21 July 2009

Real Life Intervention

My grasp of economics is remedial at best. But it seems to me that we are in a collective state of denial about the short term future of the housing market. Too often the "experts" called upon by the media to expatiate on the state of the market are from organizations like the National Association of Realtors and the National Association of Homebuilders, and have the most to gain from an up market and an upbeat consumer.

As someone who is planning on purchasing a home in early 2010 and is stunned by the still huge prices on some really crappy real estate, it is extremely satisfying to finally find a truth talker on TV. One of my favorite new shows, Real Estate Intervention, features Mike Aubrey, a shaved-headed, straight talking real estate agent in Maryland who does not suffer fools gladly--and he has a lot of fools to choose from. The show follows him around the Washington-Baltimore metro area while he schools home sellers on the reality of the current market. And comps be damned, the sellers never want to believe that the white hot market is lukewarm at the moment and has the potential to keep getting cooler over the next year or so. So far there hasn't been an episode where the clueless and intransigent sellers have been right and Mike has been wrong.

But then maybe I shouldn't be too hard on the sellers. They have been told for too long that the market would never go down. When faced with an ARM reset and home foreclosure this season on The Simpsons, Homer complained to his mortgage lender that he was told he wouldn't have to make any payments until the future and goes on to say "this isn't the future, it's the lousy stinkin' now." Should we really expect the average American to be smarter than Homer Simpson?

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