I have the good fortune of travelling with my work. Each trip I take an interest in gleaning what I can from local people on the state of their economy.
Over the past 18 months I was not surprised to hear pessimistic comments from Americans, particularly about their real estate markets. Over the past several months this pessimism seemed to spread to the UK, parts of Europe and recently Australia and New Zealand. But for the most part it seemed that people in my homeland of Canada were feeling still quite confident and optimistic about continued strength in real estate. Generally I think it fair to say that while Canadians have become increasingly aware of troubles in other parts of the world, we have so far enjoyed a sense of “not in our backyard” immunity.
Recently I noted a whispering afoot. It started at cocktail parties last summer with people speaking of a little “softness” in certain regions. Lately I've have heard some concern about a sluggish spring start in several areas. Yesterday someone sent me a link to Garth Turner's Greater Fool website on Canadian real estate. Today I found Mike Shedlock's article Canada's Housing Boom is Over an interesting read.
My sense is that although we Canadians have not been as over-levered as Americans with exotic mortgages this cycle, we are still now more over levered than ever before, with the most debt and the least savings in generations.
This means many Canadians now also have little buffer against an economic slowdown. In addition I have met many boomers who have over-invested in housing over the past few years with the assumption that they will downsize in the future and extract some capital to help augment their retirement funds.
My thinking is that as the boomers move to pare capital out of their housing, there will be less and less people willing to buy meg-mansion, energy-sucking, high maintenance properties. Food for thought, even in Canada.
Cory’s Chart Corner
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