Monthly Archives: July 2010

Bring the Snark: Ken Harney and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Bringing you a giant cornucopia of helpful changes!

My friend Matthew Shadbolt alerted me to this editorial by Ken Harney, a columnist for the Washington Post, that was published on The Real Deal.  Harney believes that the not-yet-fully-formed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau can’t get here fast enough, and that the days of wine and roses will soon dawn upon us:

The financial reform bill signed into law by President Obama may look like a giant cornucopia of helpful changes for homebuyers and loan applicants — not the least of which will be the creation of a powerful Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to ride herd on the mortgage lending industry.

Well, forgive the snark, but… a giant cornucopia of helpful changes for homebuyers and loan applicants?Really?

Let’s see what the wondrous benefits of a $500m federal agency we’re about to receive are.

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Slouching Towards DC, Part 2: A “Balanced” Policy

In part 1, I laid out some hints of what the Obama Administration has in mind for a new federal housing policy that would “reset the rules of the market” and engage in a “fundamental rethink” not just of the mechanics of housing finance, but of the objectives of housing policy themselves.  The Treasury now has all of the comments that it requested from the public and we can expect to see a proposal from the Administration sometime this fall or early next year.

In this post, I’d like to engage in the purest conjectures about what such a policy might look like.  I know that assumptions are dangerous, and any conjecture at this early stage is more likely to be wrong than right, but… hey, this is fun.  (If you’re a real estate and politics geek like me anyhow.)  So here we go.

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Slouching Towards DC: A New Era in Real Estate?

1906 San Francisco earthquake

There was, apparently, an earthquake in Washington DC not too long ago.  Thankfully, no one was hurt, and no serious property damage occurred as the 3.6 magnitude tremor rolled through.  Mere days later, however, I learned that another tremor — this one not registered on any geological survey — centered around Washington DC occurred.  From the Washington Post:

Responding to the collapse in home prices and the huge number of foreclosures, the Obama administration is pursuing an overhaul of government policy that could diverge from the emphasis on homeownership embraced by former administrations.

“In previous eras, we haven’t seen people question whether homeownership was the right decision. It was just assumed that’s where you want to go,” said Raphael Bostic, a senior official in the Department of Housing and Urban Development. “You’re not going to hear us say that.”

While this particular tremor hasn’t developed yet into anything earth-shattering just yet, and there are absolutely no details available just yet, for anyone even remotely connected to the real estate industry, these statements amount to a tectonic shift of realignment.

What rough beast, its hour come around at last, slouches towards DC to be born?

Conjectures follow.

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Three Most Important Tools for Bloggers

Joel Burslem over at 1000watt has proclaimed July 9, 2010 as the day that the real estate blog died, and given the thoughtfulness and intelligence of the author, it’s difficult to disagree with his conclusion.  Given how Joel defines “real estate blog”, the conclusions he draws are somewhat difficult to escape:

For every Phoenix Real Estate Guy, there are likely umpteen dozen soulless me-too real estate blogs in any given metro these days. Many are filled with meaningless “market reports,” meandering “community updates” – and most were last updated many moons ago.

These blogs float like drift nets on the web, hoping to snare the clueless web visitor who stumbles in through some long tail Google search.

I, however, don’t necessarily agree with his premise.  In order for something to die, it had to have been alive at some point.  Since I don’t believe that the “real estate blog” as defined above was ever graced with the spark of life, I don’t know that I would mourn its death.

Instead, I would like to recommend some tools that are critical to the aspiring real estate blogger in the hopes that we might change the definition of a ‘real estate blog’ from “soulless me-too” Google-farming wanna-be blogs to an actual blog: a weblog, a series of thoughts.

These are not free tools, unfortunately, but for someone interested in blogging — whether in real estate or hyperlocal or something else — these tools are absolutely essential.

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In Case You Were Feeling Optimistic Today…

If you’re feeling optimistic right now, thinking that the real estate market will be rebounding soon based on the past couple of months of strong performance, well, I urge you to skip this post.  No need to spoil a perfectly good mood with gloom, especially on such a beautiful summer day as today.

As I’m not an economist, despite looking very much like one, I’m just going to share a few things I’ve read in the past couple of days that make me a wee bit jittery.  Back in May, I wrote that there were some worrisome signs for the housing market.  These signs don’t make me any more hopeful.

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