The Myth of HAM

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HAM

Poor Amanda Lee. Just a working gal tying to get ahead, which is sometimes brutal when you toil in the rapidly descending new housing sector in BC.

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As many people now know, Amanda is a young administrative marketing assistant at MAC Marketing Solutions in Vancouver, a company developers hire to flog condos to the rabble. She crossed the ethical line last week when the company tried to (once again) milk the incredibly lazy, gullible and bush-league Van television media. She posed as one-half of a sister team (her fake sibling is also a MAC employee) scoping condos so their rich Mainland Chinese parents could come and indulge them.

The TV reporters bought it. Their editors bought it. The stations bought it. So CTV and CBC aired false reports based on fraudulent statements. Now print media (The Province, the Globe, HuffPost) are gloating over the gotcha moment. MAC’s president says he is apoplectic. The TV guys, as far as I know, have not apologized. And the blog breaking the story is basking.

This is all heinous, abusive and might be cute if it happened in Lethbridge. But Vancouver is supposed to be the No.2 media hub of English Canada, so it’s just hilarious. What a fitting symbol of what’s going on.

Of course, this is not the first time. In 2011 you might recall Cam Good, head of The Key – another house-flogging, Van-based professional pumping outfit – hiring a yellow helicopter to ferry around “Chinese investors” with three TV crews stuffed into the back of the chopper. The intentional buzzing of defenceless places like White Rock was intended to goose the myth of HAM – Hot Asian Money – and feed the meme that legions of oriental Donald Trumps were about to gobble up the region, pricing the locals out forever.

But as this blog pointed out days after Global and CBC ran their yellow peril stories, the Chinese dudes were actually Canadian realtors from the burbs, posing as rich vultures from Guangdong. Mr. Good’s company also tried to pass off an employee as a consumer in a weird scheme that brought the Groupon concept to selling condos. It failed, but not before making it to air.

And how could we forget the fake lineups in places like Burnaby? People (Asians, preferably) were offered money, plus lawn chairs, portable heaters, food and porta-potties to camp out in from of a sales centre for 24 hours prior to opening. TV news crews were invited to come and witness the spontaneous news event and the stories they ran begat longer lines, people being the lemmings they are.

So two years ago this pathetic blog arrived at the conclusion that HAM is as fake as MAC, The Key, Cam Good and the miscehievous little Amanda. Of course there have been lots of high-end houses bought by people who made their money in Mainland China, and that will continue. But certainly not enough to influence the entire market, or to justify the widely-held view that poor natives are being displaced by foreign hordes.

So ingrained is that notion now that people born in Canada, of Asian heritage, are routinely labeled HAM and lumped in with offshore investors. It’s exactly what the marketers were dreaming of – anxiety and competition welling up in the breast of houseless anglos every time they’re passed by a BMW with an Asian kid at the wheel.

Of course, there is no statistical proof HAM has moved Van prices, at least directly. The closest numbers have been out of Victoria realtors, whose surveys show 93% of buyers in that market come from BC and 97% from within Canada.

VAN PRICES

Van detached house prices doubled between 2009 and 2012, thanks in part to the HAM scare.

However the indirect impact of HAM – as fabricated by Cam Good, Angela and the geniuses at MAC – is massive. Fear of being priced out by faux billionaire Chinese dudes in yellow helos was central to pushing the average SFH price in Van from $800,000 in 2009 to $1.2 million four years later. In other words, it has been people living in Vancouver who have largely done this to themselves, taking on massive mortgages, turning their basements into dank suites, sinking the savings rate into negative numbers and indenturing themselves to their homes.

I said in 2011 that HAM was a myth, and today it’s being proven as such. Now nice marketing assistants with the right body parts are needed to fill in for Mainland Chinese buyers who are still in, surprise, China.

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“My feeling is this is the event that is going to push the current crash over the edge,” says Harry in Vancouver. “The news is mainstream now. My wife and I are in our early 30′s, make over 200k combined (CA and lawyer). We have more than 25% down payment for a good house (without touching RRSP, RESPs, our children’s education accounts, etc etc), but are waiting , as the prices drop every day. Thanks to your blog.”

No, thanks to greed, fraud and fakery.

I may have to revise my forecast.

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avatarGarth Turner - The Greater Fool posted Thursday, February 14th, 2013.

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