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Our View: Don’t count real estate chickens before they hatch

If you’re expecting house prices to keep going up forever – don’t

If you are planning your financial future based on the notion that your home will go up in value 10, 20, 30 per cent a year, every year, maybe consider taking a deep breath and waiting a while to see what happens.

The increase in assessed value and sale prices for Lower Mainland real estate during the past few years has been, to use a technical term, bonkers. It’s not normal, it’s not sustainable, and it’s either going to stall or, in the worst case scenario for a lot of people, crash to earth.

It has happened. Ask folks who bought a house in Toronto around 1989 – at the peak of the market and had to wait until 2010 for their home to reach its former “value,” adjusted for inflation.

The value of a home, or a car, or a stock, or a Beanie Baby, is what someone will pay for it. It fluctuates, and sometimes it can shift wildly.

This isn’t just a lesson for individuals, who often bear the brunt of wild swings in the price of assets like homes.

Our provincial government coffers have been taking in whopping sums from the Property Transfer Tax – well above a billion dollars a year for the past few years.

Municipalities, faced with massive demand for new housing, have invested in development and permitting staff and building inspectors.

In the private sectors, there are tens of thousands of people just in the Lower Mainland whose livelihoods depend on real estate, development, and especially construction.

A disruption to housing will affect all of us, directly or indirectly.

The best thing we can do for individuals is be cautious with our finances, and not count any property-value-chickens before they’re hatched.

For governments and corporations, it’s a thornier problem, one that hasn’t yet come home to roost, but might very well soon.

– M.C.

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