Best of the Week
Most Popular
1. Investing in a Bubble Mania Stock Market Trending Towards Financial Crisis 2.0 CRASH! - 9th Sep 21
2.Tech Stocks Bubble Valuations 2000 vs 2021 - 25th Sep 21
3.Stock Market FOMO Going into Crash Season - 8th Oct 21
4.Stock Market FOMO Hits September Brick Wall - Evergrande China's Lehman's Moment - 22nd Sep 21
5.Crypto Bubble BURSTS! BTC, ETH, XRP CRASH! NiceHash Seizes Funds on Account Halting ALL Withdrawals! - 19th May 21
6.How to Protect Your Self From a Stock Market CRASH / Bear Market? - 14th Oct 21
7.AI Stocks Portfolio Buying and Selling Levels Going Into Market Correction - 11th Oct 21
8.Why Silver Price Could Crash by 20%! - 5th Oct 21
9.Powell: Inflation Might Not Be Transitory, After All - 3rd Oct 21
10.Global Stock Markets Topped 60 Days Before the US Stocks Peaked - 23rd Sep 21
Last 7 days
Why Most Investors LOST Money by Investing in ARK FUNDS - 27th Jan 22
The “play-to-earn” trend taking the crypto world by storm - 27th Jan 22
Quantum AI Stocks Investing Priority - 26th Jan 22
Is Everyone Going To Be Right About This Stocks Bear Market?- 26th Jan 22
Stock Market Glass Half Empty or Half Full? - 26th Jan 22
Stock Market Quoted As Saying 'The Reports Of My Demise Are Greatly Exaggerated' - 26th Jan 22
The Synthetic Dividend Option To Generate Profits - 26th Jan 22
The Beginner's Guide to Credit Repair - 26th Jan 22
AI Tech Stocks State Going into the CRASH and Capitalising on the Metaverse - 25th Jan 22
Stock Market Relief Rally, Maybe? - 25th Jan 22
Why Gold’s Latest Rally Is Nothing to Get Excited About - 25th Jan 22
Gold Slides and Rebounds in 2022 - 25th Jan 22
Gold; a stellar picture - 25th Jan 22
CATHY WOOD ARK GARBAGE ARK Funds Heading for 90% STOCK CRASH! - 22nd Jan 22
Gold Is the Belle of the Ball. Will Its Dance Turn Bearish? - 22nd Jan 22
Best Neighborhoods to Buy Real Estate in San Diego - 22nd Jan 22
Stock Market January PANIC AI Tech Stocks Buying Opp - Trend Forecast 2022 - 21st Jan 21
How to Get Rich in the MetaVerse - 20th Jan 21
Should you Buy Payment Disruptor Stocks in 2022? - 20th Jan 21
2022 the Year of Smart devices, Electric Vehicles, and AI Startups - 20th Jan 21
Oil Markets More Animated by Geopolitics, Supply, and Demand - 20th Jan 21
WARNING - AI STOCK MARKET CRASH / BEAR SWITCH TRIGGERED! - 19th Jan 22
Fake It Till You Make It: Will Silver’s Motto Work on Gold? - 19th Jan 22
Crude Oil Smashing Stocks - 19th Jan 22
US Stagflation: The Global Risk of 2022 - 19th Jan 22
Stock Market Trend Forecast Early 2022 - Tech Growth Value Stocks Rotation - 18th Jan 22
Stock Market Sentiment Speaks: Are We Setting Up For A 'Mini-Crash'? - 18th Jan 22
Mobile Sports Betting is on a rise: Here’s why - 18th Jan 22
Exponential AI Stocks Mega-trend - 17th Jan 22
THE NEXT BITCOIN - 17th Jan 22
Gold Price Predictions for 2022 - 17th Jan 22
How Do Debt Relief Services Work To Reduce The Amount You Owe? - 17th Jan 22
RIVIAN IPO Illustrates We are in the Mother of all Stock Market Bubbles - 16th Jan 22
All Market Eyes on Copper - 16th Jan 22
The US Dollar Had a Slip-Up, but Gold Turned a Blind Eye to It - 16th Jan 22
A Stock Market Top for the Ages - 16th Jan 22
FREETRADE - Stock Investing Platform, the Good, Bad and Ugly Review, Free Shares, Cancelled Orders - 15th Jan 22
WD 14tb My Book External Drive Unboxing, Testing and Benchmark Performance Amazon Buy Review - 15th Jan 22
Toyland Ferris Wheel Birthday Fun at Gulliver's Rother Valley UK Theme Park 2022 - 15th Jan 22
What You Should Know About a TailoredPay High Risk Merchant Account - 15th Jan 22

Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

How to Protect your Wealth by Investing in AI Tech Stocks

The True Cost of the U.S. Homeownership Obsession

Housing-Market / US Housing Jan 18, 2015 - 09:56 AM GMT

By: MISES

Housing-Market

Ryan McMaken writes: In 2014, the US homeownership rate fell below 65 percent, which means it’s back to where it was during the 1970s and much of the 1990s. Various federal agencies have long made homeownership a priority, and have introduced a bevy of government and quasi-government programs including the GSEs like Fannie Mae, FHA-insured loans, VA-insured loans, the Bush administration’s “American Dream Downpayment Initiative” and, of course central bank meddling to keep interest rates nice and low for the mortgage markets.


And for all their efforts, all the inflation, and all the taxpayer-funded subsidies poured into bailouts, we have a homeownership rate at where it was forty years ago. During the housing boom, though, homeownership rates climbed to unprecedented levels, cracking 70 percent or more in many parts of the country. When the boom in homeownership came to an end, it was not a painless matter of people selling their homes. It was a very costly readjustment process, and it was something that would have been completely unnecessary and would never have happened to the degree it did without the interference of Congress, the central bank, and the easy-money induced boom they engineered.

The American Dream = Homeownership

Homeownership rates have never been an indicator of economic prosperity. Switzerland, for example, has a homeownership rate half of the US rate. Nevertheless, raising the homeownership rate has long been a pet project of politicians in Washington.

The political obsession with raising homeownership rates dates back to the New Deal when Roosevelt began introducing a variety of homeownership programs designed to drive down the percentage of households that were renting their homes. Based on romantic ideas of frontier homesteading, it was assumed that owning a house was the only truly American way of living. It was during this time that the thirty-year mortgage — an artifact of government intervention — became a fixture of the mortgage landscape. And homeownership rates did indeed increase. And with it, debt loads increased as well.

By the 1990s, central-bank engineered low interest rates propelled mortgage debt loads to awe inspiring new levels, and houses kept getting bigger as families got smaller. Government-sponsored entities like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac kept the liquidity flowing and home equity lines of credit turned houses into sources of income.

From 2002 to 2007, those of us who worked in or around the mortgage industry were amazed at just how easy it was to get a loan even with a very sketchy credit history and unreliable income. Only token down payments were necessary. Many of these less-than-impressive borrowers bought multiple houses. Behind all of it was the Federal government and the Fed forever repeating the mantra of more homeownership, lower interest rates, more mortgages, and rising home prices. The rising homeownership levels were for the populists. The rising home prices were for the bankers and the existing homeowners.

A Housing-Related Employment Bubble

The housing bubble became the gift that seemingly never stopped giving because with all this home buying came millions of new jobs in real estate, construction, and home mortgages. Seemingly everyone looked to real estate as a source of easy money. The bag boy at your local grocery store was selling condos on the side, and everyone seemed to be selling new home loans. Home builders couldn’t keep up with the orders and contractors had six-week waiting lists.

We know how that all ended. The foreclosure rate doubled from 2002 to 2010. Implied government backing of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac became explicit government backing, and numerous too-big-to-fail banks which had invested in home mortgages were bailed out to the tune of hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars. Some lenders like Countrywide and Indymac essentially went out of business, and all lenders (including many who were not bailed out) faced costs ranging from 20,000 to 40,000 per foreclosure in lost revenue, legal fees, and other costs. Foreclosures begat foreclosures as foreclosure-dense neighborhoods were most prone to price drops, leading to negative equity, which in turn led to even more foreclosures. Ironically, the most responsible borrowers — the ones who made sizable down payments and reliably made payments, and thus had more skin in the game — were the ones who suffered the most and who had the most to lose by simply walking away from their homes.

Real estate agents, loan industry professionals, construction workers, and others who relied on the home purchase industry lost their jobs and had to spend time and money on retraining in completely new industries. Or they were simply among the millions who collected unemployment checks and food stamps supplied by those who still had jobs.

Was the Bubble Worth It?

And for what? The opportunity cost of it all was immense and during the bubble years, total workers in housing-related employment ballooned to 7.4 million, many of whom were fooled by the bubble into thinking the home-sales industry was a good long-term career. To get these jobs they spent many hours and thousands of dollars on certification, training, and job experience. After the bubble popped, three million of those jobs disappeared. From 2001 to 2006, employment in the mortgage industry increased by 119 percent, only to have most of those jobs disappear from 2006 to 2009.

Now, there will always be people who make bad career decisions, and there will always be frictional unemployment, but without the housing bubble and the myriad of federal programs and central bank pumping behind it, would millions of workers have flooded into these industries knowing that most of them would be unemployable in that same industry only a few years later? That seems unlikely.

Moreover, might we be better off today if those same people, many of whom were very talented, had invested their time and money into other fields and other endeavors? What businesses were never opened and what products were never made because so many flocked to the housing sector? We’ll never know.

Thanks to the government’s relentless drive for more homeownership and ever-increasing home prices, millions of workers concluded that real-estate jobs were the best bet in the modern economy. They thought this because investors chasing yield in a low-interest-rate environment were pouring their money into owner-occupant housing in response to government guarantees on single-family loans and easy money for mortgage lending.

The people were promised more homeownership, but after just a few years, it has become clear they didn’t get it. At the same time, Wall Street was promised high home prices, and when the prices faltered, it was offered bailouts instead. Wall Street got its bailouts.

The cost of the housing bubble is often calculated in dollar amounts that can easily be counted on Wall Street, but for those who aren’t politically well-connected — for ordinary workers, homeowners, construction firms, and many others — the cost in time and lost opportunities will forever remain among the many unseen costs of government intervention.

Ryan W. McMaken is the editor of Mises Daily and The Free MarketSend him mail. See Ryan McMaken's article archives.

You can subscribe to future articles by Ryan McMaken via this RSS feed.

http://mises.org

© 2015 Copyright Ryan McMaken - All Rights Reserved Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisors.


© 2005-2019 http://www.MarketOracle.co.uk - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


Post Comment

Only logged in users are allowed to post comments. Register/ Log in