The "Current Housing Recession is Rivaling the Great Depression’s Real Estate Downturn [and] Will Easily Eclipse It In the Coming Months"

George Washington's picture

Washington’s Blog

Zillow's Stan Humphries said:

The length and depth of the current housing recession is rivaling
the Great Depression’s real estate downturn, and, with encouraging
signs fading, will easily eclipse it in the coming months.

During the Great Depression, home prices fell 25.9 percent in five years. The U.S. housing market is now down around 25 percent from its peak in 2006.

As housing price expert Robert Shiller pointed out in September 2008:

price declines are already approaching those in the Great Depression,
when they plunged 30% during the 1930s [i.e. over a 10-year period]. With prices already down almost
20%, it's not a stretch to think we might exceed that drop this time

As I wrote in December 2008:

In the greatest financial crash of all time - the crash of the 1340s in Italy .... real estate prices fell by 50 percent by 1349 in Florence when boom became bust.


How does that compare to 2001-2007? The price of Southern California homes is already down 41% [that was before the first-time homebuyer credit,
Hamp and other governmental programs temporarily boosted prices].
Southern California hasn't fallen as fast as some other areas, and we're
nowhere near the bottom of the market.


Moreover, the bubble was not confined to the U.S. There was a worldwide bubble in real estate.


Indeed, the Economist magazine wrote in 2005 that the worldwide boom in residential real estate prices in this decade was "the biggest bubble in history". The Economist noted that - at that time - the
total value of residential property in developed countries rose by
more than $30 trillion, to $70 trillion, over the past five years – an
increase equal to the combined GDPs of those nations


Housing bubbles are now bursting in China, France, Spain, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Eastern Europe, and many other regions.

And the bubble in commercial real estate is also bursting world-wide. See this.

In addition, the percentage of Americans who owned houses during the 1930s was much lower
than today, which means that a larger portion of the public is being
hurt from falling home prices today as compared to the Great Depression.

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BigDuke6's picture


yes they are a dodgy secret society.

but why end the fed?

my gold is to the moon and they are inflating the debt away while making the chinese pay more for aussie commodities.

is that so bad cobber?

FEDbuster's picture

Strong, honest dollar would outweigh any short term benefits from funny money designed to benefit fiat creators (the FED) and first spenders (the government).  Monetary growth could be tied to a true GDP number by law, issued by the US Treasury, without usury.

You and I have already switched to a gold standard by buying gold and silver, and we are reaping the short term benefits of that decision.  The long term economic health of our nation depends on a return to sound money in order to facilitate a honest economic environment.

The FED has devalued the dollar by 97% over the past 97 years, the next 97% won't take as long.  It is time to have an honest discussion on our money, and hopefully Ron Paul will make some progress now that he is chairman of the monetary committee.

fijisailor's picture

In the world of ZH somehow housing will crash and burn but somehow gold will continue to rise forever.  OK, if you say so.

mamba-mamba's picture

So how are you hedging or diversifying to minimize the effects of inflation? Are you buying commodities? Foreign stocks denominated in safe currencies (e.g., CHF)? I'm very interested in strategies other than precious metals.

FEDbuster's picture

Most real estate requires leverage to purchase, good credit, job, etc... Plus, with real estate you become a tax collectors fixed target (a sitting duck).

With gold you are mobile, liquid, unleveraged and for the most part hard to collect taxes on.

100 oz. (about 6 lbs.) of gold =  $140K avg. 3 bed house

Big difference between the two "investments".

Eyes on the World's picture

And, how the hell would your miller make change when trading your house for a sack of flour?


FEDbuster's picture

Silver is for small transactions like buying flour or ratting out Jesus.  Gold is reserved for larger purchases.

bugs_'s picture

Nice to see an on-topic post by GW.  Its a good one.  The comments are good too.

Nat Turner's picture

The decline of American Civilization, if there ever was one.

Burgerbuilder's picture

Stupid is a constant and a variable.

Re: Florence 1349 "The funding systems of Venice and Genoa have been already described. A similar one was established in Florence in 1344; the loan bore interest at 5 per cent. per annum, and was transferable in the same manner as in Venice and Genoa. In the year following the establishment of this system great distress was experienced in Florence on account of the failure of Edward III of England to repay the 700,000 gold crowns which had been lent to him by that city."

Money and civilization: or, A history of the monetary laws and systems of various states since the dark ages, and their influence upon civilization

Alexander Del Mar

michigan independant's picture

May 25, 2006



Mr. MCCAIN. Mr. President, this week Fannie Mae’s regulator reported that the company’s quarterly reports of profit growth over the past few years were ‘‘illusions deliberately and systematically created’’ by the company’s senior management, which resulted in a $10.6 billion accounting scandal The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight’s report goes on to say that Fannie Mae employees deliberately and intentionally manipulated financial reports to hit earnings targets in order to trigger bonuses for senior executives. In the case of Franklin Raines, Fannie Mae’s former chief executive officer, OFHEO’s report

shows that over half of Mr. Raines’ compensation for the 6 years through 2003 was directly tied to meeting earnings targets. The report of financial misconduct at Fannie Mae echoes the deeply troubling $5 billion profit restatement at Freddie Mac. The OFHEO report also states that Fannie Mae used its political power to lobby Congress in an effort to interfere with the regulator’s examination of the company’s accounting problems. This report comes some weeks after Freddie Mac paid a record $3.8 million fine in a settlement with the Federal Election Commission and restated lobbying disclosure reports from 2004 to 2005. These are entities that have demonstrated over and over again that they are deeply in need of reform. For years I have been concerned about the regulatory structure that governs Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac— known as Government-sponsored entities or GSEs—and the sheer magnitude of these companies and the role they play in the housing market. OFHEO’s report this week does nothing to ease these concerns. In fact, the report does quite the contrary. OFHEO’s report solidifies my view that the GSEs need to be reformed without delay. I join as a cosponsor of the Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act of 2005, S. 190, to underscore my support for quick passage of GSE regulatory reform legislation. If Congress does not act, American taxpayers will continue to be exposed to the enormous risk that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac pose to the housing market, the overall financial system, and the economy as a whole. I urge my colleagues to support swift action on this GSE reform legislation.

It will not stop since it's not that government has lacked information needed to fix the problem. It is institutionally incapable of bringing about the desired result, since the principles of profit and loss, private property and contract, enterprise and entrepreneurship, do not exist in government. Any Government operates with an eye to its own short-term survival, and those of its connected interest groups, and nothing else. Mises

gwar5's picture

That is just depressing me now.

Now I have to look up the 1349 Florence depression just to cheer.

litoralkey's picture



The Medieval Origins of the Financial Revolution:
Usury, Rentes, and Negotiability
E??? H??????? observed many years ago that a ‘national debt is
one of the very few important economic phenomena without
roots in the Ancient World’.
1 The ?rst evidence for organized
public debts is to be found in towns of twelfth-century Italy. But these
interest-bearing loans bore little relation to what became known as the
?nancial revolution in public debt, which, in its seventeenth-century
Dutch and ultimate eighteenth-century British versions, had six funda-
mental components.

First, the national debt was ‘permanent’, in that it
consisted largely of perpetual annuities or rentes, which, however, were
redeemable any time, at the will of the issuing government authority,
in contrast to interest-bearing loans with stipulated redemption dates.

Second, the debt obligation was national, or at least provincial, and
not merely municipal or personal, that is, the personal obligation of the
prince, even as head of state; instead, it was created by the state
through representative parliamentary institutions.

Third, the annual
payments on such annuities and their periodic redemptions were
authorized by that parliament or legislative assembly, which thus
undertook to fund that debt by levying speci?c taxes, usually on con-

Fourth, the government’s creation or sale of these annuities
took place without any elements of state coercion, and in particular
without any arbitrary conversions of higher-interest short-term debts
into lower-yielding perpetual annuities.

Fifth, the public had complete
con?dence that the government would always meet its obligation to
make the stipulated annuity payments on the promised dates.

those annuities were freely negotiable through ?nancial intermediaries,
in secondary markets, for purchase by any buyer both inside and out-
side the national state.

(Litoralkey comment: How many of these conditions remain in the Republics and Democracies of the world?)

litoralkey's picture

Venice in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries; a sketch of Ventian history from the conquest of Constantinople to the accession of Michele Steno, A.D. 1204-1400 (1910)

Author: Hodgson, F. C. (Francis Cotterell)
Publisher: London, G. Allen & sons
Language: English
Call number: DG677.6 H7
Digitizing sponsor: MSN
Book contributor: Cornell University Library

History of the Venetian republic; her rise, her greatness, and her civilization (1860)

Author: Hazlitt, William Carew, 1834-1913
Volume: 4
Publisher: London, Smith, Elder & Co.
Year: 1860
Possible copyright status: NOT_IN_COPYRIGHT
Language: English
Digitizing sponsor: Google
Book from the collections of: Harvard University


How Venice Rigged
The First, and Worst, Global Financial Collapse
by Paul B. Gallagher

Venetian Bankers and the Dark Ages

04-01-2010, 04:08 AM
This is an old great GIM post from years back, posted by koyaanisqatsi that I rescued and brought over.

This is a lot to read perhaps, but facinating as a "deja vu" glimpse of what created about 100 years of desperate economic times.

I personally feel this excerpted HISTORY of the Great Crusades is very relevant to current 'interesting times' we now live in.

GoingLoonie's picture

Living on a wealthy island off the coast of south Florida we have watched home prices fall no less than 40% from their peaks.  Another 20% is a sure thing.  This is a great depression and like the last one the public at large will not figure that out for another six months.

Cleanclog's picture

I'm sure you mean great large, not wonderful.

Have friends with a place on islands of Georgia.  Multiple golf courses, many shopping amenities, large price tags to purchase homes and major homeowner dues.   The place has gone tits up, courses closing, memberships to same worthless probably, and houses not selling.  Those "prices" haven't hit the market yet cuz they aren't moving.

Gonna see this in a lot of upscale communities all over the country.  And it is sad, rich or poor, people are "stuck".  But we have to go through this process.  QE isn't magic, just magical thinking and financial system rewarding.  Sucky for regular folk.

deepsouthdoug's picture

Housing sales  in the Twin Cities for the month of Oct. were down 35% from Oct. a year ago.

geno-econ's picture

Not only in Oklahoma.  I recall long trenches in Central Park in New York City filled with unemployed and homeless living with piles of newspapers as ceilings to keep warm. Somehow we are less prepared now since families are breaking up ,single parents on the rise , individuals on the cusp of bankrupcy without any savings cushion, no sense of self- reliance in large urban areas and Central Park unable to accomodate the  populations of today. It could be ugly when many realize there are no entitlements to economic survival . Not even Bearded Ben can be a Santa Claus to everyone---only the Banks

SmittyinLA's picture

CA home prices have lots more to drop, take all the semi-affordable inland & desert commuter communities, when gas goes back to $5/gallon & more with carbon taxes those home  prices cannot be supported without significant wage inflation-which isn't coming, if anything wages will drop more with the current default automatic alien amnesty (non-enforcement is amnesty).

The coastal areas where homes haven't dropped much still have lots of space to drop with current prices far above replacement cost, the re-assessments that will cut the taxes of the most recent buyers will drive up the property taxes of all homeowners, take Bell CA, their coming property tax increases will chase many of the existing residents out of the city and maybe even out of the state and the replacement buyers wont be any more affluent that those that left, if anything they earn less, have higher debts, are less healthy, and are less educated.

People that thought they voted for an extra $50/year in property taxes may get stuck with a $1500/year property tax increase.  

bronzie's picture

how are they going to get around Prop 13 to raise property taxes as you suggest?

SmittyinLA's picture

CA home prices have lots more to drop, take all the semi-affordable inland & desert commuter communities, when gas goes back to $5/gallon & more with carbon taxes those home  prices cannot be supported without significant wage inflation-which isn't coming, if anything wages will drop more with the current default automatic alien amnesty (non-enforcement is amnesty).

The coastal areas where homes haven't dropped much still have lots of space to drop with current prices far above replacement cost, the re-assessments that will cut the taxes of the most recent buyers will drive up the property taxes of all homeowners, take Bell CA, their coming property tax increases will chase many of the existing residents out of the city and maybe even out of the state and the replacement buyers wont be any more affluent that those that left, if anything they earn less, have higher debts, are less healthy, and are less educated.

People that thought they voted for an extra $50/year in property taxes may get stuck with a $1500/year property tax increase.  

mamba-mamba's picture

Can you please explain how property taxes will be going up more than the 2% per year allowed by proposition 13?

GoldmanSux's picture

On its way to exceeding the Santorini wipe out of 1590 B.C.

lamont cranston's picture

In Charlotte last week a listing at $1.89MM in 2008 was let go at $975K - that's a 48% haircut for NCNB, er Nationsbank, uh BOA.

We're abating asbestos and mold at a beautiful 3,200 sq ft 1938 4BR in Winston-Salem that has a 2006 tax value of $590K - it just sold for $399K. I though I'd never see <$125/sq ft in that part of that neighborhood again in my lifetime - was $200+ three years ago.

Geoff-UK's picture

Please, even if you're European, STOP with the "MM" meaning "a million" bullshit.  It's gay.

Eyes on the World's picture

+1.  And it's not even grammatically correct.  WTF?

Cleanclog's picture

The elimination of the mortgage deduction won't help housing values . . . but it is still probably the right tax policy move.  Most of the rest of the world doesn't tax advantage home ownership.  We have made our economy overly dependent on home construction. On a macrobasis let's redirect some of those resources to infrastucture - rail, roads, bridges, and energy efficient structure replacement as needed. 

deez nutz's picture

Most of the world doesn't allow their bottom 30% to buy new cars either.  That same world didn't go ape shit with credit cards.  That world did buy a lot of the toxic shit that came out the ass of America -Wall St.

Housing was the last great play in America even if by fraud.  Now we will see the real America, the jobless wonder, the UN-consumer.

notadouche's picture

It won't help values....Are you kidding it would dampen buying interest for most middle class Americans.  The only reason to buy over rent was for the deductions.  It's the only real deduction a middle class family has.  The deduction you get from children is nothing.  Again the rich guys will still have tax loopholes.  This screws the middle class again as far as I can tell.

rosiescenario's picture

...this will only add a massive increase to those walking away from their mortgages.This could not possibly be a worse time to consider elimination of the home mortgage deduction...even putting it on the table shows how totally out of touch with reality our political leaders are....dumb, dumber...and then moronic.

Cleanclog's picture

Philosophically, I'd like to see purchases driven by what people actually want and can afford, not by what tax deduction is available.  I am not aiming this at you or homeowners (or shelter buyers with big mortgages).  

It is difficult to make such a change when our country has had a home ownership dream mentality for so long, promulgated by our "leaders".  But home ownership and cotton fields and yachts and tobacco subsidies and religious revenues and properties shouldn't benefit from favored tax status.  If those deductions were eliminated then tax rates would come down for all.  Government could be smaller.  Basics, like shelter, clean water, food, energy and education should be available.  That doesn't mean bedroom and bathroom for every family member, restaurant meals every day, bottled designer water, gas guzzling cars, or teacher/student ratios of 1:12.  A very good productive and pursuit of happiness life can be had in small quarters, with rice and beans and fresh herbs, clean water, public transportation and engaged educators.

mamba-mamba's picture

Philosophically, I'm with you. I'm surprised you would get junked for this post. Somebody in a bad mood or something.

Fred Hayek's picture

Massachusetts allows you to deduct part of your rent on your state income tax form though, of course, they haven't changed the amount you can deduct in over 20 years.

creator8's picture

In prime Los Angeles metro (Hollywood Hills/Beverly Hills/Santa Monica etc) values are down and easy 30-40% off high though some stuff is moving at the moment. The distressed properties on the higher end ($1 mill +) have yet to hit the market and I predict another easy 20% drop when they do. Last time this happened in this area was 1989/90 and values didn't return until maybe 2001/2. And this is the upper end of the US market where median income is well above $50k. Head to the Inland Empire which is the epicenter of the crash in SoCal and 60% decreases from highs are the norm. We're headed up shit creek without a fucking bathing suit, never mind a boat or paddle!

capitallosses's picture

Yep. Just listed my father's West Hollywood Hills fixer at $1.2 - when we were about to list it 4 months ago, the same broker suggested asking $1.5. (Broker knows his s**t and is not playing games.) IMHO, lots more damage to come.

kiwidor's picture

I'm actually in the market for some does 10cents a tonne sound?

Geoff-UK's picture

Don't worry, Uncle Ben is going to inflate away that lost value. 

Homeowners will be able to sell their houses for double what they paid before you know it!

Dick Darlington's picture

Let's not forget the still inflating housing bubbles. Sweden, Finland, Australia, just to mention a few.

Watauga's picture

Cowdiddly wrote: "Not in my home state of Oklahoma. Everyone owned small farms."  He then went on to describe the outcome of the Dust Bowl and such.  The key takeaway from this is to consider just how different the world is today from what it was in 1930.  If we had a total bust in real estate, stocks, commodities, bonds, and the dollar, and if we suffered from 25-30% unemployment, how would a fully urbanized, information-age world function?

In the 1930s, a heck of a large percentage of the population lived on farms or at least was raised on farms and knew how to plant, nurture, and harvest subsistence foods, how to can those foods, how to make repairs, and so forth.  Nowadays, very few people, by percentage of the population, have a clue about any of it.  It is time to open up John Seymour's books and time to start at least experimenting with subsistence living.  It may be the only game in town in 5 years or less, and those who can do it will do much better than those who can't.

As an aside, I always recommend "The Camp of the Saints" to anyone who wishes to glimpse another possible future.  Even in a world wherein developed nations flourish, if we cannot enable the poor masses of less-developed nations subsist at home, they will find a way to subsist here. Demography truly is destiny, and the future is bleak if we don't make rapid and substantial progress on many fronts.

Eyes on the World's picture

Been there, doing that.  Funniest realization this summer came to me . . . my wife and I are very conservative in all our ways.  We also have some good liberal friends.  As she and I are getting more back to my country roots and learning to grow, can, hunt, process meat, etc., we have been "accused" of becoming hippies by several people at her work.  Now that's a hoot in and of itself, yet when I look at my liberal friends they are the very ones that are out there digging the latest restaurant, or have to have the latest this and that, etc.  It's like we've entered freaking bizarro world.

Fred Hayek's picture

Well, we already have 16+% unemployment not the phony 9.6% so we're getting there.

flaunt's picture

And if they actually go through with eliminating the mortgage interest deduction they'll create yet another reason not to buy a house.  For every government action there is an equal and opposite reaction in the markets. 

They see mortgage tax deductions as a "cost" to the government rather than seeing it as returning a little bit of the money they stole from private citizens.


mamba-mamba's picture

You should read a good summary of the plan before you judge. It may not be perfect, but it spreads the pain very widely. And while it eliminates the mortgage deduction it also lowers taxes. I think the idea is that if legislators want to keep the mortgage deduction, they need to raise taxes above what the plan suggests.

The plan may not be perfect, but I believe it will force a lot of people to confront the enormity of the debt problem we are facing.

It is not just about increasing taxes, but also massive, unprecedented spending cuts.

I will be watching people's reactions closely because how congress and the people react to this plan will basically decide whether there is any hope of arresting the total destruction of the american financial system that is currently under way.


rosiescenario's picture

...was just seeing more talk of doing away with the mortgage interest deduction...well that should be the last nail needing to be driven into our economy's coffin...does anyone within the Beltway have a brain?

blindman's picture

@"does anyone within the Beltway have a brain?"

no.  not a human one.  they think with their genitals

and don't even know what "information" is or how to

prioritize it in any meanigful way.

this guy can think.

kevinearick's picture

That will happen when they play chicken with themselves.

How much will pop off the stack?

Well, that depends on when they want to put down the shovel.

Currently, they are still on the parabola with a maximum probability of hitting 75%, as estimated.

The mass of legacy families has hit the pivot, the government arm is swinging forward, with still increasing force in the opposite direction at the tip. For that talker over at Caterpillar, that's the bullwhip. It's a wave, and a wave is a wave is a wave.

New family formation generates the wave, NPV amplitude, with X amount of force initially, FROM THE LAST SYSTEM CYCLE, the legacy families migrate to become the load. All questions about the load depend on where you want to go. At the last moment, the torque on that tip is tremendous, and you know you haven't yet maxxed out, because there has been no release.

The universe is in the business of increasing dimensions faster than it can be followed.

OK, so, it's big wave day, and you need transportation out to the wave. You walk out to the end of the jetty, and jump off to catch the wave following the big wave, which will propel you into the big wave, because the big wave is moving roughly at 90 degrees, hence the torque.

This economy requires the ability to jump those gaps in forward direction. All the legacy organizations are built like a kite on a string, bouncing off the ridges as it jumps the gaps in the reverse direction.

When the black hole is turned on in the elevator shaft, the kite string breaks.

I'm in the small town in California with the clearest frequencies, which represent all the variables and coefficients to build a computer model for driving while looking out the rear-view mirror.

Invariably, each gets the nerve to ask me, in the form of a comment: there are no elevators in this town?

My verbal reply is: no, there aren't.

Digital is scaler, with a multiplexer, for extremely rough adjustment. Analog is a vector, for smooth fine adjustment, but at a cost of quantum jumps to a resonant channel, which may or may not be the one you want. In the dc bus, there are followers and there are leaders, none of whom have the faintest clue where they are going.

The ability to divide by zero is what allows you to see additional dimensions; the resonant frequencies of the digital circles are like prime numbers.

The speed of light is a function of digital time, which is what you see in the rear-view mirror, when you are driving within a particular dc bus.

The electrons and protons balance on a fulcrum. The nucleus appears finite, but appearances are deceiving, especially when you are looking at nothing but ones and zeros.