The Collected Works of Author and Blogger Larry Roberts

Archive for June, 2016

Finished lot prices tightly tether to new home prices. Both are elevated above historic norms due to low mortgage rates. When mortgage rates first dropped from 6.5% in 2006 to 4.5% in 2009, I warned people that the interest rate stimulus was artificial, and while low rates inflate prices, they are a temporary stimulus with potentially painful withdrawal symptoms as the stimulus is tapered. Since conspiring bankers successfully manipulated the housing market in order to increase the collateral value backing their bad loans, the powers-that-be feel they have no choice but to stimulate housing even if that stimulus induces painful side effects. For the most part, the manipulations of the housing market worked since 2012. By denying short sales, modifying…[READ MORE]

While foreclosures are emotionally painful, in the aftermath a new family moves in to the foreclosed home, and the foreclosed family loses an onerous debt obligation. It's a win-win. It's sad when someone is forcibly evicted from their family home. People develop strong emotional attachments to real property, so many people feel compassion and empathy for those enduring such a difficult loss. Since nobody wants to feel the pain of loss, many people suggest we should stop foreclosures. (See: Should evictions be banned to stop hurting people’s feelings?) When people rally to stop foreclosure, they forget there is a next chapter to the story. What happens to the family and the house after the foreclosure? First, the house doesn't sit…[READ MORE]

Eventually Millennials will buy houses, bubble-era buyers won't be underwater, and the housing market will finally recover. Since early 2012 when housing prices stopped going down, I characterized the price rally as a reflation of the old housing bubble rather than a price recovery. IMO, the crash was the price recovery because the prices that preceded the crash were a bubble with no tether to fundamental values. The price crash restored market prices to values supportable by income and rent. However, most people refuse to accept this reality, particularly deeply underwater homeowners who dismiss the idea that they erred when buying during the bubble. Due to psychological anchoring, most homeowners cling to the illusion that peak housing bubble prices were…[READ MORE]

Rents and resale prices only rise faster than incomes due to supply shortages during periods when job growth is strong. It costs too much to live in California because the chronic shortages of housing supply inflates California house prices and rents. Starting in the 1970s with regulations like CEQA, California began to restrict growth. This inhibited builders and developers from bringing new product to market to meet demand in many areas. When any commodity is in short supply, prices tend to rise; houses are no exception. There are not enough houses to go around, so people substitute down in quality to obtain a place to live. This downward substitution effect lifts house prices at every level of the housing ladder…[READ MORE]

As one of the chief architects of the housing bubble, Angelo R. Mozilo deserved prison time and loss of wealth for his nefarious deeds. Most people don't understand how the housing bubble was actually inflated. Many incorrectly believe the degradation of home lending standards caused a surge of demand that bid prices up to unsustainable levels. While that's partially true, that isn't the full story. While mortgage standards were nearly eliminated, and millions of unqualified borrowers were allowed to buy homes, that isn't why prices got so high. If bankers eliminated lending standards today, but used conventionally amortizing 30-year loans, prices would go up a little as people substituted downward in quality to obtain housing, but overall house prices would…[READ MORE]

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