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Author Archive: Irvine Renter

Housing sector weakness may be a sign of a change in attitudes away from home ownership as defining the American Dream. When house prices crashed in 2008, we had an opportunity to usher in a new era of affordable housing with a lower percentage of income devoted to housing in the United States. With less income going toward housing, more income is freed up to spend on other goods and services, stimulating the economy in a sustainable way. However, that isn't what politicians decided to do. No, they decided to bail out the banks with a plethora of bailouts aimed at supporting the banks and the loanowners who owed them money. If we had purged the excessive debts created during…[READ MORE]

Federal Reserve's zero interest rate policy made debt cheep and widely available to investors who inflated asset values setting the stage for another crash. Pundits like to call asset bubbles; it attracts attention and helps make a name for the analyst. Most often they are wrong, but every once in a while, someone calls a bubble just before one pops, and they look like a prescient genius -- and sometimes they are: Robert Shiller called both the internet bubble and the housing bubble right at the peak of each, and he won the Nobel Prize for his efforts. The pundit sounding the alarm today is Charles Hugh Smith. I like his writing, and he generally displays a great understanding of…[READ MORE]

People who quit making payments and allowed their homes to be auctioned want another chance to own a home, probably for more free loan money. Many people who lost their homes because they stopped making payments and allowed the house to fall into foreclosure would like to get back into the housing market. If the standards are lowered and the waiting period after a foreclosure is decreased, these former owners could buy again and stimulate housing. But is that a good idea? A small number of former owners endured a foreclosure because they lost their jobs and couldn't make even a modified payment to keep their homes. If there is any group deserving of a second chance, it's these people;…[READ MORE]

Unexpectedly low mortgage interest rates allow buyers to raise their bids and push house prices higher on stagnant incomes. In my opinion, the housing market has been boring lately, as prices have been flat, and sales volumes are low. The market is in a new "normal" pattern of low inventory, low demand, and low sales volume. The lack of volatility makes for a wonderfully boring housing market. We all dance around one big question: is it a good time to buy? Housing market is a 'crapshoot' By Heather Long @byHeatherLong July 7, 2014: 1:55 PM ET The housing market is a "crapshoot" now, according to one of America's leading real estate experts. Karl "Chip" Case is an economist whose name…[READ MORE]

As prices near the peak, lenders allow loan modification payments to reset forcing people out who can't afford the payments. Lenders give loan modifications to desperate borrowers ostensibly to keep them in their homes, but more importantly for lenders, loan modifications keep properties off the MLS and force buyers to compete for diminished inventory driving prices higher; but once prices near the peak, will lenders be so accommodating to struggling borrowers? Loan modifications are not an entitlement, and banks don’t want to make them one, but that’s not how borrowers see it. Borrowers consider loan modifications a birthright, and they believe lenders will always accommodate their sob stories and allow them to remain in houses they can't truly afford. Lenders…[READ MORE]

Loan modifications inflate house prices by reducing for-sale inventory; it also inflates rents by keeping potential rental homes off the market. Lenders embarked on a policy of aggressive loan modification to dry up the MLS inventory and force house prices to bottom in order to restore collateral value behind their bad bubble-era loans. Nobody disputes this, not even lenders. Lenders didn't have much choice but to pursue this policy because the alternative of curing their bad loans through foreclosure, besides being politically unpalatable, would have bankrupted the banks with trillions of dollars in losses. The problem with any policy that manipulates a financial market is the unforeseen or unintended consequences of their actions. One such consequence is and unsustainable increase…[READ MORE]

Higher prices bring out sellers but turn off buyers; the result is more inventory and a shift away from a seller's market. California's housing markets are nearly always a seller's market because we have a chronic shortage of available housing. This causes people to substitute down in quality relative to their incomes and live in smaller, less opulent abodes than their income would accommodate in other areas of the country. The cost of housing is high in California, and it probably always will be. Disruptions in the housing market quickly tip the balance in housing from one favoring sellers to one favoring buyers. For example, in late 2011, we had the deepest buyer's market possible in California. There were very…[READ MORE]

“The system of banking we have both equally and ever reprobated. I contemplate it as a blot left in all our Constitutions, which, if not covered, will end in their destruction, which is already hit by the gamblers in corruption, and is sweeping away in its progress the fortunes and morals of our citizens. Funding I consider as limited, rightfully, to a redemption of the debt within the lives of a majority of the generation contracting it; every generation coming equally, by the laws of the Creator of the world, to the free possession of the earth he made for their subsistence, unincumbered by their predecessors, who, like them, were but tenants for life.” Thomas Jefferson California borrowers have created…[READ MORE]

A wave of consolidation in the REO-to-rental business has hedge funds selling bulk portfolios. Will this impact the housing market? In early 2012, the REO-to-rental business model was projected to be a $100 billion industry. These investors provided a significant boost to housing demand in 2012 and 2013, but the activity of these funds abruptly stopped in 2014 because prices became too high to meet their return thresholds. Last July, a local housing market analyst sounded the alarm that institutional buying was an unstoppable Juggernaut destined to cause problems. I thought his concerns were baseless because these investors would turn off the money spigot as easily as they turned it on (See: Investor activity to plummet, home sales volumes will…[READ MORE]

Builders are responding to the lack of inventory and higher prices by building homes in areas where we really don't need them. Builders will construct new homes anywhere they see an opportunity to make money. They are starting to build homes again in the high desert of California where only a few short years ago, they massively overbuilt houses we didn't need in response to the false price signal from the housing bubble. Now, with lenders restricting inventory in an effort to reflate the bubble, builders once again see an opportunity to make money by building homes where we don't need them. Is this what the federal reserve and politicians thinks is best for the economy? They wanted to force…[READ MORE]


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In Memoriam: Tony Bliss 1966-2012