THE SINGLE-FAMILY HOUSING MARKET
We’ve all been beaten up pretty well by now; Better times come with a new decade
Thursday, July 24, 2008, was somewhat of a hallmark day for me in regard to this book. I had saved the chapter on single-family housing for last, mostly because the residential real estate story was still evolving, and I wanted the chapter to be as fresh as I could make it before bundling off the manuscript to the publisher.
On that Thursday, I did two lengthy interviews for the chapter, one of which was a morning discussion with Jed Smith, the managing director of quantitative research for the National Association of Realtors, who surprised me with a persistently upbeat analysis of the housing market. His basic message was we had hit bottom and by 2009 the single-family housing market would show a vital upswing in sales.
Later that afternoon I picked up the Wall Street Journal, which ran an interesting column off the front page of the “Money & Investing” section. The Journal reported the homeowner vacancy rate, or the percentage of available housing stock sitting empty and waiting to be sold (not occupied homes where a seller can be a patient seller), rose to a record 2.9 percent in the first quarter 2008 compared with a long-term average of roughly 1.5 percent. This rate didn’t include foreclosed homes tied up in legal proceedings or empty houses that ...