It occurs to me that while there is a big conservative/liberal split on the Obama foreclosure plan, there may be a bigger divide between renters and owners. I think that most of the people supporting the mortgage plan really do feel like falling home prices is an obvious catastrophe. I also think that most of them own homes. Because, of course, if prices stay high, where is the money coming from to support them? Well, from people like me, who do not currently have a home to sell, but would like to acquire one in the not-terribly distant future. Keeping people and banks from selling at a loss requires that I buy a house which is overpriced. With the exception of Detroit, all 10 cities broken out by the Case/Shiller house price index show that as of December, home prices were still at least 15% higher than they were in January 2000; their 20-city composite index was still up over 50%.
One of the things that I think is badly understood is that the government cannot do much to prevent house prices from falling. Foreclosures are not the cause of price declines; they are a symptom of them. The underlying event is too many houses, and too little demand for them. Propping up existing mortgages does absolutely nothing about the mismatch between supply and demand.
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
Megan McArdle on the owner/renter divide
Blogger and Washington, D.C. resident Megan McArdle writes about the owner/renter divide regarding the Obama foreclosure plan: