Real Estate And Washington Follies

Finally a little bit of time and the energy to post. It won’t be much tonight but I plan to start being a lot more rigorous about getting at least a post a day up.

Big surprise, the FDIC didn’t shut anyone down today. I doubt they’ve run out of candidates. Maybe money and they may be short of manpower but I suspect they’ve got one mother of a list of banks to deal with.

If you hark back to the late ’80s there were lulls and lots of schemes to “right the ship”. None worked and eventually there was a torrent of bank and S&L failures. There’s probably no reason to suspect that this time is going to be a whole lot different. The gathering commercial real estate tsunami guarantees the outcome.

Just an aside here, but CB Richard Ellis reported that the office vacancy rate in Phoenix is at 25%. I suspect that number is conservative because it doesn’t count sublease space on the market. Here’s the kicker. The metropolitan area has 2 million square feet of new office space coming on the market this year. As a local economist pointed out, Phoenix doesn’t need that additional supply for the next five years. As you might expect retail, industrial and multifamily are all in a similar dismal state.

Calculated Risk had a must read post about a week ago. It’s a great analysis of the numbers that are going to drive residential real estate for the next few years. Here’s the link. Calculate Risk also has a very good analysis of the homebuyer tax credit in which he discusses the futility of this type of stimulus. Here’s the link to that one.

I particularly like his analysis of the tax credit because it demonstrates the foolishness of government attempts to manipulate the economy via targeted measures. In many respects, the economy is like a big vat of jello. You can push in one spot and in fact make a dent but it makes the whole thing wobble and your dent is just displacing another part of the blob.

Of course we now are beginning to discover that the boomlet at the bottom of the housing market has been driven not just by the tax credit but by the government’s subprime lending program — FHA. The bailout is coming for that one and it’s not going to be small. In effect, the Congress and Obama administration have engineered their own little bubble in an attempt to buy political time and the bill is coming due quicker than they might have imagined. In many respects all they have truly accomplished is to ensure a steady supply of fresh foreclosures which will keep the market in a state of flux for much longer than it might have taken had it been left to its own devices.

I’ll put forth some further comments on FHA over the weekend. For now let me throw out the suggestion that this country’s real estate markets are top to bottom a disaster. That applies to both residential and commercial real estate. The more the government attempts to “fix” the problem the more they guarantee the absence of a true recovery. As I noted earlier, this isn’t the first go round on this type of program but you sure couldn’t figure that out if you just looked at what the geniuses in Washington are up to.

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