions built by greedy developers, rapacious municipalities, voracious bankers and less than truthful realtors, all abetted by the economic policies and framework created by your 'government representatives.'
As for my friend, she is a 'lowly renter.' She'll be looking for a better place once her lease expires in the next few months. She does thank this blog and the commentators that she did not buy. Now imagine what would be her feeling at this stage if she had bought the same house for $483,000 with 10% down and 35 year mortgage. Worse, if most of the neighbors were in the same boat financially.
Happy renting!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Weekend Open Thread

  • Retail sales in Canada down sharply in November. Ex-gasoline, sales fell 1 per cent in November. You won't find a glorified mention of this item in the mainstream media.
  • Why? Because they will be highlighting the other release from StatsCan- the fall in number of EI recipients. Which is a news to be welcomed, if it were not for the real possibility that those falling off the EI rolls are venturing into the territory of self employment or under employment.
  • Vacancy rates in the office and industrial sector in Alberta have soared. More so in Calgary than in Edmonton so far. But while passing through some of the industrial sections of North East Calgary, there was a glut of industrial space waiting to be leased. This reflects the level of pullback in the primary sector that has driven the prosperity of Alberta over the last decade or so.
  • What are your observations?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

And then they'll say they never saw it coming

Almost all the 'institutional liars' claim that they never saw the financial crisis coming. In the Canadian context, we were told that there won't be any recession. Prior to that, circa 2007, there was not even a brief mention of a housing bubble anywhere, except at places like this blog.
3 years later, with 5 % reduction in GDP, over half a million jobs lost, real estate values falling by over 10 to 15% from the peak, it seems people seemed to have learnt nothing. 'Real estate investing' is back in vogue and a lot of 'investors' want a piece of the action. Here's an ad in local Calgary classified for a 50 year old apartment building:

Year Built
1957 (est)
Wood frame
Suite Mix
4 One Bedroom Suites 600 sf +/-
4 Two Bedroom Suites 700 sf +/-
8 Suites Total 5,200 sf +/-
8 refrigerators, 8 stoves, 1 washing machine,
1 dryer
Rental Rate Range
One Bedroom - $750 - $875
Two Bedroom - $875 - $950
• Clean building New roof
• Historically low vacancy
Annual Rent $82,500
Laundry $ 1,800
Gross Income $84,300
Less: Vacancy (1%) $ 843
TOTAL $83,457
Taxes $ 5,902
Insurance $ 2,400
Utilities $ 7,026
Caretaker $ 2,400
R & M $ 4,800
Misc. $ 1,000
TOTAL $23,528
Net Income $59,929
Price $1,600,000
A cap rate of less than 3.75 per cent with very aggressive occupancy assumptions for a 53 year old wooden building in a boom/bust city of Calgary. Sorry, I forgot we had mastered the business cycle. I won't be surprised if CMHC underwrote the mortgage for this type of loan to a 'smart investor'.
Back in the days of 'Alberta Advantage' a property like this would sell for no more than 30 to 40k per unit.

a note on the moderation of comments-it will be stricter. far more stricter than before. if you post a personal attack, it will be deleted. if you post an insult twice, you will be banned.
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