Conflict of Interest?(RE: the University Experts)

Conflict of Interest?

If you follow Real Estate in the Village on the Edge of the Rainforest, you are well acquainted with C. Tsuriel (Tsur) Somerville.

Somerville’s official title is Associate Professor, Real Estate Foundation Professorship in Real Estate Finance Director, UBC Centre for Urban Economics and Real Estate.

(try saying that 3 times fast)

The Vancouver bear blogosphere prefers to call him “that real estate flunky from the UBC Sauder School of Business.”

He earns that title because, as the media’s ‘go-to’ guy when a ‘non-partisan’ expert opinion is sought, he seems to constantly come across as nothing more than a spokesperson for the Real Estate industry.

Take, for example, this quote from an article in the Globe and Mail last month.

As sales slump and listings soar, the Globe comes out with a story headlining “Cooler housing market no catastrophe.”
To hear some people talk, one of the hottest housing markets in the world is experiencing a serious course correction. Prices are down significantly over last year. But what does that mean?
Tsur Somerville, the oft-quoted real-estate economist from the University of B.C., doesn’t see signs of a major real-estate story brewing. He actually holds a refreshing perspective on the local scene. He won’t even go so far as to say that buyers hold the advantage at the moment, even though supply far exceeds demand.
Critics content Somerville will NEVER go so far to say that it’s a buyer’s market, a viewpoint driven largely by comments like this one from a recent Vancouver Sun article titled Vancouver’s Housing Market unlikely to face significant price correction – expert’:
Although the Vancouver housing market may be out of equilibrium, a significant correction is not expected, said Tsur Somerville, director at the University of B.C. Centre for Urban Economics and Real Estate at the Sauder School of Business.
To those who watch Real Estate, Somerville is as R/E optimistic as every single rah-rah realtor who eternally flogs the ‘it’s a great time to buy’ mantra.

So is all the criticism of Somerville simply sour grapes from the real estate bear blogosphere because the man, an expert in his field, won’t come out supporting the outcome they foresee?

Or does Somerville actually have a bias toward supporting the real estate industry?

Last week a faithful reader passed on this interesting link to me (hat tip alexcanuck).

It’s the website for the Sauder School of Business. Specifically the sponsorship page acknowledging those companies who provide significant funding to the Centre for Urban Economics and Real Estate.

i.e. The source of funding for Tsur Somerville’s paycheque.

Toss into the mix the fact that the courses he teaches at the Sauder School of Business are:
  • Commerce 307 – Real Estate Investment
  • Commerce 408 – Real Estate Development
And you would be hard pressed to believe that someone who teaches you about investing in real estate or developing real estate – two field’s where boundless optimism is crucial – then it’s doubtful this person is going to come out and tell you the market is in trouble.

Besides… if he’s telling you the market is in serious trouble, who’s going to sign up to take his courses?

So what do you think?

Is there a conflict of interest… or at least the perception of a conflict of interest here?

I suspect in a poll of the bear blogopshere, the answer is all too obvious.

This fits with my premise that our so- called “Institutes of Higher Learning” are basically “relativity -based” intellectual brothels open to the highest bidder/patron.  
They cater to those that fund them….. yet try to deceive us into thinking they are neutral and objective in their studies and reports.
“Tsur” is often noted on Real Estate Blogs…as a term of reference, but often questioned re: the spin put on their public comments and opinions.
Now, someone has delved a bit deeper and sees the old saying applies…….”Do NOT  bite the hand (or handout) that feeds you”.
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