The Bulls/Bears Real Estate Guide


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Image by: Wesley Bates
Economists? What do they know? So-called industry experts? Forget about it. For the real dirt on which way the market is heading, you’ll need to start digging for answers in some unexpected places.

What the Bulls & Bears Say About
1. Months of Inventory | 2. Asian Influence
3. Olympics | 4. Local Stuff | 5. Demographics
6. Affordability | 7. Fundamentals | 8. Banks

Anyone who’s read a real estate article or two will be familiar with the oft-quoted usual suspects: developers, realtors, condo marketers, economists working for banks, real estate companies and government agencies. Undeniably these are well-qualified people who know a great deal about the subject. Most of them even work in the field, and of course anyone who’s ever held a job knows what “work” means. Between reports, secondments, committee meetings, ancillary projects, emails, phone calls, lunch dates and farewell gatherings in the boardroom, if these experts spend two or three hours a week thinking and writing about real estate, they’re performing some kind of magic. No wonder so many of them were caught flat-footed by last year’s sudden downturn, then blindsided again when things picked up this spring. 

How They Really Feel

“Bears are the most negative people here. Since they are negative by nature, they are unable to accept any real, assumed or potential risk. A bull, on the BearsHence they are poor decision makers, hence are being referred to as ‘basement dwellers.’ . . . They get offended rather easily and may threaten to collect their toys and go to their own sandbox. Any light at the end of the tunnel, to them, instantly becomes an oncoming train. If everything else fails, they will resort to personal attacks on others.”
[Post on Real Estate Talks by Steinbock on May 3, 2009]
“There is apparently no shortage of greater fools with the means to borrow huge sums of money. These people can’t see beyond their monthly payment, so they’re getting suckered by low interest rates like lambs to the slaughter. A Bear, on the BullsI blame government for manipulating free markets and thus enabling all this insanity. . . . Of course, it won’t be long before this house of cards comes crashing down. But hey, it hasn’t happened yet (which happens to be the typical bull’s reasoning).”
[Post on same by Feuille on May 4, 2009]

Now contrast the official sources to another type of real estate expert, one who’s never quoted in the newspaper articles. This is a person who doesn’t spend an hour or two a week obsessing over real estate; 100 hours is more like it for her or, more typically, him. This analyst hasn’t taken into account a mere handful of current rates and trends; he’s researched dozens of variables and is currently graphing sell/list ratios in 20 major markets across North America. This expert certainly didn’t miss the 2008 downturn; he’s been calling it since 2003!

We speak of the hard-core bulls and bears who frequent a handful of websites and blogs devoted exclusively to B.C. real estate – and when we say “frequent” we mean “eat at three times a day and fall asleep in front of most nights.” They are proudly self-identified real estate nerds who start threads such as “I’m 30 and still living at home. Rent or buy?” and “Nuclear war in Korea: Good or bad for B.C. RE?”

Now, the first impulse of most people would be to run not walk from any advice they might offer, but hear us out. These Cassandras and Pollyannas have thrashed out every variable and eventuality that could possibly affect the local market. They are to property price trends as medieval monks are to angels on the head of a pin. Yes, it took them thousands of posts and millions of words to achieve such learnedness, but fortunately there’s no need to wade through their vast oeuvre, not when we’ve done it for you. That’s right: in the short write-ups that follow, you’ll find their most important obsessions cogently summarized, along with brief referee’s notes attempting to find middle ground and explaining what it might mean for the other 99 per cent of humanity who, well, have lives. It’s the last word on B.C. real estate, and all without a single quote from someone named Helmut or Bob.


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