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Is The Economy Worse Than We Think?

We are presented with conflicting data almost daily about the “health” of the economy. And I am no economist, but I believe that I do possess some common sense.

So, here’s what I have been thinking.

It is obvious that millions of people are NOT paying their mortgage, rightly or wrongly, for their own reasons:

  1. They can’t because of a job loss, death, disability or something outside of their control.
  2. They won’t because it makes poor financial sense as their house is underwater.

My question is that with so many people NOT paying their mortgage, how can there be an economic recovery of any fashion? And then it hits me, people who used to spend thousands of dollars every month on their housing are spending that money now on food, clothing, vacations, gasoline, cars and alike. With the lag time between the moment of not making a mortgage payment to eviction being as long as two years, it seems logical to me that the reported economic numbers have to be inflated.

As foreclosures and short sales continue and people transition from non-paying homeowners to renters, millions of consumers will start having a housing expense again which will leave them less cash every month to buy other things. The result will be a slowing economy.

If you are a home seller, I think it means continued lower sales prices for at least the next 18 months. Price aggressively and get top dollar now!

If you are a home buyer, most of the recent data points to higher prices of everyday goods (largely because of higher energy prices), and that leads to inflation. Inflation is combated by the Federal Reserve with higher interest rates. So buy now, while the monthly carrying COST of a home is at near all time lows. Lower home prices sound good, but higher interest rates will nullify that benefit.

I have learned that “Common Sense Is Not Common Practice”. Today, I wanted to share some common sense conclusions, to push you to make it part of your practice.

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9 replies
  1. Andrew S.
    Andrew S. says:

    This is really funny. So many people hate Realtors because we can always find a way to say you should “Buy NOW!!!” This just cements it. But the truth is that my clients that “Bought Now” just six months ago, because “It Makes Sense” would have been better off to wait. Truly, we need to stop telling people when to buy.

    Buying makes sense when it makes sense for YOU. I refuse to predict the outcome of the market on a day by day basis. Don’t ask me what your home will be worth in 2 years. I have no freaking idea. I could have 10 years ago, but today, I have no idea.

    My best advice is to buy if you plan to be there at least 5 years and even then you should only do it because you WANT a home to live in. Do it for yourself, not for financial gain. Secondly, don’t sell if you don’t have to. Most WILL NOT get what they want or need out of there home if they didn’t purchase it at least 8-10 years ago or longer. If you took out a maximum HELOC in the 5-7 years, it get’s even worse.

  2. Brad English
    Brad English says:

    Common sense? More like circular logic (spin). I have an incredibly positive outlook on life grounded in reality, and the reality is as Andrew states, “no one has a clue what the future holds! There are so many black swans on the horizon. As a REALTOR and Agent (a powerful designation), I have a fiduciary duty to represent the best interests of my clients by providing them all the latest data and options available and letting them make as informed a decision as possible GIVEN THEIR UNIQUE SITUATION, GOALS AND NEEDS. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to what anyone should do in a very uncertain economy.

  3. Brian
    Brian says:

    The American People need to wake up. Our legislators work for the corporate and banking lobby; not you. There will be no magic recovery. We’ve lost almost 15 million eligible buyers to foreclosure/ Short Sale. The class of 2010’s medium income is $27,000, our jobs have been shipped overseas, there is no industry here to replace what we have lost, interest rates will rise (further pushing prices down), and inflation will run wild. The American family has twice as many expenses as it did a decade ago. The corporations that run our country have much stronger profit potential in the emerging markets of Brazil and Asia with populations that dwarf ours.
    I am an eternal optimist but I’m also not ignorant. There is not one reasonable scrap of evidence that we as Americans have anything to be excited about. We sit over a beer with our friends complaining about the incompetent crooks and thieves that have wholesaled our country off part and parcel. The only thing that will right this country is a firestorm in the White House.
    Look at you people you willing get in line at an airport for illegal searches and seizures by the TSA, you get in line to file taxes after 750 billion of your taxes our stolen and given to the crooks that destroyed our economy. American’s need to come back down to earth, our country is seriously broke and no amount of wishful thinking and macro-economic B.S. can fix it.
    The smart money is miles away from the stock market which will dip severely and being dutifully saved for the rainy days ahead.

  4. jb
    jb says:

    Everybody keeps worrying about THE ECONOMY. Why don’t you just worry about your OWN economy? Success is easier now than ever before. There is no lack of money out there. Most people do not want to do what it takes to be successfull in this market. Instead they want to complain and worry about what the media feeds. I could care less about when “the economy” recovers. MY economy is doing just fine.

  5. Dean Hartman
    Dean Hartman says:

    Love the passion expressed in the comments. It has forced a response.

    First, I am NOT a real estate agent. I am a mortgage professional. And as a professional (in any industry), I believe I am in the advice business. People pay me not just to provide a service, but also, to bring my experience, knowledge and expertise to them, so that they can make informed decidions for themselves….based on their personal economy. At the same time, there are general truths….and none of the experts argue that buying a home now isn’t a wonderful decision

    To the point that “no one knows the future”, I concede that no one can have certainty there, but, I think if people plan on continuing in the role of advisor, you must have an opinion and be able to explain the logic behind it.

    The idea that someone who bought a house six months ago would regret that choice (because maybe they could have saved a few bucks on the purchase price) completely ignores the main reason people buy a home….BECAUSE IT’S A HOME! And people want a place to raise their families, decorate to their personal preferences, and so on. Anyone who waits for the optimal financial moment (lowest possible price AND lowest interest rates) will likely miss it. Just ask those home sellers who could have sold their home six months prior to the peak of the market. When you miss it, it gets painful….QUICKLY!

    It saddens me to see people in an industry who seemingly do not believe in it. Real estate should never have become a short term investment opportunity. Yes, plan to buy and hold it for a while from an economic perspective, but to counsel people to keep their family in less than ideal living quarters because prices may tumble some more is neither logical or ethical in my view.

    If you believe in the spirit of this country and its long term viability as a nation, you need to believe in the American Dream. And faith in homeownership, as the backbone of the economy and family values, requires the belief that we all benefit when people buy homes (that they can afford, of course).

  6. ton walsh
    ton walsh says:

    First, I was in Consumer Finance for about 40 years. For 2+ years I was a Mortgage Broker and i saw first hand the nonsense that existed in the mortgage business. No Doc loans, 125% LTV loans, people buying just because they fit the Fannie and Freddie one size fits all qualifications, Variable Rate APRs, the whole gamut.
    What is needed is a return to sound buying and lending. It used to be a couple found a place in a neighborhood they liked – urban, suburban or rural – and they put down at least 20% after negotiating a fair price. They planned to be there for a while and raise a family or live out their dreams. The economy boomed. Jobs were plentiful, houses sold, cars sold and the country prospered. I don’t know when the silliness started but it happened in all phases of Consumer Lending.
    It’s time to go back and be realistic and practical. Don’t buy a home just because you fit a lender’s profile, buy what YOU can afford. Keep in mind maintenance costs, food for your family, car expenses and, something that is missing today, savings accounts for rainy days and/or retirement.


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