August 2005 Archives

Bubble Metrics: Economists Handicap Housing Markets

James Hagerty:

The PMI ranking puts the New York area at No. 14 on a list of frothy places. But National City ranks the Big Apple at a mere 68 out of 299 metro areas -- below such places as Flint, Mich., and Duluth, Minn. National City isn't claiming that Flint is pricier than New York, of course, but says Flint appears more overvalued in terms of supply-and-demand fundamentals.

No national study can take into account all of the factors that affect house prices, or determine whether a particular home or neighborhood is dangerously overpriced or a screaming bargain. Such assessments require the expertise of people in the local market. But the rankings do highlight certain cities and regions where buyers may want to be more cautious than usual. That's particularly true in the cases where the studies agree: The PMI, National City and CSFB rankings differ markedly -- but all include the Riverside-San Bernardino, Calif., as an area ripe for a downward correction.

Metropolitan area rankings.

Hollywood Dumps Newspaper Advertising

Nikki Finke:

Then there are the declining circulations. “You’d think it would get cheaper because it doesn’t reach as many people as it used to.” Indeed, the Audit Bureau of Circulations keeps finding that something like half of the nation’s 38 largest papers report circulation declines. That’s why the Oracle from Omaha, Warren Buffett, has been quoted as saying recently that “the economics of newspapers in the United States are very close to certain to deteriorate over the next 10 to 20 years.” And this is coming from a self-described newspaper addict and savvy media investor.

WSJ on the "Realtor Racket"

Wall Street Journal:

Why are Governors and state legislatures enacting regulations to make buying and selling homes as expensive as possible?

We ask this question because in recent weeks three normally level-headed Republican Governors -- Matt Blunt of Missouri, Rick Perry of Texas and Bob Riley of Alabama -- have signed into law legislation that protects Realtors from discount competitors.

When Underwater Lots Sold in the Florida Boom

Cynthia Crossen:

Gertrude Shelby asked her readers a question in a 1926 issue of Harper's magazine: "Did you ever keep chickens?"

Ms. Shelby, a journalist, was using a metaphor to explain the rapid inflation of property prices in Florida. "Put down a pan full of big scraps, and the hens come running. The first ones grab big pieces and depart rapidly. ... The others see the pieces in the beaks, and instead of realizing there's plenty more in the pan, they chase the hens who got the first pieces. That's resale psychology."

In less than a decade, that psychology transformed Florida from an overgrown bog to the epicenter of get-rich-quick schemes. Debarking from a train in Miami in 1925, an English tourist remarked on the city's "tropical bedlam," where sales agents pounced on visitors with noisy promises of "unsurpassed fortune."

"One had been prepared for real-estate madness," the Englishman wrote. "And here it was, in excelsis."

Luxury Homes

Terri Cullen:

Where's the froth?

That's what some owners are wondering as they struggle to sell their multi-million dollar homes. Despite all the talk of a real-estate bubble, sellers in some upscale markets around the country are lately resorting to lowering their asking price.

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