Housing Armaggedon?!

October 15, 2010

real estate, the economy

I don’t know a whole lot about the housing market, but like most other things, I figure such issues are easily understood with a healthy dose of common sense. There’s a blog post story in the Wall Street Journal (yes, I guess even the high-brow WSJ folks blog! lol!) blogs.wsj.com/developments/2010/10/12/are-we-headed-for-housing-armageddon Are We Headed For Housing Armageddon? It’s interesting. In a nutshell, the article describes a new twist in the housing market “crisis”: banks are unable to hold foreclosures due to improperly transferred paperwork from banks to homeowners; Apparently, during the housing boom, some banks were a little sloppy with their paperwork in their eagerness to get lenders. Now that banks want to foreclose for non-payment, homeowners with savvy lawyers claim that the absence of mortgage paperwork absolves them from bank foreclosure. Judges may rule that, due to the absence of proof of original lending agreement paperwork, the banks cannot foreclose on the homes.


So the chatter around the water cooler is that this will only prolong the housing market bust. According to Amy Calistri of Street Authority, mortgage debt in the United States fell by $99 BILLION in the first quarter of this year. In the second quarter, it dropped again, half that.

It’s pretty obvious that Americans are not buying new homes! This is good. Seriously. For one, I think our economy relies too much on new construction, particularly when there are billions of older homes that are perfectly suitable for use. All this excessive and new construction causes sprawl, eats up rural resources and creates more debt. I think we should change our attentions away from newnewnew, and begin to recycle the very good homes that exist currently. My home, built in 1855, is a fine example of making something old new again. And every single inspector that has looked at my house raves about the strength of the structure– “They don’t make homes like they used to,” they all say. So all this talk about a “housing armageddon” is, I think, a little overstated. It may be a housing armageddon for the banks, but for the average American and the average traditional American pre-owned home, it’s housing heaven.

Another result of the housing market turned upside down is the apartments industry. Again, according to Street Authority:

But the decline in home buying is starting to trigger an increased demand for rental apartments. Apartment occupancy rates rose to 92.2% in the second quarter of 2010, up from 92.0% in the first quarter according to Reis Inc. Rents are also starting to rise modestly, up +0.7% in the second quarter.

Apartment occupancy rates rose 92% ?!? That’s incredible! This is a radical change in the housing industry in our country. Now, I’m sure not everyone can afford a posh luxury apartment after foreclosing on their homes, right? This opens up an entirely new demographic after the housing boom of the 90s. The “experts” say that the backbone of the American economy is home ownership. I don’t know if this is true– is it? As I have already stated, home ownership requires bank loans. So the backbone of the banking industry is home ownership, to be sure.

I am wary of all the Chicken Littles running around, trying to make us anxious about the “crises” that face us, when in reality, most of the “crises” that exist are for the banks. It’s unfortunate that some folks lose their homes, yes. But as far as ruining our economy– I really wonder if this is true. If anything, Americans are focusing on making more with less (not necessarily a bad thing), and people are looking for apartments (which encourages cities and landlords to clean up and fix up their areas). We are, by nature, a resilient people. We will adapt and adjust to changes. I do not think the housing market shifts constitute the end of the world. Perhaps this is as good a time as any to return to the good old Yankee work ethic:

Use it, wear it out. make it do, or do without.

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