CAPITALJUNE 17, 2010
Rethinking Part of the American Dream
By DAVID WESSEL
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In hard-hit Las Vegas, nearly 59% of households own their homes, but only 15% to 19% of households own a home in which they have any equity left.
For many, the American dream of home ownership turned into a nightmare of debt and foreclosure. Some people should rent.
As late as the 1930s, a U.S. mortgage was generally a loan for three to five years, at which time the borrower had to pay it off. Then the government fostered the 15-year fixed-rate mortgage—and eventually the 30—and the concept that the homeowner would pay off principal in monthly installments.
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Several thoughts occur to me here:
① 15 to 20% of homes left with the owners having equity? All those senior citizens who bought retirement homes? That’s astounding.
② Talk about malinvestment. (That’s Austrian economics term. See below.) Detroit, Flint, and Gary are destroying houses to avoid providing gooferment services. We as a society have our wealth destroyed by such action. Are there no homeles there?
③ It would seem that the FTC and the TREASURY / FED / SEC could stop this disaster anytime they want to. Regulations of minimum down payment like stock margins. Rules about honest disclosure. Limits on what banks can resell as “securities”. AND, the biggest rule, the originator get stuck with defaults! No more package it and forget it. (But then we’d see just how crappy the economy is. And, how many banks would be insolvent. It’s in the Gooferment’s interest to keep putting lipstick on the is pig. Pucker up! Guess who’s going ot have to kiss it?
④ I remember reading that Freddy and Fannie make the economy more uncompetitive and more “rigid” in that owning a home meant the workforce could not adapt to new opportunities in new locations. A high percentage of folks renting means they can move more quickly. Didn’t the Mayans force migrations by burning the village and forcing them to move hundreds of miles? Is this our modern equvalent?
⑤ Speaking of Freddy and Fannie, I see where bailing them out is going to be the “mother of all bailouts”. Shouldn’t we put them out of their, and our, misery? Time for a Constitutional Amendment banning all GSEs! (Gooferment Sponsored Entities)
⑥ Why don’t we bring back the 30 year Treasury Bond as a method of financing the deficit and easing the pain we are facing? Or is the GOoferment afraid of what that 30 year rate will be?
⑦ On HGTV, there are a lot of home buyers, some first timers, who are buying big ticket homes with nearly nothing down. Several hundred thousand dollar mortgages and they need “mortgage assistance”, seller paid closing costs, and even the tax credits to make the numbers work at all. And, in the cases of two income “families” (i.e., DINKs), one paycheck is completely going to the mortgage. Isn’t that a recipe for default in a job loss scenario?
⑧ Perhaps, it’s time for multi-generational households (i.e., grandma and grandpa buy with their retirement money; mom, dad, and the grandkids bunk in)? Wasn’t that the model before Social Security allowed Grandparents to escape to Florida? Makes the Grandparent able to dodge the nursing home.
⑨ Interesting that the Wall Street Journal paywall isn’t very encompassing.
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“Panics do not destroy capital; they merely reveal the extent to which it has been destroyed by its betrayal into hopelessly unproductive works.”
— John Mills, December 11, 1867, on Credit Cycles and the Origin of Commercial Panics
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