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Tilting at Windmills

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November 14, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

OCTOBER HOUSING NEWS....As California goes, so goes the nation?

The Southern California housing market beat a fast retreat in October as the median price plunged 8% to relinquish two years of gains and sales volume slipped to a record low, data released today show.

The median price paid for a Southland home last month was $444,000....12% below the peak of $505,000 reached last spring and was the lowest since April 2005, DataQuick said. As prices continue to slide, said DataQuick President Marshall Prentice, "a lot of potential buyers seem to be waiting this one out."

"It's hard to buy a home when you think it might lose value, especially when you have to borrow money to do it," he said.

Hopefully California isn't a bellwether on housing. I don't really want the rest of the country to share our pain on this. But what I want and what's going to happen are two different things. Unfortunately, all the evidence suggests that prices still have a long way to go before they stabilize.

Kevin Drum 3:15 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (60)

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Comments

As long as my assessment goes down, who cares?

Oops, that's about as likely as the US getting out of Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, etc.

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on November 14, 2007 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

Note to Bernanke:
Keep printing more money! Fast!

We've got to replace all that falsified value the investment banks put on the books! Otherwise it will start to look like losses! And your golfing buddies will be very pissed off at you!

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on November 14, 2007 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

It's unlikely the rest of the market will follow California. The state's insane regulations and hostility to businesses make it n economic basket-case, and therefore far more likely to suffer recessions and other economic downturns. If you don't like it, elect a republican legislature.

Posted by: Al on November 14, 2007 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK


al: elect a republican legislature.


how'd that go for america from 2002 to 2006?

oh right...

heckofajob

Posted by: mr. irony on November 14, 2007 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

The state's insane regulations and hostility to businesses make it n economic basket-case...

Yes, that's the cause of the housing crisis -- too many regulations on the mortgage and financial institutions and not enough free-market based speculation and pursuit of profit!

Posted by: Cheney's Third Nipple on November 14, 2007 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

I doubt if California is a bellwether for the entire nation, but it probably is a bellwether for the coastal and other areas equally beset by rapid expansion and price inflation.

Were it not for the craziness surrounding ARMs and IO loans, deflation would not be a bad thing: it doesn't matter what your house is worth if you don't HAVE to sell it. It matters mostly when you want to move or retire, and overall, I think it would be better if people showed more interest in the non-monetary value associated with their neighborhood than the monetary value associated with their actual dwelling.

Unfortunately, those ARMs and IOs will require people to move and to sell at a loss and will have a ripple effect for the communities in which they are concentrated.

Posted by: Barbara on November 14, 2007 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

"It's unlikely the rest of the market will follow California. The state's insane regulations and hostility to businesses make it n economic basket-case, and therefore far more likely to suffer recessions and other economic downturns. If you don't like it, elect a republican legislature."

What a total moron. What a blithering fool. The worst thing, the most terrible thing that ever happened to CA is Prop 13, promulgated by the moronic Howard Jarvis and the other idiots in CA>

CA is a basketcase economically BECAUSE of Prop 13. Prop 13 CAUSED most of CA's economic problems.

Everytime a Repukeliscum touches an economic law, they FUCK IT UP.

Posted by: POed Lib on November 14, 2007 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

Occassionally, I hear from a CA headhunter about a great job in SD or SF. I love these cities. I will NEVER take those jobs since cost of living is much higher in CA than in IL.

Posted by: POed Lib on November 14, 2007 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK

1. It's a new paradigm! Prices will go up forever! Borrow every dime you can and invest it or you'll miss out!

2. Oops, we've hit a little bump in the road, but, shortly we'll be heading right back up again.

3. This bump is bigger than we initially thought, but the worst is behind us if you'll keep your nerve.

4. Wow, it keeps going down. Well, remember, the smart money buys on the dips.

5. This is really getting bad. We need the government to bail us out.

6. The government can't help us! And it just keeps going down! What do we do?

7. I'm taking out anything I still have left and never investing again!

We are somewhere between 5 and 6.

Posted by: jimBOB on November 14, 2007 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK

Al, YOU GO MAN!!! You are much smarter than all of these dumb liberals. If we unchain the free market, all will be well. The proof is everywhere. Stupid liberals.

Just wait till Rudolphus or The Mitt assumes the throne. Our greatness will be cemented for eternity.

Posted by: Free Lover of Freedom and Free Liberty on November 14, 2007 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

al -- you sadsack. read some florida papers, some nevada papers, and some colorado and michigan papers to get an idea of the housing collapse in their communities.

turn off larry kudlow. (cocaine does terrible things to the brain.)

Posted by: linda on November 14, 2007 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

How much of this is due to actual price downturn and how much is due to the lower end homes selling and the upper end homes staying on the market? Here in the Boston area, the numbers are fairly similar, but the bottom end of the market is pretty stable, it's the people with the 6,000 sq ft mini-mansions (or is that just mansions) who are taking a beating right now..

Posted by: Crusty Dem on November 14, 2007 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

Why don't you put your money where your mouth is, Al?

If you're such a fan of Reaganomics, just sign up for every credit card you can find, and BORROW YOUR WAY TO PROSPERITY!

There's no reason you have to keep posting here for that lousy minimum-wage Heritage Foundation paycheck.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on November 14, 2007 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

It's a good point, but I suspect some will feel Mr. Drum shows a bit too much pleasure in making it.

Posted by: Tobin Harshaw on November 14, 2007 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

The housing market where I live is still active - house prices are up about 3% over last year and there is still quite a bit of new construction, albeit not at as rapid a pace as say a year ago.

Unfortunately too many people think that what is happening on the east and west coasts reflects only what is going on. And so panic sets in.

Course the readjustment of the ARMs will hit all areas of the country - given that the mortgage scamming occurred over the whole country.

Posted by: optical weenie on November 14, 2007 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

Why does everyone think this is such bad news? It's excellent news for renters who have previously not been able to afford to buy a house. It's neutral for existing homeowners- people who move will get less money when they sell, but their new house will also cost less. I can see that this is bad news for (1) flippers looking for a fast buck; (2) people who lied about their income to get loans they could not afford, in the hope that they would be bailed out by rising prices; (3) people who have borrowed up to the hilt (or should I say "tapped their equity") to keep up with next door's big screen TVs and SUVs, and now have negative equity; and (4) older people who are planning on selling up and moving to a retirement community or downsizing. I only have any sympathy for the last of these groups; however, these folks will probably have already made enormous gains on their houses, and will still come out ahead even if prices fall 30%.

Posted by: pottersham on November 14, 2007 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

florida has had a republican gov. and a republican leg. for nearly a decade. our housing market is a basket case right up there with california.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on November 14, 2007 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

The rest of the country is due to share your pain, although some places (such as "flyover country") will have a lot less pain than the landing zones. Some places have been popularized out of a reasonable price structure.

The service people can't live anywhere near where the people demanding services cluster. This is a big part of the NOLA problem, and why tearing down the low income housing is insane.

Posted by: Scorpio on November 14, 2007 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

I think most of California is doing much better than Buffalo or Detroit.

Posted by: Brojo on November 14, 2007 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

As a state, it lead the boom and will lead the collapse in home prices.

Just wait when the recession hits; these declines, so far, have occurred in the absence of one.

Posted by: Yancey Ward on November 14, 2007 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

2011 is when the 'bottom' will be reached.

Posted by: Jenna's Bush on November 14, 2007 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

I second Pottersham's comments. Us renters that didn't buy into the ever-esclating Ponzi scheme of "just refinance this ridiculous interest only mortgage before the reset" scam are LOVING THIS. I hope all of those idiots on "Flip This House" are living in dumpsters behind the 7-11 before this is over.

Posted by: Jimmy Jazz on November 14, 2007 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

We're rolling back prices to 2005! Er... 2004! Uhm... 2003? 2002?

Posted by: e. nonee moose on November 14, 2007 at 4:30 PM | PERMALINK

Occasionally, I hear from a CA headhunter about a great job in SD or SF. I love these cities. I will NEVER take those jobs since cost of living is much higher in CA than in IL.

Good for you! While you're at it, can you convince some people who are here to go someplace else as well? This place is full.

Posted by: craigie on November 14, 2007 at 4:38 PM | PERMALINK

If you don't like it, elect a republican legislature.
Posted by: Al on November 14, 2007 at 3:32 PM

I have read your blurbs for some time AL, you never offer any links to back up your assertions and 90% of the time they are absolutely fale.

Posted by: Ya Know.... on November 14, 2007 at 4:38 PM | PERMALINK

You are much smarter than all of these dumb liberals. If we unchain the free market, all will be well.

Sorry, but thst would only create more robber barons, remember them?

Posted by: Ya Know.... on November 14, 2007 at 4:41 PM | PERMALINK

I live in New Haven, where more than 50 percent of mortgages in the last two years are subprime. I moved here from Pittsburgh (go Steelers!), where our three-bedroom house in a great neighborhood cost $130k. Here the same house is more than double the price. Here's my dilemma: The renter in me is thrilled to see prices declining but the citizen in me doesn't want to see families on the economic edge lose their homes as the ARMs all reset. This city has made a lot of gains in the last 10 years. I worry that not just speculators will get hurt, but families that were finally crawling out of poverty and might get hurled back into it. It may not matter, since if Rudy becomes prez I'm moving to Canada anyway.

Posted by: JZ on November 14, 2007 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

The Housing Bubble blog is a good aggregation of articles about the varied real estate markets around the country.

Hopefully California isn't a bellwether on housing. I don't really want the rest of the country to share our pain on this.

Awww, that sounds like something your cats would say. Good to practice such a noble, Clintonian sentiment, though.

Posted by: TJM on November 14, 2007 at 4:53 PM | PERMALINK

Uhhhhh...the rents in San Francisco have doubled since the housing issues ground new housing sales to a halt. 1 bedroom apts. in the 'loin are going for $1700-$2000 per month.......now you can't afford to buy OR rent......

Posted by: zedd on November 14, 2007 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

This place is full.

Tell that to the pro-immigration lobby.

Posted by: Vicente Fox on November 14, 2007 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

Why does everyone think this is such bad news? It's excellent news for renters who have previously not been able to afford to buy a house.
Posted by: pottersham on November 14, 2007 at 4:12 PM
----------
As long as the herd of people that enabled the values to inflate to this level don't start going over the cliff and taking all our jobs with them, then it isn't really bad news.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on November 14, 2007 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

Real estate: Buy, sell, or hold? tells us that most markets will still have prices declining for a while based on local history.

Posted by: freelunch on November 14, 2007 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK

Gotta love Al.

Memo to those who think regulations are hurting the housing market: Read this story about what's happening in Cleveland. The general conclusion is that it was a mix of greed, lax oversight and little-to-no regulation or consumer protections for homeowners.

Also, this whole mess is affecting more than just home prices and the bottom line of the banks that securitized all that subprime debt.

As this article from the Baltimore Sun shows, the subprime crisis is rippling out and causing increased crime as foreclosed houses sit empty and waiting for squatters, drug addicts, and other assorted unsavory folks.

And it's in the suburbs.

In newer and previously-considered "really nice" areas.

In other words, a lot more folks are going to be affected in ways some never considered.

Posted by: Mark D on November 14, 2007 at 5:07 PM | PERMALINK

POed lib: Having grown up in Illinois and lived many years in California, I can assure that Illinois is more expensive. Oh, sure. Housing is cheaper, but you don't get paid as well in Illinois. And everything else is more expensive: income tax, food costs, entertainment costs, transit. I've lived all over the country now, and frankly California is my bet for the most affordable place in the country. I lived much better out there then I've been able to anywhere else. The rest of the country nickles and dimes you.

Secondly, proposition 13, while troublesome especially in terms of housing, has been able to keep California has a hotbed of independent retail and restaurants. As well as artists and designers. The California Dream has always been the ability to buy into real estate. It would very easily have priced out most everyone if the rampant taxation had continued as it was in the 1970s. Jerry Brown advocated for lower expectations. Continual raising of taxes was driving California into a big hole. Constant infrastructure projects and creating souring housing costs.

Now admittedly costs have continued to rise, but you can more blame that on California's booming population and its continued aversion to the kind of urban density that is sustainable over long periods of time. Everyone wants "sunshine" and "views" but density is the best way to use land while also keeping costs down. California (at least northern california) is starting to realize that. But it's 30 years too late.

Posted by: Inaudible Nonsense on November 14, 2007 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

Honestly, it's just a waiting game, really.

A long, boring one.

Reminding me that I need to call the bank today and complain about the $300 they stole from me last week.

Posted by: Crissa on November 14, 2007 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

I live in a nice area where homes, 1500 to 2500 sq. ft., were selling between $80k and $120k when I moved here about twelve years ago. In 2005 those homes were selling from $300k to $450k, and many for sale now are still listed in that range. Some have sold, much to my surprise, (the neighborhood has a public elementary school with a good reputation) but more sit empty. There were no empty homes in this neighborhood before 2006, If Phoenix did not have population growth fromt he rest of the country, a lot more homes would be empty.

Posted by: Brojo on November 14, 2007 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

PS: There's aren't low-end houses within the urban areas in California - to find 1500sqft below $400K, you need to be ~90 miles from the city center. What good are neighborhoods full of 'affordable' houses nowhere near jobs, transportation, etc?

These houses replaced some prime farming land, and are on the wrong side of the mountains from the actual cities. And most don't actually have a city government to protect their value by finding industry to support them.

The prices need to fall another 50% before it's not more expensive to buy than rent.

Posted by: Crissa on November 14, 2007 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

For some of us who got quickly priced out of the market by the ridiculous price increases a few years ago, this collapse is a good thing.

(People in LA paying 12-14 times their entire household annual income for a home? That's retarded...)

Posted by: IdahoEv on November 14, 2007 at 5:32 PM | PERMALINK

Like so many conservatives, Al has things exactly backwards - California has always had one of the most robust economies in the United States. Depending on how you measure it, California's "GDP" puts it among the top 10 or 15 nations in the world. Conservatives have this delusional view that all human behavior is predicated on what the income tax consequences of that behavior are. If we all were so shallow, what a godawful country this would be!

Regarding the bursting of housing bubble, it is bad and getting worse in the Midwest and I travel a fair amount, so I am able to get a sense of the market in several cities, including Kansas City, Chicago, Minneapolis and Des Moines. However, anyone who didn't see this coming is a damn fool. No investment goes up 10% per year forever. Anyone who borrowed heavily against the paper equity in their home deserves to take a hit. Homes are to live in - they are NOT ATMs!

Peace out.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on November 14, 2007 at 5:50 PM | PERMALINK

The reason Cali and FLA are both hardest hit despite their political party dominance is immigration... I think once amnesty was crushed and the possibility of a pause in the never-ending Niagra of illegals started to take hold with the no-money-down speculators some of the pressure started going out of the market.

Posted by: cruel dude on November 14, 2007 at 5:50 PM | PERMALINK

Home prices in the "flyover" states haven't followed the incredible price inflation experienced on the coasts, so Midwestern / Plains people don't expect a crash in housing prices. The paid will be felt by people who "over-bought" and speculated on urban condos.

Posted by: CT on November 14, 2007 at 5:53 PM | PERMALINK

zedd -- a really cool rent history + mapping tool for SF: http://mullinslab2.ucsf.edu/SFrentstats/

Posted by: anonymous on November 14, 2007 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK

This is not necessarily going to be good for renters in places like SF. The reason your rents are going up is that the owners were charging rents below market because they were investors and could be profitable because of the increasing values. Now there it is much harder to qualify for a mortgage and so the renter market is tightening up, and catching up to the absurd prices of real estate because the landlords need the extra money to pay their mortgages. Once landlords start going bankrupt, you'll see rents collapse too. But insolvent landlords are not without risks to renters either. Damages go unrepaired, or housing sits empty and attracts criminals, vandalism, drugs, etc.

That is NONSENSE, inaudible. Good handle. When you keep real estate taxes too low, and when you make the taxes and interest deductible on tax returns, you are fuelling inflation for real estate. In real terms they become less costly, and so the price automatically rises to what it would cost without the artificial incentives. Plus, those tax breaks are especially advantageous at the top of the market (my tax deductions for this modestly overpriced house barely rise above my standard deduction, and after the first few years of my mortgage, those deductions will be worthless to me), which induces greater volatility at the upper end of the market. Volatility is good for vultures, but not anybody else.

One of the reasons red state Texas has not seen the same price levels as California is that r/e taxes here are around 3% of the appraised values, versus 1% of an appraised value that is nearly frozen to the purchase price in California. My mortgage payment is 1/3 principal, 1/3 interest, 1/3 taxes. If our prices went up too much, even owners who bought low would feel the pinch if taxes doubled, and some of us would be forced to sell, thus acting to dampen the rise of any bubble.

When I was in Dallas last winter, I noticed in the fancy new condo areas of uptown that every block seemed to have many, many for sale signs. Austin is still pretty hot, and they are bringing on tons of new luxury condos in the next few years (they are foolishly even breaking ground on a few others right now). I predict within a year Austin will have lots of bankrupt condos and half built ones that will blight the landscape for years to come (they recently tore down the unfinished shell of a building from the last real estate bust in 2001).

Posted by: jussumbody on November 14, 2007 at 6:07 PM | PERMALINK

"I think once amnesty was crushed and the possibility of a pause in the never-ending Niagra of illegals started to take hold with the no-money-down speculators some of the pressure started going out of the market."

What?! That's nuts. Absolutely nuts. Did the illegals cause the tech-stock bubble in the late '90's as well? The housing bubble was a clear product of low interest rates and scandalous lending practices, and the believe that housing values would keep rising, just as the tech bubble was a product of an insane belive in "Dow 36,000".

But some folks like to blame brown people for everything, even when it has nothing to do with them.

Posted by: David in NY on November 14, 2007 at 7:12 PM | PERMALINK

"Secondly, proposition 13, while troublesome especially in terms of housing, has been able to keep California has a hotbed of independent retail and restaurants. As well as artists and designers ...."

Teh stupid, it hurts!!! Ever hear of high-tax New York? It puts California to shame in these regards.

Posted by: David in NY on November 14, 2007 at 7:17 PM | PERMALINK

"Hopefully California isn't a bellwether on housing"

Ah, Kevin loves subprime mortgages and lots and lots of foreclosures, two things attendant to way overpriced housing.

Go Kevin, let's KEEP those houses unaffordable, yeah, that's the ticket!

Can't have houses coming back down in pricing to a level that, you know, people can actually make payments on. No, no, no!

We need to continue to hear that sucking sound of high mortgage payments sucking consumer dollars out of the economy and into interest payments on their mortgage debt.

Way to go Kevin!

Posted by: Desmodus on November 14, 2007 at 7:20 PM | PERMALINK

"California Dream has always been the ability to buy into real estate. It would very easily have priced out most everyone if the rampant taxation had continued as it was in the 1970s."

Yea, like all the other states that don't have such rent-control-for-home-owner laws and now have minuscule home ownership rates... oh wait that didn't happen!

Prop 13 benefits those who have owned a particular home for a long time at the expense of everyone else, particularly recent and future home buyers.

It leads to all sorts of stupid inefficient decisions and random windfalls for people. You get young families living in condo's paying more in property taxes than wealthy heirs pay on their mansions. You get people driving 50 miles each way to work because if they moved their property tax would shoot up many times. You get people renting houses to live in while renting out the virtually-no-property-tax money machine that used to be dad's house because it would be financially stupid to sell that house and buy one to live in.

Real estate is one of those markets that, with a little regulation, works very well. Rent control and stupid tax laws like that in California just gum it up and make it work poorly for the majority to benefit a minority.

Then there is the glaring loophole for corporate ownership of property...

Posted by: jefff on November 14, 2007 at 7:30 PM | PERMALINK

I'd be curious to know what proportion of single-family homes in the Los Angeles area are rental properties and not primary residences. I suspect it's pretty high. I know someone whose parents bought a extra townhouse when prices were low in the 1980s and then rented it out for the next 20 years until their son married. It was his wedding gift.

It's not that people own rental properties -- hell, my family's been doing well in that business for 70 years -- but I suspect that there are a lot more people who do it on a small scale in California than in other areas of the country.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on November 14, 2007 at 8:50 PM | PERMALINK

http://rawstory.com/news/2007/US_Israel_refuse_to_cooperate_with_1114.html

Posted by: Bert on November 14, 2007 at 8:52 PM | PERMALINK

Spoke with my niece the other day. She and her husband bailed out of their million dollar plus home in San Diego for 30 percent less than what their neighbor's house sold for. They are moving to Palo Alto and will rent on the interest from their ill-gotten gains. Good choice. Don't buy. Let your landlord take the hit.

Posted by: knut wicksell on November 14, 2007 at 9:00 PM | PERMALINK

We share your pain in Pennsylvania. Luckily we live in a college area, with tree lined streets and lovely older homes. But the selling prices are clearly plummeting. I don't know anyone personally victimized by a sub-prime mortage, but some mortgage brokers we knew of quietly left the area.

Posted by: consider wisely always on November 14, 2007 at 9:52 PM | PERMALINK

San Francisco rents are going up, but somewhat amazingly, prices are stable at worst, and houses in some neighborhoods, especially the ones under $2M, continue to go for over asking price. This is somewhat bizarre, but it's still there. The high end is dying, which will bring "average" prices down, but it doesn't seem to reflect what average people like me (having just bought a house in SF) have seen.

Posted by: Spike on November 14, 2007 at 10:00 PM | PERMALINK

I hope housing prices go down another 20%, MUCH more than is whined about.

That is because housing is TOO expensive.

My wife's first cousin, a VP at a large national bank, could not afford to live in San Francisco.

What could a simple honest working person do?

Posted by: Richard Witty on November 15, 2007 at 12:05 AM | PERMALINK

Well which is it, a simple honest working person, or a bank VP?

Posted by: craigie on November 15, 2007 at 1:18 AM | PERMALINK

craigie,

I believe it is the one played by W.C. Fields at the Lompoc First National.

Nice to see Countrywide leaving the ARM field - They now offer the FMBC plan - First male born child - for ReFis.

Posted by: bert on November 15, 2007 at 8:55 AM | PERMALINK

I'd be curious to know what proportion of single-family homes in the Los Angeles area are rental properties and not primary residences.

I cannot answer the question, but several years ago in Phoenix, Jerry Buss, the Lakers' owner, paid a million dollar property tax settlement for something like a thousand single unit rental properties he owned here. He saved a lot of money by not paying the initial assessed tax and negotiating down the total amount he would pay.

Posted by: Brojo on November 15, 2007 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

One reason housing prices can fall (or fall further) in California and have that not be a major negative for the overall economy is that housing prices rose a lot more there than most places. Look at these charts, in the Econbrowser: http://www.econbrowser.com/archives/2007/11/new_research_on_2.html

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