Monday, April 24, 2006
Cold, Hard Reality Outside Your Door
Even today, the book remains the best possible antidote to the idiocies of political correctness. If you have not read it, you will recognize many of the characters in world news today when you do. This ought to be the book that Ohio State had their freshmen read, but hey. It's not exactly Jimmy Carter material (Jimmy, remember, has never met a dictator he did not like). Ciano was executed by Mussolini after he joined in deposing him, so he never got a chance to rewrite history. His wife (Mussolini's daughter Edda) smuggled the diary out.
But back to the here and now.
It's hard to ward off shock while watching the Florida RE market implode. The details are too ugly for an after-dinner post. Chunks of Arizona are not much better, either. In retrospect, it's clear that last summer was the peak of the bubble. In a May, 2005 post, Coyote Blog noted:
In the Phoenix / Scottsdale area, housing values have really starting going up, up, up in the last 18 months, though whether this is just a catch-up to other desirable metropolitan areas (Phoenix real estate has been pretty sluggish for years, and way cheaper than other resort-type destinations) or a true bubble, I can't tell. Certainly speculation activity is way up, with a lot of homes being bought and renovated by investors, but again, I could argue that Scottsdale was behind other suburban markets in the whole tear-down thing.Remember that rule for the future. Two months ago economists were still saying there was no housing bubble; now they are all explaining why declining real estate values won't produce a recession. What dingbats. The poorer neighborhoods are already seeing the plunge in values. I'm certain that there are very good economists out there, but evidently they don't spend their time writing newspaper columns or talking to reporters. The only real question is how bad it's going to be.
So, to date, I have been unconvinced about the housing bubble, at least as it applied to our community. After all, demographics over the next 20-30 years are only going to support Scottsdale area real estate.
However, over the weekend I had a disturbing experience: At a social function, I heard a dentist enthusiastically telling a doctor that he needs to be buying condos and raw land. The dentist claimed to be flipping raw land parcels for 100% in less than 6 months.
For those who don't know, this is a big flashing red light. When doctors and dentists start trying to sell you on a particular type of investment, run away like they have the plague.
Professor Piggington runs a great site for skeptical analysis of the news. Try this forum topic; you cannot suck huge amounts of money out of any economy this way without producing a recession. Mish of Global Economic Trend Analysis is an excellent read. Robert of Exurban Nation really knows what he is talking about, but is not quite into patient explanations for those who don't. Nonetheless, read about the Mortgage Falcon. Things are going to get ugly in Flipville very fast. If you are still not getting it, ask yourself one question - why would Donald Trump give 436 acres of land in the NYC suburbs to NY state?
For statistics that are not spun, see Hanley Wood. Here's a few stats to get you started. Affordability for Existing Homes. Affordability for New Homes. Inflating housing volumes cannot be supported when household income cannot even keep pace with inflation:
Real median household income increased nominally by 2.5% to $43,389 in 2004. However, when adjusted for inflation, this actually represented a 0.2% decline. Though barely negative, this represents the fifth consecutive year that income growth has fallen short of the annual inflation rate. Prior to 2000, there had been steady increases in real median household income since 1992.Median, remember, is half above and half below. Purchase Money Apps are down close to 13% from last year. The mortgage companies are beginning to switch their advertising to appeal to those who need to refi out of their option ARM's, etc. There's still money in them thar hills!
And in bird flu news, there were two disturbing leading indicators from India. A vet who had been supervising the culling in Jalgaon upped and died, and Indian villagers are complaining of a fever with "tiny blisters", which they believe might be bird flu. See my flu with blisters post; somehow I doubt rural south Georgia has been stricken with chikungunya. You might want to read the whole India CurEvents Flu Clinic thread. No one's checked out the Indian villagers who are ill, and the vet did not have bird flu according to lab testing.
Sing la! la! la! Only six months ago I burst out laughing from reading an Indian government official's explanation that India had a natural barrier to bird flu in the Himalayas. In 2002 or 2003, blood testing on several Indian poultry workers showed antibdies to H5N1. The Qinghai strain probably came with the barheaded geese over the Himilayas, and ever since Qinghai there's been fascinating eruptions of FMD in the areas where the birds have landed. The latest is in Egypt.
You know what the best thing is? The birds are just about to head over the Himalayas again....
If you get this thing with the blisters, you'll know. The blisters are so tiny that they are hard to see, but the unique feature of it is that your lungs seem to fill up with water and you can't cough it out. This may not be H5N1 (although several of us did test positive for flu), but I'll be darned if I don't believe it's being carried by birds. Also, the mouse population seems to have dropped like a rock around here. Some locals aren't buying chicken any more. It does spread person to person, but I think only through direct skin contact or through the gastro-intestinal tract and not through the air.
There's a story about one big-name tycoon getting out of the stock market completely in fall 1929 because "even the shoeshine boy at the hotel was passing me Hot Stock Tips".
And as for H5N1, remember to think like a Baby Boomer: "If I pretend something I don't like doesn't exist, it doesn't exist. LA LA LA LA! LA LA LA LA! I CAN'T HEAR YOU! I CAN'T HEAR YOU! LA LA LA LA! LA LA LA LA! I CAN'T HEAR YOU! I CAN'T HEAR YOU!"
(Actually, when I described your respiratory problem to a friend who grew up very rural, he suggested that it might have been a fungal or mold disease; a lot ofthem can be carried by airborne dust.)
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