Housing | timiacono.com - Part 5

Still Dancing in 2014

I feel compelled to pass along these comments from Doug Noland’s latest Credit Bubble Bulletin and, while reading them, it might be useful to recall what Mark Twain once said about history rarely repeating, but often rhyming (or something like that).

Throughout the financial markets, Bubble excess seems to turn more conspicuous by the week. From star hedge fund manager David Einhorn: “There is a clear consensus that we are witnessing our second tech bubble in 15 years. What is uncertain is how much further the bubble can expand, and what might pop it.” Obvious Bubble excess in the Credit market also garners increased attention. Bloomberg quoted Apollo Global Management co-founder Marc Rowan from this week’s Milken Institute Global Conference: “All the danger signs are there of a future crisis. We’re back to doing exactly the same things that were done in the credit markets during the crisis.”

It’s been my view that a going on six-year old “global government finance Bubble” last year suffered its first subprime-like cracks (EM and China). It’s worth recalling Citigroup CEO Chuck Prince’s infamous quote from July 2007 (via the FT): “When the music stops, in terms of liquidity, things will be complicated. But as long as the music is playing, you’ve got to get up and dance. We’re still dancing.”

Why was Mr. Prince – and about everyone else – still dancing in the summer of 2007 – when it seemed rather clear the environment was in the process of changing? Because there was so much money to be made. Because the cautious were being left in the dust. Because it seemed irrational not to be participating in one of the most lucrative financial backdrops ever. Because not participating in the industry boom was career jeopardizing. Because, as Keynes noted a long time ago, if you’re going to be wrong you’d better be wrong right along with the group. The exuberant Crowd had convinced themselves that the Fed had everything under control (“Would never allow a housing bust!”)

Of course, Fed chief Janet Yellen will trudge up to Capitol Hill this week to answer lawmakers’ questions about the health of the U.S. economy and, in the process, she’ll probably have some soothing words for whatever currently ails financial markets, all part of what is now being called the Greenspan-Bernanke-Yellen Put (that works most of the time, but when it doesn’t, there’s hell to pay, as Ms. Yellen will learn at some point).

“Overbid Madness”

More evidence that things are getting even bubblier than they already were in the Bay Area of California comes via this CBS News story about one of the more popular terms in the San Francisco real estate market – “Overbid Madness”.

Of course, as in the case of the current U.K. housing craziness and in other property markets in the U.S. where home prices are skyrocketing, low supply is again blamed for the madness, almost exclusively by many pundits who look past the grossly distorted nature of virtually all markets these days and think that this is just somehow the new normal.

This item from three-and-a-half years ago somehow came up the other day and, after reading through the story of our 2010 short-sale odyssey, it seemed worth hoisting up again for old times sake. The first few days of May actually mark our four-year anniversary of both arriving here in Montana and making our original offer on the house we currently live in (we had looked around quite a bit before actually moving here, but had no idea we’d be living in a condo for six months). Anyway, a short trip down memory lane…


After this rant from six weeks ago about what, at the time, was characterized as our unsuccessful attempt to purchase a short sale property here in Bozeman, Montana, it will surely come as a surprise to most of you to learn that, while we were on vacation over the last month, the deal somehow came back to life and it is now done.

We closed two days ago.

Five-and-a-half months after we made the offer.

Now, the reason for not saying anything about this until today is that, up until the very end, we really weren’t sure that the deal would get done.

Any of you who have been involved as a buyer in a short sale surely know that there are many twists and turns along the way to a 50-50 chance (at best) of actually completing the sale and, just when you think you’ve got a clear shot to the goal line, something comes up that either nixes the deal or sets it back by a couple months.

In recent weeks, we again had more painful waits for the bank to respond with final approval letters and there were thousands of dollars in closing costs that we thought sure they would try to stick us with and some repairs that were sorely needed, none of which we ended up having to pay for.

It’s as if the short sale gods smiled upon us.


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This Wall Street Journal story ($) charts the latest dismal housing data in the graphics below, that is, with the notable exception of home prices that continue their remarkable rise.

Many of the most recent dismal reviews on housing were prompted by the plunge in new home sales reported on Wednesday and it’s worth pointing out again that it is home building, not home prices, that have the biggest direct impact on economic growth.

Also see this New York Times story that, basically, echoes the same line of thinking.

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I must confess, I occasionally look at Zillow.com to get some idea about the value of our home, purchased here in Bozeman, Montana about three-and-a-half years ago, and was recently astonished to see its Zestimate at about 60 percent above what we paid.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who does this, at least based on the results of a new survey from Gallup (they’re really on a roll this week) from which the chart below was pulled.

As noted in the report, there are big differences in expectations based on where you live as some 72 percent of those in the West think home prices will rise versus only 44 percent in the East (the South and the Midwest are somewhere in between).

This is consistent with data last week (as noted here) where real estate is again seen as the best investment choice, overtaking gold, much to the surprise of stock and bond investors.

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