Vancouver’s HPI – Please Stop Screaming

Noise and Consensus

In this city we suffer from those who choose to make noise. I can’t figure out whether they didn’t get enough milk with their Corn Flakes or they are simply having a bad hair day.

In the last post a couple of comments flew in about how the Vancouver Real Estate Board stats seem to be something less or more than what they are.

Personally, I find conspiracy theories raise their head because someone doesn’t understand or have the knowledge of how things come to be. Then they pull out the crusader’s sword demanding raw data so that you can make their own stats. That action I believe, will do nothing more than dilute source statistics thereby adding confusion to something that already seems confusing. It’s an action I equate to locking five economists in a room and demand that they reach consensus.

The Comments

“Honestly, it seems to me that the REBGV is playing with stats.” – Anon
“It is really weird. The sales and average price that cannot be distorted by REBGV all show negative signs for the market. Only the benchmark price that no body knows how it is calculated by REBGV shows a highest price ever. “Frankly, REBGV is not willing to see a price decrease.” – Pop Smith

The Magic of Stats

Wonder no more! The attached unedited document describes the following:

  • The MLS®Home Price Index.
  • What is the MLS®Home Price Index?
  • What are Benchmark Properties and Benchmark Prices?
  • What’s the difference between a Benchmark Price and Index Price?
  • How is the MLS®HPI calculated?
  • What property types and geographic areas are measured by the HPI?

MLS®HPI Guide

Final Word

In providing this information it is done with the wish that for those who choose to can read, understand and by doing so will be sufficiently enlightened to say “oh that’s how it’s done” and be satisfied.

Sampler of What’s Ahead

The Real Final Word

Life is too short so to be clear, I’m not prepared to spend time in endless discourse on this blog about how benchmark manifestations should be customized to personal preferences. I trust that as evidenced in the report minds greater than mine have figured it out and it works correctly.

My lasting response to those who wish to engage these issues further is to rely on Porky Pig’s proclamation.

Copyright Image Courtesy Warner Bros.

About Larry Yatkowsky

Larry is a recognized real estate expert. A veteran professional, his experienced counsel leads Vancouverites in his west side community to place their trust in a man passionate about his work. Uncompromising ethics bring a balanced approach to realizing your real estate dreams.

When Life Moves You - contact Larry:

*Disclaimer: Statistics Courtesy REBGV. While believed to be accurate they are not guaranteed.
**Numbers provided may vary as they are dynamically posted by the REBGV.

Reader Comments:

Paul Barriscale Says:
May 3rd, 2012 at 6:11 am

Larry,

Reminds me of Edvard Munch’s masterpiece The Scream that just sold for $120 M. That would at least buy a few homes on Vancouver’s West Side.

All good things,

Paul Barriscale

May 3rd, 2012 at 7:51 am

I think REBGV has too many “Prices”. Median, Average, HPI,Benchmark. It’s confusing. I like to just use the Average Price, that way we can look back over the last 10,20 years and have the same tool to measure the market.

May 3rd, 2012 at 8:38 am

@Paul
yes and sometimes those screams both there and here originate from an asylum. 🙂

Anon Says:
May 3rd, 2012 at 11:13 am

I’ll be honest and say, I found your comments to be disrespectful in the first portion of this post. So someone asking questions or being wary of where data comes from and how it’s provided is somehow translated into someone being a conspiracy theorist or ‘not getting enough milk in their cornflakes?’

In my mind their is a difference between conspiracy theorist and someone who simply uses a critical eye to assess things. Sadly, in our society, not enough people ask questions. We blindly and willingly accept all that is handed to us by the media, or big corporations etc. as the gospel truth. To often we fail to assess the quality of the information and where it’s coming from.

What bothered me about the representation of this months stats is the huge discrepancy of how the numbers look in one format vs another. Yes, I understand the differences between average, median, mode, index etc. I do have to educate myself on how the HPI is calculated specifically, but it still, IMO, does not represent the whole picture.

The REBGV had a ballsy title in their most recent report that said “the spring market maintains a steady pace.”

Excuse me? Looking at the stats for Vancouver (to be fair it’s only Vancouver that we saw) those numbers are NOT a steady pace. Inventory is through the roof, sales are the second (?) lowest recorded in a decade, average prices are down substantially in many markets, and total volume in dollars took a huge nosedive (down ~30%).

My comment “lies, damn lies and statistics” was meant to indicate you can work numbers in any way imaginable. That’s the nature of numbers and stats. I wish the REBGV would provide more transparency with the data. I don’t think the HPI is a perfect tool. There really are no statistical representations that are perfect. All the more reason consumers should have access to more data points.

It’s interesting following the reporting in the media on this topic. If you look closely at the rosy outlook reports – behind it is always someone (or an organization) with a vested interest in RE. If you look closely at those that are using the B word or calling for a significant decline – they have no vested interest in the market. Who should we believe…? I know what logic tells me…

My final comment – kudos to those that ask questions. Personally, I would rather be the vocal dissenter than just part of the herd. *shrugs*

May 3rd, 2012 at 2:55 pm

@anon

“There really are no statistical representations that are perfect.”

Exactly!

Finding the middle ground is the art in the science.

Mr. D Says:
May 4th, 2012 at 12:09 pm

> Anon
I agree with you.
The media is full of comments from those who have vested interests in RE.
CREA, REBGV, CHMC, Banks, Re/Max.
I don’t remember, or I haven’t seen ever any comments from people other than RE industry!!

Stats is also shown is biased “positive” way as well.
Sometimes, media uses YOY, MOM, YTD, or only shows sales number, not volume, etc. So, all numbers in media don’t look bad at all on RE market perspective.

CREA’s optimistic comments like “now market is balanced”, “Vancouver RE may experience decline of 4~6%” (only….?) , “Average price up this month”. “Average price down slightly, but this is mainly because multi-million dolalr home sales is less than last month, over all market is strong”
what a shame…., it’s like a child who is close to fail the year-end exam and try convincing parents.

Ok, at the end of the day, it’s mass people who are responsible.
Denial, ignorant, is the sin.

Anyways, I always enjoy your blog post Larry and like your perspectives.

May 4th, 2012 at 12:45 pm

Anon…….Hooray!

Here is what I think / know:

1. The REBGV is a monopoly. There is no one on the other side to question them, so they can write and say whatever they want. Hence the Headline on the April Stats Report. Misleading at best.

2. REBGV doesn’t even discourage the same Realtor working for both the Buyer and the Vendor. They have a fancy name for it, called “Dual Agency Relationship”. This is like having the same Lawyer for the Defence and Prosecution.

3. I spoke to their Communication Department and asked a simple question: “What are the criteria for a Sale to be counted in the monthly numbers?”

Didn’t get a clear answer.

You would think it’s counted as a Sale when the Money actually changes hands and the Title is transferred. Nope.

Could be when all of the Subjects in the Contract of Sale are removed and the Contract becomes Legal and Binding. Maybe.

Could be when a Contract is signed and it is expected that the Subjects will be removed before the end of the month. Could be.

Information from a Monopoly can only serve as a guideline. Take it with a grain (pound) of salt!

May 4th, 2012 at 4:46 pm

@lookoutbelow

Your Question to the Comm Dept.

“What are the criteria for a Sale to be counted in the monthly numbers?”

I am not at all surprised that you feel you didn’t get a clear answer. The reason is that your question is not specific and renders delivering a ‘clear’ answer impossible.

Nobody is a mind reader so my question to you is which ‘sales’ number are you talking about, for what period and what type of housing?
Are you wanting to know the the average, median or HPI for one or all of the property types? Are you hoping to find out how the calculation is made. If it’s the average of median that is dead simple. If it’s the HPI look for the link in the response to Anon and good luck with that.

I’m sure you must be aware that each statistical outcome that is generated by REBGV and myself are based on different criteria. Some of the numbers are fixed and some are dynamic and most certainly might include any of the following:

  • type of housing
  • the parameters used in that calculation

A simple example such parameters might be:

  • sale date: is that with conditions removed or with conditions in place?
  • processing date (the date it’s received at data processing)
  • closing date – the date the money is paid to the seller

Variance or combination of any one of these criteria generates a different result and may influence the outcome depending on which month either falls in to.

HPI for example, is based on many criteria at the same time and will result in a different outcome than all the other numbers. As we have seen this month it is quite possible to see average taking a dive while HPI shows numbers going up.

Basically you need to choose which the makes most sense to you. What you can’t say is that options of choice are not available nor can you say that the boards opinion is the only one out there and therefore misleading.

As to agency I think you need to read through the following and like the numbers you make the choice of how and who you want to work with if that’s what you want to do, when buying or selling.

About Agency
REBGV does not have the legal authority to discourage or encourage dual agency – nor should they. The board is a trade organization that only provides services to its members.
Agency is an exclusive agreement between the buyer or the seller and the agent – not the Board.
All sellers and all buyers have the right to instruct their Agent to not be a party to Dual Agency. Few do and I’m certain that you will find that most agents will choose to provide ‘no agency’ to one of the parties when in that situation.

WHAT IS AGENCY?
At law, agency is a specific relationship between two or more people. One person must authorize the other person to act on his/her behalf, and the other person must consent to do so. In other words, when you authorize a REALTOR to work for you in buying or selling a property and the REALTOR agrees, you and the REALTOR are in an agency relationship. As a member of the public, you are probably familiar with working with individual REALTORS. However, the agency relationship is actually between you and the REALTOR’s brokerage. The brokerage is the real estate company, its branch offices and all of its salespeople.

YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH A REALTOR®
Buying, selling or leasing real estate is probably the most important and potentially rewarding financial transaction you’ll make in your life. So it is a good idea to take a moment and consider the kind of relationship you might be entering into with a REALTOR®. The more you know, the more satisfied you will be with the results.
REALTORS®, Brokerages and real estate boards need to collect, use and disclose some personal information to help you sell, buy or lease real estate.

THE AGENCY RELATIONSHIP
REALTORS® work within a legal relationship called agency. The agency relationship exists between you, the principal, and your Brokerage, the company under which the individual who is representing you, is licensed. The essence of the agency relationship is that the Brokerage has the authority to represent the principal in dealings with others. Brokerages and their Licensees are legally obligated to protect and promote the interests of their principals as they would their own.

Specifically, the Brokerage has the following duties:
1) Undivided loyalty. The Brokerage must protect the principal’s negotiating position at all times, and disclose all known facts which may affect or influence the principal’s decision.
2) To obey all lawful instructions of the principal.
3) An obligation to keep the confidences of the principal.
4) To exercise reasonable care and skill in performing all assigned duties.
5) To account for all money and property placed in a Brokerage’s hands while acting for the principal. You can expect competent service from your Brokerage, knowing that the company is bound by ethics and the law to be honest and thorough in representing a property listed for sale or lease. Both buyer/tenant and seller/landlord can be represented by their own Brokerages in a single transaction.

DUAL AGENCY
Dual agency occurs when a Brokerage is representing both the buyer/tenant and the seller/landlord in the same transaction. Since the Brokerage has promised a duty of confidentiality, loyalty and full disclosure to both parties simultaneously, it is necessary to limit these duties in this situation, if both parties consent. If you find yourself involved in a dual agency relationship, before making or receiving an offer, both you and the other party will be asked to consent, in writing, to this new limited agency relationship. This relationship involves the following limitations:
a) The Brokerage will deal with the buyer/tenant and the seller/landlord impartially;
b) The Brokerage will have a duty of disclosure to both the buyer/tenant and the seller/landlord except that:
i) the Brokerage will not disclose that the buyer/tenant is willing to pay a price or agree to terms other than those contained in the offer, or that the seller/landlord is willing to accept a price or terms other than those contained in the listing;
ii) the Brokerage will not disclose the motivation of the buyer/tenant to buy or lease or the seller/landlord to sell or lease unless authorized by the buyer/tenant or the seller/landlord;
iii) the Brokerage will not disclose personal information, not otherwise necessarily disclosed in the transaction documentation, about the buyer/tenant or seller/landlord to the other party unless authorized in writing.
c) The Brokerage will disclose to the buyer/tenant defects about the physical condition of the property known to the Brokerage

WHEN THERE IS NO AGENCY RELATIONSHIP

You may also choose to use the services of a REALTOR® without having any kind of agency relationship. This might occur, for example, when you are being shown a property by the seller/landlord’s agent.
The REALTOR® you choose to work with in this manner has a legal and ethical duty to provide you with accurate, honest answers to your questions and may provide all these services:

  • Explain real estate terms and practices
  • Provide and explain forms used
  • Assist you in screening and viewing properties
  • Inform you of lenders and their policies
  • Identify and estimate costs involved in a
  • transaction
  • Assist you in establishing your range of
  • affordability
  • Prepare offers or counter-offers at your
  • direction
  • Present all offers promptly

A REALTOR® who is not your agent cannot:

  • Recommend or suggest a price
  • Inform you of his/her principal’s top/
  • bottom line
  • Disclose any confidential information
  • about his/her principal unless otherwise
  • authorized

You should not provide a REALTOR® who is not your agent with any information that you would not provide directly to his or her principal.

May 5th, 2012 at 10:11 am

@Larry

I’m not sure about GVREB’s stats but in my findings with TREB stats, it appears we have a futures market in play. Let me explain.

When demand slowed for new home/condo purchases, many developers started using MLS to sell assignments and pre-construction sales. As an example, here we see a condo listing sold on May 2nd http://i48.tinypic.com/2eb4eh3.png however, the project is scheduled for 2015. http://blog.buzzbuzzhome.com/2012/01/210-simcoe-seals-the-deal-with-special-deposit-structure-no-wonder-its-already-over-80-per-cent-sold.html

So the sale is booked on MLS for the current month which adds $502,900 to total dollar volume plus adds one sale. How is the average price calculated? Simple, total volume divided by sales. See the problem already? Future sales are being pulled back into current statistics, something like a futures derivatives market. Good article posted yesterday regarding this http://opinion.financialpost.com/2012/05/04/taxpayers-also-victims-of-hot-money-behind-canadas-condo-bubbles/

If this is the case with Vancouver and speculation is as large as it’s estimated (which I believe it is), the ramifications will dire and could keep the market down for years. The boards very well know this is happening.

painted turtle Says:
May 5th, 2012 at 12:51 pm

Excellent contributions today!
Very informative too.
Thank you all 😉

Tell Me Says:
May 5th, 2012 at 1:00 pm

I have never seen a war for exposure quite like whats unfolding in South East False Creek in and around the Village, all those new condo’s being built and marketed, balloons and advertisements everywhere, the OV was completed in 2010 and still is not sold out. No doubt we are seeing excess condo’s being built. All these will be very much so on at fire sale pricing come completion. Thats if they actually start moving earth on some of them.

On another note any bites on the Marine Property?

Re-diculous Says:
May 5th, 2012 at 5:58 pm

Anon @ 11:13am, May 3rd

Very well put! When ever I read the REBGV monthly report I feel like I’m being manipulated, and yet it is widely carried by our “unbiased media”. Much better to catch the “GVREB report” which proceeds the real one by a couple of days.

May 5th, 2012 at 6:51 pm

@re-diculous

Please note that I’ve edited out your link for the following reason:

I will be seeking a clarifying response from REBGV. At this point in time, I have cause to believe the report you reference is bogus.

Re-diculous Says:
May 5th, 2012 at 7:41 pm

Correct, it is bogus, and yet very well reason (actually had me fooled the first time I read it) and far accurate albeit blunt on the actual RE situation. Check it out around May 31/ June 1 timeframe.

edit note: emphasis mine

Rex F Says:
May 6th, 2012 at 7:06 am

The only way to truly know what any of this means is to sit and wait. Years from now, we will be able to glean a meaning. When you are sitting in the stew, it’s hard to know whether the temperature is rising or falling until it has risen or fallen so much that it becomes obvious. So people should just ‘chill’, learn to be patient and observant and stop acting like they have divine guidance in matters of real estate values.

May 6th, 2012 at 11:53 am

@larry

Thanks for your long response, Larry. Love the Website.

I have read the Dual Agency Relationship document before. But it’s interesting in cases where some “ethical” violation has occurred that the Real Estate Council of BC slaps the offending Realtor or Broker with a $1000 fine and lets them go on their way to carry on as “professionals”.

There was the “famous” case of Alban Wang of Amex Sunrich Realty who was involved with a company called New Land Strategies in a large number of “quick flips” or reassignments in the Richmond Seafair area. Never heard whether he was fined or suspended. I can certainly understand the public perception of Realtors. Present company excepted, of course. So as usual, it’s Buyer Beware before starting to work with a specific Realtor.

Here are a couple of links to the shenanigans that went on in Richmond in early 2011. A classic case of market manipulation:

http://www.richmondreview.com/news/115999809.html

http://www.richmondreview.com/community/116513228.html

I do believe the points I raised in my previous post remain valid. There should be a common definition of a “Sale” as there is no other quantitative information available except the REBGV numbers. In that regard, the numbers should be treated just like any other piece of Economic data. There are enough posts here to suggest that the numbers need verification, perhaps the Land Titles Office could verify but it’s probably not in their mandate. And, by the way, there is no more Consumer Protection agency in BC that I am aware of. So how does the public know what’s really going on.

I think that the comments that state or imply that the public is being “manipulated” by the REBGV narrative are certainly understandable. The Board seems to be acting as a quasi-marketing body putting the best possibe “spin” on the data. Along this line, the Board refuses to make the monthly Detailed Statistics Package available to the public through its Website. I have asked them for it and been told that it’s for Members only. The Fraser Valley Board on the other hand releases a very detailed statistics package monthly. So the public has to get it from some reputable Realtors websites, such as John Jennings’ site.

So I read the April Stats package carefully. I am in the market for a Single Family House in Richmond and looking at the detailed package I notice that the Sales for Feb, Mar and April of 2012 are DOWN by 48.6% when compared to the same three months of 2011. Vancouver Westside Down by -37.6% for the same three month period.

But reading the 1 page summary (spin), you would never know that. So is the public being misled, well let`s just say that the “Devil is in the Details“.

Thanks Larry, in you we trust.

May 6th, 2012 at 2:17 pm

@re-diculous

Your admission that it is bogus made me think of Aretha Franklin’s song WHO’S ZOOMIN WHO.

Bottom line is that you are in no position to suggest that REBGV is manipulating data. On the contrary that report does that and begins by intentionally misleading any reader to believe that somehow they are the EXCLUSIVE SOURCE. Fantastic lesson on how to destroy a blogs current and future credibility. Stupid IMO – but nicely done!

Alex Says:
May 6th, 2012 at 3:58 pm

Thanks to all that posted their thoughts, and thanks o Larry for allowing / making the space for this interesting exchange. Much appreciated!

Mr V Says:
May 6th, 2012 at 5:36 pm

Larry,

As always, appreciate your insight and other info posted regularly on your webpage

With regards to HPI: I am noticing a divergence between the Teranet HPI and REBGV HPI in the last couple of months. As of Feb, Teranet claims small HPI declines m/m and year to date, but REBGV HPI is showing HPI increases for that period.

given the discrepancy, I don’t think it’s wrong to ask a few extra questions about what’s really going on and the REBGV’s vested interest in maintaining the status quo does not help. One should not label those who are putting their critical thinking hats as conspiracy theorists, methinks

May 6th, 2012 at 8:13 pm

@Mr V
re: teranet and MLS HPI

I suspect you will find there is no discrepancy just a lag in reporting time and calculation methodology. My understanding is that the Teranet reports represent market periods dated several months in the past. What I can’t advise on it the calculation methodology Teranet uses. MLS HPI’s methodology has been made available a couple of times on this blog.

Smoking Man Says:
May 7th, 2012 at 8:42 pm

Hi Larry,

I believe our local market is about to set some new records for:

slowest spring in a decade (sales)

fastest inventory rise ever

ten plus MOI by summer

record number of single family home listings for Richmondy, Van West, West Van

Any thoughts on the recent trends, any coffee talk?

thanks

Bubbleboy Says:
May 8th, 2012 at 6:41 pm

@Smoking Man,

You want coffee talk? You’ve already got the answers. Larry has already hinted many times that the market is dead, with some patchy areas where homes sell no problem. Those areas are, Main/Fraser up to 33 ave. and the Commercial dr areas. Mainly heritage homes.

Jim Flaherty Says:
May 9th, 2012 at 7:58 am

Larry,

Are there any developers that are taking offers on remaining condo units? Like what Onni did in 2008-09.

Not much of name... Says:
May 9th, 2012 at 11:23 am

@Larry

With Teranet vs HPI…they’ve tracked fairly close and yes there is a lag with Teranet’s numbers being a couple months behind.

However, Teranet has shown that prices fell (according to their numbers) in January and February of this year on a month over month basis. For the same months, the HPI showed monthly increases in prices.

Was it just a blip? I guess time will tell. The HPI has risen in March and April on a month over month basis as well. If Teranet produces numbers with further month over month declines, I think the screams may get a bit louder still.

Teranet is also very clear about their methodology too. Is it possible that both Teranet and HPI can be correct but show two opposite results?

May 9th, 2012 at 8:35 pm

@jim
haven’t heard

May 9th, 2012 at 8:37 pm

@not much

is it possible?

I think your comment answered the question.

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