Thursday, September 18, 2008

One thing politicians are not likely to say about the housing bubble

We've heard a lot about irresponsible bankers making fortunes running their companies into the ground.

It's true, but there's also a lot of ordinary people who have made out well from rising real estate prices in recent years. School teachers, police officers, factory workers. If you bought your house when the buying was good and sold after hefty appreciation, you made out like bandits.

Politicians wouldn't implicate ordinary folks since they want their votes and there are a lot more ordinary folks than Wall Street brokers.

Selling a house at the right time has met a lot of early retirements, trips abroad, SUVs, furnishings, fine wines and meals, you name it. Life has been pretty lucrative for a large chunk of middle income Americans.

I don't have the figures, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was a good 25 percent of the population living high on the hog. On my bike tours, I notice the big homes, the nice yards, the businesses that cater to luxuries from salons for your pouch to fine coffees.

Even seemingly ordinary people need to consider how sustainable the lifestyles that folks take for granted are.

While many on the good side of the real estate boom have done well, sold at the right time, retired early and so forth. Others have not done so well.

As the escalator of living went up for many, another huge chunk of our general population found things increasingly difficult. Trying to find a job that paid enough to get into that first home, having health insurance, making ends meet. Possibly this group of have-nots is another 25 percent of the population.

Now it looks like enough people are at the bottom, having trouble getting onto the escalator that the whole thing is jamming up. Some banks tried to make it look easier for these marginal people with no money down offers and so forth. These banks are now finding a lot of folks defaulting.

I still hear radio ads for mortgage stuff. Often the ads start with the phrase "homeowners." Being a renter, I tune out. Figure it doesn't apply to me.

Then there's those "lucky" homeowners who took too much cash out of their perceived fortunes. Home equity loans for joys, but also the things life throws at you. Medical expenses and our nation's lack of a good safety net. Divorce comes up, just when you think you've had it made and the house is paid off. Life has it's twists and turns.

More folks get stuck at the bottom of the escalator and eventually the whole thing grinds to a halt.


moneythoughts said...

Robert, I read your posting today and you make some interesting points. Take a look at some of my postings about the mortgage bond market and give it some thought. I think it will give you some other points to consider.

Thanks for visiting my blog today and making comments. I appreciate your interest.

Theslowlane Robert Ashworth said...

Good to hear from you. Ya, I realize there is, and has been some regulation of banking. Probably quite a bit. I might have written that sentence too fast in my comment on your blog about the need for some banking regulation.

While I don't know many of the fine details, I do keep hearing the need for some more carefully thought out regulation, rather than so much free market rhetoric that Republicans tend to advocate.

Will dip into your interesting blog from time to time.