Vancouver condo ‘better investment than gold’

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The World’s biggest asset manager Laurence D. Fink says that buying a condo in Vancouver is a better investment than buying gold bullion. Speaking at a conference in Asia on Tuesday the Blackrock Inc. chairman said that historically gold “was a great instrument for storing of wealth” but that it has lost some of its lustre and there were other ways to store your wealth that are inflation-adjusted. He pointed to apartments in New York, London and Vancouver as being better alternatives; just behind contemporary art. 
  • errol on 2015-04-22 11:02:05 AM

    The global housing market has been dominated by magical thinking for the past 15 years. The magical thinking can be boiled down to this:

    A person who buys a house for $50,000 will be able to sell the same house for $150,000 a few years later without adding any real-world value. The buyer will be able to sell the house for $300,000 a few years later without adding any real-world value. The buyer will be able to sell the house for $600,000 a few years later without adding any real-world value.

    And so on, decade after decade and generation after generation: a house should magically accumulate enormous capital (home equity) without the owner having to do anything but pay the mortgage for a few years.

    The capital isn't created by magic, of course: it's created by a greater fool paying a fortune for the house on the speculative confidence that an even greater fool will magically appear to pay an even greater fortune for the same house a few years hence.

    This is the result of housing transmogrifying from shelter purchased to slowly build equity over a lifetime of labor into a speculative bet that credit bubbles will never pop. This transmogrification is the final stage of the larger dynamic of financialization, which turns every asset into a speculative commodity that can leveraged via debt and derivatives and sold into global markets.
    The magic of something for nothing is especially compelling to a populace whose earnings have stagnated for decades. The housing bubble fed the fantasy that a household could set aside next to nothing for retirement and then cash out their "winnings" in the housing casino when they reached retirement age.

    What believers in the sustainability of the housing casino conveniently ignore is the enormous risk (and debt) being taken on by the last greater fool: if the buyer pays cash, they are gambling on rents continuing to skyrocket along with home valuations, though these two are not as correlated as many assume.

    Younger buyers have less disposable income than their elders due to deteriorating wages, higher student loan debt and higher taxes on earned income. As a result, the risk of their defaulting or being impoverished by the collapse of housing valuations is much higher than the risks faced by the buyers who rode the first bubble up to (ephemeral/phantom) riches.

    The only way a young household can buy a $150,000 house for $600,000 is if interest rates are low enough to enable a modest income to leverage a huge mortgage. This is the basis of the Federal Reserve's campaign to buy Treasury bonds and mortgages: by driving interest rates to unprecedented lows, the Fed enables marginal buyers to become the last greater fool.

    The first housing bubble circa 2001-2008 inflated as a result of financialization. The second, current echo-bubble has inflated on the socialization of financialization: the FHA and other government agencies have essentially taken over the entire mortgage market, guaranteeing or backing 95% of all mortgages, while the Fed has pushed rates down to historic lows to enable marginal buyers to make bets in the housing casino.
    The current echo-bubble has another speculative source: cash buyers of homes to rent. About a third of all home sales in many markets are cash buyers, speculators hoping to cash in on the bubble by selling to a greater fool, or investors seeking the safe returns of rental housing.

    Unbeknownst to the majority of these investors, there is no guaranteed return in rental housing when you overpay for the property and a recession guts demand for rentals. This is another form of magical thinking: nothing ever goes down.

    The stock market goes higher forever, housing goes higher forever, and the Fed has banished recessions forever. If this isn't magical thinking, then what is it? Faith in the New Normal? Based on what?

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