The Seer who saw the housing bubble

I accidently clicked on a link mocking the book “Are you missing the real estate boom?” by the real estate association’s lapdog, David Lereah. There I found the following brilliant book review by “Don Corleone”, dated April 19, 2005!!:

For me, this was more comic relief than any scholarly analysis. The author has a vested interest in the bubble not bursting, and he’s selling his soul with this book to prove it.

He spins webs of demographics and interest rates, but he never ever addresses the core issues that determine housing values. What is lost here is that housing in itself creates no value, its value is completely predicated upon peoples ability to pay for it. Ergo, housing prices for the last 100 years have tracked income remarkably closely, that is, except for the last five years. Historically, the ratio of housing price to annual income has been 2.1, with very little variation. In many parts of the country, this ratio is now approaching 10.5! Can you say “major correction?” Further, the amount of leverage used to buy homes during this boom has been increased to absolutely unprecidented levels. Even during the last boom of the late 80s/early 90s, the standard was still 30 yr fixed and 20% down. Not anymore. Last year, less than 15% of borrowers put down 20% or more! Further, the 30 yr fixed has been replaced by the IO, or interest only loan. See now, we have the same borrower capable of bidding 30-40% more for a propery without any better credit or ability to repay. Neat trick, but sadly, Lereah at no point addresses any of these fundamentals.

Our stock/housing pattern appears remarkably similar to the one Japan had 20 years ago. First the stock market busted. Right after, the real estate market rallied, and it busted too. The current Japanese real estate market is in a 14 year slide to date, and houses are going for roughly their 1980 value.

Keep talking Dave – we’ll need the comic relief soon!

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