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episode # 84

Is Vancouver’s Real Estate Market a Bubble? with Kerry Gold

Hold on to your seats for this week’s episode! Featuring acclaimed freelance writer/journalist and 2nd generation Vancouverite Kerry Gold.

Kerry is most notably known for her in-depth coverage of the Vancouver real estate market, on which she has spent the last 10 years researching and publishing thought-provoking articles for national publications such as The Globe and Mail and The Walrus, to name a few.

Join Matt and Adam as they turn the tables and interview Kerry, delving into topics such as the media coverage of the real estate industry, foreign speculation, and city-owned vacant homes.

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Episode Summary


 

About Kerry:

Kerry was born and raised in Vancouver and has been a journalist for over 20 years. She was with the Vancouver Courier and Vancouver Sun. Kerry was a music critic for 10 years, then went freelance, and she has been writing for The Globe and Mail for 10 years. She has a weekly real estate and housing column every Saturday and writes other business pieces. Kerry also writes for magazines and ghostwrites books. Over a year ago, she wrote an article for the Walrus on the Vancouver market; this was the most read article in the Walrus’ history.

On how she got into real estate writing:

Kerry has always been interested in real estate, but it found her. She started writing for the Globe’s real estate section right away. It felt like a natural fit. It’s a sexy topic in Vancouver and internationally—other markets are watching what we’re doing. Housing affects everybody; it’s universal and continues to be fascinating.

On if Vancouver is a bubble:

No. It looks like that and goes up and down continuously, but she can’t see why it would burst. It didn’t even collapse in 2008-2009 and, for the most part, nobody saw that coming. This is the new normal.

On how that market has changed since she started covering real estate:

The market has gone nuts. One of her first stories was about how a family had to buy a 1980s Vancouver special on the west side. Now, it’s probably the best move they ever made. In the past 3-4 years, it’s taken a turn no one would ever have predicted, for instance, the condo craze and farmland being snapped up as holding properties. The whole market is in a level of weirdness; residential is just a part of that.

On how media coverage has changed in the past 10-15 years:

Kerry started researching and writing about things that weren’t making sense, such as incomes versus prices. The vast amount of foreign money coming into the market was not being written about for at least 3-4 years. This wasn’t covered initially as the topic made people uncomfortable, perhaps because of BC’s history of treating Chinese people poorly. People were listening to inaccurate industry data. Now, everyone talks about it. After the Walrus piece was published, Kerry got a lot of thank-yous and people saying it was what they were thinking.

On how social media and click-baiting has shaped the landscape for media coverage:

Anything that drives traffic will be covered a lot. She heard real estate is the second biggest driver of traffic. Housing and real estate hit close to home for people. The Globe has done an outstanding job. Kathy Tomlinson was hired as an investigative reporter and exposed many things in real estate that hadn’t been exposed before, for example, shadow flipping. Her instincts were right—nobody understood that homes were being assigned and sold for more money. Her insights and stories led to legislative change. There should be more awareness and transparency to the public.

On overarching themes or narratives on Vancouver real estate media coverage:

It’s In the public that there are themes—it’s about what readers want. As a columnist, she can be more opinionated. Kerry has looked in depth at the loss of character houses and its impact on our culture and history. She agrees with the argument of needing more supply to a point but does not think it’s a solution on its own. Money laundering and criminal activity are big.

On the process to write a piece for the Globe:

Kerry comes up with her own ideas, goes to open houses, and meets and talks to people. She conducts lots of interviews and structures stories based on transcripts. She finds data to back up the findings. Kerry relies on realtors and other professionals for expert opinions and numbers. She likes human interest stories, so for anecdotal information, she talks to everyday people. A huge part of her job is cultivating relationships—after a while, people start to know her and what appeals to her, so they’ll call her up. Unhappy City staff will tip her off to what’s going on.

On if and how the media shapes the market (i.e. influencing buyers and sellers to pull back):

To a degree, if you read about interest rates going through the roof, maybe. It may not be the media as much as the policymakers, for example, with the foreign-buyers’ tax. The media influenced the market here indirectly because the policy resulted from media stories and the resulting public pressure. The media has no power beyond conveying the reality of a situation. Things like interest rates and government are having a much greater impact on the market than the media. There are many conflicting reports in the media, as well. It’s not a unified front.

On aspects of the market that go under-reported:

What’s happening outside of the Lower Mainland as well as other sectors within the Lower Mainland, such as farmland. People don’t share as much. She’s been advised by people in the industry to investigate other regions and sectors outside residential. For instance, a lot of foreign buying of farmland is occurring in the Lower Mainland.

Five-wire:

  1. Favorite area in Vancouver: Mt. Pleasant
  2. Favorite bar or restaurant: Savio Volpe
  3. West-side mansion or downtown penthouse: downtown penthouse
  4. Where you first bring a guest from out of town: Gastown
  5. Jonathan Kay or Barbara Kay: Jonathan (she doesn’t know Barbara)

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