Tuesday, October 16, 2007

City of Vancouver MLS Listings Data - UPDATED

Here is some updated data from our 'anona-poster.'

Vancouver West Apartments.

Vancouver East Apartments

West Vancouver Townhouses

East Vancouver Townhouses.

West Vancouver Houses

East Vancouver Houses

I received this wonderful email yesterday from a regular reader. Clearly there are some technically gifted individuals out there.

I'm a regular reader of your blog; haven't posted, but I really enjoy your writing. I'm writing to you on e-mail because I don't know how to post attachments to your blog.

Recently I wrote a program to grab all the current listings in the Vancouver area (City of Vancouver only so far) from the MLS site, including price, lot size, number of bedrooms, bathrooms, and house age. As of October 13, there were 3196 listings in the CoV.

I've attached a summary figure, which you're welcome to post on your blog, which shows the distribution of list prices (as of Oct 13, 07) by sub area. Its in the format of a box plot, which divides list prices in each MLS sub-area into quartiles, and shows the median list price. Outliers are also shown as open circles. The "whiskers"outside of each box show the distance to the closest outlier (defined as a point that is at least one and a half times the size of the full box away from the median).

With data on other attributes of each listing, I was also able to conduct a cross-sectional regression to determine "normalized" house prices in each area. Based on these regressions, I produced some estimates for several types of houses in both East and West Vancouver (i.e., a quality-corrected index):

For a 25 year old 3 bedroom house,
in Vancouver West - $1,373,455
in Vancouver East - $747,221

For a new 4 bedroom house,
in Vancouver West - $1,475,377
in Vancouver East - $849,142

For a 10 year old 2 bedroom apartment
in Vancouver West - $866,183
in Vancouver East - $239,049

Anyway, I've automated this, so should be able to produce a quality adjusted estimate of the change in list prices month on month. Thought I'd share it :)


jesse said...

This is a great analysis of the data, whoever you are.

You should really plot Van East and Van West on different graphs. Shaughnessy is drowning out everyone else!

Remember ListPrice != SalePrice

Alan said...

re: ListPrice != SalePrice

Where are Sale Prices listed? Do municipalities keep track of such things?

jesse said...

"Where are Sale Prices listed? Do municipalities keep track of such things?"

From what I know there are two places. One is in MLS itself however only Realtors have access to this data. If you do business with a Realtor you should be able to access sale price histories for specific properties. I don't think you will be able to extract all data for statistical analysis but people working for MLS undoubtedly have this ability.

The second is the land title office. You will need to physically go there. I have heard that some people (likely a minority) will fill in a bogus sale price to avoid paying higher taxes. I would expect that generally the information stored there is correct.

I'm not sure which path is more onerous.

Sacha said...

Could you upload a larger chart? I'm squinting to see the font properly. Otherwise, this is a good chart.

M- said...

Thanks whoever you are, I'm quite impressed!

stavrosthewonderchicken said...

This is great stuff, but I'm pretty sure scraping MLS listings is a violation of their terms of service. I think that's foolish and wrongheaded -- they should be allowing RSS subscriptions to searches and remixes of their data (you know, it's the 21st century,a fter all) -- but I'm not going to hold my breath. I've long wanted to be able to do the same thing, and fiddled with writing code to do so. Unfortunately, I've seen other people get cease and desist orders from MLS for doing the same thing, at least when they publicly shared the data.

I would love to see the scraper code shared somewhere (Google Code or something) if the author of the scraper wanted to do so, though.

freako said...

Great work. I started a project like this about three years ago, but didn't do much with it.

Remember ListPrice != SalePrice

Perhaps it is at this point in time, but there are a couple of issues. Obviously listed properties will be biased towards those that take longer to sell. Those that take longer to sell are those that are priced high.

One is in MLS itself however only Realtors have access to this data.

My guess is that the program parses public MLS.

Unfortunately, I've seen other people get cease and desist orders from MLS for doing the same thing, at least when they publicly shared the data.

Seems small minded, but you may be right.

bearette said...

Some sad news from a long time VHBer and assorted Van sites bubblesitter. Advice appreciated.

Say you were bubble sitting since 2005, saving for the day a decent SFH becomes remotely affordable. Say your non-bubblesitter spouse is sick of waiting for Van to correct, despite Bearette's repeated data-gathering, arguing and pointing to the US and global situation. Bearette wants to wait til post 2010. Spouse delivers ultimatum: in one year, my way or the highway. Bearette fears losing spouse and caves. (The spouse is worth it. Divorce worse than debt so to speak.)

So, if one absolutely has to, is utterly compelled to buy next year at this time, knowing full well it is stupid and financially risky, but unable to hold it off any longer, what is the safest way to go? Condos are out. A family home or townhome is needed. Say you have a gross income of $170,000 and $150,000 down and need to be in the inner burbs.

Should you stretch to the max and buy a shitty house that the family can live in for 25 years? Or a nicer townhouse that may have to be sold in 10? Which areas might be safest investments (knowing housing will be a losing proposition...)

Ah, it is a dark, dark day for Bearette. Dark. But it might yield an interesting discussion: if you have to buy in 1 year, what's the least FB thing to buy?

casual observer said...

When the Bears start throwing in the towel and buying houses, I get the feeling that this debt fueled RE buying binge is running out of steam.

With regards to what to buy, I don't know your personal preferences, however, if I had to buy RE, I would buy with the expectation of staying there for a very long time. It would not take much of a percentage price drop to wipe out $150k in equity at this stage of the game.

Unknown said...

So, if one absolutely has to, is utterly compelled to buy next year at this time

My-way-or-highway ultimatums alone call into question whether the spouse is in fact "worth it". But you know best about that.

In any case, a year's time may yet provide sufficient evidence to the obtuse Other that prudence is the better part of valour.

If not, buy cheaper rather than more expensive. X% loss on $400k is less than X% on $700k.

Don't bank on 10 yrs in a townhouse vs. 25 in a house. Long term plans mean nothing; you might have to move or sell prior (job change or other ultimatums to come), or you might live out your life in a nice townhouse. Gas and heating isn't going to get any cheaper; SFH's may lose their appeal in decades to come.

Stretching to the max to buy a house means paying $100's of k's at interest, and you might never get that money back, not even in 25 years. Plus, stretching is risky unless both your jobs are recession proof.

patriotz said...

I have heard that some people (likely a minority) will fill in a bogus sale price to avoid paying higher taxes.

One, filling false information in a land title transfer is a criminal offense for all parties concerned. Two, there is NFW you can do this if there is a mortgage on the property as the mortgage holder is a party to the transfer and is not going to go along with the game.

Three, non-arms-length transfers at below market price happen all the time (like between family members) and BC Assessment is smart enough to catch these and to assess for FMV. I would guess this is a legit way to avoid PTT, though.

Clarke said...

"Spouse delivers ultimatum: in one year, my way or the highway."

I doubt if ending up with a pile of negative equity and depleted cash flows will make this marriage any more solid in the future. More likely, it will just make the divorce more financially painful.

markoz said...

I feel for Bearette. Comments about the unsuitability of Mr. Bearette as a spouse are not helpful. Mr. Bearette has watched prices skyrocket while we were all waiting for the crash. He was probably getting loads of eye-rolling from co-workers (I know I do), relatives etc. For anyone who wants to own a home in the long run the pressure to buy is huge when you are watching prices float further and further from your grasp. Not everyone is as sure as we are of the coming crash - sometimes I even have doubts myself that the correction, when it comes, will be sufficient to get me into a home that isn't crap.

bearette said...

Thanks for the comments. Spouse is lovely, wanted to buy in 2005 has been patient as Bearette kept saying, "just wait, price drops are around the corner" and has lost hope. Neither spouse or Bearette are young, mind you, and the family clock is ticking for both, thus more pressure, but the good kind.
Bearette is fully aware of the damage debt and a depreciating asset albatross may do in future and spouse is clear on those views. But what can one do? Is fighting to own a cheap house worth a loving marriage? Bearette had to say no. I hope I am still welcome here next year when I become a knowing, reluctant FB.

jesse said...

"Two, there is NFW you can do this if there is a mortgage on the property as the mortgage holder"

If you say so. I am only relaying what the clerk at the land title office told me over the phone. I don't know how city assessments or CRA use land title office data.

jesse said...

"But what can one do? "

TH sounds like a good compromise. You have another 5+ years before you need to choose schools, and it's better to upgrade in a depressed market. I don't know about using all your DP fund right away; just be aware if your equity is blown away you need auxiliary funds if you need a DP on another place. But there's always 0% down, right? :)

clkung said...

As a realtor, I still have buyers whom I work for despite my warnings that a correction is forthcoming in the near future. Despite my warning, all my buyers are going ahead and looking to purchase due to their own personal life & financial situations.

Thus I then give them the following suggestions/advice:

1.Make sure you can afford it. That is, do not push yourself to your financial limit. This would be very dangerous financially. If you are buying a house, I would always suggest a house with a suite potential so that you can have some rental income if you need it.


2.Make sure you will be able to hold on to your purchase for the long term (min. 7 years possibly longer) in order to "ride out" the correction.

3.Make sure you purchase with their future personal situation in mind. For example, if they are a young married couple with no kids yet, they may want to facilitate the growth of their family in their purchase decision.

Good luck Bearette!

jesse said...

"If you are buying a house, I would always suggest a house with a suite potential so that you can have some rental income if you need it."

I would turn that around and say that house prices have priced in suite income already. You are effectively paying a premium for NOT renting out a basement.

Josh said...

Could you post a hi-res version of the graph? Can't make out the axes... Thanks!

Patiently Waiting said...


Insist on a top quality home inspector; the kind that strikes fear in realtors. As you keep getting the thumbs down, it will probably delay the purchase further and make your spouse more cautious.

Patiently Waiting said...


Remax says, St. John's to lead 2008 price hikes. Vancouver to increase 7 percent.

Might as well stick to GICs.

dingus said...

I feel for you bearette. But even with family plans, why the drive to own at all costs? I know many families that rent, and have kiddies of my own and live in a rental duplex. The decision to rent has always been premised on cash flow (we were single income to 2005, by then prices had run away to the extent that renting is now 1/3 the cost of owning).

Compare rents on houses to your mortgage payment on the same house.

I'm sure you understand this, but really grill hubby on what his motivation is. You have decent income and savings, but you'll still be 4 figures to the good every month by renting, plus avoiding a significant risk to your equity.

There's no reason kiddies should cloud a financial decision. It is abundantly possible to raise them and rent. In fact, with your incomes, you'll have much more free cash to throw at vacations, cottages, fun times, than if you were maxed out on a mortgage. Plus you won't have to worry about cracking foundations, leaky roofs, sputtering furnaces, etc., and can focus on simply enjoying having a family. I'd go so far to say your family quality of life is at risk with purchasing too.

My two cents. And my thanks to Ms. Dingus for her pennywise ways. We live well and are financially secure.

Aaron said...

1st -- Outstanding graph. I just wish I was smart enough to understand what is all meant. I certainly appreciate the effort in mining that information off MLS. Well done!!

2nd -- berette. You might just want to discuss how your going to pay for that new place when one person is on full time parenting duty. Might be worth checking out price of Day Care while your at it. Pre-school kids don't really care where they grow up --- they just want a loving family.

Clarke said...

"I feel for Bearette.....For anyone who wants to own a home in the long run the pressure to buy is huge when you are watching prices float further and further from your grasp."

If only doing the smart thing was only a matter of listening to the herd......

If buying a home was a bad financial move in 2005, buying in 2007 cannot possibly be better. As far as comments being unhelpful, the truth will set you free, it just won't necessarily make you happy.

While I am sure the spouse is fine now with lots of debt now and Bearette is willing to take the hit for the relationship, you can be amazed how people's views change once they are stuck in the situation for a while.

I do not think anyone posting would wish ill of a buyer who is not a speculator.

Aaron said...

Oh ya -- over at Mish's Global Economic Trend Analysis you can read this....

The housing bubble in the US is well known, but the bubble in Canada, the UK, China, and Spain is just as big (if not bigger) than the bubble in the U.S. In particular, the bubble in Vancouver is as massive as the bubble in Florida or California ever was. Vancouver housing prices are destined to crash. Don't ask me when, but only fools are buying at these prices. The housing bubble in Australia was the first to start deflating.

He goes on to discuss the state of US Dollar. Looooove it!

jesse said...

bearette, have you considered cooperative housing? Great place to raise kids... anyone have experience to know which ones are worth looking at?

Christine said...

Bearette -

I completely understand your situation. I felt the same anxiety as your hubby in the last year, feeling like I was being left in the dust financially by not purchasing a home - even though a number of factors were indicating it wouldn't be a good moment to buy, of which high prices were just one.

A few things worked well for me. One was running the numbers on how much equity I would be amassing per year with the amount of mortgage I would likely afford. I then made that my savings goal for the year, plus an even bigger chunk, so I couldn't feel I was at a loss financially for not purchasing.

The other thing I did was really start to embrace my current living position. Luckily I am renting in an great place at a very reasonable price, so I spent time decorating and turned my home into a place I loved that I could enjoy while Vancouver is in this real-estate frenzy.

That all said - I totally back you up if you purchase a place. You can make it work if you have a decent salary and DP, and it sounds like you do. You may lose some money in the short term but if you find a place you love that you can afford, while protecting and strengthening your marriage, then I really do think it's worth it.

Mango said...


I feel for you, I echo the above comments about growing up in rented houses (I did), but I appreciate you asked for advice premised on buying.

I would say this (much of what I advise has already been stated above by the other good folks). Rent or download a bunch of the Holmes on Homes DVDs, and watch them together in order to put the Fear into you both as regards build quality. Then find a home inspector, as suggested above, who will do invasive inspections and has building and code expertise up the yin yang. I don't think finding a good (read a bit more expensive) inspector will be that hard in this day and age of zero-subject offers.

Then I would agree with those above and say above all else, minimize the price tag of the property. Buy the minimum you could possibly live in, remembering that people in poorer countries (i.e. most of them) live in far smaller spaces than Canadians and Americans consider acceptable, quite happily. I would add to this that if I were in your shoes, I would buy the smallest house possible on the largest land possible, and emphasise the clarity of the title on the land (and location) as much (or more) than the building quality. I say this because land still does have an inherent value over the long term, whereas clapped-out old houses (which ALL houses built since about 1969 will be 25 years after they were built) have very little inherent value.

Restating the above in simpler terms, I would say buy the crappiest and smallest house in the best location with the most land.

Unknown said...

If buying a home was a bad financial move in 2005, buying in 2007 cannot possibly be better.

Agreed...as someone else suggested, flattening appreciation means that you've missed the boom and may as well rent and invest elsewhere at this point.

But I believe the Bearette has an 'out' because it should be obvious in a year's time that buying would be a mistake. If the market won't turn by then with local price exhaustion combined with a US-led recession, then maybe Vancouver is immune...but I doubt it.

M- said...

For what it's worth, where you get on the property ladder largely determines where you'll end up on it.

If my wife and I were to buy today (which we are not-- both of us are definite bears currently), we'd be buying close to our affordability limit. Neither one of us has any significant pay increases coming that would make it possible for us to get a significantly larger mortgage. If we buy now at our self-determined limit, we'll be able to pay off the mortgage before we retire, and maybe save up some extra money to supplement our pensions. But that's it.

If we commit ourselves to buying at this point, our next property purchase is "all" we'll get. So with that in mind, we're holding off until what we want to buy is available at a price we are able to afford.

Also keep in mind that if mortgage interest rates go up (which I am absolutely confident they will, even if the Bank of Canada lowers their overnight lending rate), so will your mortgage payments when you next have to renew the mortgage. If you're buying at your limit, will you have to extend your amortization in order to renew? I wouldn't want to have to do that.

All that said, it was a hard, hard decision for my wife and I to sell our townhouse, and it's tough watching prices increasing every month since then. But the crazier prices get, the more certain we are that they'll be coming down.

All we have to do is wait-- forestry is the shits right now, the infrastructure-construction industry in the lower mainland will grind to a halt in 2009, and residential construction will grind to a halt when the buying frenzy slows down, which will take out the builders around 2009-2010.

freako said...


1. The resilience of this market is unbelievable, and totally unprecedented.

2. Look to the U.S. for inspiration/advice. Remember that link Mohican posted to the talk show where the host made the wife apologize to the husband for pushing them into home purchase at the peak of the bubble.

3. With a bit of luck, the market will finally turn with significant price drops. Watching prices dropping 2,3 or 4% a month can change the attitudes of even the most desperate buyer, which of course exacerbates the rate of decline

freako said...

All we have to do is wait-- forestry is the shits right now,

That is the truth. Check random lengths. Price is currently at U.S. $266 which is pitiful from Canadian dollar perspective.

M- said...

And from the Globe & Mail, perhaps the coastal forestry strike is going to come to and end, and flood the already-saturated lumber market with more product... Watch the rolling mill shutdowns start again now that the coastal mills will be back in operation...


solipsist said...

That is brilliant! Thanks so much.

One question I have (not a criticism), could you turn the box graphs 90 degrees clockwise? They hurt my neck...grin.

solipsist said...

I finally got to the bottom.

bearette - I think that there is a lot of wisdom in the commentary regarding your situation.

I fully agree with whoever said that as prices start coming down, your other half will be glad to wait until it looks like the bottom. Additionally, you will be in a position to demand never another ultimatum.

Babby solipsist is 9 months old now, and I abhor renting the dump that we are in. I want to tear down walls, paint fairy tales on his walls, put in skylights, redo the bathroom and kitchen (they are stuck in the 1950's-1970's), etc.

But I am so glad that we did not buy a place a couple of years ago - because we would not be able to afford those projects, and our mortgage payments would be easily double our current rent. Instead, we are socking away the difference in our down payment fund, and Babby sol's education fund. Plus, we still eat good quality food, and drink good wine on the week-ends!

Nancy said...


This is from Victoria but I was speaking with a well known architect/designer and he said we should sell our house - rent- and wait (we need a much bigger house).

However we have 4 kids and pets galore. I would not rent to me.

I think you have done the right thing.

bearette said...

Hi All,

Thanks so much. Some excellent comments and ideas. And appreciate no one attacking spouse. It's just a tough situation all round. Bearette would love to raise kids in a rental. Spouse ain't having it. Thus, no kids until in a home we own. The co-op is a good idea. So too the suite. And the inspector. Fully intend to be a hard-ass about places and hope some deals fall through to buy time. And of course praying that we see some real drops by this time next year to put the fear of God into spouse (who on all other points is totally amenable... housing views are our only sticking point.) Thanks again. Such smart and lovely people here.

Patiently Waiting said...


I may end up buying before the bottom too. Though not for a couple of years, at least. If I do, I'll be one grumpy bear that sellers will fear. Specifically, I will tell my realtor not to even show us anything with granite countertops or stainless steel appliances. I don't particularly like either of them, and their presence seems to end up costing the buyer more money for no good reason.

M- said...

As far as inspectors go, I've used Ed Witzke before. He used to co-host a CBC renovation radio show with a family friend. He has a condo inspection video that's available at local libraries-- very informative. He's quite a character. He's also expensive.

My realtor went to great lengths to deter me from using him. That, of course, made me that much more certain that his services are of value.

Note: because he is expensive, before actually getting him to do an inspection, borrow his video from the library and watch it-- then you can eliminate 50% of the condos that you go see right off the bat, no inspection required. Oh, did I ever frustrate my realtor!

Actually, I never really "hired" Ed. When I finally found the building that I wanted to look at, and told him which company did the leaky condo repairs, he said he didn't want to bother inspecting it, as he's never faulted that particular company's remedial work before, and didn't expect any problems. He was right-- I ended up on that building's strata, and there were no significant issues with the building.

jesse said...

A relative of mine has also used Ed Witzke and recommends him. Ed sometimes doesn't like going into Vancouver. Check out his website nonetheless.

solipsist said...

no kids until in a home we own

I have felt that way all of my life, and put it off until 45 years of age. I do wish Babby solipsist had arrived years ago (all I can think of is what it will be like to have me for a grouchy, cynical old pappy), and I wish I had been able to buy 20 years ago. Unfortunately, I have always been self-employed, and it was very difficult to get a mortgage in that situation - until just a few years ago, when things started going insane.

Babby solipsist does not know, and does not care that he is living in a rental...