An invisible force has guided Buyers and Sellers of Vancouver homes. An unprecedented number of Sellers have listed their homes for sale while at the same time many Vancouver home buyers have decided that they are ‘not buying now’. This collective behavior is often called a ‘murmuration’.
Curious is how these Vancouver home buyers and sellers arrived at the same conclusions at about the same time.
Vancouver home buyers and sellers are not alone in this manifestation. Perhaps recent examples of a similar activity might be the ‘Occupy’ movement or globally we might consider how it came to be that so many countries in Europe arrived at the brink of financial disaster at the same time. Admittedly, there are unique events within each that serve as the trigger or triggers that bring about such collective behavior but it is the act where humans coalesce with single purpose that most interesting.
Murmuration May Define Vancouver’s Real Estate Market
At the right time of year if you were to visit Otmoor, a bird sanctuary near Oxford England, you will find Starlings performing a spectacular event known as murmurations. Some might describe these events as spectacular pulsating avian aerobatic operas. Scientists more pragmatic, note it as the Starling’s way of ensuring survival against predators and the maintaining of Starling social hierarchy.
Using murmuration as a model one asks why so many Vancouver home sellers decided to sell at the same time? Was it about survival? Are they acting selfishly in the hope of protecting themselves from the predator of financial disaster by selling their homes and escaping. What was the trigger? Was it the neighbour selling at a price much higher than they anticipated that lead them to believe they could only maintain their social status by selling their home at a higher price?
Accordingly, why did the mass of Vancouver home buyers decide to stop buying? Certainly there were signs of warning that the predator of financial ruin was on the horizon. Bank of Canada’s Governor Carney claimed impending doom in the last year that financial disaster brought on by increasing mortgage rates was near. In conjunction, so too is the threat of ever increasing levels of personal debt. Were those warnings the trigger that stopped the tide of buying?
One For All
Three things make murmurations work – participants are attracted to others of their own kind, each precludes collision with each other and like a democracy where one leads, the rest are prepared to move in the same direction.
In the blogging world one might look to Garth Turner’s menu of scribbles where as a proclaimed ‘bear’ blog, fear and doom are served up like blue plate specials on a daily basis. That darkness – the kitchen where he crafts his servings, bring many to follow only to turn and twist in the air like the starlings trying to find a safe place.
Presumption is that when the terror of an attack is ‘mediatised’ there is one who is aware and who will be the first to turn. Similarly, whether the news is real or imagined the first neighbour to sell may have been the turning signal to others in the neighbourhood. They do likewise and soon they too are selling their Vancouver home. The neighbourhood adjoining then follows and a murmuration is afoot. Buyers too of will hear the call or see the flash of wing from others abstaining and join the throng.
The most recent ‘Coffee Chat’ saw a gathering of long tenured REALTORS®. It had an agenda. We gathered hoping to find an understanding for Vancouver real estate market’s current stalemate. Ultimately, the result proved similar to conclusions reached by scientists trying to understand how Starlings manage their murmurations. None have a definitive answer!
It is fair to say that human behavior is at times shaped by invisible forces which lead us to behave in ways that may not be in our best interest. While it is fascinating to observe this kind of behavior in animals, for humans it has in many cases proven destructive. You can see this in the number of sales of Vancouver homes and the frustration of Buyers not able to pay the price asked.
Assuming that Vancouver home buyer and sellers are murmurating as do the Starlings of Otmoor one asks how it is possible to achieve such unpredictable behavior from predictable rules.