The Collected Works of Author and Blogger Larry Roberts

Archive for March, 2008

An option contract provides the contract holder the option to force the contract writer to either buy or sell a particular asset at a given price. A typical option contract has an expiration date, and if the contract holder does not exercise their contract rights by a given date, they lose their contractual right to do so. An option giving the holder the right to buy is a “call” option, and the option giving the holder the right to sell is a “put” option. The writer of an options contract is typically paid a fee or a premium for taking on the risk that prices may move against their position and the contract holder may exercise their right. The holder…[READ MORE]

Houses and Commodities Trading Commodities are items of value and uniform quality produced in large quantities and sold in an open market. Although every residential real estate property is unique, these properties became uniformly desired by investors because all real estate prices rose during the Great Housing Bubble. The commoditization of real estate and the active, open-market trading it inspires caused houses to lose their identity as places to live and call home. Houses became tradable stucco boxes similar to baseball playing cards where buying and selling had nothing to do with possession and use and everything to do with making money in the transaction. In a commodities or securities market, rallies unsupported by valuation measures will fall back to…[READ MORE]

Mortgage Equity Withdrawal Mortgage Equity Withdrawal or MEW is the process of obtaining cash through refinancing residential real estate using the accumulated equity as collateral for the loan. Before MEW, a homeowner would have to wait until the property was sold to get their equity converted to cash. Apparently, this was deemed an inefficient use of capital, so lenders found ways to “liberate” this equity with home equity lines of credit or cash-out mortgage refinancing. The impact of MEW on equity is obvious; it reduces it by increasing the loan balance. It has been noted that equity is a fantasy and debt is real, and MEW is the process of living the fantasy with the addition of very real debt.…[READ MORE]

The Size of the Bubble Figure 1 - Median Home Prices 1968-2006   The Great Housing Bubble was an asset bubble of unprecedented proportions. Between 2000 and 2006 Home prices increased 45% nationally, and in California home prices increased 135%. Had this amazing price increase coincided with a period of high inflation, it may not have been indicative of a price bubble, merely the general increase in prices of all goods and services; however, inflation was low during this period. The inflation adjusted price increases nationwide were 23% and in California it was 100%. Figure 2 - Inflation Adjusted Median Home Prices 1986-2006   There are many variables that impact house prices, and some of the variability in prices over…[READ MORE]

Systemic Risk in the Housing Market Credit rating and analysis of collateralized debt obligations and all structured finance products are part of the smooth function of the secondary market for mortgage loans. A credit rating agency is a company that analyzes issuers of debt and debt-like securities and gives them an overall credit rating which measures the issuer’s ability to satisfy its debt obligations. There are more than 100 major rating agencies around the world, and three of the largest and most-important ones in the United States are Fitch Ratings, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s. A debt issuer’s credit rating is very similar to the FICO score of an individual rated by the Fair Isaac Corporation widely used in the…[READ MORE]

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