Sunday, October 09, 2005

13 percent drop in Manhattan real estate prices

October 5, 2005

The Big One isn't the long-predicted California earthquake or even a hurricane named Katrina. The genuine big one will arrive with a deafening pop, the sound of the real estate bubble bursting. In the past few years there have been plenty of false sightings, but now comes something truly ominous: a 13 percent drop in Manhattan real estate prices in a mere three-month period ending October 1. As if that were not bad enough, more unsettling news of the same nature is reported in Boston, Washington and San Francisco, the places that have led the national upward zoom in real estate prices for the past several years.

The rise in real estate prices has resulted in a huge jump in unearned income for homeowners. By taking home equity loans and cashing out--that is, refinancing the mortgage--every time their houses went up in value, the millions made billions. According to Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, they made $600 billion last year on the hypothetical appreciation of their properties. That adds up to about 7 percent of their spendable, after-taxes income. That's twice as much money put into people's hands as Bush's tax cuts.

That money went into retail spending at the mall, on vacations, new cars and other forms of happy doodadderie. If house prices stop going up, the 7 percent vanishes and there must be a huge drop in retail sales, which are the single largest force keeping the prosperity balloon in the air."

Makes you wonder what the real estate market will be doing in a couple of years time...

Chris Bell



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