Wednesday, September 20, 2006

BubbleSphere News

Ben Jone's Blog has been down for over 15 hours now. One of the other fellow housing bubble bloggers (not Ben opined) "I'm not sure, it's been down quite a while. Looks like a serious issue with the database. I know he recently switched to a new web hosting service, could be a potential problem there." Anyone know for sure what is up?

The Northern New Jersey Real Estate Bubble has moved and changed names and is now called the New Jersey Real Estate Report. Congratulations on the upgrade!


  1. Ben has a Money and Metals blog. If you look at his first comment on the latest post, you will see this:


    A lot of news today.

    BTW, readers of my housing blog may note that the site is down. I am having to move it, again, due to traffic issues. It should be completed within 24 hours.

  2. He's swtiching providers, 24 hrs as per his metal and commod blog.

  3. Sign of the times: local furniture maker Rowe Cos. (Storehouse) filed for bankruptcy protection yesterday.

    "Rowe, one of the few manufacturing firms based in Northern Virginia, is the latest furniture company to succumb to the pressures of the softening housing and retail markets."

    "Furniture retailers have faced gloomy conditions in the past year, and several have been forced to scale back their operations or go out of business altogether. Mastercraft Interiors Ltd. liquidated its four stores after filing for bankruptcy in May. Brown's Wood Stuff and Fairfax-based Stanis Furniture have closed stores in Virginia because of lagging sales."

    I guess this is what happens when the housing ATM gets unplugged.

    This is a good example of how the housing crash is going to have major ramifications for the economy. Builders, realtors, and lenders are hit first, then the impact spreads to other companies such as furniture stores, durable goods sellers/manufacturers (I've heard that the retail price of stainless appliances is dropping precipitously), etc.

    The impact of downsizing and layoffs in these industries then ripples and begins to affect other industries, such as restaurants and retailers.

    All the people affected in these industries are then less able to afford overpriced housing, causing homes sales to slump further, prices to drop further, and the vicious cycle to repeat.

  4. whenever this happens i think conspiracy theories (NAR, Homebuilders, etc.)...imagine the void of information w/out Ben...

  5. Great to hear that all is OK. I though a hoard of bitter realtors had hacked and hijacked the site.

  6. And the URL for blog is??????

  7. Good time to be a landlord:

    According to the New York Times:

    1. Landlords are enjoying booming times these days as more people are choosing to rent.

    2. The supply of rental units is tight, as many rental units were sold off as condominiums.

    3. Rents are rising.

    4. Apartment REITs are outperforming all other REIT sectors.

  8. Thanks for the heads up David! Always appreciated.

    jb (aka Grim)
    New Jersey Real Estate Report

  9. Larry,

    You have a good blog! Many "bubbleheads" refuse to consider any of the long-term benefits of real estate ownership. Perhaps reading your blog will enlighten them.

  10. Actually larry, I am seeing rents fall. I have seen many a home try to sell for the last year, and not. Then, you see the rental sign pop up. I think people are making the wrong assumption that because people are not buying, more are renting, thus rents must go op. My personal experience is that all my friends, wtih the exception of one, told me that their rents either went stayed the same or went down. My rent went down 2%. To clarify, my rent actually went up 3% but they gave me a free month which made it overall drop by 2% for the next year. My one friend who said his rent went up, said it went up by 4%. If you start talking inflation, then rents (in my world) have dropped.

  11. I gave him a 20 dollar tip. It's better than any magazine I've ever received.

  12. I gave him $20 dollars to the tip jar. It's better than any magazine I've subscribed too.

  13. In response to 7:38, Ben's gold blog can be found at:

    As to 8:41, do posters really have to be told that commercial links violate internet courtesies?

  14. Just a hunch

    the real estate slump now reminds me historially as a pre cursor for a much bigger economic disaster- same as in 1926, when the markets paused. The Economy continued to rise- without 'correcting' the many imbalances that occurred in the 1920's boom.

    As in the 20s There is no fiscal responsibilty, a shrinking safety net for many Americans (Healthcare, pensions etc)
    A large amount of debt, and a widening gap between the haves and have nots.

    Along with the large demographic changes coming in the USA it shows storm clouds forming....

    My take on this- sit back and beware, and see the coming storm wreck havoc- you will see history soon.

  15. sky,

    Do you think that the have's and have-not's will be equally impacted? Do you see real estate as the only "fall-out" or as just a harbinger of things to come?

    It seems that if your scenario plays out, there will be no place to hide. Those with cash will be king.

  16. real bob is proof that denial ain't just a river in egypt.

  17. -

    The DOW is only about 100 points aways from its ALL-TIME HIGH.

    I'm not buying all this DEPRESSION crap. And we are going HIGHER!!!

    Housing, OTOH, is in for a big correction.

  18. Rents would have to double to get positive cash flow out of the properties for sale in my neck of the woods.

    I think rents here will fall soon from the combined effects of:

    1. Tons of new rentals on the market. Failed flips, condos that didn't sell, bank-owned houses, etc.

    2. High unemployment causing the continuing the de-population of high-rent cities like LA and SF.

    Therefore, I don't see any good deals in LA right now.

  19. Near me (north of Boston) rent are moderating (as they have been for the last 5 years) and there are great deals to be had renting unsold condos or houses. The trick is to lowball a rent offer. Most of the people who aren't standard landlords don't know what the limits are for rents.

  20. Also - there are two kinds of rents.

    1 - Individual homeowner/landlords. From what I can see, these are where the deals are.

    2 - Rental companies. Charles E. Smith and other large real estate companies. Not sure how they calculate their rents...

  21. Ben Jones' RE site is back.

  22. Hmm... I went to the bookmarked version of Ben's RE site, and all I see is a "Hello World" post without any of the data or anything. I do hope that it wasn't lost and that he and his website are okay for the long-run. Without him and other websites, like this one, I might have bought into the "buy now or be priced out forever" BS. Well, I couldn't actually BUY into it since even I was bright enough to know that any loan that INCREASES your overall debt is not a good idea, but you know what I mean.

    One thing that has bugged me about this whole thing is the assumption that real estate bears "don't like real estate" or "don't understand the value of owning a home." That is not the case, at least based on what I've seen. I'd love to be able to BUY a nice house in a nice neighborhood, hold on to it, improve it (but not like the flippers), and make it my own... but that is impossible with the current prices unless I took on a suicide loan and prayed for a miracle. Where I live in Maryland, old post-War shoeboxes (3 bed, 1 bath) are going for 240K, which is about 4 times my salary and 5 to 6 times the average household salary in the area, and that is considered an entry-level house?! And everything gets more costly from there at a rapid pace. Price increases for houses in the area have been faster than even I can save money, and I do that at a good rate. But low interest rates punish savers and reward speculators who drive whatever the "market of the day" is to insane levels.

    Hopefully, once this housing bubble deflates, people will be able to afford to buy houses again. Unfortunately, it may take most of the economy down with it, so housing may still be unaffordable, at least for people deeply in debt or who have lost jobs to the coming recession. Speculative bubbles never end well, and lending bubbles are even worse!

  23. anon said:
    "2. High unemployment causing the continuing the de-population of high-rent cities like LA and SF."

    Perhaps LA and SF are among those "global cities" developing as part of the global economy. Perhaps they are to the formation of a global economy what cities like Hartford and Peoria were to the formation of a true national economy. In the 19th century one would never have questioned the role of a city like Hartford in the nations fortunes. A good part of the young nation's industry, commerce, and innovation flowed through Connecticut. NYC was important as a port ... but not that important. Fast forward to the end of the 20th century and Hartford is capital to the insurance industry, Colt Guns, and lots of vacant factories begging to be redeveloped into other uses. SF and LA are important cities now ... Will they have what it takes to be important in a global economy where power gets further concentrated? Incidentally, unimportantWashington continues to grow ...

  24. I live in NYC and can tell you guys that rents are going through the roof across the city. Vacancy rates are less than .5% and 20-30% increases are becoming the norm.

    My landlord just raised my rent from 2700 to 3600 for a two bedroom/one bath.
    Maybe its not a bad idea to buy given my yearly rent of 43K.

  25. "Incidentally, unimportantWashington continues to grow ... "

    Lance... your attempts to claim that DC's bubble is somehow different from the real estate bubbles seen in virtually every other city in the NE, FL and the west coast is humorous at best.

    I mean seriously... grow up.

    There are two possible explanations for what is going on here. Only one of them needs DC to be the poster child for a generational shift in the US cities importance and influence...

    1. That DC, like many other cities, has been caught up in a speculative frenzy that is now running its course. Over the next year or more housing prices in this area(and others) will fall and for several years after that prices will be flat. The eventual result will be a return to something slightly above the historical norm.

    This is what the overwhelming majority of actual experts agree is taking place. (As opposed to corporate IT monkeys who masquerade as global economy gurus and visionaries of a new future with your rowhouse at the epicenter)

    The second theory goes like this:
    2. That DC is one of the world's emerging centers of culture and commerce and will quickly grow to eclipse LA and NYC... This will result in your poorly timed housing purchase being an excellent investment as its value rises to NYC levels. This is your favorite "new paradigm" scenario.

    So lets see here...

    What does DC have going for it that justifies it growing to be a global center of culture and commerce?

    Does it have LA's post war industries? (aviation etc?)

    Does it have LA's geography? (one of the worlds largest shipping ports... largest city on the west coast)

    Does it have LA's cultural drive? (Hollywood...etc)

    No... DC doesn't have any of those things.

    How about NYC then?

    Does DC have NYC's corporate and business importance? (wallstreet... etc)

    Does DC have NYC's geography? (another of the world's largest ports, largest city on the east coast)

    Does DC have NYC's culture? (fashion, art, broadway...etc)

    Clearly DC does not have anything that can compare to either of those cities.

    When we get right down to it what does DC have?

    A lot of government spending and a lot of urban sprawl. The spending will eventually be cut and the sprawl? That will stay unfortunately...

    As for the prices?... those are falling and will continue to do so for some time to come.

  26. anon 6:27,

    First off, if you are so sure of what you say, why hide under the "anony" name? I guess it makes it easier to change your tune when proven wrong.

    Secondly, you are oh so "twentieth-century" in mindset. The commerce of the twenty-first century doesn't flow through the ports of NYC or LA ... but rather through the Internet ... which is centered in and controlled ... where else? ... but here ... in case you didn't know. Aviation may have been an important industry once upon a time ... but, under the new paradigm, government --- and the tools it uses to govern --- are the important industry of the time. As for fashion and culture? ... I tell you this but (1) it follows money and power and (2) ask those in the know and Washington and DC have to date been the only cities in the country worthy of being called culuturally literate. The shallow "beauty" of LA has always been a poor substitute for culture. Even Chicago comes ahead of LA in that category. And oh, I'm not meaning to put down LA, I think it's a fantastic place. I'd love to live there myself if the opportunity every came up, but let's not fool ourselves into thinking it matches Washington in the ways that count.

  27. Va investor

    The problems are building- the haves will have more to lean on then the havenots- but if this thing does implode- and there is a damn good chance it will- as in 1929- even the 'haves' may get burned.

    There is something sinister in all of this- complacency is the worse mindset to be in now.

    What Bush has done in the last 6 years- and to a lessor degree Clinton- all going back with the economic mindset of the conservative movement of the last 27 years is do this-

    Make the private sector, corporations and business the Kingpins of the nation- in the most laissez faire period in the USA since the 1920's-

    Shrink and dimmish the safety net for many Americans-expensive and inaccessible healthcare- loss of pensions and economic security- In the 1920s there where no safety nets, and many people lived as precariously as today.

    Bush basically hates social programs as did Hoover and the republican party did in the 1920's.

    There is Massive debt and easy credit- due to excessive liquidity.
    A very small proportion of the population is doing well, and an increasingly indebted shrinking middle class.

    People are living off of 'bubble income' from over valued homes, credit, as in the 20s with overvalued stocks and credit....

    All storm clouds- and when this thing hits- as I said before you can enjoy watching history.

    Be in Cash? Yes- and if in the stock market- do so at your owm peril- and know when to get out like JP Kennedy did in 1928.

  28. Lance - yawn. The continual "it's different here" (and the reasons don't matter, that is what you are saying) is tiresome

    Anon 5:52 is obviously trolling and trying to bait folks. If rents were going up 20-30% all over NYC, there'd be more than a few stories about it.

  29. To would be renters of flipper condos-be aware that this can be very dangerous. these people have no obligation to you and don't know what they are doing or anything about being a landlord. i have a friend who payed to have her stuff moved into a brand new flipper condo... she has been there for six months. then, before the nice landlord even told her, he had listed the condo on the MLS. He is getting scared and trying to dump the condo. She is now going to have to pay to move again and find a new place and has realized that her sleazy landlord/flipper will probably not be so easy to recoup her $2K security deposit from.

  30. LOL...
    (sorry lance, I just don't know what else to start a response to what you wrote with)

    "you are oh so "twentieth-century" in mindset. The commerce of the twenty-first century doesn't flow through the ports of NYC or LA ... but rather through the Internet ... "

    Dude... that is the definition of "20th century." Late 20th century... right around 1998-1999 when companies didn't need actual "products" they just needed webpages and a bold view of the future where companies don't need to sell anything to make money.

    Some day when you feel like pulling your head out of the sand I suggest you read up on the modern shipping industry. That, more than the internet, is responsible for the tremendous growth in global trade that has taken place in the last 30 years.(check out the trend lines, they emerge well before the internet) Standardized containers can be loaded somewhere in inland China with darn near anything and arrive out front of your house in Kansas a few weeks later on a truck. That sort of infrastructure is what is leveling the playing field and moving us towards an economy less centralized in giant cities. There WON'T be another NYC or LA. That is what is so sad about your predictions. You claim to be a visionary when in truth all you are doing is wishing history would repeat itself with you at the center.

    "but rather through the Internet ... which is centered in and controlled ... where else?"

    Of all people a computer mechanic should know that the "Internet" is not centered ANYWHERE. It is not controlled from ANYWHERE. You can set up your server darn near anywhere there are wires available. You can put your warehouses in another state entirerly. I honestly hope you aren't clueless enough to believe that DC is somehow the "center" of the internet.

    "Aviation may have been an important industry once upon a time ... but, under the new paradigm, government --- and the tools it uses to govern --- are the important industry of the time."

    LOL... are you a dot com refuge? Somehow I think you used to be the CEO of a company that forgot to have a product. Aviation is one of the largest and most profitable industries in this country. (I am not talking airlines here)

    But NOOO.... that isn't important. What is important is government? Government is the industry of the future? Good idea... we can ALL work for the government in the future, and if for some reason there isn't enough money to go around? Well then we will just have to raise taxes won't we?
    Do you think before you write this stuff?

    "As for fashion and culture? ... I tell you this but (1) it follows money and power "

    I will give you that.

    "(2) ask those in the know and Washington and DC have to date been the only cities in the country worthy of being called culuturally literate."

    LoL... (I assume you meant to write NYC and DC because I have seen that particular dribble from you before)

    I am not going to bother trying to debate where DC ranks in world "culture" with you. You clearly lack the desire or ability to hold an honest discussion.

  31. You mean that one of the downsides to renting is that your landlord can kick you out on a whim? Wow. I hadn't heard that before.

  32. anon 9:18,

    You illustrate one of the more important aspects of home-ownership. Even when a landlord has intentions of keeping a property for years, something can come up and cause the landlord to sell. I couldn't imagine renting and haven't rented since I was 22.

  33. skytrekker,
    Nice theory, but I disagree. It can be seen throughout history that socialism leads to corruption and generally enslaves a population. Look at hungary in the news right now, russia, etc. The boom of the 90s was largely caused by the economic policies of the 80s. We have a large economy and it is relatively slow, for the most part. What a president does in his term is not usually noticed until after he is gone. We wont know what the result of bush's term is until the next guy is in office. I would, however, say that the dropping of the interest rate did quickly affect our economy.

    So, if I say I disagree, I at least owe you my theory so you coutner argue.

    I would say that since the middle 90s peoples mentality about life has been changed dramatically. Everyone wants to be rich quick and live exotic exciting lives. I think the mentalitly of our fathers is gone, the work/save tortis will beat the rabbit attitude is gone. You saw it in the late 90s with the stock bubble, and now we see it with the real estate bubble. Never before have people taken so many risky chances to try and become rich rather than work at it slowly. I would say this is the opposite of conservative. I would actually say the attitude of the population has become less conservative and more riske. Hopefully, people will be finanically pummeled back into a more conservative way of life, in all aspects. dump the mercedes, get a ford, you dont need 5000 sq ft for one kid, you dont need to have a person cut your lawn, do it yourself, etc...

  34. Skytrekker,

    Are you maybe imparting your own economic circumstances into your analysis? I mean, come on ... you said:
    "A very small proportion of the population is doing well, and an increasingly indebted shrinking middle class."

    I can agree with the shrinking "middle class", but that is just because the gulf is widening between the haves and the have nots ... However, the number of "haves" is greater than it has ever been and the economy is doing better than ever ... I can see how it would be comforting to think your personal situation will be reversed by bringing down everyone along with you, but realistically it's just not the case.

  35. Lance, I'm not sure there are as many "haves" as you think. Just because someone looks like a "have" doesn't mean they are, ie - a Hummer in the driveway doesn't make you rich if you have to pay huge amounts for it every month, and a paper increase in the value of your home is the same, unless you sell.

  36. Lance

    do you really feel that ALL Americans can pay for a 500K home- and that they are immuned to job loss may it may manufacturing decline or outsourcing?

    The vast majority of jobs created in this 'economic expansion' have been in real estate and healthcare.

    If you truly think that Americans are 'doing better' then I suggest you look at the polls- and nearly two thirds feel the country and economy is going in the wrong direction.

    And if you think the 'haves' are doing better- what happens if real estate declines (which has made the haves feel better- in this decade)

    When those 'haves' have less- what then?

    Seems like a big storm is brewing- and Lance- you are too blind to see that reality.

  37. real bob

    all I have to say to you

    It has been said many times before
    'its different this time'

    sorry to say Bob it has not- was it different in the panics of 1837, 1877, 1893 and 1929? Hardly

    If you truly feel that society does not change with new needs and challenges- and that free enterprise capitalism will free us of all burdens- think twice-then free to speculate- at your own peril

    Glad I have these right wing reactionary dopes answering my warnings- seem they realize that undercurrents are changing-politically, socially, and economically.

    Put all your MONEY in stocks- Please- I want to see the aftermath.

  38. skytrekker, I am not understanding your response to my statement...
    But, I do believe it is different this time, but for the worse. I believe there is a bubble, not a cycle. Would I rather have full capitalism then socialism, you bet. With out capitalism there is no incentive to work.

    "right wing reactionary dopes "
    not sure what you meant by this, but I would guess this means you are a far left liberal. Because throwing insults and not being able to discuss topics is the liberal way.

    OH, and I wouldnt call myself right wing. I guess I would call myself libertarian. But in absence of a three party system I would rather vote repub, most of the time. I thought we were going to leave politics out of it?

    Basically what I am saying is that mtv and reality tv has ruined the world!