Friday, August 01, 2014

Canadian Real Estate - A Crack in the Tree

by Tom Bradley, Steadyhand Investment Funds

The Full Article

“It’s like if the tree in the backyard has a crack in it, you worry it’s vulnerable to a storm. But if no storm happens, it goes on and on, and maybe eventually strengthens through growth. If the right storm comes along and knocks it onto your neighbour’s house you’ve got a problem.”

This analogy for the Canadian residential real estate market is from our Bank Governor, Stephen Poloz. It prompted me to pull together a number of observations that were building up in my real estate file. In the attached piece (it’s too long for a blog), I point out that:
  • Being too early is tantamount to being wrong.
  • Real estate is a cyclical asset, cycles have a symmetry to them and therefore, extremely good cycles don’t end with a little pause or modest slowdown.
  • There’s a strong consensus that interest rates will stay low and house prices will stay high.
  • Fundamental measures are on balance negative. The most important ones are extremely negative.
  • Foreign buying, inter-generational transfer and the loonie are wild cards in the analysis.
  • Canadians are focused on the ‘Income Statement’ impact of buying a home (i.e. carrying cost), but are overlooking the ‘balance sheet’ impact.
  • We’ve been in an ideal environment for rising real estate prices. It’s been a ‘virtuous circle’. If a few of the variables turn, a downward spiral is equally possible.
  • A few other items that will make real estate bulls mad.
In true Steadyhand fashion, I’m not suggesting you make a big asset shift by selling your home and moving the family into a rental. But I am suggesting that it’s time for added caution. If possible, you should to be subtracting from this asset class, not adding.

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