The heft and feel of a well-worn handle,
The sight of shavings that curl from a blade;
The logs in the wood pile, the sentiment of huge beams in an old-fashioned house;
The smell of fresh cut timber and the pungent fragrance of burning leaves;
The crackle of kindling and the hiss of burning logs.
Abundant to all the needs of man, how poor the world would be
Without wood.

Everard Hinrichs, quoted by Eric Sloane in A Reverence for Wood


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Simple Solution to the Housing Crisis

We ended the last post...

"Or, we can re-engage private investment in the game."

Fortunately, we're hearing rumbles out of Washington that the experts are thinking along the same lines.
"The Obama administration is seeking ideas from investors on how to convert thousands of foreclosed properties owned by government-backed entities into rental homes, administration officials said.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency, the regulator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, will be joined by the Treasury Department and the Department of Housing and Urban Development in soliciting proposals, said the officials, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly in advance of an announcement planned for later today. ...
Encouraging investors to buy foreclosed homes in bulk would help shrink the U.S. housing surplus, stabilize property prices and provide affordable rentals, Morgan Stanley housing analysts said in a report Aug. 8.
The collapse of the U.S. residential real estate market triggered the recession in 2007 and has stifled an economic recovery, according to the Morgan Stanley study. Incentives such as tax breaks and eased lending terms are needed to encourage more investors to purchase repossessed homes, repair them, and rent the properties at affordable rates to people who can’t afford to buy a house, analysts led by Oliver Chang wrote.
“What’s important to do is help clear the backlog as quickly as possible with as little detriment to home prices as possible,” Chang, head of housing strategy in Morgan Stanley’s research division, said in a telephone interview Aug. 8. “The goal here isn’t to help investors. The goal is to provide quality affordable housing.” - The Washington Post, 8-10-11
Well, since they are looking for ideas, here's one: It's called by its author The Simple Solution.

How would it work?
"The Simple Solution proposes a tax credit for any buyer willing to buy any residential property for investment or personal residence that is..."empty”. Empties are properties in one of four phases of financial difficulty:
1)   90 Days past due on payments to mortgage holder
2)   In the process of being foreclosed upon 
3)   Foreclosed and vacant
4)   A “walk away” would be those people who simply have returned the property to the lender and vacated the premises. 
The tax credit would be 20% of the sale price. The time period for eligibility would be one year. The credit would be amortized over five years in consideration of budget difficulties. There would be no limit on the number of houses available to each buyer."
What would the Simple Solution cause to happen?

  1. The nation's "housing overhang", referred to in the Washington Post article above as the source of downward pressure on the housing market, would be mostly or completely eliminated within the one-year time frame of the program.
  2. The value of synthetic real estate investment vehicles that are held by the nation's top banks would turn around as the empty housing inventory firms up national prices. This is a good thing...remember "When fall the banks of England..." ?
  3. Investors and potential home owners would have their confidence restored in housing as a safe investment.
  4. The huge housing industry work force, most of whom are currently out of work, would slowly but surely be re-employed as empty housing disappears and new investment drives construction back to normal levels.
  5. Domestic GDP and consumption will return to normal levels.
These and other benefits are detailed in the Simple Solution proposal. The author has done a credible job of backing these impacts with historical data and logical sense of the markets based on his experience in the industry. And he has calculations that seem to show that the cost of the program will pay for itself by 2016 if housing starts achieve the levels he projects.

The biggest hurdle to The Simple Solution seems to be a political one, as demonstrated by the last quote in the Washington Post article above. We've been so conditioned against "tax breaks for the rich" that any tax proposal that has the faintest smell of potential profits is automatically a target for demonization.

I can remember when making money was a good thing.

Additional thoughts on The Simple Solution in the next post...


Lumber1 said...

thank you Chuck for not just identifying a problem and complaining about it! Now you actually propose a viable solution!

Perhaps wiser minds will prevail!

mrblogger said...

I bought a repossessed house on an online auction and it was worth while. The auction process is simple and straight forward. The company through which I bought my new home was very helpful and everything went through without a hitch. Communication and participating in the auction was done online, and I can tell you this process definitely saved me some time.

Anonymous said...

Hi all,

I bought a repossessed property and it was the best investment I ever made. I bought a repo house on auction for much less than the market value. I was always skeptic of buying a repossessed house on an online auction. This turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made. The process is not as complicated as one may think. Be sure to use a reputable company which will help you through the whole process. A blessing in disguise, since I do not have much time in the day, was that everything was done online. This really helped me a lot with my tight schedule.

I am currently busy buying my second house to rent out. I feel like it was worth while waiting all this time to finally be able to buy property, since I can now get two properties for a little bit more than the price of only one.

jain housing said...

nice post