Won The Lottery Revisited

On March 9th, 2006 after receiving the money from the sale of my house in San Diego County, I wrote in the post Won The Lottery :

Yesterday, I received the money for the sale of that house. It was A LOT of money. The amount of profit was insane. I am another winner in the California home seller lottery. The reason I’m a winner is because I’m not buying another home.

At the time I was told several times that once a person sells in California they are forever priced out of the market. Home prices could only go up in value. I was told that I was making a mistake. I disagreed.

While living in my gated community I suspected something was wrong. I saw neighbors using home equity loans to buy boats, replacing perfectly good landscaping with even more perfect landscaping and taking international trips. Then I saw how the lending standards went from solid to outright silly (illegal).

Something wasn’t right in the market and most people seemed too drunk off of appreciation to notice anything.

The stock market will continue to go up as long as there is at least one more buyer willing to pay a higher price for that stock. Having already lowered lending to fraudulent standards and with interest rates at historically low standards, it was just a matter of time before there would be no next buyer to push up the home prices. Home price appreciation can not exceed salary appreciation in the long term. This is a lesson IndyMac and other banks are learning as they implode or write down billions in losses.

Mish is reporting the latest housing numbers on Record Declines in Case-Shiller Index. San Diego from peak to today has already dropped 28.9%. It was irrational on the way up, it will be irrational on the way down.

Irrational Exuberance
Irrational Exuberance by Robert J. Shiller is the book that connected the dots for me. This is a classic book on investor psychology. The second edition has a full chapter that deals specifically with real estate. It was written just prior to the housing decline. I still recall clowns like Jim Cramer mocking him and his predictions.

Yesterday I was asked when I was going to buy next. I really don’t know the answer, but I threw out a guess of 3 years. When home prices were appreciating, people couldn’t save fast enough to keep pace with rising prices. Now we have the reverse situation. Prices are falling faster than most people can save. The net result is the longer one sits on the sidelines saving money, the better the home they will be able to buy when prices do bottom.

When will real estate bottom? Read my thoughts on Picking a Real Estate Bottom.

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MAS

Critical MAS is the blog for Michael Allen Smith of Seattle, Washington. My interests include traditional food, fitness, economics, and web development.

4 thoughts on “Won The Lottery Revisited”

  1. Shiller, Roubini, Denninger, Mish, CR and a few others… it’s a short Gawd damn list of those who had both the knowledge and the courage to stand up and predict the pending financial disaster (that is still unfolding).

    I think Mish summed it up perfectly with his hurricane analogy. We are currently in the eye …we got the first high speed winds going one direction. It pushes everything one way …and then we hit the other side of the hurricane. The wind is going the OTHER direction …it rips everything out of the ground and does the serious damage.

    As they say in the Navy …stand by for heavy rolls as the ship comes about!

    Cash or short would be a prudent choice…

  2. I actually don’t care that we didn’t sell our house in Seattle …we have kids and will probably live here another 10 years.

    I do kinda regret not selling our rental condo though. I sat my wife down about 18 months ago and said NOW is the time to sell if we are going to. She said “no” and I said ok.

    I probably should have insisted. That was probably $150k profit that I could have used to buy double-short ETFs. At least we have a very low rate on a 15 year loan, so it will just generate cash by the time we retire.

  3. I got to see the tail end of the bubble in both San Diego and Seattle. Although I see more corrections coming in Seattle, I didn’t see the outright foolishness that was going on in lending that I did in San Diego. San Diego also seemed (at least to me) to be adding inventory at a much faster clip (not Miami fast, but fast).

    When both parties are honest – buying a home shouldn’t be a speculative or risky investment. Honest appraisals, honest assessment of default risk, honest reporting of income and a traditional down payment are factors that stabilize prices. Most people have mortgages based on honesty, but it only takes a few bad apples…

  4. I think it is actually more systemic than a few bad apples. It became very profitable for every role, so they all lied:
    – The Buyer
    – Realtors
    – Appraisers
    – Mortgage Brokers
    – Banks
    – Wall Street (Investment Banks)
    – Rating Agencies
    – Government Regulation (the Fed, etc.)

    Every single step …from the original no doc, no money down, 110% LTV mortgage to the AAA rated CDO that was bought by your pension fund …failed.

    They all either lied or looked the other direction because they were either making too much money or they didn’t want to rock the boat.

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