the thirties grind

get up, go to work, raise kids, pay bills, sleep. repeat.

Archive for the month “November, 2013”

Study: Canada’s housing most overvalued in the world

According to the International Monetary Fund, Canada’s housing is the most overvalued in the world:

The housing market is recovering, but real estate in many countries is still overvalued


Global house prices rose another notch in the second quarter of 2013. This marks the sixth consecutive quarter of growth since the beginning of 2012. House prices rose in 32 of the 51 advanced and emerging market economies in the IMF’s Global House Price Index, compared with increases in 9 countries in the second quarter of 2009, when the housing crisis was in full swing. Among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) members, increases and declines are more evenly balanced. But in many OECD countries, the ratio of house prices to rents—a typical measure of house price valuation—remains above historical averages, leaving room for price corrections down the road. In Canada, for example, the ratio is 85 percent above the average.



What does this mean for the real estate market in our country?  According to The Fitch Ratings report, “…a high level of employment and individual net worth tied to the value of the housing stock, a housing downturn could have serious consequences for the overall economy.”


Hongcouver: Ian Young’s take on Vancouver real estate

IMG_0006aIt’s pretty obvious that I’m obsessed with Vancouver Real Estate…particularly with the rate at which house prices continue to soar, with no real sign of the widely talked about bubble ever bursting.  Recently, I discovered a blog entitled Hongcouver and…I’m hooked.  It’s author, Ian Young, says the blog “…is devoted to the hybrid culture of its namesake cities: Hong Kong and Vancouver.”  Both cities have been hugely impacted by mainland Chinese immigration and investment…resulting in astronomical housing prices.   Ian kindly agreed to answer some of my questions about his thoughts around housing prices in our city, and the factors contributing to them.

You seem very passionate yet frank about your opinions about Vancouver Real Estate.  What is it about the subject that keeps you so interested?

I hope that my opinions don’t come into it. But it’s a fascinating topic for myself and readers of the South China Morning Post because of the way Vancouver mirrors the Hong Kong experience. Both cities have undergone huge waves of mainland Chinese migration and investment, coinciding with spectacular increases in home prices. In Hong Kong, the connection isn’t really disputed, and the government there recently introduced a series of foreign ownership curbs to both ease the market and the intense public mood. But in Vancouver, there are plenty of people who would dispute the extent of the connection, or whether it exists at all. I find that interesting. It says quite a lot about Canadians, among other things.

The ties between Hong Kong and Vancouver are also extremely close. There are said to be 300,000 Canadians in Hong Kong, and about half of those probably have some link to Vancouver. For one thing, many still own homes here.

Do you believe Vancouver is in a real estate “bubble” as many describe it?  Why or why not?

It’s only a bubble if it bursts, and if I knew unequivocally that that was about to happen, then I wouldn’t have to write about it for a living. However,  there’s no doubt that we have seen an extreme disparity develop between domestic incomes and property prices in Vancouver, a disparity that is far more extreme than elsewhere in Canada. It’s very severe, even in global terms. This disparity suggests a market fuelled by money that is being made elsewhere.

If the inflows remain consistent, or level off gradually over time, then it’s not certain that this income-price disparity will ever return to “normal” levels. But what if new inflows were to be shut off rapidly? Or, worse, what if the sources of previous inflows were to actually extract their money, never to return? You would have to be pretty optimistic to expect a calm response from the market in that event.

People have said it is racist to blame foreign investment as major factor in increased housing rates in Vancouver.  Do you agree?  Why?

No, though plenty of racists will happily latch onto the contention. This makes me uncomfortable, but it doesn’t necessarily make it wrong. In Vancouver’s case, the inflows appear to be coming from China, which makes the story more interesting to readers in Hong Kong. But in terms of the price impact, it’s irrelevant whether the inflows are coming from China, the United States, or even elsewhere in Canada.

On a related point, the discussion often turns to foreign “investment”, as if these buyers are purely speculative, hoping to make a buck on the market. I see no reason to believe that’s the most common situation, and there have been at least a couple of cases in which agents have turned to outright fakery to exaggerate this side of things. There is a distinction between speculative investors, and wealthy migrants who simply want to buy a home for their family in Vancouver.

We’ve all heard about the “ghost” neighbourhoods in Vancouver, where houses and condos sit empty.  Fact or Fiction?

Well, there seem to be a lot of lights out in the downtown core. But I don’t see enough hard data to thoroughly confirm or debunk the “ghost town” idea.

What do you believe the future holds for Vancouver Real Estate?

Of course, I don’t know for sure. But I do suspect that the importance of some key issues is being underestimated. The traditional metrics for forecasting prices – interest rates, unemployment, vacancy rates, domestic migration  – have been pretty poor predictors of prices in Vancouver. But if we look back to the big wave of Hong Kong migration to Vancouver, in the 1980s and 1990s, then we see an uncannily close correlation between foreign immigration and prices. We appear to be experiencing something very similar now, with affluent mainland Chinese. I would suggest that anyone hoping to get a handle on future Vancouver price moves should pay just as close attention to Canadian immigration rules and Chinese policies, as to the traditional metrics.

Ian Young is the former International Editor of the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong’s leading English-language newspaper. A journalist for more than 20 years, he worked for Australian newspapers and the London Evening Standard before arriving in Hong Kong in 1997. There he won or shared awards for excellence in investigative reporting and human rights reporting, and the HK News Awards Scoop of the Year.  He moved to Canada with his wife in 2010 and is now the SCMP’s Vancouver correspondent and the author of the newspaper’s Hongcouver blog

Absurd Vancouver Property: November 28th, 2013

I’m sorry, but what in the actual fuck??

$1.7 million on busy Dunbar Street??

dunbar $1.7dunbar $1.7 3dunbar $1.7 2dunbar $1.7 6dunbar $1.7 5 dunbar $1.7 4

Over $250K was spent “renovating” this beauty in 2012.  I actually remember when these houses were built.  They were some of the first “new” houses built in Dunbar in the early 90s.  Everyone thought they were so ugly…wonder why?

I still can’t believe they want $1.7 million for this.  I’m speechless.

Vancouver…are you f*%king kidding me?!

Vancouver real estate most unaffordable in Canada

vancouver unaffordable housing

We’re number one!  We’re number one!

There are many titles that Vancouver cannot claim.  Largest city, driest city, most fun city…the list goes on and on.  However, there is one list that we remain at the top of…Vancouver real estate is the most unaffordable in Canada.

According to the latest Housing Trends and Affordability Report from RBC:

Across the country, housing affordability continues to be the poorest, by far, in the Vancouver area, where the latest RBC measures are significantly above their long-term average…

Translation: owning a home is still waaaaaaay out of reach for most people here:

The Housing Affordability Measure determines the proportion of pre-tax household income needed to cover the cost of owning a home at market value. In Vancouver, that translates to a whopping 84.2 per cent of an average household’s income before taxes, in order to buy the measure’s benchmark detached bungalow—a rise of two per cent since the previous quarter. – Huffington Post B.C.

Compare that to runners-up Toronto at 55.6 per cent and Montreal at 38.3 per cent.

Way to go, Vancouver!  At least we’re on top of something!

And they wonder why we cross the border…

Apparently, business owners in Canada are complaining about losing revenue to their southern counterparts.  The losses are even greater around this time of year, when price-savvy Canadians make day trips across the border to benefit from the deals they find there.

Recently a friend of mine posted on Facebook:

Same Lego toy: Canada vs US pricing:
Canada $90
USA $55
…and they wonder why we cross the border.

I completely understand the concern Canadian businesses have and I really do believe that we should try to shop locally as much as we can.  I also believe in limiting our own family’s consumption of toys like the one pictured above.  But, at the end of the day, one cannot deny that the savings you find on the exact same items in America are insane.  And then there’s the cheese, and wine, and Trader Joe’s…don’t even get me started.

It could be worse, I guess.  One commenter on my friend’s post said the same toy in Ireland is over $100 Canadian…

Will you be doing any cross-border shopping this holiday season??

Vancouver: is it fun for anyone?

nofunOkay…so this is depressing.

Our province has the highest child poverty rates in Canada.  The report by the child and youth advocacy group First Call said B.C.’s child poverty rate is 18.6 per cent compared to the national rate of 13.3 per cent.  This means that almost 20% of the kids in our province are having a childhood that is way less than fun.

A report from YouthfulCities “ranks the world’s top cities from a youth perspective.”  Vancouver didn’t even make the Top 25.  Communities were ranked based on 16 categories, including civic participation, diversity, digital access, environmental sustainability, access to education, youth employment, food and nightlife, music and film, public space and sports.

More and more we are hearing that Vancouver a tough city to raise a family.  Housing affordability tops the list of complaints from those who have chosen to move elsewhere.

Which begs the question…is Vancouver fun for anyone??  Is our city really just becoming a playground for the wealthy?

What gives?

The REAL Real Housewives of Vancouver: Monica Morong

M the mommy rapper“M.” is a motivational rapper from Toronto who now resides in Vancouver, Canada and is breaking the boundaries of today’s rap genre. Her dream is to hone her skills to become the world’s first mainstream conscious female mom rapper. She is a mother of three girls and wife of her soulmate and music partner, Sean.

After a 7-year long career in corporate public relations, “M.” discovered her true passion and gift (besides being an awesome mom) is writing and performing meaningful rap music. She has independently created upwards of 10 songs in the last year on her YouTube Channel garnering almost 30,000 views and has performed at several events in Vancouver inspiring thousands already! Her mission is to change the world by inspiring youth and parents alike through conscious messages within radio-quality rap beats.
“M.” wants to encourage people to really listen to and dissect the lyrics in mainstream rap songs, which tend to get overshadowed by catchy beats. Her dream is to work with other conscious musicians and producers who want to make changes for the better!
What characteristics define the Vancouver Housewife?

I’m not a huge fan of the term “housewife”, I actually prefer the name “housemanager”!
 I would say Vancouver housemanagers are different than any other of its kind in Canada. Her characteristics are: competent, organized, modern, creative, versatile, outdoorsy, balanced in her interests, supportive of her husband and family, and takes care of herself physically and spiritually.

Are you a good representation of a Vancouver Housewife? Why?

Yes, I would say I am a good representation of the Vancouver housemanager. I take pride in my role as a mother and wife but also feel called to contribute to society by sharing my gifts outside my own home.

Do you feel that living in Vancouver in some way defines who you are? Please explain.

I don’t let the city, the clothes I wear, the car I drive, the company I keep or anything else define who I am. My words and behaviour define who I am, that’s it.

Have you ever had cosmetic surgery, Botox, Restalyne injections, etc.? If so, please provide details. If you haven’t had any of the above procedures performed, would you consider it?

At this point I haven’t had any procedures done besides getting a crown tooth (and I’m not telling which one!). I would only consider natural products and procedures to enhance my skin from sun damage and aging but not injections or surgery. I don’t believe (anymore) in altering the body parts I was born with.

Other than your children (if applicable), what is the accomplishment of which you are most proud?

My amazing marriage! My husband, Sean, and I have an amazing history and memories, open communication, love and adoration, respect and a strong emotional and spiritual bond. Sean is also my partner in music production and we plan to build an empire around my “conscious mom rapper” brand, which Sean is a huge supporter of.

Has the desire for affluence/power/money been a motivator in the choices you’ve made for your life?

Definitely! But it didn’t lead me towards the path of happiness, fulfillment and peace that I am on now, although it all served its purpose in making me who I am today. I chose a university degree and career in public relations for the “wow” factor to fuel my ego, but didn’t feel fulfilled and that my gifts were truly being expressed. Now that I am following my true inner voice to bridge family and career through my music I am motivated more than ever to reap the monetary rewards from a place of spirit versus ego. I still have a strong desire for money and influence (over affluence), but more in the realm of helping to support our family’s basic needs for food, clothing, shelter, education, life experiences and building a comfortable nest egg. I also have a desire to help those in need in our community and worldwide.

Tell us about your stuff. What do you like to buy, collect, etc.?

I’m proud to say that I’m not attached to stuff. Sure I like nice clothes for me and my family, a nice car, nice house, nice furniture, etc. We are very selective with what we buy with a focus on quality over quantity. Our real focus right now is on living within our means and saving for our future.

Do you have “staff” in your home? (E.g. nanny, driver, chef, etc.)

I can envision having help when my rap career takes off on an international level as we will need help with cleaning, our diets via a personal nutritionist/chef, and possibly tutors for the kids if we’re all traveling for performances. At this point we all share responsibilities around the home (do these answers sound boring or what?!).

Do you belong to any clubs, teams, groups or social organizations?

Until our third child was born in March of 2013 I was a weekly volunteer with Beauty Night Society, an organization that builds dignity and self-esteem and provides life makeovers for impoverished women in the downtown eastside. I am currently an avid participant in Kate Muker’s Conscious Divas and their monthly Diva Date Nights that connect like-minded, conscious women looking for connection, inner growth, self-expression and authenticity. I am also a member of other women’s groups including April Bellia’s Serendipity Tea Party, and Nicki Bullock’s Ignite Freedom Goddess Circle.

Finish this sentence: “My life’s motto is ….”

“Better late than never”!!!

Momcabulary Monday: O.P.C. (Other People’s Children)

LIttle Monsters

I will be the first to admit that my children are not perfect.  In fact, they can be a real pain in the a** sometimes.  However, they are my kids and so, I’ve been hardwired to accept their shortcomings and love them unconditionally anyway.  Unfortunately, the same sentiment doesn’t always hold true for O.P.C.

We’ve already discussed how kids are disgusting…but parenthood somehow magically makes wiping your own child’s snotty nose, tolerating the stench from their soiled diaper or cleaning their vomit laden bed possible.  However, if I had to do this for a child who was not mine, I admit it would probably be an effort.

A few other things that I can’t tolerate from O.P.C. (and I, in fairness, expect other’s wouldn’t be able to stomach about mine).

bad manners
cruelty to animals
drawing on my walls
cutting my kid’s hair

Let’s keep in mind, however, that kids are usually a product of their environments so, really, it’s not them we should have a problem with, right?

You down with O.P.C.??

Holiday Gifts Made Easy

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There is always one person in your family who never, ever stresses out about Christmas shopping.  They don’t get frazzled about what to get each person on their list and, somehow, manage to do all of their shopping in one spot.

My brother is that person.  Every year without fail, he manages to pull off amazing gifts…most of which he has purchased in one spot:  Shoppers Drug Mart.  Little did I realize that his strategy (if we could call a middle-aged man’s procrastination and disorganization a strategy) actually has its merits.  At Shoppers Drug Mart there’s always:

  • Exciting in-store sales and promotions
  • Great value in the Shoppers Optimum Rewards Program – you can earn points on almost every purchase!
  • Plenty of parking
  • The opportunity to shop late at night (I’m pretty sure my brother did his shopping there on the way to Christmas dinner one year…)

Leading up to the Holidays this year, Shoppers Drug Mart is releasing Gift Guides and Beauty Books.  In them you will find something special for everyone on your list – for example:

For the kids:

Play Doh Candy Cane Gift Set: For Ages 2+


For the tween in your life:

Katy Perry Killer Queen Fragrance :Eau de Parfum (50mL), Lotion (75mL), Shower Gel (75mL)


For him:

Sony Wireless Headphones: Wireless (RF) Headphones with Charging Base Station + Environmental Handling or Disposal Fees where applicable.


For your girlfriends:

OH MY GOSH Mini Nail Lacquer Set: 5 Oh My nail lacquers


So now you, like my brother, know the secret to one-stop, easy Holiday shopping.  Hit up your local Shoppers Drug Mart this holiday season!

For more information visit the website.  Shoppers Drug Mart is also launching a Facebook contest in December that will include:

  • Advent calendar that will reveal a new product every day.
  • Multiple prizes will be given away over the course of 12 days

Like them HERE for all contest updates!

You can also join the conversation on Twitter for holiday gift ideas at #giftsmadeeasy.


Shoppers_drug_mart_LogoDisclosure:  I am part of the Shoppers Drug Mart Holiday Campaign with SheBlogs Media.  I am being compensated for this post. Opinions are honest and my own.


You mean I don’t have to give up margaritas??

Generally, I’m not an overly sensitive person.  I can relate to Kelly Preston’s character in Jerry McGuire.

“There is a sensitivity thing that some people have. I don’t have it. I don’t cry at movies, I don’t gush over babies, I don’t start celebrating Christmas 5 months early, and I DON’T tell the guy who just screwed up both our lives, “Oh, poor baby.” That’s me for better or worse. But I do love you.”

Okay…maybe I’m not THAT insensitive…but you get the point.  My teeth, on the other hand, are a totally different story.  If my teeth were a person they would be the princess in The Princess and the Pea.  They are sensitive to EVERYTHING.  Sweet, sour, hot and especially cold.  My condition worsened after I had my children (yet another marvellous side effect of motherhood).  Ice water in restaurants…out of the question.  Popsicles on a blistering hot day…forget it.  Margarita Mondays….sniff, sniff…sadly, a thing of the past.

You can imagine how excited I am to try out new products that promise to alleviate the pain caused by sensitive teeth.  I am currently experimenting with Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief.  It promises to shield and repair my poor teeth and protect them (as long as I use it regularly).  Basically, what it does is create a reparative layer that acts like a seal against sensitivity…something I usually have to go to the dentist for…and with sensitive teeth, let me tell you how much fun the dentist is.  You can even apply Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief directly to a sensitive tooth with your fingertip for instant relief…

Sign up for the #ColgateSensitive Pro-Relief Challenge!
You can sign up for a free sample of Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief toothpaste.  Then REVIEW the toothpaste online for a chance to win one (1) NESPRESSO® U Pure Orange coffee machine and one (1) gift basket containing a 1 year supply of Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief products

When you sign up to take the challenge you will receive:

  • 1 trial size tube (22 mL) of Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief toothpaste
  • 1 coupon for $1 off a Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief toothpaste

Goodbye sensitive teeth…hello Margarita Monday!!  Sounds like a win/win to me…

Disclosure: I am part of the Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief Blogger Campaign with Mom Central Canada and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.


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