Mclean's Article Stirs the Pot of Canadian Housing Market Values

By
Real Estate Sales Representative with RE/MAX of Wasaga Beach Inc., Brokerage

A rather sensationalistic article just came out in Maclean's (a leading Canadian weekly magazine) stating that the Canadian housing market has the potential to fall off the cliff like our U.S. neighbours. Judging by the number of errors in the article being reported by Teranet and the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) who say they weren't even contacted for the article, I wonder about the motivation behind the story. This is their headline: "The shocking truth about the value of your home."

In 1997, while traveling through the U.S. on a three-month journey with my family, I was shocked by the daily dose of negative press about the U.S. economy, housing values, etc. It was as if they were willing themselves to a lemming-like plunge off the money ledge. And predictably, not to be outdone, the Canadian media now seem hyper-inspired to spoon feed us from the same bottle using the same spoon.

As a realtor (and former journalist), I'm not asking the media to mislead us by printing stories about sunshine, puppies and roses but I do feel they have a responsibility to not yell fire every time they're in a crowded movie theatre. Most editors will tell you that good news doesn't sell but a little good news can go a long way when people need a lift. And people need a lift right now.

Below is a letter sent to the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) members from Teranet pointing out the "erroneous information and misleading statements" in the article. Also, here's the link to the Maclean's article: (http://blog.macleans.ca/2009/02/23/the-shocking-truth-about-the-value-of-your-home/)

"Subject: Maclean's magazine MLS® attack

By Chris Butler, Account Manager, Real Estate (Teranet Inc.)

Teranet would like to take this opportunity to correct some erroneous information and misleading statements that have been made in a Maclean's article and on a BNN news segment, regarding Teranet's role in the Teranet - National Bank House Price Index (HPI). Off the top there are a couple of key points to make clear to you as you hear or read information from these news sources. 

The first point is to clarify our exact role with the HPI - Teranet operates the Index as a co-venture with National Bank. Teranet, as part of other service offerings for the financial services industries, acquires property sales data from across Canada. Six metropolitan areas: Greater Toronto, Calgary, Greater Vancouver, Ottawa, Greater Montreal and Greater Halifax are used to compute the HPI. Of note is that Teranet uses historical property sales data collected from various provincial land registry systems and service providers.

As operators of the HPI, Teranet does not in any way make predictions as to the future trending of housing markets. The predictions cited by these news sources are those of various economists and investors. 

A very advanced and proven methodology is used to compute the HPI that can be reviewed at the following link  http://housepriceindex.ca and I encourage you to visit the site to become aware of the methodology and the sample reports. 

 Several sections of the Maclean's article provide inaccurate information:

  • "When the Teranet market started up in December, it immediately predicted a shocking drop of 20%, followed by an excruciatingly slow recovery that might not see prices return to last year's high for seven years, or longer." - To clarify, there is no "Teranet market". We do not operate a housing futures market. Also, Teranet and the HPI, make no such prediction whatsoever. We use the raw data to compute the HPI values and the data has a 2 month lag (the index report that will come out tomorrow, February 25th 2009, references data current to December 2008). We do not make any predictions on future house prices nor do we make any predictions on when house prices will return to last year's numbers. 
  • The graph titled "The future of house prices in Canada" shown in the Maclean's article - One needs to understand that the "Market Forecast" of that graph is again the prediction of various economists and investors, not what Teranet has actually measured. The HPI is not a predictive system; it only reports on what has actually happened in the six markets it covers.

The reality is that Teranet has every interest in seeing the real estate markets show positive growth, as our revenue on transactional services is directly linked to the housing markets, so we would not participate in a business that would work at odds with our strategic objectives. 

You may also see a BNN news clip that was aired yesterday around 4:30pm that shows a table indicating that the "Teranet futures market" is predicting an 18% drop and no recovery for 5 years. Again, the predictions are not those of Teranet, nor are they computed through the HPI - the opinions are those of various economists and investors. The HPI generates the index values based on historical information of registered home sales. 

Two further notes: Maclean's did not contact Teranet to validate the article. Also, the HPI has been referenced in the federal 2009 budget alongside Statistics Canada which is a good indicator that the methodologies used to facilitate the HPI are sound.

I hope this provides some insight into the Teranet - National Bank House Price Index and assists in correcting some inaccurate information that you and your board members, OREA and CREA may have read. Should you have any further questions, please review the information at  http://housepriceindex.ca ."

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Anonymous
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Real Estate statistics can be misleading. It just like the average guy on the street who doesnt understand the difference between deficit and debt. A great article. I had a buyer ask me if the market is down 42% how come prices arent falling. They are softening but things are still good up here in canada.

Feb 24, 2009 07:39 PM #1
Rainmaker
176,455
Michelle Finnamore
in Vaughan and Toronto GTA - Vaughan, ON
Preparing your property for sale

Hi Bruce, again a very thoughtful, effective post on misleading and incorrect information reported in the media becoming " truth" and quoted again and  again. The negative effects on the recovery of our financial system will always overshadow the positive effect that a correction in fact may produce in the follow up to this article.

Feb 25, 2009 02:26 PM #2
Rainer
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Bruce Johnson
RE/MAX of Wasaga Beach Inc., Brokerage - Wasaga Beach, ON
ABR CRS, GREEN, e-PRO

Hi Michelle,

Thanks for your post. We've seen it time and time again that if the media feed enough crap to us, we eventually get used to the taste! We humans tend to be sheep (check out the voting records of North Americans for the past 30 years!) so for  the media to repeat their usual mantra of "We're just reporting the facts" strikes me as quite hilarious. They've got a moral responsibility to not always spin the worst possible scenario as their lead stories. I swear that if a plane crashed and 50 people died and 50 were saved the vast majority of news outlets would run with the headlines stating that 50 died. They are the-cup-is-half-full people at heart. This is why I left the business for greener, happier pastures... in real estate.    :)

Our world needs some good news right... about... now.

Cheers, Bruce...

Feb 25, 2009 07:02 PM #3
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205,225
Sylvie Conde
Sutton Group-Associates Realty Inc., Brokerage - Toronto, ON
Broker, Toronto Real Estate

That was a very upsetting article.  I guess good news doesn't mean lots of magazine sales, so let's see how long they will go.   I know the Canadian public is smarter than that, and they won't fall for the crap. :)

Feb 26, 2009 09:25 PM #4
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Bruce Johnson

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