Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Never seen anything like it.

I've been trying to patch together a bunch of thoughts about the real estate market. Which is hard because just 15 months ago it was such a deep dark place. No bank would touch me for any reason. Even though I had equity in my rental. When you have two houses underwater in California - that is max pain. It's worse than growing up poor. That coupled with the constant news stories telling you why you were a fool to own property. It changes you.  I was more underwater in both houses than what I paid for my rental house.

I didn't save my houses because I wanted to be fancy - I saved my houses because I was afraid I'd never get into the credit market again. Life is very long if you are lucky. Dealing with the credit market sucks now even  if you have good credit! I thought about walking away a million times. All my old friends did. It was fashionable then. I took the short pain hoping for some long term gain. Which had gone on so long I just thought it would never come.

Now when I look at the market I don't recognize it at all. Inventory for both houses for sale and rental market is almost none. My city has less than a month supply of houses for sale. Rentals are so locked down that when I lost my renter last week - I didn't know how to value my place. And I've been tracking these numbers every single week for 5 years. There just weren't enough comps to figure out what the norm is.

Housing prices in my city are only 1-2% lower than when I bought my house in 2006. All of this happened in 15 months. It's hard to find out how many people are still underwater. I bought about a year after the top. Who knows how many walked away or did short sales. I do know one guy who is still paying close to 7%. He took a heloc to build a business downtown. So who knows when he is going to be unlocked to refi.

With these kinds of conditions, obviously more money printing isn't going to do much good. There just aren't enough people to make whole for it to make a difference. The refi sector is as close to dead as it will ever be. Most of these houses that got a 4.25 interest rate or lower will be slow to change hands if they ever do. But earnings are coming in really badly. When rent'a'center comes in and tells you December was a challenging month - you should start paying attention. They did very well through the whole recession.

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