Category: Econolypse

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Let the Bears Eat Bear Stearns

I agree with Gretchen Morgenson, writing for the New York Times. The Fed shouldn’t bail out Bear Stearns. The fed crossed a line by keeping afloat a major architect of the housing debacle.

I wrote my first blog post about the housing bubble in August 2005, a year after deciding not to buy a home in the Washington, DC suburb of Bowie. It was already clear to me in summer 2004 that something akin to a repeat of the dot-com bubble was taking place in the housing market.

Had we bought in 2004, we would likely hold a mortgage that exceeds the house’s reduced value. We could never have moved to San Diego. 

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Housing Bubble Myths Pop

For more than a year I’ve warned that the housing market would retreat with wicked vengeance, with reverberations moving through the US economy as it did earlier in other countries. Today’s Fortune story “Getting real about the real estate bubble” rips apart some of the myths sustaining the bubble.

Shawn Tully whacks the hell out of four bubble myths: “As long as job growth is strong, prices can’t go down”; “the builders learned their lesson in the last downturn. They won’t swamp the market with new houses when the market turns”; “low interest rates will keep values rising, or at the very least, put a floor under prices”; “restriction on development in the suburbs ensure low supply, and guarantee rising prices”. 

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I’d Like to Be Wrong About This

I am back on my “collapsing housing market” bandwagon. Today’s New York Times story “Keep Eyes Fixed on Your Variable-Rate Mortgage” tells of the coming doom—people unable to pay for their homes because of risky variable-rate or interest-only loans.

The story, by Damon Darlin, reveals that nationwide, interest-only loans accounted for 26.7 percent of mortgages last year. In Washington: 40 percent! 

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When the Boom Busts

I have repeatedly blogged about the impending housing market crisis. While not as apocalyptic as my stated position, SmartMoney story “Home Crunch” warns of problems on the coasts, where inflated home prices and risky mortgages will pinch many home owners.

In my neighborhood, signs of a sales slowdown are everywhere. Two houses around the corner have been on the market for months. A year ago, they would have sold within a week. Some houses are selling, but the turnover clearly is slowing down. 

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Pop!

The Dec. 19, 2005, Business Week piles on more worrisome indications that the housing bubble is deflating. The story focuses on Loudon County, Va., once one of the hottest real estate markets in the country that is now cooling off. As sales slow, sellers are cutting prices. According to Business Week, “From August to October, the median sales price for houses dropped from $506,100 to $480,000”. I expect falling selling prices and rising days on the market to be the norm in most housing markets, if not now within a short time.

I first blogged on the housing bubble in August, a year after I started warning people trouble was coming. Coincidentally, not a week following the post, a good friend asked me about real estate as an investment. She had come into inheritance money and looked to help another friend, who had been successfully speculating on houses in Pennsylvania. I strongly recommended against real estate as an investment. I hope she took the advice. 

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The Housing Bubble Pops

Serious are the signs that the housing bubble has started rapid deflation here in the Washington, D.C., area. Summer 2004, my family chose not to purchase a house in Bowie, Md., because, even then, I was convinced that housing prices were way over-inflated. Since, I’ve warned plenty of people the end would rapidly come.

Earlier, I expected the housing bubble to stay inflated into 2006, but Hurricane Katrina’s widespread economic rumblings appear to have put on the squeeze. As recently as October, New York-market deflation forebode coming trouble. 

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Pop Goes the Housing Bubble

Last summer, my wife, daughter and I scoured the Washington suburb of Bowie for a house to buy. After a month of house hunting, we decided to stay put in our rental house, located in a nicer neighborhood and much closer to downtown Washington (We live off of Connecticut Ave. just three miles from the city).

The decision not to buy came with great angst. Rising real estate prices made the potential equity gains look promising, and we were simply ready to be homeowners. But the math simply didn’t work. When factoring in taxes and insurance, our monthly mortgage would have approached $2,200, compared to our $1,100—starting this month, $1,200—rent. We couldn’t see how our quality of life would be better doubling our monthly housing payment, even factoring in potential equity gains or tax breaks.