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The Housing Bubble's Silver Lining

August 20, 2014

As rents climb, developers large and small take out their calculators and dreams of wealth blossom: but no, this is not bubble.

The disastrous blowback from inflating housing bubbles is painfully obvious: as housing becomes unaffordable, households impoverish themselves to "get in now before it's too late;" malinvestment (i.e. McMansions in the middle of nowhere) flourishes as housing becomes a speculative financial vehicle rather than shelter; retirement funds are sold designed-to-default mortgage-backed securities, and when the bubble finally pops, those lured into buying at the top are left underwater, owing more on their mortgage than their house is worth.

But there is one silver lining to housing bubbles: some of the money squandered in the speculative frenzy ends up rehabilitating old buildings or erecting new housing in useful locales.

Let's not overstate this silver lining: a rational, productive set of financial policies would have directed capital into useful construction without the dubious aid of a speculative bubble. Every dollar wasted on a marginal-return housing investment (for example, a shoddy house with Chinese drywall that renders it cheaper to tear the house down than attempt to fix everything that's wrong) is a dollar that could have gone into rehabbing a well-constructed building from a previous era or building shelter that will last 100 years with little maintenance.

But the euphoria and greed of the bubble mindset do serve one valuable purpose: rundown properties that would not attract any investment in more rational times are viewed as undiscovered gold mines in bubbles.

As rents climb, developers large and small take out their calculators and dreams of wealth blossom. This gold-rush mentality quickly spreads to forgotten areas such as small-town Main Streets and abandoned urban zones--for example the Mid-Market area in downtown San Francisco, a seedy stretch of Market Street that is being redeveloped at a furious pace. Decrepit storefronts are being torn down and thousands of new high-rise apartments and condos are being built in their stead.

The tens of thousands of well-paid techies who have flooded into the city in recent years have driven rents off the scale, and so developers of cubbyhole studios are rubbing their hands in anticipation of collecting $3,000 a month for each cubbyhole from Tech Bros earning $10,000 a month.

All bubbles eventually pop--not just in housing, but in tech employment, and every other bubble in which the participants are absolutely confident that the bubble is not a bubble and the good times will roll essentially forever.

Thus we can anticipate thousands of Tech Bros will lose their jobs when the current frenzy runs its course, just as we can anticipate developers with empty cubbyhole flats will be forced to lower the rents. Many will go broke and the buildings will be auctioned off for a fraction of their construction cost, and the new owners will be able to make a go of it at rents that are a fraction of the asking price in the Tech Bro glory days.

But the city and the future residents got new buildings that will provide shelter for decades, and that's a good thing. As the massive speculative bubbles propping up the U.S. economy all pop, the value of those new and rehabbed buildings will plummet, along with rent and the price of condos. Andf that will be a good thing, too.

When will this unfold? Nobody knows. Bubbles are not entirely predictable phenomena; we can identify them easily enough--when every participant is sure it can't be a bubble, that guarantees it is a bubble--but we cannot predict when the fever will break. We can only predict that all speculative bubbles will pop, and that the deflation will be commensurate to the trendline of the bubble's ascent.

If we're left with some renovated buildings and new shelter in practical locales, we can count our blessings.

Administrative note: I apologize for the lack of email response; the past few weeks have been brutal and my time online has been extremely limited. Thank you for your understanding and patience.








Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy (Kindle, $9.95)(print, $17.76)
go to Kindle edition
Are you like me?
Ever since my first summer job decades ago, I've been chasing financial security. Not win-the-lottery, Bill Gates riches (although it would be nice!), but simply a feeling of financial control. I want my financial worries to if not disappear at least be manageable and comprehensible.

And like most of you, the way I've moved toward my goal has always hinged not just on having a job but a career.

You don't have to be a financial blogger to know that "having a job" and "having a career" do not mean the same thing today as they did when I first started swinging a hammer for a paycheck.

Even the basic concept "getting a job" has changed so radically that jobs--getting and keeping them, and the perceived lack of them--is the number one financial topic among friends, family and for that matter, complete strangers.

So I sat down and wrote this book: Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy.

It details everything I've verified about employment and the economy, and lays out an action plan to get you employed.

I am proud of this book. It is the culmination of both my practical work experiences and my financial analysis, and it is a useful, practical, and clarifying read.

Test-drive the first section and see for yourself.     Kindle, $9.95     print, $17.76

"I want to thank you for creating your book Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy. It is rare to find a person with a mind like yours, who can take a holistic systems view of things without being captured by specific perspectives or agendas. Your contribution to humanity is much appreciated."
Laura Y.

Gordon Long and I discuss The New Nature of Work: Jobs, Occupations & Careers (25 minutes, YouTube)


HUGE GIANT BIG FAT DISCLAIMER: Nothing on this site should be construed as investment advice or guidance. It is not intended as investment advice or guidance, nor is it offered as such.... (read more)

WHY EMAIL TO THIS SITE IS READ BUT MAY NOT BE ACKNOWLEDGED: Regrettably, I am so sorely pressed for time and energy that I am unable to respond to the vast majority of emails. Please know I read all emails, but I can only devote a very limited number of hours to this blog and all correspondence....



This Month's entries:

The Housing Bubble's Silver Lining
August 20, 2014

Are Capital Inflows Propping Up U.S. Markets?
August 19, 2014

Don't Think It Won't Happen Just Because It Hasn't Happened Yet: Loss of Faith in the Fed
August 18, 2014

Have We Forgotten What an Authentic Market Is?
August 16, 2014

Is Collapse the Only Real "Fix" to Our Healthcare and Legal Systems?
August 15, 2014

Are There No Hard Limits on Financial Finagling?
August 14, 2014

We're Relying on Phantom Wealth to Fund Our Retirement
August 13, 2014

It's Not Just Healthcare That's Bankrupt--It's Our Legal System, Too
August 12, 2014

Here's Why Wages Might Rise Despite Millions of Unemployed Being Available for Work
August 11, 2014

The Joys of Being Productive
August 9, 2014

A Brief Note on the Difference Between Trading and Investing
August 8, 2014

Is This Decline the Real Deal?
August 7, 2014

What Are the Options for Those Who Can't/Won't Get a Corporate/Government Job?
August 6, 2014

How Economies Collapse: Systemic Friction and Debt Are Self-Liquidating
August 5, 2014

The Slide to Collapse Is Greased with Self-Interest
August 4, 2014

It Doesn't Take Much Land to Grow A Lot of Food
August 2, 2014

Why Wait for the Shoe to Hit the Floor? The Case for Selling Now
August 1, 2014


July 2014 entries

June 2014 entries

May 2014 entries

April 2014 entries

March 2014 entries

February 2014 entries

January 2014 entries


Archives

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Thank you, Daniel E. ($5.15), for yet another generous contribution to this site -- I am greatly honored by your steadfast support and readership.   Thank you, Ryan D. ($20), for your most generous contribution to this site -- I am greatly honored by your support and readership.



SPECIAL APPEAL TO READERS OF OFTWOMINDS from longtime correspondent Cheryl A.:

I don't recall exactly how I discovered Of Two Minds in late 2005, but it is hard to express how grateful I am that I did. As a result of the insight I have gained from the information Charles has shared over these past 9 years, I have been able to navigate this turbulent period much more successfully than most of my acquaintances. I'm sure that those of you who visit OTM with any regularity have similarly benefitted in numerous ways.

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All content, HTML coding, format design, design elements and images copyright © 2014 Charles Hugh Smith, All global rights reserved in all media, unless otherwise credited or noted.

                                                                       

Extra-Special Bonus Aphorisms:


"There is no security on this earth; there is only opportunity."
(Douglas MacArthur)

"We are what we repeatedly do." (Aristotle)

"Do the thing and you shall have the power." (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

"Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction." (E.F. Schumacher, via Tom R.)

"He who will not risk cannot win." (John Paul Jones)

"When we drink coffee, ideas march in like the army." (Honore de Balzac)

"Progress is not possible without deviation." (Frank Zappa, via Richard Metzger)

"Victory favors those who take pains." (amat victoria curam)

"The man who has a garden and a library has everything." (Cicero, via Lee Bentley)

"A healthy homecooked family meal and a home garden are revolutionary acts." CHS

"Do you know what amazes me more than anything else? The impotence of force to organize anything." (Napoleon Bonaparte)

"The way of the Tao is reversal" Or "Reversal is the movement of Tao." (Lao Tzu)

"Chance favours the prepared mind." (Louis Pasteur)

"Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm." (Winston Churchill)

"Where there is ruin, there is hope for treasures." (Rumi)

"The grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love and something to hope for." Joseph Addison (via Susan J.)

"The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, via Wayne H.)

"Passive absorption of marketing-dominated media is the primary activity on the plantation of the mind, and that of course is the goal of the colonial overlords: distraction, passivity, confusion, divide and conquer, and the old stand-by, financial desperation." (CHS)

"While we can always buy back into a trending market, we cannot go back in time and recover a profit lost to greed or complacency." (CHS)

"Whatever remains unconscious emerges later as fate." (Carl Jung)

"Any sufficiently advanced cartel's actions are indistinguishable from magic." (CHS)

"We have no leadership, just cronies and puppets." (CHS)

"The secret sauce in an investment isn't the upside, it's the viability between people who choose to share your dream in business or in life." (Eric P.)

"The ultimate goals of making money are balance and independence from money." (An Chu)

"Central planning perfects the power of threats to bypass the system's defenses." (CHS)

"Independence requires independence of thought, habit and action." (CHS)

"Certainty has another advantage: it's more persuasive than hedged hesitancy." (CHS)

"That which is cheap and abundant will be squandered until it is no longer cheap or abundant." (CHS) (3/5/2014)

"The prime directive of any bureaucracy is to eliminate all accountability." (CHS)

"In a world besotted with the artifice of consumerism, what matters is not what can be commodified and bought but what can't be commodified and bought." (CHS)

"The Mobile Creative credo: trust the network, not the corporation or the state." (CHS)

The Smith Market Uncertainty Principle: The more precisely we can determine the likelihood of a trend change, the less precisely we can determine the timing of the trend change--and vice versa. (June 20, 2014)

The Smith Uncertainty Principle: Every sustained action has more than one consequence. Some consequences will appear positive for a time before revealing their destructive nature. Some consequences will be intended, some will not. Some will be foreseeable, some will not. Some will be controllable, some will not. Those that are unforeseen and uncontrollable will trigger waves of other unforeseen and uncontrollable consequences. (July 8, 2014)

"The truth at any cost lowers all other costs." (Robert David Steele)

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    My Big Island Girl
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    My "definition" of success:

    1. Did I make myself useful today?
    2. Did I take care of myself today and avoid burdening anyone with my cares and troubles?
    3. Were I to meet the living Jesus or Buddha at day's end, would I feel ashamed of my conduct during the day, or could I meet his gaze with the inner knowledge that I emulated his teachings to the very best of my ability?


    live free
    live well
    live with integrity
    live with kindness
    be average but with self-discipline


    7 things to aspire to:

    austerity
    restraint
    humility
    responsibility
    patience
    sacrifice
    thrift

     

       
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