August 1, 2018

Are We Doing This? Are We Having A Downturn?

A report from the Globe and Mail in Canada. “It has been two years since the provincial government, then led by the B.C. Liberals, slapped a 15-per-cent tax on foreign buyers in the Vancouver region. In February, 2018, the B.C. NDP minority government raised that tax to 20 per cent and also expanded its reach to include other urban areas in British Columbia. The price for detached houses sold in Vancouver in June averaged $2,550,708, down 12 per cent from $2,899,698 in the same month in 2016. The city’s condo market peaked in January this year and the townhouse segment hit new highs last August. The average price for attached properties sold in June was more than 15 per cent lower than the record highs.”

“Cohen Landherr listed his Vancouver condo in June in order to upgrade. The 29-year-old financial technology consultant hopes to make a decent profit on his one-bedroom unit in the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood on Vancouver’s east side. His parents helped him in 2014 with a large down payment on the presale condo that he agreed to buy for $326,000. He wants to sell the 615-square-foot unit for close to his current list price of $599,800, marked down from his original asking price in June of $648,000. Mr. Landherr said he missed out on the pricing peak of Vancouver’s condo market in January.”

“Brandan Price, an agent with Rennie & Associates Realty Ltd., said provincial and federal housing measures have primarily affected higher-end detached houses so far in Vancouver. ‘For properties below $3-million, I’m not seeing sellers panic or buyers lose consumer confidence,’ Mr. Price said. ‘But many buyers and sellers aren’t seeing eye-to-eye. A lot of sellers are in a strong financial position and they don’t have to sell and they will just stay put until they get a number that they like.’”

The Vancouver Sun in Canada. “High inventory of detached homes in Vancouver’s west side and in West Vancouver means prices are coming down. ‘Declining prices for detached properties in some areas, particularly Vancouver’s Westside and West Vancouver, are due to high inventories that have accumulated due to sustained falling sales volumes,’ according to a CMHC statement.”

“The CMHC’s housing market assessment provides an analysis of Canada’s housing market in 15 census metropolitan areas based on four main factors: the rate at which sales outpace new listings, housing price acceleration, overvaluation and overbuilding. ‘At the national level a high degree of vulnerability continues due to moderate levels of price acceleration and overvaluation,’ said CMHC chief economist Bob Dugan.”

The New Zealand Herald. “Former PM John Key grabbed headlines at the weekend warning that New Zealand faces an economic downturn. Then this week we saw sentiment on the ANZ Business Outlook slump to levels not seen since the global financial crisis. We saw unemployment start heading in the wrong direction after five consecutive monthly falls. We saw QV data showing the national average house price fell. And we saw a major construction firm go into receivership leaving a number of half-finished projects.”

“Are we doing this? Are we having a downturn? And if so how serious will it actually be? From a business point of view, there are some worrying signs, ASB chief economist Nick Tuffley told The Economy Hub this week. ‘Throw in things like Mycoplasma bovis for the dairy sector and the background noise globally and you can see why people are saying: what’s going on here?’”

The New Daily on Australia. “The housing downturn has picked up speed, with property prices across the country recording their largest combined annual fall in six years. The downturn appears widespread, affecting both cities and regional areas. Values slipped in five of the eight capital cities in the past three months, while regional housing markets – ‘where conditions have generally been more resilient to falls’ – also ‘turned negative,’ CoreLogic said.”

“‘We can’t see any factors that may halt or reverse the housing markets trajectory of subtle declines over the second half of 2018,’ said CoreLogic research head Tim Lawless.”

The Daily Telegraph on Australia. “Sydney’s inner west, Hills district, Blacktown and Ryde region have lead the city’s housing market downturn, recording the biggest falls in prices. Prices in the Hills region recorded the biggest falls over the year at 9.2 per cent — although they remain well over $1.1 million on average. Inner west prices recorded the second biggest average fall at 8.8 per cent, followed by the Blacktown region’s 7.8 per cent fall and the 7.7 per cent fall in Ryde regional prices.”

“Prices were falling particularly hard in these regions due to an oversupply of housing, coupled with a drop in housing demand, according to Mr Lawless. ‘Most of these are areas where prices are on the higher end,’ he said. ‘They were also where prices grew the fastest over the boom so it’s possible the prices overshot the market.’”

“Properties valued within the top quarter of the market had average falls off nearly 8 per cent for the year. This compared to only a 1.8 per cent drop in prices for properties valued within the bottom quarter of the market. ‘Banks are looking closer at buyers’ income levels and it’s the point where most can’t get a loan for properties priced at the middle or higher end of the market,’ Mr Lawless said.”

The Australian Financial Review. “LJ Hooker’s Peter Tannous has his work cut out for him in Sydney’s west, where he is now either coaxing desperate homeowners to close the sale of their properties quickly before the market dips again or consoling those who have sold at a loss. As Corelogic’s Hedonic Home Value Index confirmed that property prices are continuing to drift down, this week Mr Tannous sold a two-bedroom unit for a 30-year-old homeowner who ‘couldn’t afford his mortgage’ any more with a newborn arriving.”

“The apartment on O’Neill Street in Guildford sold for $450,000 even though the owner wanted $489,000. He bought the home for nearly $483,000 at the peak of the market in 2015. ‘The royal commission has done the west no favours as banks tighten their lending criteria and focus more now than they ever did on serviceability,’ he said. ‘One lender won’t even take into account potential rent when considering a purchaser’s ability to service the mortgage. The broker said to the borrower “what if you can’t find a tenant’?”

“Unfortunately, Mr Tannous and his colleague, LJ Hooker Merrylands principal John Contos have plenty more similar properties to sell especially for their investor clients facing pressure from rising rental vacancy rates and falling rents in Sydney.”

“Capital Economics warns the ‘worst is yet to come’ and anticipates a faster decline in house prices than initially expected. ‘Our relatively bearish forecast that prices will gradually fall by 12 per cent from peak to trough is starting to look a bit optimistic,’ said Chief Australia & New Zealand Economist Paul Dales. ‘Most worrying is that prices will soon be falling at an even faster pace. The further decline in the number of home sales in March to a seven-year low was larger than the fall in the number of new listings. In other words, demand is deteriorating at a faster rate than supply is improving.’”

Prices In Sought-After Cities Are Heading South

A report from CNN Money. “After an unusually calm 2017, volatility is making a comeback. The turbulence appears to be a side effect of the Federal Reserve starting last fall to shrink its $4.5 trillion balance sheet. In a bid to revive the economy and stock market, the Fed took the unusual step in 2008 of aggressively buying government bonds and mortgage securities in an experimental program known as quantitative easing. The central bank bought so much during QE1, QE2 and QE3 that its balance sheet swelled five-fold over a decade. The Fed, emboldened by the strong economy, has begun to take the training wheels off. It’s tightened financial policy by raising rock-bottom rates seven times since late 2015.”

“Last fall, the Fed started to trim its balance sheet by $10 billion a month. The pace of selling has since accelerated and is on track to eventually reach $50 billion a month. ‘Quantitative easing was a big experiment, and so unwinding it is an experiment in and of itself,’ said Kristina Hooper, Invesco’s chief global market strategist.”

“The return of market storms doesn’t mean the Fed is on the wrong track. It only seems wise to wean the economy and markets off crisis-era policies. ‘The Fed should be taking away emergency stimulus. If it doesn’t, it’ll blow an asset bubble like what we saw in the housing bust,’ said Barbara Reinhard, head of asset allocation at Voya Investment Management.”

From Bloomberg. “From London to Sydney and Beijing to New York, house prices in some of the world’s most sought-after cities are heading south. Home sales in New York’s most expensive borough have been falling for three straight quarters, allowing buyers to be picky as inventory rises and fears grow that prices climbed too high, too fast. There were almost 7,000 apartments on the market at the end of the second quarter, 11 percent more than a year earlier. Sales fell 17 percent to just over 2,600.”

“Developers are still pumping newly built luxury units onto the sales market: 4,600 new apartments are expected to be listed across the borough this year. The upshot is falling prices: the median value of a home that sold in the three months through June slid 7.5 percent to $1.1 million.”

From the Epoch Times. “While backward-looking measures such as the Case-Shiller 20 City Composite Home Price Index do not yet show the turn, granular measures such as the Weiss Residential Research index show the number of homes rising in price is decelerating rapidly. In beautiful Orange County, for example, home sales in luxury venues such as Newport and Laguna Beach have slowed to a trickle. As in New York and Connecticut, luxury-home prices in Southern California have experienced price compression, especially since this year’s first quarter.”

“Anecdotal reports from real-estate brokers suggest the asset-price bubble created by the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) is starting to deflate. The ‘aspirational pricing,’ to paraphrase Jonathan Miller of Miller Samuel, is basically done. Prices for high-end homes are being marked down rather than up, as sellers are forced to capitulate to close the deal.”

The Orange County Register in California. “The Inland Empire’s homeownership rate dipped in the second quarter as more homes for sale stood empty. One bad quarter is not a significantly ominous signal, but the falling ownership levels along with a rising vacancies suggest local house hunters are not jumping on 2018’s noteworthy surge in homes listed for sale. Considering all the talk about a shortage of housing in Southern California, it’s curious that an increased supply of shopper options has translated to home sales in the region in 2018 running at a four-year low.”

From Fox 40 in California. “We’ve seen housing prices skyrocket in the last two years, but have we finally topped out? Sacramento-area’s fast-rising price gains have slowed dramatically during the past few months and didn’t even budge in June. And home sales slowed in June compared to May – and from a year ago, according to a California Association of Realtors. Plus, mortgage rates, which surged during the first few months of the year, have actually been falling in recent weeks – and are now at rates last seen in April. What’s going on?”

From “® today released its July 2018 monthly housing trend report, which revealed a quiet inventory turnaround in high-priced local markets as U.S. home prices and time on market continued to set records. Silicon Valley is leading the rebound as the San Jose metro surged with 44 percent more inventory than a year ago — a quick about-face from its May inventory declines.”

‘The inventory turnaround is concentrated in high-priced markets. Additionally, inventories are up the most in markets that have seen sustained price growth which is now starting to slow. ‘July inventory growth is in high-priced, competitive markets, and often at the pricier end of these markets,’ said Danielle Hale, chief economist for®. ‘It’s not just California markets that have seen an increase in inventory, markets on both coasts and in the South reported inventory increases in July.’”

“In addition to San Jose, inventory increased in Seattle, and Providence increasing 44 percent, 29 percent and 23 percent, respectively. Other major markets that showed gains included: Dallas (15 percent), San Francisco (10 percent), Boston (5 percent), and New York (2 percent).”

The Dallas Morning News in Texas. “Dallas-area home price gains continued to lose steam in the latest nationwide comparison. Dallas home prices were up just 5.6 percent year-over-year in the new Standard & Poor’s/Case Shiller Home Price Index. That’s less than the nationwide annual increase of 6.4 percent in May. And it’s the lowest Dallas-area home price increase Case-Shiller has recorded in almost six years.”

“Dallas-area home prices are now at record levels in the Case-Shiller index and are 47 percent higher than they were before the Great Recession. ‘The twin, deeply entrenched drivers of rapidly appreciating home prices over the past few years — very high demand from home buyers and incredibly limited supply to meet it — aren’t changing and are unlikely to meaningfully subside in the near term,’ Zillow senior economist Aaron Terrazas said. ‘But there are some very faint, very preliminary, sometimes contradictory and maybe deceptive signals that the tide could slowly be beginning to turn.’”

From Bizwest on Colorado. “Northern Colorado is in a seller’s market, right? Hard to argue otherwise. After all, the region’s supply of homes for sale has held low for several years running, demand maintains a steady simmer, and average prices keep climbing. From a 30,000-foot view, that’s a reasonable assessment. But identifying a seller’s market or buyer’s market requires a closer look — maybe even as close as a neighborhood, a city block, or a specific property. Through that lens, you’ll see that Northern Colorado is a patchwork of seller’s and buyer’s markets.”

“$700,001-$1 million. Signs of a buyer’s market for those shopping in this price range. Only in Fort Collins was supply at less than six months (4.4 months). Greeley, Loveland and Windsor all reported at least seven months of supply. But Greeley sellers got 100.6 percent of their asking price, while the Fort Collins sellers only brought in 96.2 percent.”

“$1 million-$1.3 million. A small sample size here, so only Fort Collins had enough sales in this price range to warrant analysis. The supply was 8.5 months, and percentage of list price was just 85.5 percent.”