Housing and Economy Weaken Together (Again), Threatening Real Estate Values Miami and Coral Gables

posted on July 16th, 2010 filed under: Financial Responsibility, Real Estate Market Data, Real Estate News

Neither a borrower nor a lender be;

For loan oft loses both itself and friend

– Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act I, Scene III

Evidence has mounted in recent months of a second leg down in housing and a possible double-dip recession in the broader economy.

The problem, ultimately, is that there is really no way out for a people who have gorged themselves on debt.  Once you’ve reached the point where you can no longer spend today another dollar that you planned to get tomorrow, it takes a long time to wring out all the excess borrowing.


Debt is like hydraulic power.  Banks and other lenders take one dollar and lend it 9 times over, or in the case of some failed Wall Street institutions, 30 times over.  Government agencies (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac) and yield-hungry investors who take the loans off the institutions’ books absorb the flow of debt and thus free up the lenders to create more.  Eventually, a peak is reached as the most speculative drop of borrowed money is pushed through the system.  As borrowing begins to recede, asset values fall, and borrowers, lenders and investors vanish.

Real estate can make you rich.  There is nothing more beautiful than paying 5 times your income for a house with almost no money down, and seeing its value go up 10% a year.  That’s like getting a 50% raise — with 10% annual compounding on top of it.

But real estate can also make you poor.  There is nothing more destructive of your wealth than buying a depreciating asset with borrowed money.

So where are we in this cycle?  Previous posts have explained that real estate prices usually fall for about 4 years from the time they really begin declining to the time they reach an ultimate low.  In Miami and Coral Gables, real estate prices did not begin declining until about the beginning of 2007, which suggested that the enthusiasm of the past year was premature.

And this is not a typical downturn.  Real estate was far more overvalued and overbuilt than in typical cycles.  In the broader economy, we are arguably in a depression masked by extreme government intervention.

The government and the financial-realty complex turned a firehose of money on the decline in real estate values, and the most we can say is that prices stopped collapsing.  There is less pressure in that firehose now, and not only have prices failed to rise, they have begun to weaken again.

Risk remains.

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posted by // This entry was posted on Friday, July 16th, 2010 at 9:51 am and is filed under Financial Responsibility, Real Estate Market Data, Real Estate News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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