Starting in February, with the completion of our Q4-2012 data, we will feature a new press release format. We will include a chart with the current data, as well as historical long-term averages. We will take advantage of our 30 years of data collection on the Toronto CMA condominium apartment market.
You may have had a chance to read a couple of our previous posts, and you've seen that we don't always agree with the data and assumptions made by others in the industry and the media, but we have come to the realization that we are as much to blame as anyone for some of the media's coverage of the Toronto market.
We do not allow our subscriber data to be used by other organizations in their public publications without our consent, and we do not allow our market presentations to be downloaded or forwarded by non-subscribers. We prefer to control the flow of information and make sure the data is presented in its proper context and fully explained. However, we put out a quarterly press release to get our firm's name out there for various reasons, as one would expect a company with a product/service to sell would do. The problem is that we have not done a good job with our mandate mentioned above, putting the data in its proper context and explaining why things have differentiated from longer-term trends in that press release. As you can imagine that getting press/media coverage, and providing data in its longer-term context in two pages does not always mesh well.
Its is the media's job to present the key facts, and like us, do not have the space for all the context, are not giving all the context, do not understand all the context, or purposefully ignore the context to create a more interesting story! We cannot control the last point, but we can help control the first three.
As an example, let's say a doctor told you that 36 people died last year in Canada during a surgery that they wanted to do on you. Well, it wouldn't make it too likely that you would opt for that surgery. If you were told that the surgery had a 94% success rate. Would your opinion change?
When told that the number of unsold units in projects under construction has increased from 5,000 to 6,300 this year, you say wow, that's a 26% increase. However if you were told that 90% of units under construction were sold at the end of Q1-2012 and 89% at the end of Q3-2012, your opinion would likely not change too drastically. If you also know that the number of unsold units in projects that are under construction is often tied to the developer's risk tolerance and less to actual demand in the market, as they have 2-3 years and sometimes longer to sell those (on average) 26 units, it makes a big difference to the perception of that unsold number.
In our last press release - click here - we did not provide the context for most of the data points that we made, and the assumption would likely be from someone looking at that snippet of information would be that the market is substantially down, when in reality the 2012 new and resale market is quite average. As you know, several media outlets do not like average - the real estate market MUST be either in a bubble (when things are going well), or at high risk for a crash (when conditions are softening).
Lastly we will mention again that any comparisons to 2011 will make 2012 took terrible, the 28,000 new condominium sales were an anomaly that we may not see in this market for some time. To put that figure in its proper context, during the peak boom years in the United States of 2005 to 2007, the metro area of Chicago with almost 10 million people sold 17,558 new condominium apartments in 2005. Cities with similar populations as Toronto did significantly less than us: San Fransisco, 6,085 in 2006; Washington, DC, 8,663 in 2005; Philadelphia, 1,375 in 2006; and Dallas, 824 in 2007 (data from Hanley Wood Market Intelligence). You want a city that was oversupplied, Las Vegas (population of 1.8 million) sold over 18,000 condominium units in 2005!
We will try to keep our data releases consistent and our data accurate. We want our data to be used to make make intelligent, well informed decisions for purchasers, developers, lenders, insurers and suppliers. If we can increase the exposure to Urbanation's poducts and services, all while increasing the newspaper sales, web clicks and listenership/viewership then that should be seen as a bonus.