Watch Out for that Home Listing Agent Hanging from the Shower Head

madhedgefundtrader's picture

The US Department of Housing and Urban Affairs certainly peed on the parade of those blowing horns and banging drums because they thought the real estate market was recovering. Seasonally adjusted new home sales for January came in at a paltry 309,000, the lowest figure on record, and a gut wrenching decline of 11.2% from the previous month, versus an expected gain of 3.8%. It just doesn’t get any worse than this.

Sure, the horrendous weather in the Northeast was a factor. But the harsh reality is that, with enormous federal and state tax incentives soon to expire, the life support that kept this industry alive is about to see the plug kicked out. Once the Fed ends the TALF, mortgage rates are going up, even if overnight rates remain rock bottom, putting another stake through the heart of this market. Unemployment is going to stay pitilessly high, sending consumer confidence into another death spiral.

For what it’s worth, I never bought the whole green shoots thing, viewing the enormous gains seen in stocks over the last year as nothing more than one giant tradable dead cat bounce. The XHB, the homebuilders ETF, held up remarkably well today. But let’s face it, the life has already been squeezed out of this sector. There is nothing left to short.

As much as I would love to tell my friends to rush out and buy a house because prices have fallen so much here in California,  I just can’t bring myself to do it. I have to admit that even I have been guilty of occasionally stopping by at open houses for some local mansions on Sunday afternoons, but always find it a bit of a downer when I come across the listing agent hanging from the bathroom shower head. Take a look at the chart of US house prices relative to incomes showing that homes are still expensive, and that prices continue to fall. On this basis, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York are the most costly markets in the country and are falling the fastest. Bank analysts and lenders take note.

At least 25% of homeowners are underwater on their mortgages now, and a new wave of foreclosures is imminently going to slam the market. Not only has the negative equity city (Miami, Las Vegas, Stockton) become a feature of the landscape, we have graduated to the negative equity state (Nevada).

There is also the mother of all demographic problems overhanging real estate, which no one seems to see but me. Remember the baby boomers? You know, the ones with all the money? As they downsize from McMansions to condos to assisted living facilities, their net shrinkage in demand for housing is going to be in the tens of millions of square feet per year.

If you absolutely have to buy a home, make sure that you pick up one of those once-in-a-lifetime deals where you are taking it off a bank, or out of foreclosure, at 30% below the appraised value. I know these deals are happening. Buy it because you need a place to live, not an investment, and don’t count on selling it for a decent profit this decade. And also don’t expect to get the first born child you are putting up for collateral back until they are a teenager. There are going to be so many great trading opportunities in the markets this year that you shouldn’t even think about tying your capital up in a house. Rent, don’t buy.

For more iconoclastic and out of consensus analysis, you can always visit me at , where the conventional wisdom is mercilessly flailed and tortured daily, or listen to me on Hedge Fund Radio at .


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dark pools of soros's picture

also to pour salt into some of you old farts' raw anus, forget about my 7% gain..


how about 80% gain since I only put $10,000 down and got $8,000 back from the homebuyer credit?  In less than 2 weeks since i closed April 3rd, and filed the next day using the purchase in '08??  Is that fast enough GAIN for you fucks?


And now that you can claim Mortage Insurance along with Interest on your taxes, and also get some credit back from property taxes, who looks like the fool renting and having their taxes go to my short term GAIN!!


and no taxes paid against that GAIN..  so screw ya!


Anonymous's picture

The other issue that comes with demographics and increasing longevity is that the shortcomings of Americas obsession with driving out to suburbia become clear.

Sure, its easy to ease out the 5 car garage and get to Trader Joes in your 40's. Its a whole different ball game having to drive everywhere when you are 70. Not only will those poor old bastards be looking to downsize, they'll probably take a few taxpayers out on the roads while they at it.

Anonymous's picture

Every operating-system, or plan, that has some workability, for accomplishing any purpose, also has some toleration for corruption and fraud. There are no exceptions.
Each system is sustainable as long as the corruption/fraud is at an agreeable level. Too much corruption/fraud forces change or breakdown.

All financial fraud is an act of unfairness which, by definition, is injustice...

Seek justice...Only justice. All else in our law is commentary.

Anonymous's picture

Real estate is the American heart(s) of darkness

If you go back to one of the 18th century and one of biggest real estate scams ever, the Dismal Swamp, and who was out front of that?

George Washington, that's who. It almost bankrupted him twice. (read the seminal book G.W. and the Dismal Swamp)

This whole COUNTRY was founded as a real estate scam -

Yours in the darkness,

Colonel KurtZ

ATG's picture


Great post, but not realistically bearish enough, grrrr....

crosey's picture

Now, more than ever, real estate is local.  The national picture looks lousy.  However, if you take some time to research smaller markets, you'll find micro-opportunities.

Whatever you do, do it local to where you live.  That's the market you know best.  And, if you get really upset, you can drive over and piss on your own property!  Double the relief.

dark pools of soros's picture

can't speak to these freak crosey - they all got burnt trying to over leverage houses in the middle of nowhere and now want EVERYONE to feel their pain.


Here is a news flash - even if we go to 50% unemployment there will still be places that have work and buying and selling homes.  You'll find out that living in the sticks will leave you in the sticks

ATG's picture

No matter which microclimate you may enjoy,

when the train is coming or the plane crashing,

you get off the track or out of the way...

Anonymous's picture

A big improvement to the housing market could be achieved if the US gov't, instead of offering a tax credit on purchase, simply announced that no real estate transactions lower than 2009's tax appraisal will be allowed. In effect, have the gov't backstop RE since 2009. Buyer demand would immediately begin if they know they aren't buying a depreciating asset.

Anonymous's picture

Uh, no. Nobody (in 2010) would buy an asset with a deliberately overstated value.


ATG's picture

Hope you're being sarcastic anon.

(We all know how well government price controls

worked out.)

Otherwise, maybe you would prefer living

in Euroland or the People's Republic of China

in a dorm?

(This may illustrate a good reason not to respond to

posts hiding ignorance behind anonymity)...

Ripped Chunk's picture

What happened to the link you slap on every post that I flagged as junk??????????????????

Gargoyle's picture

Having spent a few years as a mortgage broker, the headline over this post brings a smile to my face.

I hate realtors, and when TSHTF I may go find a few in particular and scratch that itch.

Sig's picture

That's rich, coming from a mortgage broker.

crosey's picture

Realtors hate you too.  You guys are just as self-serving as realtors.  And when I've seen how (repeatedly) fucked up you guys can make a closing, one wonders if you have any business skills at all.

There's a shower head for you too, if you care to scratch your own itch.

Gromit's picture

There's a lot of anger directed at realtors which I don't really understand.

They are salespeople not economists or experts, just trying to earn money and feed their families.

When real estate business is good there always seems to be resentment from stock and bond folk - the theory seems to be that stock gains are earned while real estate profits just happen.

And when real estate goes sour, the realtors are blamed. Why?






Anonymous's picture


They're enablers.

Vacca's picture

Be very, very careful buying bank owned/foreclosed properties. Often, these properties come with liens etc that aren't visible when buying. Research the property thoroughly.

RSDallas's picture

Pelosi & Reid need to pass legislation making home ownership illegal to all residences of California, Nevada, Florida and Arizona.

Anonymous's picture

"It just doesn’t get any worse than this"

You ain't seen nothing yet, but expect to see the metric changed to benefit anyone but you.

Sorry if that sounds snarky, but I'm waiting until the price crashes on the rocks so hard it makes daddy's cry.

Housing = overpriced pieces of shit.

I expect further declines around 70% from today's shell game prices (sorry i am not at liberty to furnish attribution, but ill give you a hint - construction quality or lack thereof).

Anonymous's picture

Here in Arizona "flippers" are buying homes at auction for cash where banks are dumping instead of holding, doing a quick fix-up, then putting it back on the market to sell to those who are using the current tax incentive. The flip generates about $10,000 to $20,000 profit for a typical $150,000 to $200,000 home.

This alters the housing numbers by double counting the same house listing and sale over a few month period and showing a general increase in prices.

When the tax incentive ends the "flippers" will lose much of their margin and prices will decline. Those who purchased under the tax incentive program will be instantly underwater.

Howard_Beale's picture

In many states, the REO's are going to the realtors but they scratch and claw their offers to the banks ASAP. Don't have a clue why the banks don't start their own MLS other than the fact that they are completely incompetant in every other sense so go ahead, idiot bankers, pay the realtors too. I do believe that in certain states, where you can get an REO at 50% of market value, you can get a great deal if you plan to live there forever and don't want some asshole landlord with pet restrictions and bad interior taste.

On the other hand, the property tax issue is indeed troubling in most states. Property transfer taxes in states that don't have them will probably be enacted to further screw up the housing market, sales taxes (like the Canadian 14% shellacking) are surely around the corner. State income taxes are bound to increase to put most middle class families near poverty. Other than that, no problems.

Gromit's picture

I've been renting since 06.

I never imagined I would be renting 4 years later, I expected an RTC like clearance of the market but today it looks even further in the future than it did in 06.


Shiznit Diggity's picture

I too am renting, waiting for the right time to buy. Most likely we'll see a long slow grind down. Right now the market is propped up by delusional expectations that prices will soon resume rising. Those expectations hang on the slender thread of generational lows in mortgage rates. Once the Fed stops buying MBS, rates will start drifting up, putting downward pressure on prices and driving more and more homeowners underwater on their mortgages. Newly underwater homeowners will gradually throw in the towel, putting more downward pressure on prices. I expect the process to take many years to play out.

digalert's picture

I too have been wrong, I thought, hoped we would have bitten the bullet but nooooo. We have Washington and an industry hell bent on not only maintaining, but even elevating home prices back to lalaland bubble times whatever the cost.

Madcow's picture

RE prices must correct 80% from current levels - all the way back to 1980. would be "buyers" know this - and will wait it out.  "Owners" also know this - and will try to unload before the next guy - just to escape increasing tax burdens.


Either the IRS figures out a way to let people deduct their RE losses against income, or the country disintegrates in a deflationary firestorm.


If something doesn't change quickly, basically EVERYONE who bought a house with a mortgage from 1995-2008 is going to be bankrupt and homeless. 



ATG's picture

With 125% LTVs and 5% down Fed,

how about RE and all prices

correcting to 1930s or lower?...

Ned Zeppelin's picture

I truly believe there will be, by popular acclaim, a universal moratorium on foreclosures at that time. Let's face it, it will be easy, since there will be a single owner on the mortgagee side, being Uncle Sam.  We'll be true socialists once that day comes, since we'll all live in government-provided housing.  So one tactic might be to buy the house you want to be in when the music stops, since you'll "own it" for free for some indeterminate period of time. Civil society will not allow for millions of homeless middle and upper-middle class.  Non-starter, trust me.

The fun part is thinking through what happens next. 

Anonymous's picture

"Take a look at the chart of US house prices relative to incomes showing that homes are still expensive"

It's that simple, and is the reason why home prices will continue to drop in a declining-wage environment.

Lastly, hat's off to you, but you're not the "only one" who has foreseen the Mcmansion problem as retirees transition to ACLF's.

John Burns Real Estate, John Mauldin, et al...

Anonymous's picture

Sideways is a direction and conundrum with an elliptical motion.
Sideways can have no end, up and down always end.

ghostfaceinvestah's picture

You haven't even mentioned property taxes.  Given the state of local goverment finances, where do you think property taxes are headed?

ATG's picture

Washoe County Nevada more than

doubled property taxes in places like

Incline Village Lake Tahoe and got

lawsuits forcing refunds, along with

declining property values in double digits.

CA, NV et al broken, with unions resisting paycuts.

Utah wants to eliminate 12th grade.

Until DC RE prices collapse with government workers

in their club showers, the worst not over...

Anonymous's picture

"As they downsize from McMansions to condos to assisted living facilities, their net shrinkage in demand for housing is going to be in the tens of millions of square feet per year."

McMansions apparently work well as giant, indoor pot farms.

They can also accomodate 30-50 people simultaneously. Gee who would do that?

Anonymous's picture

"Friends"... I'll be there for you!

Know of many people considering dorm-style living arrangements and targeting McMansions as the place of choice. Couple of master suites on two levels with shared cooking and entertainment areas as well as five car garages.

GoldSilverDoc's picture

1) Sell the house you own, if you do.  

2) Take the money, and buy farmland.

3) Rent a house.

You will be glad.

Anonymous's picture

I don't get the whole "buy farmland" thing. I understand the need to get self-sufficient, but when the SHTF, you can bet the hungry hordes will stampede your farm and help themselves to the sweat of your brow. How effectively can you defend your land? And...will you have the testicular fortitude to do so?

I say:

(1) Silver to barter with and gold to rebuild wealth

(2) Canned food and bottled water

(3) Guns and ammo

(4) A second passport (if you qualify)

WaterWings's picture

The first half negates your second half.

ATG's picture


Assets correct the amount they were financed.

125% LTV Ditech Loans, hmmm...

jc125d's picture

Mad, if you can't find anything to short, and things can't get any worse, and the green shoots are false, and demographics and macro outlooks suck, where do you suppose your many great trading opportunities will miraculously materialize this year?  Enlighten me, please.

dark pools of soros's picture

i bought last april and my home is up about 7% - places with jobs always have strong home markets

also.. what era are you from where there are shower heads you can hang yourself on?? is that some 50's boot camp thing?

mtguy's picture

So, you sold already? Or, did you or your dog throw the dart on the wall to get that number?

My house was built in 1901, yes you can hang from the shower head -come on over.

dark pools of soros's picture

really?  all those old houses with doors built for midgets?  I'm 6'4 - so I probably can't even fit in that shower.  But I bet it is sturdy so kick out my knees if it isn't a bother...


So you all having fun taking things out of context???  Or you all just pissed off with your overleveraged real estate days that ate up all your profits? 


I must be insane to look back and think March/April was anything resembling a bottom in ANY market.  I must be totally alone looking at any chart and seeing that.  It is all my imagination.


Anonymous's picture

I recant my earlier comment about you posting an occasional piece of interetsing commentary. Nice reference to the "brokeback mountain" thing, btw. You are a winner.

dark pools of soros's picture

hey anon?  who the hell knows what you write?

GoldSilverDoc's picture

Having owned on the order of 500 houses over the years, I always wonder about that "my house is (up/down) X% in the last (period)" statement.

Houses are individual unique properties.  There is no consistent pricing.  The appraisal business is complete and total bullshit.  And thus, there is absolutely no way to know the "value" of a house, except on the DAY THAT IT SELLS.  

Any other valuation is sheer hope, smoke, and mirrors.

SteveNYC's picture

GoldSilver is absolutely correct. How can "my house be up 7%" unless you have actually sold it and achieved just that, a 7% gain.

Oh, don't forget to subtract:

- Mortgage interest & fees

- Yearly taxes

- Maintenance

- Broker commissions (to exit, and no, sale by owner does not exclude this line item, as the buyer will expect a commensurate "discount" on the price)

- Opportunity cost on the downpayment


Then, we can talk gains/losses (yes, I'm a renter, with cash)

dark pools of soros's picture

yes, my point an easy target to attack eh? 

 but what drives value but perception? sure if there are no buyers you will never get a sale, but to say that all home transactions are in a vacuum you yourself are in a hole, out of reality.


I am not looking to trade houses.  I think my post was clear. I have one home, the one I live in and just saying that my area has rebounded some.  Will it dive again?  possibly, but I think you have to have a different mentality when you are buying to live and buying to invest.  You are looking for the next bubble since by definition of a trader you aren't looking long term.


so on the flip side, if you don't sell you dont have a loss either right?  So why blame the banks for getting rid of mark-to-market if you do not allow for the reverse to be true?


Species8472's picture

Although I may be looking, in a few years, to down-size the house (1500 sqft is about right) I will also be looking to up-size the land, 150 acres would be nice.

dark pools of soros's picture

isn't that a starter home in Wyoming or whatever outback/brokeback area you are holing up in?