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Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Overview from a conference being held today at UCLA:

The current level of hype about real estate bears a worrisome resemblance to the bubble of the late nineties. Financial companies tout no-money-down interest-only loans as a way of extending speculators' purchasing power, and developers pitch new developments to buyers the way Wall Street analysts used to pitch new IPOs. According to the National Association of Realtors, over a third of total sales in 2004 were to families buying a second home--most for 'investment' purposes.

While housing activity levels are still high from a historical perspective, there are signs that the market is starting to slow. Appreciation rates and sales rates have peaked, and some markets have seen a rapid increase in inventory levels. The recent Fed warning regarding inflation has sent mortgage rates up.

How long can this market last? Are we in for a soft landing or a crash? Who is likely to be left holding the bag when the smoke clears? These are the questions --among many others--about the California and National housing markets that we will attempt to answer at the Conference.
Blogger Tomohiro Idokoro comments:
Quoted in the San Diego Union-Tribune:

"Policy-makers need to reckon with the end of the housing boom, which has been holding up consumer spending and the economy," said Peter Morici, economist at the University of Maryland. "With so many buyers benefiting from creative and highly questionable mortgage schemes, and regulators expressing concern about those practices, a pullback in the housing sector seems inevitable. When that happens, growth will skid."