Thursday, March 15, 2007

Cheery Economist: Florida Economy 'Strong', Jobs Will Service Debt

''The Florida economy has been so strong -- people have jobs. And as long as you hold on to a job that is reasonably well-paying, you're going to be in position to service your debt,'' says Gunnar Berglund, an economist at Moody’s ( CBS4 March 14)


  1. David,

    Did you read today's Washington Post puff piece on how the DC market has been immune to the foreclosure wave hitting the country?

    The reporter cites high foreclosure rates in the economically depressed rust-belt states and the Gulf states hit by Katrina. Meanwhile, our region's high rate of job growth and affluence has cushioned the effects of a housing meltdown.

    Once again, the WaPost reporting does a lousy job with its research. Over a third of the home sales since 2005 in this region involved non-traditional mortgage lending. We are talking ARMs and many subprime loan packages. Many recent new homebuyers with lower incomes fall into the sub-prime mortgage category.

    There is no guarantee that the Washington, DC region's economy will remain healthy. The federal budget deficit situation is getting so dangerous that politicians will have to slash massive amounts of funding sooner rather than later. That means leaner government worker payrolls and fewer dollars going to contractors. This could spell deep trouble for the region's economy.

    Many homebuyers who have ARMs are due to see their rates escalate in 2007 and this could lead to a SIGNIFICANT NUMBER OF FORECLOSURES in the Washington DC metro region. As a result, we will see rising housing stocks of inventory--particularly in Prince Georges County, the District, and Prince William County in VA.

  2. He's of course right on the money ... As were you David. It all comes down to "Is the general economy of locale expanding or contracting?" I.e., your predictions of major "price declines" was all based on a presumption that foreclosures would be so substantial that they would effect the general economy. And had they done so, I agree your forecasts would have been correct. Where you erred was in greatly overestimating the importance (in terms of magnitude) of these foreclosures ... and I think this was based on a presumption that from where you stood, people depended solely on a good paying job to pay the prices asked and there weren't enough good paying jobs out there. Both bad presumptions. The vast bulk of individuals purchasing a home do not depend on their income alone (they depend on their accumulated wealth and/or family wealth and savings) and secondly, there ARE lots and lots of high paying jobs out there. In a nutshell, the relatively few subprime loans out there just don't amount to an iota of importance and won't effect the general economy of any locale (or of the nation) other than by the "herd mentality" effect as witnessed in the stock market a couple days ago. But "herd mentality" effects are usually fleeting as "facts" come out to counter them.

    The more I look around and the more I read, the more obvious it becomes that this "down side of the cycle" is going to be a lot shorter than past ones. The speed of information is working both ways. In the same way that prices escalated so quickly and everything stopped so quickly, we'll now see a quick return to a normal and historical "balanced" market. Where I am at, prices are already rising again. Not that they ever really dropped when you weed out the fact that lots of lower than average priced condos came on the market. It won't be long till most locales around the country experience the same. The fundamentals of the economy are just too strong for it to be otherwise. As long as people are working, they will both need to buy "something" and be in a position to buy "something". No, it may not be the "something" their heart desires, but it is housing ... and probably is "something" far superior to what their grandparents considered "more than adequate." In sum, BHs who really believe a bursting bubble is still on its way really need to do a reality check.

  3. Lots of dreaming in those comments.

    It is hell in the sunshine state.

  4. Lance wrote two paragraphs this time... his keyboard DOES have an [enter] key!

  5. ihateyuppies said:
    "There is no guarantee that the Washington, DC region's economy will remain healthy."

    There's never a guarantee for anything in life. The Washington Post is just reporting the most likely scenario based on the facts. We saw the herd mentality based on the bubble theory play out in the markets. It's over now. The bubble theory was summarily dismissed once the facts came out. Hang it up folks.

    And ihateyuppies, I'm so sorry to see you aren't going to get the gloom and doom you were wishing on everyone. Perhaps if you stop hating others and just start looking out for yourself in a positive way (vs. hoping to profit off the bad luck of others), you'll be a lot happier ... And so will the rest of us. I wish you well.

  6. Yeah, the jobs in Florida have included speculating real estate agent, which will decline (LOL), and a boom in meteorologists...try "holding on to a job paying reasonably well" in the next bad hurricane season.

    (BTW--holding onto isn't good enough--you've got to increase income to offset rising FL taxes and property insurance!)

  7. Lance,

    There are $1.3 TRILLION worth of subprime mortgages outstanding in the U.S.

    While that's only about 3.25% of all mortgages outstanding (based on back-of-the-envelope math), 13.5% of all mortgages originated last year were subprime. Using rough math, and assuming 3/4 of housing demand is mortgage-backed, that translates to more than 7% of housing demand created by the subprime credit bubble. Add to this a conservative estimate of 10-13% of demand driven by speculators and you get 17 - 20% of artificial demand! Also, how many people, knowing what they do now, wouldn't have bought their house... 10% is conservative in my opinion.

    Keep in mind that supply has been increasing throughout the last year.

    What happens when you have greater supply and 20 - 30% less demand? Prices tend to fall.

    The problem that troubled mortgages present is that these buyers cannot sit it out - so I'm betting on slowly falling prices instead of market stagnation.

    Whether prices are falling or flat, its a nightmare for homeowners, It will take 5-6 years to build up enough equity to simply break even, given no price appreciation and 7-10% transaction fees.

    Check out my brand new (and only) blog, Fireside Finance...

  8. And this is where Lance always shoots himself in the foot.

    If he'd just stop sniffing his intestines for a second, he's have the good sense to say "Oh, yeah, that Florida (especially Southwest Florida) was a crazy bubble. Now here's the difference between DC and there..."

    But nope, Lance is so caught up in his religion of house buying that he can never recognize a bubble even after its burst. This ruins his credibility and makes him the running joke of this board.

  9. Lance said, "Perhaps if you stop hating others and just start looking out for yourself in a positive way (vs. hoping to profit off the bad luck of others), you'll be a lot happier ... And so will the rest of us."

    Actually Lance...I am looking out for myself. See, when those foreclosure rates shoot through the roof in the DC area and the available inventory reaches all time levels, that's when I make my move in the real estate market. Think of all the money I will save by buying property that was worth 20 or 30 percent more just one year ago.

    I am a vulture circling the highway looking for roadkill. I don't mind profiting off the carcass of people who made stupid decisions about buying real estate.

    Thanks for the advice though.

  10. Well guys, I think it's time to concede defeat.

    The whole idea of a bursting bubble was premised on the belief that a high number of subprime foreclosures would catapult the economy into a tailspin causing further foreclosures of other mortgaged properties ... and thus "bursting" real estate prices in similar fashion as equity prices dropped in a bursting stock market bubble. This morning the two largest domestic investment banking houses (as well as several foreign ones) debunked the myth that subprime mortgages could have any significant impact on the market or the economy. I.e., The very foundation of the bubble myth has been razed. Unless BHs can come up with an alternate reason to substantiate their far fetched beliefs, I think I gotta say the conversation is over.

  11. For your consideration:

    Top investor sees U.S. property crash
    Wed Mar 14 16:59:46 UTC 2007
    By Elif Kaban

    MOSCOW (Reuters) - Commodities investment guru Jim Rogers stepped into the U.S. subprime fray on Wednesday, predicting a real estate crash that would trigger defaults and spread contagion to emerging markets.

    "You can't believe how bad it's going to get before it gets any better," the prominent U.S. fund manager told Reuters by telephone from New York.

    "It's going to be a disaster for many people who don't have a clue about what happens when a real estate bubble pops.

    "It is going to be a huge mess," said Rogers, who has put his $15 million belle epoque mansion on Manhattan's Upper West Side on the market and is planning to move to Asia.

    Worries about losses in the U.S. mortgage market have sent stock prices falling in Asia and Europe, with shares in financial services companies falling the most.

    But then Lance knows better....

  12. Subprime mortgages are not the only ones that used toxic loans. Many ARMs, interest only loans, etc. were used by people in the other brackets. The same problems that are occurring in the subprime market are going to spread elsewhere to a lesser extent. In addition to the decrease in demand mentioned in other people's posts, the typical person can no longer qualify for as much money in a loan as they used to. Lending standards are tightening up. The no-money down option is also starting to go away. The end result of all this is even further downward pressure on prices because people cannot afford to buy as much house as they used to. People can try to sit to "wait it out", but the prices are set by the people that actually sell their property and not everyone has the option to hold on to their home when they move.

  13. Lance,

    Up until less than 2 years ago, I tried desperately to rationalize buying a house at their prices at the time (roughly slightly lower than houses' current prices). The main reason is that, in my area, apartment life is hell (because of the type of people in adjacent apartments that one has to deal with). But I was never able to rationalize it. The overwhelming evidence to the contrary prevented that.

    The "fundamentals" were totally off historical norms. To what "fundamentals of the economy" that will ensure that the housing fundamentals will remain extremely far off normal levels are you referring? How will they overcome imminent increased housing supply and reduced housing demand, to force the housing fundamentals to become even further off? On some level, I would love to have some kind of sensible excuse for escaping the torment of apartment life, although I can't at this point conceive of what that would be (nor how I could afford it, but that's technically a separate matter).

    This "herd mentality" to which you have been referring, which drove home prices to their peaks of approximately 1 year ago, should surely drive prices way back down to being in line with historically normal housing fundamentals, and even, as in past housing cycles, below that. A few years ago, lots of people were spending beyond what they normally would have been permitted to to buy homes, believing that if they didn't quickly do that, that they would never be able to buy homes. The presently ongoing and accelerating home price depreciation should be enough to indicate to all but the most deluded people that that belief is false. Lenders' insolvency and normalizing lending standards should vastly decrease housing demand, while the annual spring inventory explosion increases supply. How will all this push home prices upward? History seems to indicate that prices will fall a great deal, over the next several years. As I mentioned, I would, at least to some degree, like to believe that long-term prospects are better for me if I were to somehow buy a house now, instead of years later, but I haven't really been able to find any real evidence indicating that.

    Also, I think that people aren't hoping for any "doom and gloom," nor wishing any harm per se to those who purchased homes within the past couple of years or so. I think that a lot of people are like me, in that what they want is a normal housing market, which happens to require vast decreases in home prices. And people who purchased homes towards the housing boom's end and who become unable to afford their homes as their mortgage rates reset, are people who contributed to the current housing market disaster that has destroyed housing affordability. I don't think that they did it with that intention, but I also don't think they particularly cared about those that would suffer as a result of their actions. And most of them, in the event of forclosure, would probably be in no particular hurry to pay off their still fully legitimate housing debt. So I definitely don't consider them to be more deserving of home ownership than those that they help to shut out for several years.


  15. "Greenspan sees trouble spreading
    By Bloomberg News | March 16, 2007

    BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan said he expects the fallout from subprime-mortgage defaults to spread to other parts of the economy, especially if home prices decline.

    "If prices go down, we will have problems -- problems in the sense of spillover to other areas," Greenspan said in remarks to the Futures Industry Association meeting in Boca Raton, Fla., yesterday. While he hasn't seen such spreading yet, he added, "I expect to.""

    But then... once again... Lance knows better.

  16. Lance said: "Well guys, I think it's time to concede defeat."

    We accept your concession.

  17. Anon said:
    "But then... once again... Lance knows better."

    LOL ... Thanks! I find it interesting how when Greenspan was the chairman of the Fed (and had access to current information) the BHs dismissed his comments. Now that the only information he is privy to is the same public information we are privy to, the BHs rever his comments if/when they can possibly be construed to support their argument. Hmmmm. Well like I said yesterday, the fact that the country's 2 largest investment banks have categorically stated that the magnitude of subprime loans isn't large enough to effect them has in one fell swoop razed the BHs' primary argument ... and thus removed the foundation of the BHs' argument that foreclosure of subprimes will start a domino effect of foreclosures and falling prices. Unless BHs want to now come up with another far fetched reason for the bursting of a bubble, I really don't see how any more discussion of the subject is merited. BHs have lost their argument and now it is time for them to concede that they were wrong.

  18. _k - Great Post - Sorry to pump my 2-day old blog again, but I'd like to see what all of you have to say on a possible subprime bailout.

    My new blog is "Fireside Finance" and the link is...

  19. Lance said...
    “The whole idea of a bursting bubble was premised on the belief that a high number of subprime foreclosures would catapult the economy into a tailspin causing further foreclosures of other mortgaged properties…

    Unless BHs can come up with an alternate reason to substantiate their far fetched beliefs, I think I gotta say the conversation is over.”

    Hey “Lance”, I though the conversation was over a few months ago when you left. Apparently, you simply post away and have yet to read this blog. The numbers of foreclosures are increasing, but I’ll concede that if that were the only factor in this housing ponzi scheme, I’d bought a year ago.

  20. Lance said...
    ”Well like I said yesterday, the fact that the country's 2 largest investment banks have categorically stated that the magnitude of subprime loans isn't large enough to effect them has in one fell swoop razed the BHs' primary argument ...”

    By Ben White in New York

    Updated: 1:12 a.m. ET March 3, 2007

    Investment banks plunge on investor fears

    This week's market rout and growing problems in the subprime lending market have driven shares in Wall Street's largest investment banks to their biggest losses in a year.

    The sell-off has spread from groups more reliant on capital markets trading, such as Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers, to those with more retail businesses, such as Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch. It has also driven credit default swaps tied to the bonds of several investment banks to just above junk status.

  21. Nothing to see here folks, move along:

    Real Estate Articles from Inman News

    Arson gives cash-strapped homeowner hope
    Is insurer justified in denying fire-damage claim?
    Wednesday, March 14, 2007

    By Robert J. Bruss
    Inman News

    John D. Lummis and his ex-wife Cynthia Macbeth own a house where Lummis lived with his girlfriend, Beth Howe, and her three children. "Lummis was in a financial bind: between the $1,300 a month garnished from his wages in order to pay child support for four of his six children, and supporting Howe and her three children, he had not made a mortgage payment for almost two years."

    The mortgage holder, Cendant Mortgage Co., had been paying the premiums on the State Farm homeowner's insurance policy. On Feb. 5, 2003, Cendant obtained a mortgage foreclosure decree on the house. The next day, the house burned to the ground.

    Howe called 911 to report the fire around noon. She then phoned Lummis at work. Lummis's boss offered him a ride home immediately. He turned it down. But he took his buddy up on a second offer of a ride home later in the afternoon.

    After Lummis got home, he reported the fire to State Farm. "The agent who took his call thought he sounded pretty nonchalant and cavalier about the whole thing." State Farm immediately started an investigation of the claim.

    "One of the most important clues to the fire's origin was a red plastic container found at the scene that tested positive for traces of gasoline and kerosene. Lummis, who was a volunteer firefighter for about seven years, would, State Farm concluded, be more familiar with this mixture as an accelerant than would the average Joe," according to the court's report.

  22. Lance,

    Really, knock it off with the straw man arguments. Your desire to lump together all people who think the market is inflated as "BubbleHeads" with a single argument that is their collective foundation is just dumb. Let me rephrase that, it is intellectually dishonest.

    You want to dismiss this figure or that figure as inconclusive or trivial (which they are not), and conclude, erroneously, that the entire argument is false. This is also just dumb, er, intellectually dishonest.

    As I understand the argument, and the argument that I make, that there is (or was) a housing bubble because of the cumulative effect of many factors increasing (in some cases artificially) demand while supply was low. Now, supply has ballooned, and the demand is shrinking for a multiplicity of factors:

    tightening of lending standards for sub-prime, alt-A, prime, and liar loans (see, even if you have stellar credit, a bank is not going to lend you money to add $600K worth of renovations to a $600K house like they have in the past, because there is no expectation, like there has been in the past, that the bank could sell the house for $1.2M when you spend half the renovation money on worthless improvements);

    Even if the bank is willing, buyers are less willing to take on I/O and ARMS when "instant equity" from unsustainable appreciation dries up;

    investors/speculators in the market, which tripled in number in the last 5 years, are fleeing for the exits;

    Leap-frogging has wanned, because the co-op owner can’t sell for enough profit to buy a condo, the condo owner can’t sell for enough profit to by a townhouse, and a townhouse owner cannot sell for enough profit to buy a SFH, and the starter SFH-owner cannot sell for enough to buy a bigger house in a nicer neighborhood;

    and the pool of first-time home buyers is shrinking because they are being priced out of the market (I am still waiting for you to supply the data to support your position that there is an endless supply of trust fund naer-do-wells and fiscally responsible 20-somethings waiting to dump cash on overpriced pieces of crap).

    So wrong again.

    You also fail to appreciate that many on this blog are saying that it will take years for the full effects of the housing bubble to deflate. Your idea that it hasn't happened yet (which is, by the way, pure fantasy on your part) means that it won't happen in the future, is not intellectually dishonest, it is just plain dumb.

  23. Robert said:
    "By Ben White in New York

    Updated: 1:12 a.m. ET March 3, 2007"

    Robert, sorry but you are "a day late and a dollar short." Check the news from Wednesday (March 13.)

  24. Robert, what is the relevance of your Inman post to the discussion? Is there a connection between BHs and pyros? Let me guess ... if a BH can't make money off his home by selling/trading/buying it, he'll burn it down?

  25. Lance said...
    “Robert, sorry but you are "a day late and a dollar short." Check the news from Wednesday (March 13.)”

    So we go from “junk bonds” to “everything’s swell” in just a few days. Man that was a fast turnaround.

  26. Lance said...
    “Robert, what is the relevance of your Inman post to the discussion? Is there a connection between BHs and pyros? Let me guess ... if a BH can't make money off his home by selling/trading/buying it, he'll burn it down?”
    Not at all “Lance”, just pointing out that everything is swell. Even though these FB’s got into a home they could not afford, couldn’t sell when they got behind, couldn’t even collect the insurance when they botched the arson job…….

    They did live rent free for two years.

    Always look on the bright side of life <♩ ♩>

  27. Yes, Lance, a guy at Lehman tried to soothe his shareholders so there wouldn't be a run on his investment firm's stock so he wouldn't get fired, so that proves your case. You've got an airtight case. I mean, it's a lock, dude. You've totally proven your point, and we really all respect you so much and we're so impressed with you. Really.

  28. real bob,

    I know you are still hoping to see the market hand you some bargains. I'm sorry that the only properties that have gone "done" in price are those that were overpriced to begin with and not really selling anyway. I'm sorry you are still having to wait ... and wait ... and wait. But the least you can do is admit that you were wrong. You aren't going to be picking up anything for "nothing" as you had banked on. Your HH friend gave you good advice ... the same advice I have been giving you for months now. Using your own research and negotiation skills, you can earn yourself a far greater "discount" than you'll ever "luck into" by waiting for the market to collapse and for your dream house to be handed to you. But the longer you wait, the more difficult it becomes for you. For example, I couldn't afford my house today. It would be selling for too much. I would need to look in a less desireable area. I'm sure glad I didn't do like you ... Procrastination is not a virtue when it comes to purchasing your home ...

  29. “Toll Brothers CEO Robert Toll said the spring selling season has been ‘pretty much a bust’ and he can’t predict when the housing recovery will begin.”

    --- Fed governor Susan Bies says Subprime Defaults Are 'Beginning of Wave'.---

    Mar 7, 2007 --- Chicago Fed president Michael Moskow said recent economic indicators have, on balance, been "on the soft side" and that he's not as sure as he had been about his forecast for a steady pickup in growth over the next two years. ---

    March 16, 2007---NovaStar Financial, Inc. (NYSE:NFI), a residential mortgage lender and portfolio investor, today announced a reduction in workforce to align its organization with changing conditions in the mortgage market. The workforce reductions affect about 350 persons, approximately 17 percent of the Company's workforce.

    "The last couple of weeks have been almost catastrophic," said Armand Cosenza, a mortgage broker in Cleveland. Mr. Cosenza said he turned down eight loan applicants on Wednesday because he couldn't get them a mortgage. At least five of them would have qualified for a loan six months ago, he said.George Hanzimanolis, a mortgage broker in Tannersville, Pa., says his office has turned away 30 to 40 people in the past week because of tighter lending standards. "It's scary how quickly these very large lenders are just...imploding," he says. ---

    March 16 (Bloomberg) --- Pacific Investment Management Co., the fund manager that first predicted a collapse in U.S. home prices almost two years ago, said today that losses on subprime mortgage will spread to other `aggressively underwritten' loans. Pimco's comments dovetail with those of former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, who said this week he expects fallout from rising subprime mortgage defaults to spread to other parts of the economy, especially if home prices decline. Pimco said today that the housing price decline may reduce gross domestic product, the value of all U.S. goods and services, by 1 percent this year.
    More than 30 subprime lenders have closed in the U.S. since late 2006, according to the report from a team led by Pimco analyst Scott Simon. Simon did not return a telephone message. Pimco is a unit of Munich-based insurer Allianz AG. ---

    This is just a tip of the iceberg... But who will trust Maestro Greenspan if Lance said that everything is rosy and we are ALL idiots...

  30. was this article written by a real estate agent?

  31. Mortgage Tsunami

    This chart says it all, baby....

  32. Check out the great article on subprimes from the WSJ on my blog (most of you wouldn't be able to see it, because it's a pay site, but it's a must-read.)

  33. Lance, I'm not sure if your comments relate to the US housing market in general or just the DC market. Events taking place in Cali, Florida, and Arizona should bear concern, but at least the DC market has decent paying jobs.

    I think there will be a bubble bursting in NE and SE areas of DC. Prices are rich in NW, but so are most of the buyers. West of Rock Creek Park, I don't expect to see a tremendous impact on housing. I see some price declines, just very gradual ones.

    But just because a couple investment banks coming out to say the subprime implosion is overblown doesn't mean anything when it comes to the US housing market. Bear Stearns is an investment bank, and an analyst upgraded New Century shortly before the bottom fell out. 2-year ARM resets are about to happen in full force, and some 3-year resets as well. Many option ARMs are upside down and continue to accrue principal balances while housing prices stagnate or fall. More motivated sellers will come on the market, many with late payments or NODs, and some will end up as REOs because they can't sell for what they owe. And Lance, contrary to what you believed a few months ago but understand now, many of these people only qualified for their mortgages based on the initial "teaser rate". In fact, many simply overinflated their income by 50% or more to get the loan, again, based on the initial rate. Inventory will continue to increase relative to sales, and that's just for existing homes will undercut everyone to move inventory, leaving the existing homes searching in vain for willing buyers.

    And the interpretation that these investment banks have "debunked the myth" is just a weird statement to make. A myth can only be debunked once this economic downturn manages to play itself out. When we come out the other side, only then can we see if the housing market took a major hit.

    People are already talking like it's over. It's not even close to being over.

  34. Wait a minute. Now I get it!

    Lance is practicing his Steven Colbert impersonation!

    Think about it...he doesn't pay attention to "facts". In fact, he denigrates people for using facts, when you can "just tell by looking at all the Luxury SUV's" things are great! He feels the "truth", not wussy using facts to get there.

    Now is that "truthiness" or not? I tell you, its all an effort to portray Colbert.

  35. Just what we need, more economist from Pollyanna. “No need to look here folks, yes billions evaporated in the last two weeks from the sub-prime markets but who cares! We got J O B S!” Again, this everything is good until it isn’t mantra is tiring. Folks are starting to realize that you can’t spend yourself via debt to success or financial independence.

    The bill came due to many sub-primers, many that are located in Florida. Now riddle me this, what does an account executive do once they find out that they have no money to lend?

    Dr. Housing Bubble

  36. On Mar. 13 the Mortgage Bankers Assn. reported a record percentage of mortgages entering foreclosure in the fourth quarter—news that sent the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index tumbling 2%.

    Nonetheless, in the broadest sense, say economists, the economy should be able to withstand the downdraft in the mortgage market. "It's going to have limited impact."

    The good news is that, although the subprime business has grown rapidly in recent years, it remains a small part of the overall mortgage market—14% of outstanding mortgage loans. And only some subprime loans are in trouble. About 13% were past due in the fourth quarter, the Mortgage Bankers Assn. said.

    So, it is 13%, not 1% , as MBA stated. Let's hope that this "storm" will cause really limeted damage. I don't want to see ruins...