Weekly Twitter Digest (Link Roundup) for 2011-12-31

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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.


  1. 1

    Tim, I know you seldom if ever link to Harney, but you really should when he quotes your boss! ;-)


    (Story about how many sellers don’t want to sell, even though there are buyers.)

  2. 2
    David Losh says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 1

    Kelman just made another self serving sales pitch in a Real Estate “story?”

    Now I’m getting out more to look at property. There is a lot out there for sale. There are more people preparing properties for sale, and there are sellers who should sell that just don’t know what to do.

    I went out on Thursday to look at four listed properties, any one of which could take an offer, they have plenty of equity, three have been owned since before 1997, and one put down over $100K in 2005, and the property is vacant.

    While looking at those four I wrote the addresses of eight properties that looked salable. I did a tax search back at the office, and sure enough they all have equity.

    Equity gains, appreciation, are only realized if you sell, or refinance. There are a lot of places out there with equity positions who just need a plan for what to do next.

    Wait, that sounds a lot like something a Real Estate agent would say, or do.

  3. 3

    By David Losh @ 2:

    Kelman just made another self serving sales pitch in a Real Estate “story?”.

    I wasn’t implying anything else. I was just suggesting what was in Tim’s interest! ;-)

  4. 4

    2013 Rebound? Ha!!

    Gotta agree with the B of A Analysts who state” 2013 Will Be The Worst Year For Foreclosures In History .”

    Makes perfect sense for so many reasons. From my personal observations of friends, family, and investors who have not paid for 2+ years I believe their gravy train will take them through 2012 but at some point in 2013-15 the home goes away via Trustee Sale but Homeowners have gotten wise and they are getting more armed to fight day after day. The legality of the Foreclosures are getting questioned day in and day out of the Courts buying an additional MULTIPLE YEARS for homeowners to live payment FREE.

    Soon millions will realize the BEST FINANCIAL INVESTMENT they EVER made was Buying INTO the housing boom and INTO THE BUBBLE. When educated they no longer view their purchase as a MISTAKE instead as an opportunity of a lifetime. Living 3-5-7-? years Mortgage FREE can do wonders for families, portfolios, etc…I might also add that when/if Judgement day arrives these VERY SAME Homeowners are “awarded” further cash incentives to “do this or that” for the bank.

    Had a long conversation with a gentleman at the State Attorney Generals Office recently and he stated its the WORST he has ever seen it and he sees no end in sight. State Mitigation programs have thus far been universally unsuccessful and homeowners are effectively “kicking the can down the road” when accepting Loan Modifications. YA THINK??? He expects to see a recycle of the same people when they realize their 5 year “Modification” results in the same upside down nature of their home down the road. When asked if the Mediation Programs are good for anything he agreed with me 100% stating that it buys homeowners ALOT more time to save their money while planning their eventual move.

    People will only remain STUPID for so long and this INSANITY will drag on for so many more years that its comical if it wasn’t so tragic. Your answer is universal principle reduction/mortgage cramdown and without it there is “no bottom” in site and we will continue to drop drop drop because GEMS will continue to be found everywhere until further notice!

    Home BUYERS WALK from ALL multiple offer scenarios and when asked for HIGHEST AND BEST…Drop your offer! You will be glad you did!

    Upside down Homeowners-Do NOT Leave your home and educate yourself. You will find your purchase was the greatest financial MOVE you ever made and YOUR greatest fortunes lie in front of you so STOP CRYING and GET EDUCATED!

  5. 5
    S. Marty Pantz says:

    “Experts see rebound in home prices by 2013”:

    “We toast our hefty mortgages and spend long evenings discussing hardwood floor finishes, crown moldings and our all-important soaring equity.” Sarah McCormic, October 20, 2006, SEATTLE P-I (https://seattlebubble.com/blog/2010/03/12/friday-flashback-the-last-spaceship-flight-off-a-planet-thats-about-to-explode/)

    “No one disputes that we are near the bottom.” So-called real-estate “guru” Barbara Corcoran, NBC-TV’s “Today Show,” May 28, 2008.

    Lennox Scott predicts/”expects prices regionwide will have hit bottom and begun inching up” by the end of 2011. Dec. 26, 2010 SEATTLE TIMES

    Regarding the announcement the day before by economist Robert Shiller, who said “There’s a substantial risk of home prices falling another 15%, 20% or 25%” (http://money.cnn.com/2011/03/03/real_estate/housing_buy_or_not/index.htm): Barbara Corcoran, on NBC-TV’s “Today Show”, March 4, 2011, replied that he was “dead wrong… Buyers who wait it out are playing with fire. There is a bellweather going on in the real estate market, and you’re crazy if you’re gonna pass it by.”

    “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” Attributed to Yogi Berra

  6. 6
    David Losh says:

    This is a great group of articles.

    What I want to point out is there is one article with the Puget Sound Business Journal about the Claim: “Wealthy Seattleites are pouring money into the beleaguered commercial real estate sector”

    The article is buried, but the upshot is that Real Estate Investment Trusts are buying mega commercial properties for the cash flow returns. There is a group here in Seattle that has $650 billion dollars to invest in commercial Real Estate.

    They buy high rise office buildings for cash. The return that was quoted to me was 6% secured by the office building. The hope is that in five to seven years the building can renegotiate the leases upward, or sell the building for an additional 4% return, after expenses.

    The REITs are buying out bank loans at a discount. That’s why they feel they can sell for a profit, in the future.

    Now compare that to all the doom, and gloom about residential Real Estate.

    What I’m finding fascinating, in my renewed interest in looking at properties, is how the Short Sale / Bank Owned property market is dictating terms.

    I am especially awed by listing agents asking a buyer to be prequailfied, and then pay some brain dead short sale negotiator a fee. Let the listing agent pay the frigging negotiator fee. Let the bank pay the fee. Actually the banks should be paying all the fees, a full commission, and take what ever any one wants to gift them.

    Why aren’t buyers asking for owner financing at 4% on bank owned properties with 0% down?

    Banks play fast and loose in the commercial market place, but want residential buyers to jump through hoops?

    OK, I’m calmer now, but my point was that owning property in the commercial market is still a good idea. My opinion is that owning residential property can also be a good idea if it is done aggressively.

  7. 7

    By David Losh @ 6:

    Why aren’t buyers asking for owner financing at 4% on bank owned properties with 0% down?

    Freddie and Fannie both offer financing on most of their properties, although it’s not 0% down. Fannie even offers special financing to investors.

  8. 8
    David Losh says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 7

    I mean all banks. Bank of America asking for a platinum buyer is a joke. They lent on the property. If they had so much faith in the value of that property that they made the first loan, they should be doubly secured by selling for this “huge” discounted price.

    They should just be rubber stamping loans, on these “bargain” sales, with 0% down, and no qualifying.

  9. 9
    John Bailo says:

    I am predicting a giant reverse migration from the PNW to California. Middle class housing there is already 100K cheaper.

  10. 10
    corncob says:

    By John Bailo @ 9:

    I am predicting a giant reverse migration from the PNW to California. Middle class housing there is already 100K cheaper.

    I was considering just that with my wife the other day. However despite the fall in prices homes, in silicon valley at least they are still higher (maybe 30-50%) than equivalent parts of the Seattle/Bellevue area. During the bubble height those homes would have been about double or more the equivalent here, so progress has been made and people on the edge when they moved to Seattle are in the sweet spot now.

  11. 11

    RE: John Bailo @ 9 – What do you think will bring non-tech jobs back to California? People don’t usually migrate to states with very high unemployment.

    The California Supreme Court just wiped their redevelopment districts. That will hurt their employment further.

  12. 12

    RE: David Losh @ 8 – I agree more banks should offer special financing. Some do besides F&F. It really only makes sense, because they probably know more about those properties than the other ones that they make loans on.

    And that’s the reason more don’t do it–it makes sense! Most banks only do what they’ve always done in the past.

  13. 13
    Scotsman says:

    RE: raymond pepper @ 4


    “Nationwide, the average time it takes to process a foreclosure — from the first missed payment to the final foreclosure auction — has climbed to 674 days from 253 days just four years ago, according to LPS Applied Analytics.

    It takes much longer than that in Florida, where the process averages 1,027 days, nearly 3 years. In D.C., foreclosure averages 1,053 days and delinquent borrowers in New York often stay in their homes for an average of 906 days.

    And while some borrowers are looking for ways to make good with lenders and get their homes back, many aren’t paying a dime. Nearly 40% of homeowners in default have not made a payment in at least two years, according to LPS.”

  14. 14
    Jonness says:

    Based in the increase in more realistic articles I’m seeing these days, I’d say we have moved through the denial stage in the cycle of market emotions and are currently in the fear stage. Although I’ve personally witnessed some desperation selling, it has not become widespread yet by those with equity to burn. It’s possible we are transitioning into the desperation stage, but I think the fear stage is a more appropriate description of the current market as a whole.

    At any rate, expect more price declines in the future as we continue to progress through the cycle.


  15. 15
    Mike says:

    RE: Jonness @ 14

    Seems like we are close to the how did I go so wrong period.

    I dont think the bottom is far off, but the thing is I think we will be bouncing around at that bottom for a few years.

  16. 16

    RE: Scotsman @ 13 – I suspect those increases are largely due to the states which require some court intervention in the process. I think Washington has now added about a total of 90 days to the process though. Then there’s also the delay caused by the robosigner issue, which is now no longer a delay.

    The point I’m trying to make is those numbers don’t mean much to anyone. You can’t count on being able to live in your house that many days without making a payment. If you can, that would be great, but you can’t count on it.

  17. 17
    John Bailo says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 11

    A lot of the Californians who came here in the early 90s were not “high tech”…it was just that their homes trebled in price and they could buy in cheap in the PNW. Now the situation is reversing…I think many of them long for the sunny weather.

  18. 18
    John Bailo says:

    RE: corncob @ 10

    Exactly…given the current trends, economically the only rational move for Seattlites is to sell before The Collapse happens.

  19. 19
    Jonness says:

    By Mike @ 15:

    RE: Jonness @ 14

    Seems like we are close to the how did I go so wrong period.

    I dont think the bottom is far off, but the thing is I think we will be bouncing around at that bottom for a few years.

    That’s a possibility. But I think it looks less and less likely as one delves deeper and deeper into the data.

    Investopedia gives the definition of ‘Capitulation’ as related to stocks as: “When investors give up any previous gains in stock price by selling equities in an effort to get out of the market and into less risky investments. True capitulation involves extremely high volume and sharp declines. It usually is indicated by panic selling.”

    IMO, there are too many jokers who bought in 2001 who still believe they deserve a 50% profit on their investment to be anywhere near the capitulation point. A quick look at price to income reveals prices are still 23% too high relative to the bottom of the 1990 mini-housing bubble. In addition, we will most likely not see the bottom of this market until unemployment rates get back to healthy levels. This is many years away.


    Median house price to median household income ratio:
    1997 = 3.3x
    Current = 4.3x

    Seattle Metropolitan Area Unemployment rate:
    1997 = 3.8%
    Current = 8.3%

    Length to bottom from previous peak:
    1997 = 7 years
    Current = 4 years and counting

    Gap between price and 3x income at peak of bubble:
    1990 = 25%
    2007 = 106%

    If history is any judge of what’s to come, when we finally do get to the capitulation stage of this massively unprecedented housing bubble, it’s going to be really ugly. But those of us who patiently waited and prepared for it will be financially rewarded and experience the move of a lifetime.

    Given the high risk of Europe imploding and/or China experiencing a hard landing, it is currently extremely risky to purchase a home in an area, such as Seattle, where prices are still WAY above historically healthy levels.

    Historically speaking, the most likely outcome is reversion to the mean. IMO, this will be brought about by more declines and also by sideways action where inflation eats into the gap.

  20. 20
    Jonness says:

    By Kary L. Krismer @ 16:

    RE: Scotsman @ 13 – I suspect those increases are largely due to the states which require some court intervention in the process.

    That’s true. But if my 3 neighbors in Gig Harbor who’ve been foreclosed upon are any indication, many people in WA are treated to rather lengthy stays of execution as well.

    Neighbor 1: About 1 year after missing last payment before foreclosure. House sitting empty and unlisted an additional 6 months so far.

    He put $0 down on a $205K house in 2003. He pulled $245K equity before stopping payments. He still has the $75K classic car he bought with the money, but spent the rest. He said he was glad to move, because he was able to find a nice apartment near his job as an electrical engineer east of Seattle. He sees it as a lifestyle improvement because he has less commute and more time in his day. He misses all the money he made off the home. He says he’ll offset the cost of rent by cooking at home instead of constantly eating out with his family.

    Neighbor 2: About two years after missing last payment before foreclosure occurred. House sitting empty and unlisted an additional 7 months so far.

    He is a small-time builder who borrowed about $250K to build the house. He lived there rent free for about 1.5 years and elected to move out as soon as the home foreclosed in order to please the bank. His total equity withdrawal was about $200K, of which he blew it all.

    Neighbor 3: About 2.5 years before foreclosure occurred after missing last payment. House is still occupied by previous owners and and has been unlisted an additional 12 months so far.

    He is a small-time builder who built the house for a total of $175K in 2003 (borrowed from bank). He pulled about $300K in equity and blew it all. He’s determined not to move out of the house and believes the bank has done him a great injustice. He’s using every trick in the book to fight them. He’s currently working for $25/hr. under the table and continuing to live rent free. Despite having made over $400K so far, he gets very agitated at the thought that he will have to pay rent some day in the not so distant future.

    Those who expect things to get back to “normal,” while giving the definition of normal as being the 2003 buying market, are in for a surprise. The free money has ran out, and homes must now be purchased based upon what people earn and have patiently saved.

    For every homeowner who gets kicked out, a few thousand dollars a month is no longer spent on discretionary items in the local economy. Expect reversion to the mean.

  21. 21
    Scotsman says:

    RE: Jonness @ 19

    I don’t think we’ll ever see “capitulation” in the way it affects the stock market or other more liquid investments. Housing isn’t that liquid and has one other over-riding factor in its favor- it provides shelter. Owners may capitulate on the notion of their house as an investment, but they will continue to make the paytments as long as the payments compare more or less favorably to equivilent rents. This is the point too many housing bears miss. Mentally our population is still mostly a cash flow oriented group. “What’s the payment” comes before what’s the return, the IRR, the exit strategy. The idea of housing as an investment died a year or two ago. Now it comes down to comparing payments- rent verses own/stay- and some allowance for the hassle of moving, having control over upgrades, beinbg able to store/park on the lawn, etc.

    Housing has become more and more like buying a whole life insurance policy. It’s not a great investment, but eventually it does give you some of your money back, and in the mean time it provides a needed/desired benefit- aplace to live.

  22. 22
    Scotsman says:

    RE: Jonness @ 20

    Without getting into a debate on the morals involved let me say that the “lessons” of the examples you provide are not lost on the general population. Many buyers today probably see default with an extended foreclosure and the free housing it provides as a viable exit strategy should the market take another nasty turn down. The government has already shown it’s hand- it will allow the foreclosures to go on with little penalty for the homeowner and back the banks. As foreclosures continue I fully expect to see adjustments in lending/credit standards that accommodate a large part of the potential market- damaged credit buyers. But those who have played the game on the edge will benefit, much to the chagrin of those with more traditional values.

  23. 23
    Jonness says:

    By Scotsman @ 21:

    RE: Jonness @ 19

    I don’t think we’ll ever see “capitulation” in the way it affects the stock market or other more liquid investments.

    I agree we will not see the exact same type of capitulation as in stocks. But I do think we will see the housing market version of capitulation. In this version, those who bought in 2001 completely lose the idea that they need to make any profit what-so-ever when selling the house. Also, we will see a lot more of what I’ve already seen, which is investors who decide to dump the homes for no profit, or even a loss, just to get out. We will also continue to see foreclosures as people who could not afford to buy homes come to the realization of the inevitable. In addition, people will continue to target cheaper and cheaper homes that are closer to historical relationships to their savings and incomes. Thus, prices will continue to trend downward until we reach a reversion to a mean compared to incomes. This will be accomplished through further price declines along with a period of sideways action against inflation. (See chart in my above post)

    We haven’t completed a shift to a “no profit” psychology. There are just too many people who in the backs of their minds think they are going to buy now, realize the bottom, and make a big profit. We are experiencing an ongoing shift that will continue to knock on more and more people’s doors as time goes on until the mainstream finally shakes the idea that buying a house is a good investment. As this continues to occur, the move-up market will become increasingly wounded. This will continue to exert a “credit freeze” like force into the market, which will result in maintaining stall speed over a period of years.

    It’s true that house prices will track rents, but it’s important to keep in mind, they will also track incomes. Currently, rents are up because those who lose homes or can’t afford to buy must rent. But as time goes on, rents and incomes will revert to the mean relative to prices as well as each other. THIS is what most analysts who only watch price to rent relationships miss. Thus, it’s critical to keep your eye on wage inflation and the unemployment rate. Without tracking it, one is driving blindfolded.

    It’s impossible to know how bad this could get, due to many factors with yet to be determined outcomes, but if Europe and China implode, I expect to overshoot the mean reversion. However, I believe the most likely scenario is a long drawn-out mean reversion that will occur over the course of years.

    For those who recently bought a house, I’m happy for your lifestyle improvement. But if you are expecting a bottom or price-rise in the near future, you will most likely be disappointed as your new asset continues to lose value. We are currently 23% off the mean reversion relative to incomes, and there is a whole lot of space between now and the end point of reversion.

    I know many of you are thinking that because we had a housing bubble, we now have a new normal where everyone will continue to pay way more for homes than during the previously hot economy that preceded the bubble. But as surely as you are reading this post, you are wrong about that. Mean reversions are a fact of life when it comes to deflating bubble asset classes.

  24. 24
    Jonness says:

    The critical factor that allows for the current gross deviation between rents and incomes relative to house prices is interest rates. By claiming house prices have bottomed when people can rent for what they can buy, they are inadvertently making the claim that interest rates will stay low forever. But the truth is, when interest rates rise, the cost of new mortgages rise. Thus, in order to maintain a balanced “monthly payment” approach, rents must either go up, or house prices must go down. Which force wins is dependent on wage growth and unemployment. And I think we all know where this is headed.

  25. 25
    Scotsman says:

    RE: Jonness @ 24RE: Jonness @ 23

    For many reasons I don’t think we’ll see much more than more of what we’ve got- low inflation, low growth, high unemployment, etc. for a long time. Housing probably won’t collapse from here, just muddle on. Wages won’t collapse, they’ll just remain flat while the rest of the world gains on us. Another 20% down, at most.

    Now, if several world governments fail or a major war breaks out all bets are off. But I would guess housing prices will be the least of your worries then. Food might be a higher priority. And even then the majority of the people will just go about whatever their business is. The masses rarely play a major roll in world events.

  26. 26
    Scotsman says:

    RE: Jonness @ 24

    Interest rates won’t be going up. Higher rates will bankrupt the government faster than any other factor. As Euro and Asian governments fail or restructure money will flow from there to the safer U.S, keeping rates low. And again, if rates rise more than a few points and governments blow up- housing prices will be the least of our worries. Even recent buyers can always just stop the payments and live for free until structure comes back. They can probably live for free long enough to recover their down paymants . . .

  27. 27
    Dorothea says:

    RE: David Losh @ 6 – I would like to see more discussion about local commercial real estate. A CCIM broker told me three years ago that commmercial real estate was going to be “worse than residential” in terms of bubble-popping, but I have yet to see that materialize. Of course, he was a blow-hard empty suit.

    I am interested in insights and opinions from people here on this topic.

  28. 28

    By Scotsman @ 26:

    RE: Jonness @ 24

    Interest rates won’t be going up. Higher rates will bankrupt the government faster than any other factor.

    I’m not so sure about that. Higher rates would typically be the result of inflation, and that would mean that the amount needed to repay would effectively go down. That balances it out to some extent.

  29. 29
    David Losh says:

    RE: Dorothea @ 27

    It’s been my opinion that residential housing was over built.

    Builders built, lenders lent, and that mess of Notes got sold to a secondary market, as fast as the loans were made. That is the Bubble that is bursting.

    For here in Seattle I don’t see where a bubble would burst in commercial. We haven’t built much compared to residential. The report today is that the United States still tops the places where investors would put money in commercial property: http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/global-filipino/world/01/01/12/us-top-2012-property-investment-pick Brazil is coming in second.

    It depends on the strength of the business community, but the only sector that is lagging is manufacturing. That is something, or an area, where Congress could make a difference.

    My point was that there is plenty of money, and faith, in the commercial property markets, and no end in sight for pricing declines in residetial properties.

  30. 30

    RE: Dorothea @ 27 – I suspect that was based on the fact that most financing on such properties was short term, and the concern was rolling it over. I’m not sure how that all worked out.

    I do seem to recall a recent story on real estate taxes which indicated that in Washington the commercial sector will now be pulling more of the weight. Assuming my recollection is correct, that would mean that at least the various assessors’ offices think that market is recovering.

    Also, you might find this interesting. It deals with one recent sale and one active listing of downtown buildings.


  31. 31
    Dorothea says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 30RE: David Losh @ 29

    Thank you, both!

  32. 32
    No Name Guy says:

    RE: Jonness @ 20

    Based on your description, Neighbor 3 is an entitled SOB who deserves to have some sense slapped (or beat) into him.

    “He is a small-time builder who built the house for a total of $175K in 2003 (borrowed from bank). He pulled about $300K in equity and blew it all. He’s determined not to move out of the house and believes the bank has done him a great injustice. He’s using every trick in the book to fight them. He’s currently working for $25/hr. under the table and continuing to live rent free. Despite having made over $400K so far, he gets very agitated at the thought that he will have to pay rent some day in the not so distant future.”

    Holy crap – he stole 400k, is currently a tax cheat, thinks some one OWES him a place to live for free and thinks HE’S the one being screwed? To hell with him. It’s people like him and his piss poor attitude that is the cause of much of the ills of this nation, especially with respect to the budget. Gimme, gimme, gimme is that SOB’s attitude. Well, there WILL be a day of reckoning and his bill will be very large and will be extracted from his hide.

  33. 33

    RE: No Name Guy @ 32 – Welcome to America, where everything is always someone else’s fault.

  34. 34
    Dirty Renter says:

    RE: No Name Guy @ 32
    He’s a general in the Free $hit Army.

  35. 35
    Scotsman says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 28

    If the government wasn’t borrowing 40% of what it spent there might be a net gain. As it is, no. And yes, inflation usually brings higher rates, but since the government doesn’t want it, we won’t see it. They’ll probably just redefine how inflation is calculated, or something. Wait- that sounds like reality!
    Nope, low rates are here for a long time, probably decades, just like Japan. And certainly until the rest of the world is seen as being as safe and stable as the U.S. Until then, those dollars flow home, into treasuries, our equivilent of Japan’s ready source of savings.

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