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Saturday, July 08, 2006

A More User Friendly Seattle Bubble

As I have mentioned before, each and every comment that is posted to Seattle Bubble arrives in my inbox. This is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because I can read every single comment as it comes in, and a curse because I can read every single comment as it comes in. As Seattle Bubble has grown (now reaching nearly 1,000 visitors per day), the comments have grown as well. This has resulted in a growing volume of insightful and interesting comments by a host of new users, but it has also unfortunately resulted in a growing volume of emotionally-charged, petty, and just plain rude comments. Up to now, my comment policy has been almost 100% permissive. However, because of the rapid increase in the number of comments, I feel that it is time for that policy to change.

No one comes to Seattle Bubble to see anonymous people hurling insults back and forth. The "forum full of children trying to one-up each other" market is a pretty saturated one on the internet, and I have no desire to compete there. Therefore, in order to form a more perfect Seattle Bubble, it's time to make some improvements around here. Here are the new rules for commenting:

  • No personal attacks.
  • No intentional antagonism.
  • No excessive swearing.
To start, I will enforce these rules by deleting posts that are in violation. Keep in mind that this is a dictatorship, not a democracy. It is solely at my discretion whether a comment is in violation of these rules. I also reserve the right to add to these rules at any time. I am not opposed to people offering different viewpoints, in fact I highly encourage it, but I am getting just as tired as you all are of the incessant bickering. If petty emotional comments continue to be posted on a regular basis, I will be forced to move to a pre-approval moderation system, where comments do not post to the site until after I have specifically approved them. I don't want to go to that extreme (since it would slow down the pace of discussions and also be more work for me), but if that's what I have to do to provide an interesting and engaging comments space, I will.

In addition to the hard rules, I would like to outline a few strong suggestions:
  • No "anonymous" posting. [Update 09.24.2006: This is now a hard rule.]
  • Keep comments on the subject of the post.
I understand that people don't want to post under their real name, and that they may not want to sign up for a Blogger account. Just do us all a favor and instead of clicking "Anonymous," click "Other" and choose some sort of nickname. It will make the discussions a lot easier to follow. As far as keeping comments on-topic, I'm going to start making an "open thread" post every morning. If you want to post your own links or talk about something random, post it in there, not in the specific news posts.

Lastly, I've been pondering the idea of inviting some of the more insightful commenters to be "team members" of this blog, allowing them to make posts to the main page. This would not only highlight a greater diversity of writing, but it would also allow the blog to remain interesting when I'm out on vacation or whatnot. If you're interested in perhaps becoming a team member, email me (be sure to include the name that you use when you post in the comments, so I have some idea who you are).

I want Seattle Bubble to be a useful, interesting, and insightful resource for anyone interested in its subject matter. Hopefully these changes will bring us closer to that idea.

47 comments:

lake hills renter said...

Bravo! Now we can get back to what matters -- discussion and debate, not insults and attitude.

Lake Hills Renter said...

Hey, no anonymous posting. Look, I've even registered. ;)

seattle long term buyer said...

I for one think we should keep the shugy around just to have something to talk about... also gives us credibility... this is not a one sided blog...

it would be a boring post if everybody paid lip service to the bubble bursting idea... we need a troll to remind us how right we are...

I'm just curious how many would be buyers actually put off buying because of this blog...

1000 hits/day x 30 days... figure 1 percent of those were buyers... that's 300 potential buyers backing off... x 10K commission per sale = 3million dollars in lost profits... WOW (conservative estimate)

all because of a blog... now we can understand why somebody would be willing to pay somebody to try some spin on this blog...

welcome to the information age, where knowledge is power... and power is free to those who know where to find it...

meshugy said...

Agree with anon above. there's sthg. not quite right with that whole picture. He's even arguing with (other?) realtors now.

So now we trust realtors? That's funny...i thought the whole point of ths blog was to challenge the biased view realtors.

Lake Hills Renter said...

There's sthg. wrong with abbreviating the word "something". ;)

Anonymous said...

We have always trusted truthful Realtors and brokers on this blog.

At least I have.

They add immensely to the conversation.

All of the Bubble Blogs value them.

Just another example of trying to twist logic M.

As you read this blog continually on a daily basis M., you have no doubt noticed over and over the thanks and respect that honest and professional people in the business recieve here.

Also, I have to say that as far as presenting "the other side", Tim himself does an excellent job of that simply because most of the articles he puts out for us are in fact RE booster articles from the local news that we can then debate.

Eleua said...

I'm for keeping 'shug on the blog. I don't think anything is really accomplished by hanging around in an echo chamber.

While this is definitely a bear blog, a few bulls to kick around makes it just that much more fun.

meshugy is like the court jester of Seattle Bubble.

seattle long term buyer said...

I agree, although one has to realize that to the unfamiliar, shugy's posts may be all they need to think that the bubble will never burst...

I came to this blog because I wanted to buy and needed to research the market... there are those like me who want to believe there is no bubble and shugy's posts will be all they need to justify a purchase...

In the end... it's their problem, if they don't spend enough time reading the whole blog, then they deserve what they get... (good or bad)...

Just as important as keeping shugy around, it's important to keep pointing out that he's a paid troll... he's got too much resources and factual info to be a casual player... (and he's on the blog 24/7 which means doing this is worth his time)

Anonymous said...

Good points Long Term Buyer. If someone wants to take him seriously, that's, ultimately, their problem. And it is important to remember that he must be a paid plant/schill.

So again, just click "said" after the name, cuz it's clear we're never getting rid of this person.

Although it would be an interesting experiment to ban him for just a couple days and see what happens.

meshugy said...

Just as important as keeping shugy around, it's important to keep pointing out that he's a paid troll

Too funny....are you in such denial that you believe anyone who says anything positive about RE is paid to do so? Ha ha ha....I wish. Pay me, please. How much will I get per post?

I'm actually a moderate....I wouldn't buy right now unless you could stay in the house for at least 10 years (and could afford it in the first place). 2004-2005 was the time to buy...interest rates and prices are very high now. It's anyone's guess how much farther it will go...but I'd think long and hard about buying now.

Anonymous said...

San Fransisco RE 55% chance of losing value in next 2 years.

the article was in the SF Gate and is linked on Sonoma Housing Bubble, June 28.

Good news SF media is finally admitting there could be a problem.

Anonymous said...

And we all know how behind the curve local media can be.

jcricket said...

Wow, a whole thread filled with personal attacks towards meshugy. Way to follow Tim's instructions.

So meshugy's more bullish than you. Your vitriolic responses to him aren't "required", it's how you've chosen to respond. My only complaint is that he seems to litter threads with links to tangentially related stories. So I usually skip past the multiple cut-and-paste article summaries. On the opposing side I've seen eula do much the same thing when he gets going (turning it into the eula show) - which I also scroll on by.

I'd rather that most people just summarize what they're linking to and keep it related to the original topic when commenting, but in my experience no blog is perfectly free of "topic drift" or the occasional antagonistic back and forth.

Are the bears here really so insecure that they can't take one moderately bullish, mildly prolific commentator without calling for him to be banned, calling him a troll, etc. If you'd notice, Tim's not acting on your suggestion. He must not be as threatened by meshugy or think he's as worthless as you seem to.

Eleua said...

'Shugy's posts actually give those that have an informed opinion a chance to fully demonstrate the bear premise in the face of a bunch of bull. They will also provide a fabulous backdrop for gloating when this bubble finally pops.

The Ballard Bull provides a great service, although it is very annoying.

A good debate is far more informative than a sermon. If you want a one sided rant, you should go to the number of pro-Real Estate blogs that are available.

Hyperbola said...

There is a well-established principle out there about market timing: It is impossible to pick the top or bottom of a market.

There are always going to be people who accidentally succeed in timing markets... and attempting to one-up them by making those kinds of predictions is.. well.. foolish.

The best we can do is analyze risk vs. reward and the statistical probability distribution of prices further out. More often than not, that provides a very clear answer as to the best move. Whether we're proven right by things that happen over the next few months is totally irrelevant.

And this is especially true for bubbles. Fundamentals seem not to matter anymore. Then rational people start complaining about how nobody cares about fundamentals. It goes on irrationally long. Then, due to some random, unpredictable, mostly unrelated event, suddenly fundamentals matter. As the saying goes, the fundamentals don't matter until they matter. I, for one, don't want to buy when it makes no financial sense. I really don't care whether or not people believe in the market going up or down.

Anonymous said...

anon @ 4:07

Amen.

I find the calls to ban someone who merely states a contrary opinion to be far more offensive than the most vicious of verbal attacks.

Eleua said...

Hyperbola gets it right.

Picking the major inflections of any financial market is next to impossible.

'Shug is correct when he says that prices are going up - they are. His spew needs to be tempered with "...for now." As long as there is x-Cal equity money and suicide lons dominating our market, the prices will continue to climb.

That being said, one day, the toxic loans will dry up, and California will be inverted. When that happens, the situation will be so dire in our housing market, the polite use of the English language will be inadequate to fully describe the pain people will be feeling.

Right now, the fundamentals are:

Price/income imbalance
California expat money
Toxic loans
Bullish herd mentality.

Anyone who can look at these would have to conclude that the path of least resistance is decidedly down.

Sometimes, I wonder about people and the risks they take with their personal fortunes.

Richard said...

Even if prices drop 30% from now, they would still be priced out.

If that's the case, we'll likely see a bigger drop than 30%.

Nobody is priced out. That's a complete myth.

Anyone with a 580 or higher credit score is priced in if they're willing to take a large financial risk.

I'd argue that the lower one's credit score, the less risk they're taking.

In the discussions I've had with people, I've found that the ones who have the worst finances are the ones less likely to identify risk. Perhaps because they have less to lose.

cosmos said...

I'm all for the "More User Friendly Seattle Bubble" blog. While I am in the RE bear camp, I have some lingering doubt fueled by "the unknown." It is fairly clear to me the powers-that-be in Washington, D.C. are doing a lot of manipulation to keep the economy afloat. (See how they brought down commodities in May, so they could justify keeping the rate hike down at 1/4%.)

I won't be surprised to see interest rates actually drop next year - as the economy slows. It won't surprise me to see more bizarre mortgage financing schemes re-emerge to sweep up the last of the naive buyers. All this could keep prices up, or even push them higher...until the big collapse. So, while I believe housing has peaked, and all my rational analyses indicate prices should drop 30-50%, I have to be open to seeing what is...and being challenged by views different from my own. The end game for me is to see what is so, rather than to be right.

richard said...

Are the bears here really so insecure that they can't take one moderately bullish, mildly prolific commentator without calling for him to be banned, calling him a troll, etc.

I do thing M is a troll, but I don't think he should be banned. The only reason I say he's a troll is because his arguments are often contradictory and many have severe logical flaws and ignore the obvious.

It's good for the forum to have a dissenting voice. A slightly more, uh, cohesive argument would be better, but hey, it's a free blog you take what you can get.

richard said...

eliz I have some lingering doubt fueled by "the unknown."

I share the same doubt. The enormity of the problems created by subprime lending lead me to believe further drastic measures may be taken to avert a collapse.

Both Australia and Britain intervened to save their housing markets when the slowdown began to have macroeconomic effects. There's a good chance the US will follow the same path, especially since the pain will likely coincide with the 2008 election.

cosmos said...

richard -- well said!

seattle price drop said...

I'd agree with the UK/Aus. scenario if it weren't for the fact that global liquidity does seem to be primed for a drying up.

If it's global liquidity that got this puppy going then the US bubble is timed just right for a squeeze, along with all the other overpriced world markets.

Anonymous said...

The fundamentals are great depending on where you look. Low rates and low unemployment are supportive of the RE market. Now that rates are gradually going higher, RE is cooling. Seattle didn't go up as much and as fast so it is not cooling as much and as fast.

Nothing out of the ordinary is happening thus far.

richard said...

Nothing out of the ordinary is happening thus far.

Nothing huh? Employment and interest rates are hovering around the levels they were in 1998. It's taken us 8 years just to get back to this point. Meanwhile, houses cost 80% more, KC wages have lagged inflation, and over 50% of mortgages in this area are adjustable, in a rising rate environment.

Nothing to see here.

pollyanna said...

That's right, we'll be just fine!

Anonymous said...

You like to look at wages, I like to look at rates and unemployment. As for ARM reset, it is only less than 1 year from now before the verdict comes in. I call that the last hope for RE bears.

sue said...

Anon-

It's true that bears look at the ARMS resets as one thing that could bring housing down.

But they also look at rising interest rates worldwide, possible loan regulations, people freaking out in general (the "Oh my God what am i *thinking* of, buying a 1200 sf/500K house or 400sf/200K studio??!!" syndrome), a general panic that ends manias and speculative behavior (specuvestors are already getting burned), a whole host of things that could burst this bubble.

Anyway, the slowdown in sales, rampant price reductions, closed mortgage offices, realtors wanting to make career changes, rising interest rates, Home Builder stocks plummeting, media finally talking about RE depreciation, BOJ raising rates (IF they do that next week!), there are alot of things that give bears confidence in their view.

It's true, we may be in for a surprise, but so far things seem to be heading the way we thought they would.

Eleua said...

The fundamentals are great depending on where you look.

Nothing out of the ordinary is happening thus far.


I guess if you choose not to look at the mortgage industry, and the criminally irresponsible toxic loans that have pushed prices to what we now see, the "fundamentals" would look great.

So, if interest rates are just off their historic lows, where is the path of least resistance, given that inflation is getting a bit uppity?

Eleua said...

The Housing Bubble Blog reported that due to Arizona's sagging housing market, construction (REIC) jobs, and retail jobs (HELOC) jobs were on the wane.

It would follow that the job creation in the PNW (the bulk of which are REIC and RETAIL), would likely turn sour when our housing bubble goes kaput.

When an economic phenomenon feeds on itself for rapid growth, it is a bubble. All bubbles break harder than anticipated.

jcricket said...

It's true, we may be in for a surprise, but so far things seem to be heading the way we thought they would.

Really? I would argue that at least as of now, I see no evidence that prices have dropped the way bears have been predicting. Price drops aren't convincing to me when YOY appreciation continues. We might be seeing the beginning of a trend, but I'm withholding judgment.

Even in areas where prices have stagnated (see Jim the Realtor at http://www.bubblinfo.com/ pointing out that San Diego YOY prices peaked in 2004) they haven't crashed 10, 20, 30, 40 or 50%. People are still buying and selling homes. Many sellers are making money. Some are not. Many buyers are getting a deal. Some are not. That's what I'd call a "balanced" RE market.

To me this points out that the statistics bears are using to justify the crash is imminent argument have not (yet) borne fruit. The "great crash" may still happen, but simply dismissing all contrary evidence isn't convincing. The blog series written by Gregory Wharton at the Seattle PI, for example, pointed out a number of ways why the real estate market are different than the stock market, and why he believed Seattle isn't a bubble (as in something that will crash 30, 40 or 50%). There was almost no analysis of his argument here other than a couple of dismissive comments. I think the amount of information he provided about inflation, regulation, the cost of construction, buyer psychology, etc. is an order of magnitude more convincing than simply looking at MLS or Zip Realty statistics. But maybe that's just me.

There are several good example markets in real estate that show RE is not simple: SF and NY. Both have experienced price drops before, significant ones in the late 70s. However, one could easily argue that both places have been "ridiculously priced" for more than 20 years, and yet prices keep going up. Will they do so forever? I don't know. But neither place has been getting more affordable, and yet everyone I know who's lived there wants to stay and has made money on the RE they own. People who work in those areas have been willing to buy tiny studios or live with hour long commutes. Will that trend continue? I don't know, but it has.

Simply put, I'm not convinced the simple explanations offered by either bulls or bears. There are all sorts of things that could happen to real estate, and I personally suspect we'll see every zip code and every price range acting differently. The "dues ex machina" of government intervention might have a huge impact in the next couple of years.

If everyone who has an ARM that resets in 2007, 2008 or 2009 is "screwed", but rates go down, perhaps they'll stave off being screwed for another 5 years. Or perhaps they'll get fixed rate mortgages. Or sell their house because it's time to move (every 7 years is the average). Or, even if the 30% of people who got ARMs in the last 5 years get screwed, the vast majority of Americans (most of whom are either on fixed rate loans or renting) swoop in and buy some places on the cheap.

Who knows. I am actually happy to discuss it, but I think it's easy to see that so far all we have is two opposing sides each believing a small number of statistics prove they're already right. And if the great crash comes, expect to see all your stock market investments down the drain too. No way the stock market escapes that great a economy-busting incident unscathed.

The Tim said...

The blog series written by Gregory Wharton at the Seattle PI, for example, pointed out a number of ways why the real estate market are different than the stock market, and why he believed Seattle isn't a bubble (as in something that will crash 30, 40 or 50%). There was almost no analysis of his argument here other than a couple of dismissive comments.

I have a very lengthy response already written, but I don't want it to get lost in the string of posts about the June numbers, and ideally I'd like to wait to post it until he actually finishes the entire series. I believe he has one more post to go...

Anonymous said...

I believe he has one more post to go...

You are correct, and sorry if you took my post to imply that you were lax in writing a response. I was referring more to the comments, where all I saw were complete dismissals without analysis to back them up.

Lake Hills Renter said...

I suspect the "no anonymous posting" rule is nigh unenforcable, short of deleting them all. ;)

I welcome all opinions and data from both sides as long as they aren't chocked full of insults and attitude. Unfortunately we've seen a bit of that lately, from both sides. If a case can be made for a bullish market based on reason and accurate data, then bring it on. I welcome it. Discussion is good, but arguments are unproductive.

The Tim said...

Note that for now, the "no anonymous posting" is merely a "strong suggestion." If it gets out of hand I will eventually set it up so that only registered Blogger users can post, but hopefully people can be curteous enough to follow the suggestion. That's asking a lot, I know.

bill said...

"I haven't seen evidence of prices dropping the way bears have been predicting"

jcricket-

The poster listed reasons why prices could be EXPECTED to drop- NOT why they already have.

Because they have not and everybody knows that.

Re does not suddenly drop overnight like stocks.

If you go back and look at the list, you'll see there are some pretty sound reasons there for why we can EXPECT a drop.

The word "expectation" carries the connotation that it has not happened yet but can be EXPECTED to do so in the future.

jcricket said...

I gotta disagree with you bill. I believe that RE bears have lately been guilty of "moving the goalposts". Everything that should be leading directly to a crash (according to bears) hasn't caused it. So every month that goes by, they keep loosening their definition so that every bearish signal over the last 5 years add up to things "[seeming] to be heading the way they thought they would" - even though most of their original predictions have long since past due. I think it's a rewriting of history to say that the bearish predictions have been right all along about where RE is headed.

Here's a "food for thought" example: If 2007 and 2008 pass with only a small number of stories of suicide-borrowers losing their homes but we still have YOY price appreciation in King County will that be evidence that bears are wrong? At least about the effect of ARMs? Or is there literally no evidence that can be produced to show bears are wrong? Is every negative real-estate story is another sign that the bubble bursting is imminent?

To me it really feels like the flip-side of how the NAR/overly bullish RE people think/talk. There's literally no evidence (e.g. Tokyo, Texas in 1980, NY in the 70s) you can point to that will dissuade those people from believing home prices only go up.

I don't, however, disagree with you when you said:

You see there are some pretty sound reasons there for why we can EXPECT a drop.

I can certainly see why certain economic indicators and factors in the RE market (especially the number of buyers stretched thin) feel, to some, like sound reasons why real estate might be poised for a drop. But it hasn't happened yet, especially not here.

I'm not convinced the primary reasons listed here (suicide loans, affordability, etc.) will be the cause of the bubble bursting. Another war, terrorist attack, flight of foreign capital, major unemployment increase due to recession, etc. are far more likely candidates, imho.

I guess we'll have to wait and see (and speculate wildly in the meantime). Or, you could all be the boy who cries wolf. Remember what happens at the end of that story? Only now the wolf eats the townspeople.

biliruben said...

I don't know what predictions you are referring to, jcricket, but I haven't read any predictions from anyone other that the wild-eyed twits that said housing prices were going to crash this summer.

Any knowledgable bear realizes that this will take a while to play out.

I did expect inventories to be rising a bit more than we've seen by now, but other than that, we are right on schedule.

sue said...

Agree with everything Biliruben and Bill said.

We are right on schedule. Every few days more info is released to verify that.

And every once in a while, we get a real shot in the arm:

- CNBC's acknowledgement a few weeks back that RE may NEVER again in your lifetime be worth what it is right now.

_ More uber wealthy folks ditching their RE holdings (the truly rich rarely get burned by collapses. They're concerned about their money and don't indulge in "false hopes")

- My personal favorite:

The Wall Street Journal article last week with the interviewee expecting a 50% drop in RE prices.

You can either 1) predict the crash and get out (if needed) or don't buy beforehand.

OR

2) wait around til it's actually happening and become part of the group who gets "whiplashed" by falling prices- as described in the Post Intelligencer article of the last Seattle crash, circa 1990.

meshugy said...

wait around til it's actually happening and become part of the group who gets "whiplashed" by falling prices- as described in the Post Intelligencer article of the last Seattle crash, circa 1990.

Let's look at some #s from the Seattle PI records:

Seattle Median Price 1990: $144,800

Seattle Median Price 1991: $143,800

Seattle Median Price 1992: $145,900

Seattle Median Price 1993: $145,000

Seattle Median Price 1994: $149,950

Seattle Median Price 1995: $155,000

Seattle Median Price 1996: $163,000

Seattle Median Price 1996: $174,950

etc..up and up.

I don't think anybody really got whiplashed. The Seattle market did what it always does. Went flat for a while and then kept on appreciating. Which is what it most likely will do in the future. So just buy something you can hang on to for 5-10 years and you're good.

sue said...

The number of years that the "buy and hold" strategy requires has been increasing all year.

Anybody else notice that?

Last Fall it was 5 years, winter 5-7 years, now it's 5 -10 years.

Any predictions where it'll be next winter?

meshugy said...

The number of years that the "buy and hold" strategy requires has been increasing all year.

I was being conservative...appreciation is so rapid right now that if you buy a house this month it could be worth 10K or more next month. Some areas of Seattle had a 30K increase MOM in June.

jcricket said...

Seems like we'd all do well to remember the disclaimer that appears on mutual funds: "Past performance is not a predictor of future results".

* Indicators that have been bearish in the past could not result in a bear market for RE right now.

* The fact that Seattle RE has only flattened in the past doesn't mean it can't drop in the future.

During the height of any bust, it always seems like everyone is getting screwed and things will never get better. But in hindsight, most people end up OK, and plenty of markets recover. If you stood in the middle of the Great Depression, you might conclude stocks were to be avoided. You'd have been wrong. Instead we can all see that the stock market recovered and returned 10%/year for the last 70 years (making it better than most other investment vehicles).

The dot-com bust is now a memory and most people's 401ks have recovered (most, not all. If you had all your investments in Enron or some other company stock, you were one of those stories we read about). That's a scant 5 years out.

So, we could even have the great RE crash in 2007 or 2008, and it will look terrible for a little while, and then maybe we'll all recover. I'm sure all the bears here will swoop in and buy the "RE on the cheap" that they've been waiting for, thus pushing prices back up :-)

Or it will be the dust bowl for everyone. Mass chaos. Cats and dogs, living together. Ragnarok!

Anonymous said...

with what is going on in ca now. I am guessing that there will be fewer of them coming here. Besides, californians for several years have been moving to places like pheonix and las vegas and the homes homes had gone up substanstantually, look what is going on in those markets now. by the way, just moved here from sunny cal and do not plan to buy a ------ thing. I think that owning a house is so over rated, at least in this market. Renting really makes so much more sense. Don't take my word for it - just do the math.

Anonymous said...

Renting makes sense is a tough argument in my opinion. Knowingly losing money every month GUARENTEED, versus the POSSIBILITY of your home value dropping in the coming years. Tough to convince someone who, rather than rented for the past one or more years bought instead, and even with a 30% drop in the market, will still receive money above what he paid initially. Let alone someone who has owned long term. Sounds as though speculation may go both ways.

Seattle Renter said...

What happened to Friday's open thread? I posted a link to a financial expert - wanted to see what others thought. The whole thread is gone.

The Tim said...

Are you referring to this comment in the Weekend Open Thread? Both the Friday open thread and the weekend open thread are still up and running, as far as I can tell.