The horrible housing blunder …

If you sometimes feel like a small fish in a very big ocean … it’s because you are.

There are LOTS of big, bigger, bigger-still, and downright ginormous other fish … some with very sharp teeth … circling all around you.

There are also mostly hidden forces creating powerful currents and waves … speeding you up, slowing you down, or taking you completely off course.

That’s why we look for clues in the news.

And because mainstream financial media doesn’t cater to Main Street real estate investors, we need to stay alert to notice things often hiding in plain sight.

In a recent trek through an airport on our way to speak at an investment conference … a notable magazine cover hit us in the face like a brick …

The Horrible Housing Blunder
Why the Obsession with Home Ownership is So Harmful
The Economist Jan 18-24, 2020

If you’re not familiar, The Economist is one of those highbrow publications ginormous fish and wave-makers are reading.

The Economist articles provide insights into how powerful people think about small fish like us and the things we care about … like housing.

In The Economist table of contents, the housing blunder topic is introduced this way …

“The West’s obsession with home ownership undermines growth, fairness and public faith in capitalism.

“Housing is the world’s biggest investment class … at the root of many of the rich world’s social and economic problems.

Wow. We didn’t know home ownership is so harmful to our fellow man. We’re ashamed.

But before we dig in, take a minute and simply consider their conclusion …

…and what happens to YOU if powerful people decide to implement policies to protect the world from the evils of housing.

Now you know why we pay attention.

So, on page 9 of The Economist, under their “Leaders” section (think about THAT) …

… they assert housing markets CAUSE both sudden economic crashes AND chronic economic “disease”.

Then they support their conclusion by claiming “a trillion dollars of dud mortgages blew up the financial system in 2007-08”.

Maybe you’ve heard that one before.

Of course, they make no mention of the trillions of dollars of Wall Street concocted derivatives of those dud mortgages …

(Warren Buffett called derivatives “weapons of mass financial destruction” … NOT the mortgages underneath them)

They also don’t account for the dangerously weak lending “standards” (we use the term loosely) Wall Street used to entice weak borrowers.

Nor do they mention the reckless, speculative and highly leveraged bets placed using those mortgage derivatives by arrogant gamblers in the corrupt Wall Street casinos.

Of course, the greed behind all of it is simply a “derivative” of the moral hazard created when everyone in the market KNOWS the Federal Reserve will paper over any problem with freshly printed “money”.

Back to The Economist special report on the horrible housing blunder …

Besides the terror of housing threatening the entire financial systemThe Economist says …

“… just as pernicious is the creeping dysfunction … housing created …” which they define as …

“… vibrant cities without space to grow; aging homeowners sitting in half-empty houses …

… and a generation of young people who cannot easily afford to rent or buy and think capitalism has let them down.”

So it seems cities which selfishly vote to preserve green space for themselves, their families, and the environment are … financial terrorists.

As are old folks who have the gall to stay in the homes they raised their children in … long after the children have successfully (and presumably permanently) moved out.

And speaking of all those independent young people … apparently because of these selfish homeowners, they can’t “easily” afford to put a roof over their head.

Of course, there’s no mention of the terror created through government sponsored student debt which both inflated the cost of college and enslaved a generation into inescapable debt …

… making home ownership … or even renting … far from “easy”.

Ummm … sorry, but how is that housing’s fault?

And what do the social scientists at The Economist suggest is the answer to the horrible housing blunder?

For that we need to flip over to page 44 where we discover that …

“Over the last 70 years, global house prices have quadrupled in real terms.”

For those keeping score, 70 years ago was 1950. Store that for future reference.

“Real terms” means adjusting both incomes and prices for inflation. In other words, prices rose four times faster than incomes.

The solution to all these ills is threefold says the author …

First, is “… better regulation of housing finance …” so that “… people are NOT encouraged to funnel capital into the housing market.”

Yes, every business person knows when you need MORE of something you should starve it of capital. Brilliant.

Next is … wait for it … a better train and road network” to “allow more people to live farther afield.” …

… because who doesn’t enjoy riding public transportation 100 miles a day to go to work?

And last but not least, our personal favorite …

“… abolishing single-family-home zoning, which prevents densification …” and “…boosting the construction of public housing.”

Makes sense (not) because clearly, the only thing better than riding public transportation to and from work for hours a day is coming home to relax in “the projects”.

Of course, as you’ve probably discerned, we think the whole thing is absurd.

But while it’s laughable, it’s also scary … because this is the way those ginormous fish think.

Worse, they’ve assigned the symptom (high housing prices and stagnant real wages) to the wrong disease … so they’re prescribing the wrong medicine.

Housing prices took off in the ‘50s because Bretton-Woods handed the U.S., and then in 1971, the entire world, a completely unaccountable ability to go into unlimited debt.

Worse, it requires the perpetual, unrelenting growth of debt … or the system collapses.

So the wizards must continually find new ways to fabricate affordable debt 

… through mortgages, student loans, government spending, endless wars, or (insert boondoggle of your choice) …

… plus, 40 years of falling interest rates … to zero and beyond!

It would take so much more space than this modest muse permits to delve deeper into the mindset, motives, and methods of the wizards behind the curtain …

… and to explore the MANY opportunities for Main Street investors who are aware and prepared.

For now, we simply encourage you to PAY ATTENTION and THINK. And look for every opportunity to talk with others who are doing the same.

Way back in January 1988, the cover of The Economist boldly warned the world to “Get Ready for a World Currency”.

As we chronicle in our Future of Money and Wealth video, The Dollar Under Attack, and is easily seen through MANY headlines since …

… the dollar’s role as currency of the world is steadily being attacked RIGHT NOW by both friendfoe, and technology.

Here in January 2020, The Economist is overtly prodding the world to take on the threat of housing …

“Bold action is needed. Until it is taken, housing will continue to weaken the foundations of the modern world.”

This hits us all right where we live and invest. We should all be paying attention.

Looking Ahead with our Predictions Panel – Part 2

Listen in to hear part two of our 2018 Predictions Panel!

In this episode of The Real Estate Guys™ show, we sit down with three expert economists. Our guests hail from Fannie Mae, the international finance sector, and the National Association of Realtors® (NAR).

Together, we’ll look back on the economic trends of 2017 … and talk about what our experts think is coming around the corner in 2018.

Then we’ll put it all together to calculate how trends in the U.S. and across the world will affect YOU as a real estate investor.

This show features:

  • Your trending host, Robert Helms
  • His not-terribly-trendy co-host, Russell Gray
  • Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae
  • Richard Duncan (no relation!), best-selling author and economist
  • George Ratiu, director of quantitative and commercial research at NAR

Listen



Subscribe

Broadcasting since 1997 with over 300 episodes on iTunes!

real estate podcast on itunesSubscribe on Androidyoutube_subscribe_button__2014__by_just_browsiing-d7qkda4

 

 


Review

When you give us a positive review on iTunes you help us continue to bring you high caliber guests and attract new listeners. It’s easy and takes just a minute! (Don’t know how? Follow these instructions).

Thanks!


Where do we fall in the economic cycle?

We asked Doug, Richard, and George about where the U.S. economy will be heading in the next 12 months.

“Recent data suggests a recession probably won’t happen in the next 12 months,” says Doug. He reminds investors to be mindful, however … “Every expansion eventually ends.”

Doug also predicts that, “In 2018, we will see a small acceleration of growth over what we saw in 2017.” The forecast at Fannie Mae predicts a growth of approximately 2.75 percent over the next year, after which the market will slow down a bit.

Richard also agrees that although we are in the midst of a remarkably long expansion, it’s unlikely the bubble will burst in the next year.

Should investors sell now? “That depends on their risk tolerance,” Doug told us. “The best strategy is to ride a bubble out and surf it to the top. This is probably not the top of the bubble.”

Every expansion has to end eventually. The market has been growing since the market crash in 2008 … but so far, our expert economists aren’t seeing any major signs of impending recession.

What will cause an eventual crash? “The key as to when the bubble will pop depends on interest rates,” says Richard.

Will interest rates rise?

The biggest factor affecting players in the lending world … that’s you! … is interest rates.

In the next year, says Doug, “The central banks may tighten, which will apply upward pressure to mortgage rates.”

He says upward pressure won’t be significant this year … but that we’re moving that general direction.

Richard is a bit more concerned about rising interest rates, and thinks YOU should be too … he says, “Listeners should be very concerned about the possibility that U.S. interest rates will go up within the year.”

That’s because the Fed is currently reversing quantitative easing right now … essentially “uncreating” money. That may bring danger, as higher interest rates will push asset prices down, says Richard.

He also says higher rates will cause credit to become more expensive and “contract and cripple the economy.”

What’s happening in the housing market?

Doug notes the rental market is slowing down right now … but only because the largest metros are saturated. Smaller, less saturated markets are a better place for investors to be right now.

George agrees. Prices in large-cap spaces are still trending upwards, he says, but investors have started to take their foot off the accelerator over the last year.

By contrast, smaller markets like Austin, Nashville, and Jacksonville are still seeing continued acceleration. “There’s a lot of potential in smaller markets,” says George … and these markets are grabbing the attention of investors, both locally and internationally.

What about the supply side of the equation? “Single family home construction is still running slower than demand, whether that’s from investors or occupants,” says Doug.

George emphasizes the low housing supply … “2017 has been a year characterized by extremely tight inventory,” he says.

But in 2018, George thinks the market will be a stable platform for real estate investors. He says price appreciation will flatten and prices may even decline in some markets.

On the other hand, Doug predicts that “Real prices will continue to accelerate faster than has historically been the case.”

Even if housing prices flatline this year, they’re already historically high. Will incomes rise to meet the cost of buying property? That depends, in part, on the effect of the recent tax reform.

How will the tax bill affect the economy?

According to Doug, “The tax change should result in household income growth due to tax cuts for most households and acceleration in business investment,” which will increase productivity and wages.

“This is the biggest sweeping change in a very long time,” says George.

Will the tax bill benefit those who want to become homeowners? George notes that the mortgage interest deduction and property tax deduction were both capped in the new bill … and predicts that will affect the real estate market going forward.

The impact will be higher, however, in states where the property tax is significant.

What does the future look like for millennials?

George notes there is concern about this generation acting differently than past generations. Living in a sharing economy may mean millennials are less likely to want to own their own homes … which could be good for investors.

But according to Doug, “There’s clear evidence that millennials are moving to buy homes.”

Despite the demand, there are some barriers to entry for millennial home buyers … George notes that property prices have increased six percent year over year, while wages have only gone up about two percent.

Combined with rising interest prices, millennials are faced with an affordability challenge. And, says George, “Student debt also presents a serious issue.”

What’s going on in the global market?

Richard sees several areas of concern, globally.

Europe is cutting down on quantitative easing, just like the U.S. This will push interest rates higher, eventually impacting the market negatively, he says.

He is also concerned about Chinese exports. “The world can no longer continue absorbing so many Chinese exports,” he says, and this may lead to tariffs on goods from China.

He thinks China will begin overproducing goods, weakening prices and ultimately causing bank loans to default. This would cause a systemic banking sector crisis in China, says Richard … and have serious repercussions around the world.

For the time being, however, U.S. investors find themselves in a fairly stable position. According to George, “The U.S. economy has performed quite well, even as other places resort to negative interest rates.”

Although George, Richard, and Duncan aren’t sounding any major alarm bells, we encourage you to do your own research and figure out a plan that’s right for you.

Start by checking out part 1 of our 2018 Predictions Panel, if you haven’t already!

Whether you buy, sell, or hold, make sure you’re prepared for an eventual crash. Investing is a long game. Start figuring out your contingency plan now!


More From The Real Estate Guys™…

The Real Estate Guys™ radio show and podcast provides real estate investing news, education, training and resources to help real estate investors succeed.

5/8/11: Healing America…One House at a Time

Investors are playing a vital role in helping the housing market heal.  But who are these investors and how are they doing it?

To find out, The Real Estate Guys™ get face to face with the CEO of a distressed property wholesaling company that “re-allocates” over 200 houses a month.

In the radio ER for another heart-stopping episode:

  • Your host and doctor of dialog, Robert Helms
  • Co-host and bed-pan boy, Russell Gray
  • Special guest, Econohomes CEO, Jeff Ball

It seems the last decade has more than its fair share of disasters, including Katrina, the Gulf Oil spill and the Japanese tsunami – to name just a few.   And of course, how could we forget the Great American Real Estate Recession, which still seems to be years away from bouncing back.

What they all have in common is the human effort which plays such a vital role in cleaning up and rebuilding – and the fact that most of that “grunt work” goes largely unnoticed by the rest of the world.  Still, slowly, over time, because of the tenacity and talent of the individual workers, eventually the rest of the world sees recovery.

Of course, those closest to “ground zero” get to see the progress first – and they know better than anyone how far and how fast the healing is happening.

So when it comes to real estate in America, and the housing market in particular, who’s closest to the action?

You could make the argument that real estate agents or REO portfolio managers for lenders are pretty close.  But what about the individual investors who go into a devastated market and begin to buy, repair and re-sell or rent out abandoned and often dilapidated houses?  Those brave souls are arguably the closest to the trend since it’s their own initiative, planning and resources that make everything else happen.  But no one sees the fruit of their ambition until it shows up later as transactional activity.  And because they’re mostly all independent small time operators, they themselves don’t even see the collective trend they are creating.

Fortunately, Econohomes CEO Jeff Ball commissioned a study of over 1,000 individual investors to find out who they are, what they’re doing and where they’re finding inventory.  Listen in as Jeff discusses the report and what he sees for the housing market from his perspective.  And if you listen all the way through, he’ll tell you how you can get a free copy of the report for yourself!

Listen Now

  • Want more? Sign up for The Real Estate Guysfree newsletter and visit our Special Reports library.
  • Don’t miss an episode of The Real Estate Guys™ radio show.  Subscribe to the free podcast!
  • Stay connected with The Real Estate Guys™ on Facebook!

The Real Estate Guys™ radio show and podcast provides real estate investing news, education, training and resources that help real estate investors succeed.