As the Bubble Expands, Again

With news of the LNG project getting its second life at becoming reality once again, here in Terrace, BC, the real estate market seems to be erupting again right along with it, like it did when Reo Tinto brought wealth and prosperity to the valley. In fact, old properties that were once on the market, that I thought had sold, were being re-listed, but at slightly higher prices. It seems that Kitimat is once again the hot bed for the housing market, as speculators move in to take advantage.

My question is, “will the bubble burst, or is this the next wave of the markets moving to even higher house prices”? In hind sight, will this be like it is now in Vancouver, as million dollar homes become the norm? Will criminals take advantage of the boom and start flipping up here, to launder their ill gotten money, as reported on the CBC News in Vancouver this year. Will this be, or added to, a full blown housing crises? Will this be the boom-bust cycle that happens normally up here in the North Coast? So many questions, with no answers.

By comparison, the housing market is very reasonable, compared to the Lower Mainland. The average detached free hold house sells for about three hundred thousand here in Terrace today. I also noticed that hardly anyone is touching the mobile homes and condos, as much as the houses with property, as those inventories move more slowly.  I am starting to see more vacant land up for sale too.

I am holding back, as I wanted to buy in, but seeing what is going on, I may wait longer before I buy. The one property I wanted, did sell, but I herd that they got it for ten thousand less than what was asking. But that was a couple of months ago. And I still have a few conditions left to full fill with my Bank before we can start talking borrowing money. My down payment pile is growing in the mean time.

I am seeing a lot more out of province vehicles too. The majority are from Alberta, but I saw a few from Ontario and Quebec in the mix as well.There are more cars on the roads in the morning and afternoon–a good sign.

So this means that our little town in the Skeena Valley is growing again, as we help Kitimat absorb the boom. Good for the economy, but bad if you are looking to get into the housing market. Great news if you are looking to sell for your retirement nest-egg, but not so good for the low income class who cannot find a home, and afford to rent any more. When will the bubble burst?

We Had a Little Fender-Bender, But All is Good!

Imagen driving down a very dark highway, and you are going from 80km/h to 100km/h, and way out in front of you, you see a vehicle, then from behind it, sparks at random places on the road, and they are getting closer and closer. Then an object bouncing towards you that you can hardly see becuase of its dark colour. What would you do? The quick thinking Suzette did what most of us would have done: stop to avoid the object. She safely came to a stop, just metres from the object, and this is what we saw.

The object was a metal picnic bench, painted dark green, that was being transported on the back of someone’s pick-up truck, and they never bothered to properly secured it to the deck. It fell off as they accelerated in the 100km/h speed zone, so when it hit the road, it was already travelling a 80km/h. So what we saw from behind were sparks, as it bounced along the surface of the pavement then came to rest.

An emergency stop was initiated. The vehicle behind us also had to stop suddenly to avoid hitting us, and as we heard it brake–at that moment I was happy. But then a second later, a third vehicle was not so quick, and collided into the back of the car behind us, then the car behind us was pushed into us. So now we have a three vehicle accident, and loose objects on the road. We waited, and after a ten second pause, we assessed ourselves, and looked outside. There seemed to be no other sounds of crashing cars–it was safe to go outside.

I will not go into the specifics of what happened to all three vehicles, but I will say this, no one was physically injured. All three vehicles had to be towed away, and the metal bench was taken off the road, so we were thankful that it was just our vehicles that were damaged, not anyone else. However, a few things need to be addressed here.

Let me quote Suzette’s Face Book post, using her words:

This piece of metal lawn furniture fell out of a vehicle last night on Kitimat highway just Terrace side of Hirsch Creek. It caused a 3 car fender bender, no major injuries thankfully. I stopped in time to miss hitting it. The woman behind managed to stop in time to not hit me, but the third car hit her, pushing her into my driver side back quarter. So, all 3 had to be towed. PEOPLE! tie down your loads! If I had not seen the sparks when this fell out of the vehicle, I would have had less notice of something wrong ahead, could have hit it, into my windshield and could have caused a major accident. Now my car is heading to the shop…

Two points. First, the owner of the park bench was the cause of this accident. You never move items on your vehicle without first properly securing them to the vehicle to prevent them from falling off and causing damage to the road, property, and people. This is the law.

Secondly, As a driver, you must drive in a safe manner. This means driving with enough space between you and the driver ahead to stop safely, in case of an emergency. Driving too close is not only bad driving, but in the case of an emergency, you are not going to stop in time to avoid the driver ahead of you. This is the only time, that you are one hundred per cent at fault if you cause the accident.

Anyway, we are all good.

On a side note, I told Suzette today, “we were partly responsible of closing down the Kitimat to Terrace Highway for an hour, yesterday”!

 

 

That Small Town Feel

I am getting towards my first full year here, back living on the North Coast, where I grew up, but then moved back after nearly thirty years of big city living. Hard to believe that this June will mark my first full year in my new home. I guess you could say the homey moon period is over, but then again, is it? I like to weigh the pros and cons of my achievements, along with what is still on my List of Goals. It really depends on how deep you want to dig, or just scratch the surface of this last year, but today I am feeling kind of lazy, so just a little scratching will be done.

Perhaps the greatest achievement of moving up here has been my change of employment. On one hand I thought that I would leave the world of warehousing and supply management for good when I left the Lower mainland; boy was I wrong. On the other, I had no foresight into what I was getting myself into. instead, as luck would have it, I joined a company that was literally looking for people right next door from my old neighbourhood back in Fort Langley, BC. As the story goes, the position was left vacant for a few weeks, and replacement staff were sent up here to Terrace to fill in from Vancouver, BC. They searched the local community, but were having little success, then moved the search down to the Lower Mainland where a larger pool of qualified hopefuls could be found. The employment ad was still running in Terrace, so I threw in my name. “The rest is history,” as they say. So just three weeks into my stay in Terrace, I found the job that I can retire with. Not bad, eh?

Driving a newer vehicle has to be another one, a close second on list of achievements. Within just four months after moving up here, my beloved ’95 Nisan Pathfinder was rendered useless after a series of mechanical breakdowns that left me to permanently ground it to the driveway. I left it, thinking that I would try and fix it, but so many issues were popping up, scrapping it was probably my only course of action left. The awesome Suz., made the suggestion of selling it on Facebook as parts, and it sold within days after posting it. I went to my local financial institution, and was able to secure a loan for a small car with them. The little car performed beyond all my expectations going into the North Coast winter. The newer car is nice to drive, and is by far more reliable to drive–and cheaper on fuel. 

The number one achievement since moving up here has been, and still is, the lovely Suz. After all, that is why I moved here in the first place. It was one thing to have that long distant relationship, but it is quiet another to actually spend with her, together, in the same town. It is awesome to physically spend time with her, instead of doing virtually. But on top of being with her, the need to get out of the Lower Mainland served to be my medicine for keeping my sanity intact. You can throw saving money too with that, as living here on the North Coast is far cheaper than Metro Vancouver was. But by far, being here with Suz., equals, priceless. The time it took me to decide, trading Vancouver, to be here, with her, was less than a heartbeat, and that was only amplified by the sounds of train horns blasting in the background. Actually, I knew I needed to move long before, and was looking at Terrace, but meeting Suz., again solidified my need to move back to Terrace.

So this June 21, the First Day of Summer, will mark my first year of being here. I thought that would be a symbolic gesture of timing my move on that day, last year, and an easy date to remember it by.  What better way to mark the move with, then knowing that three months of summer lay ahead, right? Anyway, my first year here in Terrace, BC has been an awesome one. I look forward to many more years here. 

Not Enough Tom

It is beginning to cloud over, with a sprinkle or two, here in the Skeena Valley, this after an awesome two weeks of sun fill days that could cause a suntan if you are not careful. It is hard to believe it is still May here on the North Coast. Awwwww, climate change, marvellous. But that is not what I am going to blog about today. No, this is my monthly round up what is going on in my little corner of the neighbourhood. This month, I call it, “Not Enough Tom” to go around. Between the needy around my place, and all four levels of Government, my hard earned money is being targeted like Mexico paying for the “Trump Wall” along the Southern U.S. border, I keep saying “No,” but the “please” keeps sounding in my ears, louder, and louder, and louder. In our free and democratic country, the need for Taxes grows ever stronger, where “asking” turns into “taking,” and like the Internet scammer, the sound has become more demanding than ever before. The root cause in my mind is, the needy get less back from the Government, so both Government and the needy turn to the Middle-class for more. I ask, “What part of NO don’t you understand?”

In my everyday routine, the to and from work part, I get asked at least once for “something” by my neighbours, in my neighbourhood. It may vary, from hard cold currency, to material items like tobacco or access to the Internet, but in all cases, the asker is someone who is either self medicating or mismanages their income in varying degrees. Whenever I enter my car, or leave it, that is usually where someone will ambush me, and the asking starts. I am an easy target here in the Thornhill Ghetto: I drive my own car, and it is shiny and black, and I have a job–a regular job–yup, paint a “bull’s eye” on me. Even the Government is asking for more, but I have been able to hold them off for now through tax loopholes and investment incentives through reputable programs, but that is still money I can not spend for myself right now. So here is the list: from “least,” to “most often.”

ONE: The Internet scammers are working harder than ever. In the last month (April 15 to May 15, 2018) My phone has logged up an impressive twenty-six callers that use “spoof” I.D. on the call displays. Yes, I screens my calls, and if it is “friend or foe,” it either goes to voice mail, or I answer it back–but “picking up” is almost a no-no.

TWO: The Taxi service out here in the Skeena Valley is very expensive. Unless you are disabled, either through health issues, or through intoxication, walking is the only true and tried method of getting around without a working and licensed vehicle, on a pauper’s income. Most do not like walking, especially if you live way out in the “sticks,” and you want to bring back that “twenty-four Pack” from the Beer Store, to your home. If you do not have money for a Taxi, then you target your buddies who own a vehicle. I get asked at least four times per week for rides. There are only three of us who have our own vehicles here in the Ghetto. I give no rides, becuase once you open that gate, then the flood begins. We have transit, yes, real actual buses that for a small fee, and it gets you back and forth from town–and it works becuase I know from first hand experience. Forget the Taxi Service and take Transit!

THREE: Being asked for money is the most often need I get asked for by my neighbours of all. Usually, it begins with, “I need food,” while they puff on their cigarettes, to “I need money for Cigarettes.” Sadly this is a reflection on the State of Canada’s economic well being, and those who made poor lifestyle choices. We are heading down the path of great economic disparity between the rich and poor. Lines are drawn between the old and the young, the Educated and labourers, all while those who are property rich cling to prosperity, and the “property poor” pay more and more to live in shacks. We have to learn to live without, and adapt to this economic change. We have choices, and drugs and alcohol are easy once to make, you just need the willingness to do it. But most of all, food should be made the first choice over Cable TV, and so on. To date, being asked to give money is by far the most often request I get here in the Ghetto.

In closing, I like say this: there is just not enough Tom. Yes, I save, but it comes with great sacrifice, but I do it. I plan, and it comes battling forces who try to disrupt my goals to their means, but I still plan anyway. For those who do not save up for their future, or plan for it and set goals, then these upcoming days are going to be your hardest ever. The poor need to ask the Government for more, not from me, becuase Government is taking so much as it is, and they make the rules. So, there is not enough of me to go around.

Friday Evening at the Lake: Sunset Included.

Not that I am complaining about the hot dry weather, but it is warm out, and I am getting a tan. With all this goodness, I do not want to be stuck at work, while all of this awesome weather is going on outside, knowing that soon, very soon, the rainy season will be upon us here in on the North Coast. It has been a great last couple of weeks, even knowing that it is still in the middle of May, and we have summer to reach yet. Oh yes, it is Friday, and we are at the start of a long weekend, Victoria Day, or May Day, depending on where you are. So some extra intensive to wanting to get out of work even faster to start the weekend. Spending time with Suz., was the highlight of the evening’s events. Unexpectedly, we went to the beach out at Lakelse Lake, just South of Terrace.

We went to Furlong Beach, now that the camp grounds and park area are open again after the long winter season. It was loaded with people, mainly young high school kids off on vacation, enjoying the super warm weather too. But for the nice weather, and wide open park, I kind of expected more people. The beach had many who were Sun Worshippers, basking out on the sand, then there were some who just walking around, and there were a few swimmers too, though I think the water is still to cold yet. The Sun was awesome, even Suz., sat quietly under its rays, collecting the energy from it. And of course, I could not resist the photo opportunity, while the Golden Hour of the day passed by, with my cameras.

As the Earth turned away from the Sun, leaving us in the dark once again, the people started moving out of the Beach area and back to the their camping areas for the evening. We stayed around for a short while, as the sky darkened. The air was still warm, and as a bonus, the mosquitoes were not out in full force biting yet. One last walk along the beach was in order.

With all the young adults, there was a police presence. Though we saw nothing out of the ordinary, it was nice to see them patrolling the area, keeping the law and order. I remember, as a younger person, this was the time of year to “let loose and be crazy” after being stuck inside all of the time during the winter months. I can imagine that has not changed for this generation, the Millennials.

The photos were taken at Lakelse Lake just at Sunset. I was using a 30mm MACRO Lens, set at f2.8, ISO100 with my Sony A77.

No Test Alert for Me

To be honest, I kind of figured the Network Test Alert would not work on my work’s Smart Phone, nor the Internet Radio I listen to. While some phones sprang to life at exactly 1:55pm this afternoon, many did not at my work. Some said even the local FM Radio gave off the alert sound–I do not listen to off-air radio. However, I did hear it on other phones around me, but thought what if I am all alone, and the impending alert was broadcast, then what–follow the crowds, if I see them running all in one direction?

Strangely, and even more worrisome, some Smart Phone users around me had their phones go off some fifteen minutes later, and one co-worker said that he got the Alert’s text message, but no alarm sound. So the alarm was not constant throughout the local population. I see now that it is based on what type of phone you have, and whether your software can handle the carrior’s Apps for the alert.

Just add to this, my work’s phone is on the Telus Network, and so was everyone around me at my work. One would assume that we would all get the alert at the same time. This alert system appears to be ridden with bugs and very glitchy over different types of phone.

The test alert was scheduled for all of British Columbia, today, at 1:55pm. I knew about the test for today long in advance, some weeks ago. I even placed my Smart Phone on my desk, and cranked the volume up, just to make sure I would hear it. Other were near by too, so I heard their phones going off, but mine lay in silence.

What is humbling, is in the event of a real British Columbia wide Alert, or something local, I would not know it, if I was alone. Say, for instance, I was out hiking, or in some place remote, I would never know. So this made me think what else I could do, or change, that would include me in with those who would be notified? Right now, not much. Even the App’s software I installed, did not work. So I believe that our Governments still have some wrinkles to iron out, and bugs to squish, on this matter.

Missed Earth Day

Yes, I had completely forgotten about Earth Day until Suz., brought it up while we were driving through town. Normally I am on top of these events, but this year our vacations started this weekend, so I was completely preoccupied getting ready for the week, so Earth Day was the farthest thing on my mind. However, I am happy to report that we saw a few people collecting roadside trash in Terrace, BC., so there were volunteers doing their part on this day. Also, at the Junction of highway 16 and 37, we saw a largo mound of trash filled bags siting on the side of the read waiting to be picked up. There were people at other locations on side streets and boulevards, but the main highways through town seem to have the largest amount of trash per kilometre.

Sadly, when we drove out to Rosswood, BC, highway 113 there was lots of garbage strewn along side the roads. I saw everything from disposable diapers to car parts, but the most common items were paper coffee cups from the two main drive through restaurants in town. I will not mention names, but you do not need to be a scientist to figure out who they are, and to fair, it is their customers who are at fault, not the makers and vendors of the beverages. The likelihood of this stretch of road getting any attention on Earth Day is rather low, so the garbage will pile up more than likely.

When we came back into town, we saw the muster point, with marshaling station, at the George Little park for the roadside trash collection volunteers. So it appears that this is a well organized event. I have never been to one here in Terrace, so I have no idea how they operate. Perhaps next year! Suz., did say that the next major hike we go on, she is bringing a garbage bag to collect other people’s littler on the hiking trails we got on. She is right, Earth Day should be celebrated everyday, not just once a year. And Earth Hour, should be practiced 24/7.

April Fools, or Just Fools?

Listening to all the news on the United State wanting to drop out of the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), or at least awing it in their favour, got me thinking about what lays in my future as a Canadian. And to be fair, I am only referencing this on my own personal life–a life that is almost spanning five decades now. So I think I have some experience under my belt. I remember a time before NAFTA. There was a time long ago, that Canada only had bi-lateral agreements with other trading nations, and it worked. But people wanted bigger, better, with more profits, and the ability to grow at more accelerated rates, and at the time, this was the Automobile Market that launched it. But this was far from the utopia of free markets that the businesses wanted. There will always be outside forces that could bring down, or at least distort, the economy, and as corporations grew mightier then the countries they lived in, so to were the negative effects of the market shifts.

When listening to the U.S. president say he was pulling out of NAFTA, or at least change it into his favour, I thought to myself this must be a April Fool’s Joke of some kind. Could this be true, or just another one of his “flip-flopping” agendas he is so famous for? Changing his mind through an early morning Tweet on Twitter, like a teenager on social networking. The ramifications of all of this is the Markets bouncing up, then down, reacting to every tweet, like a farmer in his fields watching storm clouds pass by.

Sure, it is nerve-racking, as the media plays on every and tweet the US presidents throws out into the Internet. But remember, you can only cry “Wolf” so many times before no hears again.

So here is how I look at it. And I have lived through a bunch of rescissions in my lifetime. We may have our cars and oil increase in costs, but these are commodities that will not bring down our neighborhoods and governments. Sure, it will sting as a small portion of the work force will have to adapts into new industries, but there basic needs that can be met to keep our nation running as long as we have the will to do so.

We can produce our own basic needs like food, building materials and modes of transportation. Unlike some other countries, Canada has the ability to move forward at both the micro and macro levels inside our borders with self sustaining ease. We are, after all, an exporting country, thought not as efficient as China or the U.S. due to our small population, but we can pick ourselves up and run with it. We are fortunate that we are not reliant upon service industries, and raw resources, we have kept a sizable manufacturing sector alive.

So it is far from not being the end of the world when the U.S. president tweets the end to free trade. In the end, he will only hurt the people he leads–his own country. Sure Canada, and Mexico, will under go a transformation too, but both nations will pick up where they left off, and continue to grow, as we all look for more stable markets to trade with. And with the changing world dynamics through tools like the Internet, and digital money, it is quiet possible the U.S. will be left behind if they stagnate.

We need to eat, and we can grow our own food. We need homes, and we can build them. The only thing that will hurt us in the current market economy, is the mountain of debt that the average Canada carries–this we must get under control. But perhaps we need this market shift to correct the economy after all? Homes are out of reach for now for many people, so a good shake up might be what we need.

The Glass Net

In this post, I was going to talk about cryptocurrencies, their advantages and disadvantages they pose on our daily lives, but that got side-tracked when I started reading about the British Columbia’s new “Speculation Tax.” When I looked at how housing prices are being effected in different regions, I thought this was more of an issue than how we are going to buy things in the future. So I took some time to read further on how this tax was going to effect you and me, but more so, how the money lenders look at this.

There is an lesson I have learned in my life about money: you always need more, and you never have enough, and you fight to keep what you have. This sets the frame work between Land Owners, and everyone else in Canada. In Canada, over the last three decades, we have seen property values climb three fold. There are many factors at play here, but the main factor that I see is that more people want to be land owners, rather than renters, so this automatically ups the Land’s value as our populations grows. This is compounded in desirable areas like Vancouver and Toronto, and negatively dries up value in other parts of Canada. So no two areas are the same in terms of Land Values. But there is one constant: for most, property ownership is the biggest, and most profitable, investment–period–in one’s life. As a property owner, any tax or encumbrances, is a direct threat to that investment. 

The double side of property owners is funny to me. Obviously, the land owner wants their investment to grow in value. Added to this, you want the enjoyment and happiness of your land, minus anything you feel would diminish that state of mind such as gentrification or industrialization around you. Your house, its location to the community, means that of all the investments to your future, your land is your greatest investment of them all, and you are going to fight if anyone taxes, or reduces its value for other means. You want that value to grow.

If you are someone who is looking to buy land, in this day and age, the bench-mark is almost unattainable for the vast majority of people based on their level of wealth and income. With cheap money (borrowing it from money lenders), and the lure of living in centres like Vancouver and Toronto, property values in these areas have tripled in price over the last decades. So many are willing to put themselves in huge debt for the pleasure of living in and around these areas. On the same scale, money lender’s are being ask to increase the criteria for borrowing on property, stamping out further those who wish to be land owners, but money lenders are still willing to lend to make their profits. 

Today, the world seems to be looking at Canada, as our personal debt per Canadian is one of the highest among the G7 countries, noting how much trouble we could potentially be in. With so many carrying these mortgages, some are speculating either a meltdown, or a slow deflated collapse of the market, but nothing positive. Needless to say, we could be in trouble as Interest Rates and Market Forces start turning towards a new course in our economy, and these forecasts start coming true. I would not want to be the person who has to juggle public policies, and Laws, to keep everyone happy. 

March 27, 2018

It was announced that the British Columbia Government has laid out sweeping exceptions to its Speculation Taxes. It appears that many who own land in smaller regions of the Province are spared the tax.  

Dust and More Dust: The Choking Streets of Terrace

I heard about this last year before I moved up here, from reading the news paper and hearing from friends, but it is quite another to actually see it in person. This is the byproduct from the snow removal process of the last three months when dealing with snow covered roads. Rather than spend money on salt, which does not work on icy roads at below 15C, the roads get covered with sand and gravel. This works very well when dealing with 110cm of snow falls and ice. But the after effect is, lots of dust from vehicles that drive on the roads when it warms up. I would say, you might as well be drive on dirt roads.

Last Wednesday was when I really noticed it. It reminded me of my trip to Southern California, during a wind storm, with blowing the sand everywhere. You had to cover face, or your nose would breath in the sand. I remember seeing the headlights of the car shine through the sand storm, and that is what I saw in Terrace. The big difference, what was blowing around in Terrace was dust, not sand, and this is type of dust that get into everything.

There a couple of spin-off industries from this that I can see. Who ever owns a street cleaner could be making lots of money this time of year. Also, car wash facilities, if you hate a dirty car. However, no one seems to be in a hurry to clear the gravel from off of the roads, and just about every vehicle I see is completely covered in dust. We have not seen any good rain in a few weeks, so the dust just gets more and more as the weather warms up. And honestly, I think that is what everyone is waiting for–the spring wet season to start.

In the mean time, I changed the cabin air filter on my car to deal with the dust. I could actually smell the difference with a new filter in it. But as far as cleaning my car…. na, I will wait for nature’s free car wash to take care of that for me–rain will fix all of this. On a funny thought, you sure notice a clean vehicle when they drive by you. LOL