Squished

If you ever doubted that this pathetic site stirs the loins of the people, you should read the warm notes I receive. Like this one, from a dude named Richard who runs a little hosting/web design company in Ladysmith BC:

Time for your elitist Govt Blog to get SQUISHED….this is going to be an exciting year watching you and your ilk get squashed.

God Bless President Trump……

Thank you, Richard. Among the (other) first reactions to the goofy billionaire leader of the free world: stocks were ambivalent, moving in the same close range they have for a couple of weeks now. After Janet Yellen’s speech yesterday the US dollar and bond yields went up. The Mexican peso gained a little and the loonie lost a bit – with speculation it will likely move down to 73 US cents before long.

The Trumpster’s fist-waving ‘America first – Buy American, Hire American’ speech, combined with his policy on free trade with Canada and Mexico, is causing panic in Ottawa. Says the White House web site: “President Trump is committed to renegotiating NAFTA. If our partners refuse a renegotiation that gives American workers a fair deal, then the President will give notice of the United States’ intent to withdraw from NAFTA.” Kiss. Of. Death. Remember that 75% of our exported stuff flows across that border. It’s our blood.

Anyway, there are many deplorables among us who love the dude for the simple reason they think he pokes old, white rich people in the eye, overlooking the fact he’s also an OWRG. Economist Robert Shiller (the man who called the US housing bust, plus the 2008 stock market crash) says Trump will usher in an epic financial disaster. That’s extreme. But so is believing economic growth and millions of new jobs can come from rhetoric. The money needs to originate from somewhere. Let’s hope it’s not out of our sorry Canadian hides.

BTW, if you see this blog lying squished and bleeding on the side of the highway, you know where to call with congrats.

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Speaking of winners, how about the genius who beat out ten other bidders to walk away this week with the keys to 244 Bain Avenue, in Toronto? That took guts. Plus bags of money.

As mentioned, the open house last Sunday was jammed with people trying to squeeze into the Lilliputian foyer, past the scant living room and into the tired kitchen with its old, tarted-up, painted cupboards overlooking the grassless backyard and its refuse-strewn laneway parking spots. This narrow, ugly structure on an artless street of semis, rowhouses and endless cars was the object of intense interest only because there’s no competition. With a scant 20-odd days of inventory in the entire region, pent-up buyer demand explodes when anything livable crops up, even if the closets are full of cracked plaster and duct tape was a primary reno material.

Well, 244 Bain went on the market at $1.399 million, which seemed a stretch (although that dour, squat semi next door fetched $1.1 million a few months ago). But after the offers were tabled at 7 pm one night earlier this week, the ‘winner’ emerged having spent $1.727 million. With double land transfer tax and closing costs, that comes out to $1.8 million.

Here is the reason, expressed by a highly experienced Toronto realtor: “Riverdale is a highly desirable neighbourhood for both families and professional couples. It was a detached house in an area with many semis and row houses, had 2 car parking and was livable the way it is. It did go higher than it should have by about $125K which, I believe can be attributed to pent up demand due to a lack of listings over the xmas/new year break.”

All valid points. But still a crap house. And some of us remember when almost two million dollars bought a decent place, or still does in other hoods – like this.

The moral: if you’re going to buy a house in a hot market full of hormonal young families with way more access to credit than wisdom, never do it after a holiday. So long as there is a listings drought, prices will continue to escalate. Each insane sale, like this one, sets a new floor for the ones that follow, making every owner on the street feel fully endowed. This will keep happening until it stops. Then the winners won’t be the buyers.

Second thoughts

Can’t let inauguration day pass without a few words, now can we? While I’m personally excited to see the Bikers for Trump arrive and form their ceremonial Wall of Meat, financial markets have been less enthralled with things.

Trump starts his presidency with an approval rating of just 44% (Obama was almost double that), which reminds us that he lost the popular vote to a woman most Americans would like to back over. His cabinet nominees have flubbed some key lines during their confirmation hearings, a few recent POTUS Tweets have been rash and shallow and Republicans have already started to dismantle Obamacare, with no replacement plan. In short, lots of investors having sober second thoughts.

Need proof? Look at this:

Click chart to enlarge

After the giant rally following election night, the Dow has not only stalled within sight of the 20,000 mark but lost ground in each of the five sessions before the big event  Friday, trading in a narrow 1% range – the tightest in history. Lots of people, clearly, have lost some confidence in what happens next. Gazillionaire George Soros said as much on Thursday, warning of an end to investor euphoria and presaging lots of volatility to come.

What were investors expecting after the shocking Trump win? A blast of government stimulus spending, quick corporate tax cuts, slashed business regulations, tough trade talk and an agenda leading to more growth, higher inflation and protectionism. They may still get some of it, but clearly not all of it. And probably not fast. Plus, it will come peppered with late-night Tweets that can, in mere minutes, destroy the shares of pharma companies, upset the forex market or crash GM stock.

So the same rebellious little puddle of testosterone that inspires five thousand Harley-hog owners to thunder into Washington also now powers the commander-in-chief. Craving attention has always been a Trump characteristic. But if that’s all we get, then – as Kevin O’Leary has proven – watch your wallet.

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Home prices in Toronto (our last remaining bubble market) are rising wildly at the moment due to a lack of inventory. It’s leading to enhanced house lust, media hyperventilating and increasingly worried realtors. With each day of idiocy, the end draws closer. Just look at this headline from Thursday’s Toronto Star. Classic porn.

The ugly half-house in question jumped from $850,000 when it last sold 25 months ago to $1.375 million. To his credit, veteran realtor John Pasalis had this comment while everyone else was clucking and drooling: “When you see appreciations of 30 per cent a year it generally doesn’t end well. That’s a concerning thing.”

As this pathetic blog has mentioned enough times to kill roaches, prices don’t always go up. Toronto (like all cities) has suffered some momentous house price declines, the last corker being the crumble of the earlier 90s which took a decade to shake. As prices hit historic highs each month – yet the economy staggers, wages fall below the rate of inflation, debt soars and lending regs tighten dramatically – it becomes clear the status quo won’t hold. Either listings surge (which won’t happen because few can now afford to move), or buyers run out of gas trying to purchase at these insane levels.

As mentioned, there are more worried voices being heard within the real estate establishment. One belongs to agent Marisha Robinsky whose insightful charting hit the media this week. Her conclusion is that Toronto’s in the midst of a repetitious house price pattern that will shock and surprise many people. History shows  valuations routinely soar above the mean, then always sink back in years of funk. Check this out:

Remember what I’ve telling you about not expecting a US-style crash, but rather a correction followed by a long melt? Well, Marisha’s work shows that, adjusted for inflation, prices have declined a third of the time – 23 of the last 63 years.

So what’s it like to be a buyer right now? “Horrible,” she says.

When realtors talk like that, take cover.