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Don't Hold Your Breath for a Recovery in Real Estate

Since I have been pelted daily with predictions that residential real estate has bottomed for the last two years, like hail in a Midwestern summer thun derstorm, I feel a public duty to tell you that is just not the case. Now that the state and federal moratoriums are off, foreclosures are accelerating. There are over a million Option ARM and Alt-A loan resets about to hit the fan. Since many owners will not see positive equity in their homes in their lifetimes, banks are seeing more walk aways and keys mailed in, often with tearful letters attached. The run up in mortgage rates from 4.5% to 5.5% has yet to hit the market. Some 18 million homeowners divert 50% of their incomes to pay for housing, double the 25% that is considered healthy, and many of them are losing jobs at a record rate. While the volume of units sold has rebounded, the action is dominated by speculators, flippers, and bottom feeders bidding for properties at 10-40 cents on the dollar, not exactly a sign of health. I like to visit the plethora of open houses in my neighborhood, but always find the dead broker hanging from the showerhead a bit of a downer for a Sunday afternoon. Call me when Ozzie & Harriet Nelson come back to the market. I listened to industry insiders call the bottom of the Japanese real estate market for 15 years, until they finally died, and the market is still a fraction of its 1990 high. I think we are closer to the bottom than the top in terms of price, but closer to the top than the bottom in terms of time. You can take that to the bank.