Thursday, January 13, 2011

Something stinks

And it's in the numbers. Here's further proof why the real estate industry associations numbers as they are released to the public are seriously flawed.

Here's what the Victoria Real Estate Board has to say about property values in the Capital in 2010:
...overall average prices were stable and showed modest increases across major property types. The overall average price for single family homes increased by nearly 8.5 per cent; the average price for condominiums rose over four per cent and the average price for townhomes rose over three per cent.
The value of all property transactions through the Victoria Real Estate Board’s Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) system also declined by 14 per cent...
Emphasis mine. So prices are up, in some cases only slightly, and the total value of homes traded dropped, largely because sales volumes were down from the previous year. Fair enough.

Here's what the BC Real Estate Association has to say about property values in the Capital in 2010 (H/T A Simple Man). Dollar volume dropped -14.7%. So we've got harmony between the organizations here. No problem.

Until you look at the harmonized property values average prices. VREB breaks them out into the three most common property types as noted above. BCREA on the other hand lumps the lot together. And they report a drop in the average price of the lumped group of almost 5%.

How is this possible when the VREB is reporting price gains for all types of properties across the board? If you do the quick math, even dumbing it down to single digits, you get 8 + 4 + 3 = 15/3 = 5 which when I last checked was a positive number. But the BCREA average price reporting is 10% less than that.

Let me be clear: I'm not saying that any of these statistics are incorrect (although they could be), nor am I saying that either of these two organizations are purposely misleading the public. But I am saying that for whatever reason, and I believe the reasoning is carefully considered laziness, er, workplace efficiency, that real estate organizations that represent the REALTORS® have very little interest in transparency when it comes to their market data. I'm beginning to think there's not much point in paying attention to any of these numbers anymore. Which is likely what they want us to do.

I'm not the only one questioning board market data these days either: here's someone hitting the Okanagan board pretty hard too. And someone else has some questions for the Calgary board as well.


Animal Spirit said...

VREB is likely year over year for the entire year (and therefore skewed to the high sales months in the spring for both 2009 and 2010) while BCREA is year over year for December, 2009.

VREB picked what they wanted to show, which was the increase for the lumped year. The BCREA data are much more of a leading indicator.

omc said...
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omc said...

Thanks for the stats by the way animal spirit. Your data on the 75 th percentile houses is pretty much what I have been observing.

Dave said...

The only explanation that comes to mind.....Fred Carver must be doing the math.

I don't worry about those things. They always put a positive spin on the numbers, but can you blame them, it is what they do for a living.
I don't think too many people think the market is good right now.

HouseHuntVictoria said...

Dave, the numbers are what they are... but they're useless by design no?

Leo S said...

Animal Spirit has it right. The two numbers you're comparing are not measuring the same thing.

Tim Ayres said...

No one is trying to mislead you, HHV. VREB has one way of calculating their stats, and BCREA has another. VREB does not change the way they calculate their stats to suit the message you think they want to get across. To make comparisons relevant, they calculate the statistics the same way they always have.

Forgive my ignorance in not knowing precisely how statistics are calculated at my board, but rest assured the stats you see are calculated the same way they always are, without 'spin' or bias from one period to another.

BCREA has their way, VREB has theirs. Apples to oranges, enough said.

Yes, dollar volume was down, but the average price of sales in many categories was up.

Animal Spirit said...

HHV has it completely right on the communications aspect.

Two separate reports come out a day or two apart from industry associations. The reports give different messages to the public. The public will therefore be confused. This is perhaps a worse result for BCREA and VREB than the numbers both being slightly down. If I were VREB I'd be f'ing mad at the BCREA for countering their spin.

Carla, this is a great example of spin vs. spin which could be the foundation of a really good investigative piece on real estate statistics tranparency in the TC.

HouseHuntVictoria said...

Tim, I appreciate you chiming in.

I don't think any of these groups are trying to mislead anyone. But they purposefully are not trying to be clear--as in they use different methods of measurement on purpose.

Whether that be because they always have and aren't resourced to do things in the same manner or because of whatever, the point is they don't help to make things clear for the general public.

I'm simply wondering aloud why? Is it so that we give an agent a call to gain clarification while the agent gains a potential customer? Perhaps. My point is the organizations aren't working together to clear the confusion in their messaging.

DavidL said...

Is anyone else finding their posts going "missing"? Earlier today, I posted twice in the previous topic - but when reviewing the HHV site later - the posts were not there.

DavidL said...

Here's a question for thought...

If I were a real estate agent, would it be better for me to try to squeeze as many sales as possible into the first half of the year (while interest rates are lower) by "pumping" the market, or instead trying to spread sales more evenly over the year to provide a more steady revenue stream?

a simple man said...

Hi DavidL: Seems to me the pervasive thought is to pump the market all the time. A sales person rarely wants to put off futures into the future - get as many as you can now and as many as you can in the future.

Mark said...

Tougher condo mortgage laws may be on the way.......

It is almost a guarantee that the government will once again lower the maximum length of amortizations for a mortgage, down to 30 years from 35. Longer amortizations lower monthly mortgage fees making it easier for consumers to borrow more.

The Canadian Association of Accredited Mortgage Professionals says 30% of new mortgages last year were for amortizations of 35 years, so a considerable percentage of Canadians are taking advantage of the current rules.

*Personally I think the number is much higher than 30% I think more like 50% +

I think the minimum down payment will be raised as well.

a simple man said...

sorry for the typo two posts up - should state "A sales person rarely wants to put off SALES into the future "

As for the changes in mortgage rules - I say bring them on! Sooner the better.

Just Jack said...

Lowering the amortization period is a good thing, but what's important is to level the playing field in the down payment.

A 5% down payment is not enough skin in the game either for the prospective buyer or the lender. Some lenders side step the 5% with cash back schemes and separate loans equaling the nickel down. Even builders get into the scheme, by considering the 5% as down payment if you finish the landscaping.

Raise the down payment to 10% and this type of "fraud" will be curtailed.

The other thing is to have the originators of the mortgage accept responsibility for lack of due diligence in taking the application.

Without accountability and responsibility being addressed, Flaherty is just continuing to be a fluffer for real estate porn.

Mr.4AM said...
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Lina Zussino - Victoria Mortgage Broker said...

Lowering amortization period makes little to no difference. Which is what will more than likely happen.

Increasing down payment is where you see the huge drop in monthly payments.

a simple man said...

I would love to see a 25 yr max and a 20% downpayment, but that will likely never happen.

DavidL said...

I would like to see 10% down, max 25 year amortization and CHMC can only insure 90% of the mortgage value. (The lending agency would be responsible for the remaining 10%.) I think that banks would quick reduce the number of mortgages offered to those who are "underqualified", and start scaling back on HELOC's (home equity lines of credit).

Just Jack said...

20 percent down may not be out of the question. If Flaherty has mismanaged CMHC similar to what happened to Freddie and Fannie Mae in the states, then I could see CMHC's forced to curtail its lending practices. Which may end high ratio financing in Canada or more likely, make it so expensive, few people will want it.

Would you want to pay an additional 5% of the mortgage to CMHC to insure the banks? How about 10%?

CMHC will, if it isn't already, be bleeding red ink for a long time.

Lina Zussino - Victoria Mortgage Broker said...

I'd be selling my bank stocks if that ever happened. How are the banks going to make money? ha ha, wink, wink...

I'd like to see an "increase" in income in Victoria first! while keeping the same criteria.

DavidL said...

@Lina Zussino wrote: Lowering amortization period makes little to no difference. Which is what will more than likely happen.

I'm not sure if I understand your math ...

Let's say that I can afford to pay $2500 per month to service a mortgage debt. If interest rates are fixed at 5% , with a 25-year amortization I can borrow $430K. With the 35-year amortization I can borrow $500K. The extra 10 years of amortization allows me to borrow an extra $70,000.

Of course, if interest rates climb to 8% with the same $500K mortgage and 35-year amortization - my monthly payments jump $1000 to $3500.

Just Jack said...

The banks would have to make money the old fashioned way - they would have to take on risk. Not pass it on to the taxpayer.

That would mean that the lenders would want a higher rate of interest to compensate for the higher risk.

And Flaherty could change the regulations allowing the banks to lend up to 85% on a first mortgage.

CMHC has outlived its necessity. The Canadian government should not be in the mortgage business.
The government should have sold CMHC to Genworth when it was worth something.

HouseHuntVictoria said...

Regarding those condo rule changes...

Let's say your household earns $80K/year.

Let's say no other debts and the average condo fee is $200/month, taxes are $2K/year, heat cost is $50/month and you have $30K down.

You'd likely be approved for $400K on the posted 5-year fixed (4.25% today).

Now we double the condo fee (the way it's currently measured it's a 50% impact, so we double it for a standard online "how much can I afford" calculator).

Now you're approved for $23K less, or $377K.

Does this really change the game? Will this really prevent anyone from over extending themselves in a condo?

It will if it's coupled with a reduction in amortization to 30 years from 35.

Now you're approved for $350K or 12.5% less than you would be today. That will impact the market locally. Buyers will still be able to overextend themselves in the near term.

Anyone with a pre-approval based on today's rules will be feeling the heat to get in now, likely creating a more active spring market than otherwise.

This is all speculation at this point.

Lina Zussino - Victoria Mortgage Broker said...

@DavidL, at today's rates looking at the current scenario of dropping 5 years off amortization, it doesn't make all that much of a difference in a payment monthly payment. Overall sure it would but I'm talking about monthly affordability.

Travel Girl said...

Here's an look at what $350,000 will buy you in different parts of Canada. It makes me mad, lol.

a simple man said...

Travel girl...step outside into the 14 degree C weather today, the 14th of Jan. Part of the higher prices here are a "no winter tax".

I have lived in some of those places and won't again!

However, even with the "no winter tax" real estate here is substantially overpriced. As it is in most other snowier, frozen places in Canada.

jesse said...

I thought people had to qualify for 25 year am schedule under CMHC reqts. Or am I wrong? How would moving from 35 to 30 change the # of buyers or affordability?

Lina Zussino - Victoria Mortgage Broker said...

When it comes to amortization there there is no benchmark.

Just Jack said...

Dropping the amortization by 5 years doesn't significantly change the affordability or monthly payment but it does reduce risk.

Generations ago, our forefathers made indentureship illegal. When Flaherty moved the amortization from 25 to 40 years he made people lifetime laborers to the lenders and slaves to a mortgage.

When you owe more than the home is worth, you restrict your ability to change employers, to change mortgagers, to sell, to improve, and to relocate.

I remember one couple telling me that they are not worried about such a big mortgage over such a long time. Because, they would be coming into an inheritance as their parents were very old.
When I asked them how old their parents were - they said in their 50's.

A 35 year mortgage is a death pledge - the only question is who's going to die?

Hint for today. Don't let your son-in-law work on your car brakes.