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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble

If MacBeth's weird sisters bought their house on an interest-only mortgage, hoping the value of the house would increase, they may be in for a bad spell, so to speak. Selling their brooms and pointy hats may be insufficient to avoid foreclosure, since the housing bubble has apparently burst. From Mike Whitney:
In 2004 "one-fourth of all home-buyers -- including 42% of first-time buyers -- made no down payment." (New York Times, July 7, 2005)

Equally troubling is the fact that "nearly one third of all new mortgages this year call for interest-only payments (NY Times) This tells us that a large number of new buyers can barely make their payments, but are gambling that their property value will go up enough to justify their investment. This is "equity roulette," a shell game that anticipates that salaries will go up while interest rates stay low.

We can anticipate that many overstretched homeowners will begin to fall from the economic precipice in short order. In fact, many markets are already showing a 40% increase in foreclosures even though the air has just begun hissssssing out of the bubble.

The ridiculously low interest rates coupled with the irresponsible lending practices has precipitated a feeding frenzy for cheap money. Greenspan is expected to raise rates another one-half percent before he leaves in January which should be just enough to collapse the market and put the economy in a permanent coma.
Adding insult to injury, the Federal Reserve announced 2 weeks ago that new steps will be taken to regulate low-interest, high-risk loans. In the third quarter a full 33% of first-time home buyers took advantage of "non-traditional" mortgages. ("No interest" or "ARMS" adjustable rate mortgages) Try to imagine the chilling effect on the housing market when 33% of first-time homeowners are removed from the pool of potential buyers?

Still think you'll be able to sell your house at a profit?