A Canadian Housing Crash Worse Than the US?

Follow me


FIRECracker is a computer engineer/children’s author, who used to live in one of the most expensive cities in Canada. But instead of drowning in debt to buy a house, she saved and invested instead. What resulted was a 7-figure portfolio, which has allowed her to retire at 31 and travel the world.
Follow me
Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a9/Sign_of_the_Times-Foreclosure.jpg

A European friend, Anna, recently came back from a Vancouver vacation, disgusted. “Why are there vegan dog food emporiums next to homeless shelters?” She asked. “I thought this was a socialist country?”

Clearly, Anna isn’t familiar with Vancouver. She has no idea the average detached home is a whopping $1.65 million, despite an average family salary of only $76,000. The wealth gap is real.

But maybe not for long…

Chinese Media Is Now Warning Canada’s Housing Crash Will Be Worse Than The US

Now, you might be wondering, so what? Canadian newspapers have been saying for YEARS that the market is overheated. Are you unfairly blaming offshore investors for driving up the housing prices?

And to be honest, I don’t know exactly what’s causing the insane housing prices in Vancouver and Toronto. Foreign investors? Locals borrowing their brains out? No one can say for sure. But here’s the thing. If it were the Vancouver locals in Vancouver, how is it possible that the average home is $1.65 million if the average family salary is only $76K? No bank would lend you that much money. The most expensive house you’d be able to afford is $600,000 @ 2%.

So if foreign money is driving the housing market, things are about to get a LOT more interesting. Especially after the 15% land transfer tax.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Oh, the Chinese media? Yes, let’s listen those guys. Do me a favour and look up the word ‘Propaganda’?”

And having grown up under a totalitarian government in China, I applaud your healthy dose of skepticism.

Please ignore the fact that these are obviously carved from wood. ALL GLORY TO THE COMMUNIST PARTY…and their delicious delicious wood. (source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/566961040559846647/)

That being said, I’m also an engineer. And as an engineer, I trust numbers. People can bullshit as much as they want, but numbers don’t lie.

The article also mentions:

“Canadians have the largest debt-to-income ratio of any G7 country, with the average spending 165% of their salary. To contrast, at the height of the US housing crisis in 2008, Americans carried what was then considered an outlandish 147% debt-to-income ratio.”

WOW! Our debt-to-income ratio is a whole 18 points HIGHER than that of the Americans right before the 2008 housing crash?!

Scary stuff. But you know what’s even MORE scary?

The fact that our economy had the biggest monthly decline since 2009, and yet our housing prices continue going up. Hmm. Seems legit.

This fancy-pants fund manager, Marc Cohodes agrees, and he wants to cash in our inevitable demise.

“Muahahahaha. Take that, you peace-loving Canadians! Your sadness amuses me.” (photo source : https://betterdwelling.com/city/toronto/marc-cohodes-short-canadian-real-estate/)

Here’s why he’s coming out of retirement to short our housing market:

  • “Supply and demand doesn’t make sense. Housing prices in the GTA over the past 30 years are up 188% and income has only risen around 1%.
  • “Buyers have been piling in faster than people can sell their homes”
  • “It’s international money laundering coming into Canada…regulations are very lax.”
  • “Home Capital Group has admitted to $1.9B in fraudulently underwritten mortgages last year alone.”

According to Marc, “Not everyone should be a parent, not everyone should have kids, not everyone should own a house. If you think the market is going up and you’re not participating – that’s fine. Just be patient and the market will come down.“

I’m not surprised Marc would think this way. The other day, I met, Justin, another early retiree who writes at RootofGood. He was visiting Toronto with his family and staying in a 3 bedroom semi-detached house he found on AirBNB. When I told him the house was worth“$700-800K “, he did a spit take. “WHAT?! Are you serious?”

“But my house in Raleigh, North Carolina is only $108K! And I can easily rent it out for $1000/month. Why would anyone spend that much on a house?”

To the Americans, buying houses worth more than 10X our salaries and in a city with a price-to-rent ratio (see below for explanation) of more than 22 is INSANE!

Even with all this damming evidence, the housing prices in Vancouver and Toronto continue skyrocketing. None of it makes sense because none of it is supported by fundamentals—like family income.

And yet people ignore these facts and continue buying houses at record levels because “houses always go up” and “renting is throwing your money away.”

Sure, some people made money in the housing market. And some day traders won on individual stocks. But both require market timing. And most bets don’t pay off. Yet buyers continuing attributing their good luck with skill, thinking that they’re geniuses and that the party never stops.

As depicted in this documentary.
As depicted in this documentary.

This is why the herd mentality is so dangerous. Instead of blindly following the herd, make decisions based on numbers, not FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).

Or one day the party will stop (as it always does). And you will find yourself drowning in debt, your home plummeting in value, and then it’ll be too late.

Before buying a house, consider the following:

  1. What’s the Price-to-Rent ratio?
    • PR ratio = House price/(monthly rent*12). If this number is greater 16, don’t buy the house.
    • In Toronto, a $700,000 4 bedroom home can be rented for $2650/month. That’s a PR ratio of 22 (1/22 gives us a return of only 4.5%). A reasonable return on your investment in the markets is 6%. So it makes more sense to rent.
    • One downside to PR ratio is that it doesn’t take into account all the extra costs that come with home ownership (eg maintenance/condo fees, property taxes, insurance, land transfer tax, etc)
  2. What’s the Cap Rate?
    • Annual Net Operating Income/Cost
    • For the $700,000 house, if the rent is $2650 and operating costs/month is around $500 (property taxes, insurance, maintenance, heat/hydro, etc), the Cap Rate = ($2650-$500)*12/$700,000 = 0.037
    • 3.7% is again below the 6% market return. So rent is better.

If both indicators are flashing green, it might make sense. But if you calculate the PR ratio and Cap Rate in Toronto and Vancouver, you’ll see more red flags than China.

So don’t buy that house. Instead, build a tax-efficient portfolio using index investing and get paid to do whatever you want. And you don’t ever need to time the market because you get paid dividends no matter which way the market goes (even during 2008, we still got paid dividends). All you need to do is rebalance periodically. Simple, straightforward, and stress-free.

And the best part? No matter which way the housing market goes, you win.

Liked this Article? Please share using the share buttons below, or leave a comment below and help spread the Millennial Revolution!

25 thoughts on “A Canadian Housing Crash Worse Than the US?”

  1. Just parroting what Garth’s written, I think the foreign buyer scapegoat argument is bunk, and that the extra money pouring in is from family members, or the Bank of Mom and Dad. That, I think, is much more likely to account for the disparity between average income and average home price: one family member pulling out their own equity, so their progeny can follow the same one asset investment strategy that they did.

    1. Could be. Let’s see what happens. If the 15% offshore buyer tax doesn’t do anything, then you and Garth are probably right.

    2. The Bank of Mom and Dad is STRONG. I met seven of my neighbors. Not one bought their house. Their parents bought it for them or they took over after the parents bought another place.

      Take the median household income and multiply it by 2-3X b/c multi-generation balance sheets are almost always at work when the math doesn’t work on the surface.

      Baby Boomers and older Gen X are the wealthiest generations in the HISTORY of the world. Why? B/c stocks and real estate and bonds are all at record highs.

      There’s more money then we all know!


      1. That’s pretty sad. I mean, if they need their parents to support them, what happens when those parents are no longer around? Who’s going foot the bill then? Also, the money they transfer to their kids would be subjected to taxation.

        1. Vancouver is flooded with immigrants with money. A neighbor bought his house in cash, then bought 4 BMW, one for each family member, I doubt one of them can drive yet. And I live in East Vancouver, which is not be area with good schools and etc.

          The people who immigrate to Vancouver, the first generation, I’d say are pretty wealthy. I recall all they did was shopping,fishing, traveling, and casino. There was a time tour bus to casinos in Seattle was a popular business. People were rich and had so much time and didn’t know what to do. School was joke back then too, half the people I know drove a brand new car in high school, have the latest gadget, and only stresses out on where to hang out after school –(most of time in Richmond). Their parents either are retired, or have a business outside Canada. I knew a poor guy who hung out with those folks, and struggled to keep up because he wasn’t rich. And this was just a mediocre public high school. Imagine what the people in the nicer schools are doing.

          They were Taiwanese, then Hong Kong people from the 90s, now it’s mainland Chinese.

          Now that we’re in the second generation, the money gets passed down. I often feel Vancouver is a playground for immigrants. Locals barely do well.

          1. Do you think the 15% offshore property transfer tax will have any effect? If housing really is driven up by foreign money, would they even bat an eye at an extra 300,000 on $2 Million? My thinking is that it’s not JUST the “wealthy immigrants”. The flippers /speculators are worsening the problem.

            1. Yes the 15% will have an impact, but I doubt it will be large. The fire started already.

              I personally think because there is an influx of money into the market, speculators and realtors are jumping in to ride the wave. And poor Canadians finally couldn’t wait anymore and jumped in anyways.

              If there is a bubble, the rich people won’t be affected, the *last* speculators and realtors will be affected and Canadians will be burned!

              Essentially, I think foreign money started this, but what’s keeping this going is speculators and Canadians. I would not buy in Vancouver at the moment.

              1. That’s wise. The speculators and Canadians who bought think it’s impossibly to lose money in housing. Housing either goes up or stays flat. So the second ANYONE loses any money in the housing market, people will be running for the hills. It’s human nature.

        2. First $5.4 million PER parent is tax free. Parents will just leave the money and assets to their kids. It’s just the reality.

          I’m SURE it’s the same for a 28 yo buying a $1.5M place in Vancouver, while only making $100,000 a year. It’s parental help.

          1. Interesting. Too bad the government can’t do research on % of homes are purchased with “Bank of Mom and Dad” money. THAT would be a fascinating study.

  2. I’m going to grab some popcorn and watch the bubble pop from the sidelines. 🙂 It was sort of fun watching the US housing bubble pop because we were able to pick up stocks and ETFs at half to two thirds off the prices they traded before and after the crash. Sucks to be the bozos holding million dollar mortgages on not so nice houses, but hey, whatcha gonna do right?

    FYI for readers seeing my (“Root of Good”) quote about housing prices in our airbnb, I was shocked at the $700-800k price tag, but then realized that’s Canadian funny money dollars instead of the USD. Still very crazy at $550k-$600k in USD compared to what we’re used in Raleigh (the house has no driveway, no central air conditioning and is over 100 years old and shows it in some places, though nicely renovated in most places).

    And our house in Raleigh was $108k at purchase in 2003, now worth somewhere between $140k-$180k (the latter number being the huge increase in the past year or two due to our localized neighborhood’s gentrification). Still a great value and easy to make $$$ renting it out if we ever decide to do so.

        1. We should make a travel pact for July and Aug! That way the kiddos will be out of school and we can escape the heat together!

  3. I am currently renting in a small prairie city recently hit by the oilfield bust, and the average price of a detached 3-4 bedroom square foot home in good location is still $500,000. I did the PR ratio and Cap Rate as per your instructions and came up with 23 and 4.4%, respectively. I was hesitant to buy and now I’m certain I will rent. Thank you for this very informative article.

    In terms of Vancouver: Georgia Strait has been reporting for a while on the myth of the foreign investor. Its research shows that it is precisely the Bank of Mom and Dad that is fueling most of the current bubble. Boomers are selling and offspring are buying, and speculators are going nuts. However no one else reports on this because it is easier to blame the “foreigner” rather than the good old bank of mom and dad.

    1. I bought a house on the west side of Vancouver 10 years ago. The price was high but I felt I was better off in the market. Some people get help from parents or inheritances, but like many others, I had decent equity from previous houses (and no bank of mom and dad) bought and sold over the past 46 years. With a big chunk of equity and ability to qualify for the mortgage with current low interest rates and rental income, I was able to swing it. Over the last 10 years, prices surged, stagnated, and pulled back several times (down about $200,000. at times) but so did the stock market in 2008-9 and I didn’t sell the house or my stocks.

      But property in such a desirable part of the city with good schools is always in demand. Most people in this neighbourhood of (2.6 million and up) have basement suites that help with the mortgage and expenses and that also counts as income when qualifying for a mortgage. Most people also have two incomes. I have one income and since being downsized, no salary income.

      Now rents are starting to go up and vacancy rates in a normally very low vacancy area are even lower. My friends who rent are getting rent increases and really finding it hard to find decent affordable places and are forced to go further out of the city, find roommates, move into basements, etc. I don’t increase the rent for my wonderful tenants — that would be insane. But right now my rents are under market.

      I agree that owning a home is not for everyone and not the only strategy for FI, but depending on the market you are in, you can make a lot more money in real estate than the stock market. I have the spreadsheets to prove it. This is mainly because of leverage and if you play it right you have free or subsidized housing (renting out part of the house, paying down the mortgage).

      But I wanted a house and I wanted investments so I worked hard and smart to get both.
      I don’t find home ownership a burden or expensive and I don’t find managing a portfolio entirely stress-free.

      Not disagreeing with you entirely FireCracker and Wanderer, but just saying it’s not so black and white.

      NWS my comments, I have seen people make terrible mistakes with real estate — buy and sell at the wrong time, don’t knuckle down when times are tough, run up non-mortgage debt, have babies and go down to one income just at the worst time, buy the wrong house in the wrong area, refuse to rent the basement suite, and just generally sabotage themselves. When it takes only a bit of patience and planning they would have it all soon enough.

      Now I walk away leaving tenants to keep an eye on the house, and travel the world 6 months of the year.

      1. If you were starting today, would you do the same dunny? Or perhaps a better question… COULD you do the same?

        What if you bought in 2010, which is when FIRECracker tried to buy. Where would your financial status be now if that were the case?

        You’re right about a couple of things… stupid choices in Real estate or investing are both common. Managing your own portfolio can be stressful, which is why you have a Financial advisor as a buffer. They cost money, of course… but so do houses.

        Real estate works for a lot of people because they’re forced to pay themselves. The bank forces your hand. If you can pay yourself without the bank, you avoid a lot of the overhead. In fact, it’s one of the biggest arguments homeowners make. When you bring up that renters can save and invest the difference between renting and owning… a homeowner will make the argument of “how many renters actually do that?” which is completely valid and completely true. Rewards only come, as you mention, to those who knuckle down and do NOT succumb to spending as much as they earn.

        Also, remember that rent is straight income, taxed at your marginal rate. Investments trigger capital gains or dividends, both taxed very favorably.

        You were fortunate in that you won the house lottery. Buying in 2006 at the beginning of a long 10-year run-up in prices. Imagine… in 2011 there had been a big boom… should have sold then? History says you’d have lost out.

        What will this chart look like in 5 years? Should you cash out now… and be able to vacation 12 months of the year? Should you wait? Those are difficult questions to answer. Most people are not in your situation, but congratulations on your luckiness timing the RE market.

  4. I am one of the ones who used the “Bank of Mom and Dad” and it worked out for us and my parents. My boyfriend and I were tired of seeing our $1600 go out the window in rent each month and decided to purchase a condo in Vancouver. Between the date of sale and the final construction of the building, Mom spoke about how driving might be a challenge in a few years and how great the condo location was to grocery stores, medical clinics, community centres, etc. After some discussion we decided to make the switch and as the house has already been paid off, we only have the mortgage on the condo. So in essence, we got a house in Vancouver for $490,000. And we are indebted to dear Mom for the rest of our lives.

    My question to you Firecracker is: Do you plan on having children one day because one of the reasons that my boyfriend and I decided to finally invest in a home (even a one-bedroom + den condo) is that we hoped to have a stable place for our future family, without the risk of rent going up and having to uproot kids to another city. Would you and the Wanderer just bring your kids with you around the world and home school?

    1. Kate,

      Do you own your property or do your parents own your property?

      Things generally work out well for people when things are given to them because there’s no need to sacrifice to save any money or do anything.

      My research continuously indicates that many people who buy homes beyond what their incomes can dictate are simply doing so because their parents bought it for them. So the conclusion really is that Younger folks won’t really be hurt in a housing decline because it’s not their money.

      What do you think? Is the bank of mom and dad ubiquitous for adult children nowadays? Also, what about the pride of not utilizing your parents as an adult and buying things on your own? Shouldn’t we as adults be trying to give back to her parents and lighten their financial burden instead of take from our parents?

      Thanks for your thoughts and feedback. I may write a follow on post on this subject.


    2. Oh, one more thing. I’m curious about the situation from your boyfriend’s perspective. A lot of guys have this inherent desire to provide for their companion. Does he feel weird living in a condo that not only you provided, but your parents provided?

      I know if I bought a condo for my daughter, I would sit down and talk to her boyfriend and ask him what is he doing financially with his life to be able to provide and be independent. Maybe I’m just old School, but I would want my daughters boyfriend or husband to chip in equally with the finances.



  5. Canada has become completely unlivable for Canadians working and living here, it is completely pointless to work and earn, debt to income is 170 percent worst than almost any where on earth, house prices keep going into completely retarded prices by Asian money speculators, who god knows how who and where it came from. And yes it is ALLL LLLL OFFSHORE MONEY. PERIOD. END OF STORY. Its not mom or dad, Out side of these two purely ruined cities the rest of Canada is completely livable and the incomes are higher and Asians have nor raped it to make a 500k house change hands 10 times and get flipped in 2 years to 1.5 million and be completely unaffordable to any Canadian who lives and works and pays taxes here.. Having been in van re for 7 years. IT IS ALL ASIAN OVERSEASE MONEY and they only buy to flip at 20 percent more in 6 months or less.PERIOD. Hang both Ontario and BC politicians for treason. GROSS INCOME FIGURES ARE AS useful as my toe jam. It is only Net income ie 76k is really 45k or like 4k a month and the average house price is 1.4..HANG EM ALL….

    1. If you think housing’s unaffordable, stop buying it rather than bitch and moan about something you can’t change.

      1. I agree, i am renting and waiting for the crash…its coming, who knows when…i look forward to it suckers…lolllllllllllllllll

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Social Media Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com