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Venting Against Seattle Bubble

Here are a couple of comments that have been posted recently to Seattle Bubble.

Brian on June 26:

Hey Tim, I’m a fairly new reader, and enjoying your blog, but I have 2 comments:

1. It’s going to sound lame, but I’m sometimes a bit thrown off by your use of sarcasm. If you can make it a bit more clear or tone it down a bit I think it’d be easier to read, and probably more professional.

2. I don’t know if you can do anything about it, but Google Reader doesn’t handle your quotes properly, so you can’t tell what’s a quote.

VictoryHeights on June 27:

I’ve only been reading Seattle Bubble for a few days but I’ve quickly come to the conclusion that most of the people here suffer frame the same problem that they accuse the media of having. Just as they seem to be cheerleading the real estate market, you people seem to be [censored] on it. All news is good news for them; all news is bad news for you.

Furthermore, the “analysis” you present cracks me up. It is called a cycle. Real estate prices tend to rise and fall in cycles. Just because you can over lay price data to show the cycles in several markets, doesn’t mean you’ve provided any insight into a possible “bubble.” Time to stop reading Seattle Bubble.

Maybe I’ll check back next year… or the year after…. or the year after. Eventually you may be right. Don’t worry; I’ll just adjust the horizontal axis to demonstrate you were right all along.

To be perfectly honest, I actually quite enjoyed both of these comments, although each for different reasons. Constructive criticism such as Brian’s comment is a useful way for me to find out ways I can improve the blog, while name-calling rants like VictoryHeights’ are a simply an entertaining source of amusement.

Therefore, for the enrichment and amusement of both the readers and writers of Seattle Bubble, I offer this post as a clearinghouse for your complaints. What would you like to see improved? Exactly what kind of idiot am I for even running this blog? Just let it all out.

Before we get started, I’d like to comment briefly on some previous complaints. First off, I think I have figured out the Google Reader problem Brian refers to above, and it should be fixed in new posts made from here on out (plus I went back and fixed yesterday’s post as well). Let me know if it still gives you problems. Secondly, I haven’t forgotten about our discussion regarding open threads, I just haven’t made the time to come up with a good compromise yet.

If you have nothing but love for Seattle Bubble, I’d like to request that you sit this post out. No ragging on the drive-by commenters, or ripping apart other people’s criticisms. If you want to say something nice about Seattle Bubble, how about making a small donation instead? This thread is for complaints and constructive criticisms only.

Thanks, and have at it!

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About The Tim

Tim Ellis is the founder of Seattle Bubble. His background in engineering and computer / internet technology, a fondness of data-based analysis of problems, and an addiction to spreadsheets all influence his perspective on the Seattle-area real estate market. Tim also hosts the weekly improv comedy sci-fi podcast Dispatches from the Multiverse.

46 comments:

  1. 1
    Lake Hills Renter says:

    (Assuming this covers the forums too…)

    This been posted in the forums a couple of times over in the forums, but I’ll post it here as well — make the central column wider in the forums. The 600 pixels or whatever is too narrow. You’re losing a lot of screen real estate (pardon the pun) with such a narrow table, and it often cuts off the end of links and graphs. This should be easy to fix in either the theme html files or CSS file. So do it already. ;)

  2. 2
    david losh says:

    Thank you!
    This is exactly what I was thinking yesterday. The graphs and charts are the same every time. So where is all of this talk going? You guys want to rent, fine, home ownership is not for every one. Owning a business is not for every one. There’s nothing wrong with that.
    You guys all raise good points about substandard construction practices sold by Real Estate agents who either don’t know or don’t care about the products they are selling. You’re right that lenders are stealing money daily from people who are only trying to buy into the American Dream.
    My question has gotten to be so what? What does this ranting do to bring a positive change to the system that is in place?

  3. 3
    Chris says:

    not a criticism per se, but is a bubble only a bubble if it has the potential of popping – ie rapid decline in values? Seems to be a dichotomy of opinion here as to whether we could see a precipitous decline versus a “leaking balloon” for the next “x” years to bring us back to equilibrium. I happen to think the market is overvalued but the sticky nature of prices makes precipitou decline unlikely. Am I a bubblehead?

    I guess the construction criticism would be that the site, and anti-establishment view of the concept of homeownership in general, might be better served by recasting the notion of “bubble” so that it seems less reactionary and more logical, as you and posters prove daily.

  4. 4
    Bubble watcher says:

    I agree with the sarcasm comment. I’ve been reading this for blog for 11 months and lately its been “no we’ve NEVER seen that before” or “right, cuz seattle is SO special” over and over…to the point where i don’t come on a daily basis anymore.

  5. 5
    phinneygirl says:

    I like the sense of humor on here and the ability for people to make light of some of the rediculous listings out there. I also think there are some very smart people on this site who are good at presenting informaton and compiling data. That includes you, The Tim. What I still don’t get is your whole living scenario – squatting on a property you pay nothing for and really know nothing about the guy who owns the property who occassionally shows up but doesn’t ask for rent? Sounds very sketchy to me…

  6. 6
    John says:

    If they think sarcasm is hard to take now, just wait until the housing party turns into a massacre in Seattle. What are the odds that most of the country is going through a housing slump while Seattle continues to stay up? Not very good.

    I am not in the sky is falling camp but I will celebrate with them just the same. Those smug b*tches who think renters are losers and home prices go up forever will be prime meat to be pooped on.

  7. 7
    LowRentRob says:

    I’m relatively new to the site. While I appreciate that most of your posters have a nuanced understanding of real estate and the world of money, not all readers of the blog may be at the same level of knowledge. Specifically, there are a bewildering number of acronyms and terms tossed around here. While some can be figured out with a little thought, others leave me saying “huh?’. A glossary of terms would be nice for those of us without MBAs.

    At least sarcasm I can understand.

  8. 8
    Dave0 says:

    Not sure why this happens but when I type in http://www.seattlebubble.com the last post I see is “One Third of Seattle Homebuyers Have Unaffordable Mortgages.” The only reason I see this is because of an RSS reader on my homepage, which can be flaky too.

  9. 9
    The Tim says:

    LHR: There you go. It’s quick and dirty, but it doesn’t make things look too bad. Obviously my ideal would be for the forum to use the same format as the blog. I just have to make the time for that.

    Dave0: Does this happen across multiple computers and/or multiple web browsers (such as Internet Explorer and Firefox), or just on one computer and one browser? I suspect it’s the latter, and that there’s some issue with the cache settings of said computer. Try going to Seattle Bubble, holding down the shift key, and clicking the refresh button in your browser.

    Thanks to the others for your feedback. I’m taking it all in.

    Come on though people… surely there are more complaints out there than this?

  10. 10
    nitsuj says:

    for fun i’d like to see you try to put the shoe on the other foot and use statistics to prove why there ISN’T a bubble in seattle. could make for an interesting experiment!

  11. 11
    The Tim says:

    nitsuJ,

    I take it you mean something a bit more in depth than this.

    Seriously though, that’s an interesting suggestion that would probably be a fun and enlightening exercise.

  12. 12
    TJ_98370 says:

    I miss Meshugy!

    (I’m sorry. I couldn’t resist)

  13. 13
    sniglet says:

    My suggestion for improvement on the site would be to stop allowing comments directly on the blog site itself and instead just put a link to a corresponding thread for each post on the forum. In other words, create a new discussion topic on the forum for every post on the blog, and just use that for the comments.

    This would keep all the comments in the same place as well as drive even more traffic to the forums. I don’t see a downside since people would still be able to comment.

  14. 14
    Lake Hills Renter says:

    Thanks, The Tim, but you went too far in the other direction. The table is about ~110% of my screen width no matter how I resize it — always with scrolling even at full screen. Something like 80% might work better. Picky, I know. ;)

  15. 15
    deejayoh says:

    Tim –
    Any reason the html tagging on the site and forums can’t be the same? [bold]I am always making mistakes![/bold]

    and preview/edit of postings on the site would be nice :D

  16. 16
    Brian says:

    Sweet!

  17. 17
    Andrew says:

    Presumably most people reading here think that there’s a decline of some sort coming… while “don’t buy now” is useful advice, it’s really only halfway there. Since we’re spending so much effort on how not to get screwed, how about some prudent discussion on how to profit on the ride down?

  18. 18
    Tom says:

    Yes, the sarcasm has been too thick and, well, thoughtless. It’s gotten to the point where you, at times, sound like a teenager, or obnoxious Saturday Night Live skit: you quote an article, then say something to the effect of, “shyah, whatEVer!”

    You could add a category for blog posts titled “Same Old Same Old” where you just post links/quotes of articles that would draw effectively the same response from you.

    I’ve thought that there was a housing bubble for at least 3 or 4 years now. I was expecting Seattle to drop within a year of moving here 2.5 years ago, and it still hasn’t happened. I enjoy the data you present and some of the interesting ways you slice and dice the data. Analysis is great. Finding new or deeper ways of reinforcing your arguments (e.g., that job growth or housing growth restrictions don’t actually lead to price rises) is very welcome. Continued “Ha! Those cheerleaders are so dumb!” is tedious.

    Thanks for taking criticism and seeking to improve!

  19. 19
    Tom says:

    Oh, and here are a couple of ideas for future posts:
    *Speculate on what might happen to fiscally responsible people in the case of a crash, and draw comparisons from history. Will those who didn’t risk everything be taxed extra heavily to bail out those who did?
    *Look at more ways of rating the value put on houses. Monthly payment/after tax income, or value/income or (value change – inflation) or…

    And I second the suggestion for a serious post trying to disprove the bubble. That’s the best way to learn more.

  20. 20
    Sniglet says:

    A future article I would love to see is a comparison of the proportion of negative amortization, interest only, and 100% finance loans in the Puget Sound over the last 30 years.

    It would be very interesting to see whether previous regional real-estate booms had greater proportions of dodgy financing. This is the one blind-spot that I see in this bubble which makes it very difficult to get a proper perspective on how much deeper our downturn will be.

  21. 21
    wreckingbull says:

    My suggestion goes out to the posters here: Keep up the good work but LIGHTEN UP! If you can’t laugh at what has become of this country, the only other choice is to cry.

    I think we need more posts like the ‘I got Suzanned’ piece over at HousingPanic, but with a local angle. I am personally not too worried about knowing when a house is at fair value. P/E tells me just about all I need to know.

  22. 22
    The Tim says:

    Wreckingbull,

    Excellent suggestion. Let’s continue this discussion on the forums.

  23. 23
    Garth says:

    Match reality with numbers in postings, if naples florida, bubble town usa is only down 10% this year after “crashing”, then the predictions here of 20-40% drop in seattle are a joke.

    Bears on wall street are only accurate for small windows every couple of decades, and spend the rest of their lives in misery, the same is true in real estate.

  24. 24
    BearClaw says:

    Looking at the charts for Seattle the appreciation seems high but not extreme. Still way lower than Vancouver BC with more real industry and higher wages. YOY appreciation is in low double digits for a few years but nowhere near Calgary and Edmonton (50% YOY). So I would agree that automatically assuming anyone who mentions housing in a postivve light as a mindless cheerleader is going too far when considering Seattles relatively mild housing boom.

  25. 25
    deejayoh says:

    One other suggestion – would it make sense to switch it so that newest posts show up at the top? it’s a pain to have to scroll down to read the new posts.

  26. 26
    Jesse says:

    The sarcasm only preaches to the choir, ‘look at all these truths we hold to be self evident’. A deeper level of commentary would serve you well for enlarging your readership and bring in those more on the fence on the issue.

  27. 27
    Stan says:

    Not to pile on, but I agree about the overuse of sarcasm. I appreciate a sense of humor–and please don’t lose it altogether–but maybe turn it down a bit.

  28. 28
    nitsuj says:

    Tim,

    Correct, way more in-depth than an April Fool’s joke. Could be interesting, possibly laughable, and eye opening.

  29. 29
    Shawn says:

    My constructive criticism would be to do some analysis on how other regions had similar things said about them. You provide good graphs for comparing Seattle against LA, etc. How about the next time you post the PI saying “due to job growth” you provide a similar statement from the Los Angeles times from back when the times was also trying to justify the bubble.

    I found that most places that had a boom and now are experiencing a bust had the realtor’s economists and the their local press saying the same things we see the PI saying now. That parallel I find takes away the specialness of Seattle’s claims to why they are not going to suffer the same fate as other regions.

  30. 30
    rose-colored-coolaid says:

    small thing, but I use FireFox, and some posts on the forum still have a problem with comment width in FireFox. I’m not sure what this is exactly, but it’s obviously some HTML that is only supported by some browsers.

  31. 31
    nick says:

    I’d kind of like to hear more about the eastside. We just sold a condo (on market for only 45 minutes this morning, $125k net after 2 years, woo!) and now we’re deciding if we should rent or buy.

  32. 32
    Hollis says:

    I have been a reader for a while, and I have some suggestions:

    1] Try to use more rigorous logic in your analysis. I am very sympathetic to the arguments you are making, but they are often full of logical fallacies. For example, I find the sarcasm funny, and I think you should keep it. But don’t make the mistake of letting it substitute it for a solid logical argument. It tends to be used when you are making an assumption and want the reader to just accept it without question. Affirming the consequent, post-hoc, character attacks, and straw-man arguments are very common on this blog. I think it would be more convincing if you started to weed some of these arguments out. It is tough to do, but I think it would be worth it.

    2] It would be interesting if you had someone who’s job it was to play the opposite side of the debate. Don’t rely on the user comments to do this. An opposing position has many advantages, and I think that it would help frame the discussions on the boards.

    Finally, I like the blog. Keep up the good work. I find it useful as a place to find information, but the analysis is usually weaker than I would like it to be. I take it with a grain of salt.

    Here is a podcast that you might find useful: Princeton Review’s LSAT Logic in Everyday Life by Andrew Brodie. You can find it on iTunes under the education and Princeton categories.

    Thanks for the blog.

  33. 33
    EconE says:

    More pictures. There are too many numbers and words.

  34. 34
    Matthew says:

    The sarcasm is light on this site compared to most of the other bubble sites. People need to grow some thicker skin. Logical analysis can be a bore without some personality, I personally like the tone of most of the articles. I find many of the more sarcastic posters on here to be the most entertaining aka Eleua, Bantering, Synthetik, etc.

  35. 35
    vancouverdr says:

    TJ: Maybe ‘shug succeeded in selling/unloading his house…

  36. 36
    Edward says:

    I would recommend, more often, prominently featuring news that supports the opposition’s argument – like a devil’s advocate position. Many of your faithful readers will supply the ammunition for shooting it down, and it will give the blog more of an air of journalistic integrity.

  37. 37
    Rashomon says:

    This site is a good resource for deeper analysis of the real estate market than is generally available in the mainstream media, but I could do without the smugness and incessant back patting. Every entry begins with an “I told ya so” and is followed by 30 comments to the effect of “we knew it all along! gosh we’re smart!”, even though this blog has existed for what — 3 years? And the Seattle market has yet to “pop”. Now that it’s hitting an inevitable slowdown (not even a pop), all of a sudden you’re “right”? This seems to be cherry picking at its finest.

  38. 38
    Tom says:

    I’ll second what nick said: Please provide more Eastside coverage!

  39. 39

    I disagree with those who say it’s time to stop bashing the agents :) Seriously, it is clearly not time to tone down the sarcasm and basic bent of this blog. You are just starting to be right. If you turn now you would be wrong again…not good.

    I don’t think we’re rolling back prices quite yet to 1990 levels or even a market based “on fundamentals”, but clearly there are signs of weakness in many areas. Especially since interest rates went up.

    I say stay the way you are. Let the commenters do the sarcasm and the posters can be more impartial.

    My $.02

  40. 40
    Mike says:

    Tim,

    Great site overall.

    1. Invite opposing opinions. Some of the best info I’ve walked away with is the responses to the “anti-Tim” Meshugy posts. Meshugy gets blasted, ridiculed, insulted unfairly here.

    2. What is the likelyhood of actually seeing 10-20% declines? Is NOW a good time to buy?

    3. Thanks for taking the time to create this blog. It is much appreciated.

  41. 41
    Greg Kirkos says:

    Your site provides a good service, and I think a lot of your analysis is sound. But your tone does seem increasingly desperate, as in “I know it’s a bubble! I know it’s a bubble! I’ll show you!”. If I had waited to buy since I started to listen to this I would be in deep **** with regard to home ownership in the city.

  42. 42
    Stee_man says:

    DON’T tone down the sarcasm. Your sense of humor adds personality to an otherwise dry subject matter. I love Seattleites, but they can be such wussies. Keep it up!

    Also, keep up the attacks on agents and others who are biased by their business interests (including politicians). The American consumer is bombarded by spin, and most people assume it is truth. We need more unbiased writing like yours to counter balance that river of trash. I like your article about the industry’s legislative actions. It highlights the point that the moneyed interests often make their arguments with no rebuttal.

    The one legitimate complaint someone could have is your writing is one-sidedly negative. So f***ing what! Are the real estate agents writing articles that admit it’s possible there is a bubble? Are they saying the market may be cooling? No, they aren’t. They are just as one sided. So, they are fair game. Again, keep it up.

    This is not a criticism, but there IS something wrong with the statistics and conclusions. If there is only a 3 month supply of homes when inventory is approaching record levels, that means sales are still very brisk. Sales would have to roughly halve to get to that 6 month supply area where buyers are in control. All those buyers must be attributable to fundamentals like increased hiring and increased population. I doubt we are going to see more than a modest price correction, unless the economy tanks, causing Boeing and Microsoft to lay off thousands. But it’s going to be a fun year watching this unfold. Keep up the good work and thanks.

  43. 43
    Eleua says:

    My only beef with SB is the discontinuation of open threads.

    I have a flashbulb attention span, so having a meandering thread allowed me to sift through and find some red meat for unsolicited bloviations.

    The OTs served as a lounge for SB regulars to loiter and have random conversations – not to mention the ritual bitchslapping of ‘Shug up and down the forum.

    They were entertaining, educational, and spontaneous. Sometimes a random comment would fit there and nowhere else.

    The site is great, but I do miss the OTs.

  44. 44
    jaisn says:

    I second Rashomon and Hollis’ remarks. The sarcasm smacks of a desperation to be right. I’d like to read this site more but I get so tired of the tone used in the writing. Let the facts do the talking, not the snarky “I’m right and you’re wrong” tone/comments. It does you a disservice because it’s hard to take you seriously due to the tone of the writing. It isn’t needed to make your point. I think you’d reach a larger audience as well. Think about the tone when reading book reviews or counter arguments and such in your daily reading. The writers/critics don’t [usually] attack but rather state their case point by point. I appreciate the difficulty in reining in the tone when you stumble upon something stupid [my girlfriend can attest to this] but in the end you’ll be better off when your public comments, at least, are toned down.

    I like the ideas about a poster with a differing point of view, maybe as an occasional feature, or doing a post on why there isn’t a bubble or something. Could be interesting.

  45. 45
    Eleua says:

    I happen to like snarky.

    If you are taking me seriously, you have bigger problems than owning real estate at the top of a multi-generational cycle.

    If this was the NY Times, you might have a point. This is a blog to discuss the Seattle RE bubble. The snarky tone to the postings is what many want to read.

    It also keeps us from taking ourselves to seriously. If you want to read postings where people take themselves too seriously, I recommend RCG.

  46. 46
    Eleua says:

    BTW, we do have counterpoints. Ballard-Bob plays that role here at SB.

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