Harbingers of doom


A balanced look at the national housing market and a rebuke of the recent Macleans article about a potential housing market crash.

By Andrew Coyne, Financial Post

Even by Maclean’s standards, the cover was alarming. “You’re about to get burned,” screamed the headline, over a picture of a house that was literally on fire. “Canada looks like the us before its devastating housing crash — maybe even worse.” And the kicker, for those still hesitating: “Why it’s officially time to panic.”

This last was doubtless something of a little in-joke. For my old colleagues at Canada’s newsweekly, it is always time to panic, especially about house prices. The magazine’s editors inhabit a world beset by all manner of hitherto undetected demons, from more expensive groceries (“sudden shortages, riots over prices, the world food crisis is about to hit home”) to insomnia (“the truth about a modern epidemic”) to, well, “The Return of Hitler.”

But nothing, nothing frightens the magazine or, it is hoped, its readers, more than real estate. For years Maclean’s has been shuddering in terror of the imminent collapse of the Canadian housing market. From the relative calm of its late 2007 cover story (“Buy? Sell? Panic?”), the magazine soon picked up signals of the coming apocalypse. “House prices start to fall,” the magazine announced the following summer. By autumn, with the world financial crisis in full swing, so was Maclean’s. “Canada’s Looming Real Estate Crisis,” the cover shouted: “Why house prices may soon fall through the floor.”

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