House hunting in a 'fast-zombie' market

Fri, Oct 4, 2013 - 4:22am

I managed to save enough money for a down payment on a starter home in an acceptable locale just before the height of the RE bubble, 2006. Due to circumstances at the time, I chose to rent for the time being. Somehow, it seemed imprudent to take out a 20-30 year mortgage, and incur the transaction/tax/repair costs associated with a purchase at a time when I knew I would have 30 days to leave the country if my employment were to end for any reason whatever.

As the months and years rolled on, I actually did not (at first) pay much attention to the ‘bubble hype’. I really wasn't even too exposed to it – if anything my immediate surroundings (including neighbors and friends, as well as the house listings) were telling me the prices had gone too high – rather than that they could only go higher.

As the end of 2008 finally came around, I unwittingly became an ultra-savvy investor – having preserved my capital by NOT buying a house. As events sped up, I attempted to learn as much as possible about monetary/fiscal/economic history and current conditions. In the early phases of this, I did not at first understand/immediately foresee the re-inflating strategy undertaken by TPTB, or the effects of ZIRP would have in the medium and longer term – I fully expected the housing price to decline or bounce along the bottom.

And bounce along it did for a time – while I STILL did not buy, for I anticipated the eventual cross-country move to my current location. We all saw charts like this one (Shiller / Ritholtz virtual collaboration):

There were also some learnings along the way (I did not simply idly sit by, I researched and scouted the area where I lived, and actively sought an affordable but decent home 2009-2011):

  • Housing prices never declined as much, and have already rebounded in many of the areas where I am likely to find employment in my profession (large economic/technology centers)
    • San Francisco, Boston, NYC, Seattle, Portland, Houston, etc.
  • Bidding wars for suburban homes in these areas are already underway. My neighborhood sports a fresh growth of 3-3.5K sqft faux stone-covered McMonstrosities that sit literally within the locally legal allowable proximity of the next identical house (though I am sure it’s more, I swear it looks and feels like 3 ft). You can open your kitchen window and shake hands with your neighbor who does the same. Price: starting at $800K
  • Rents, while relatively stable for a while (2008-2010? 2011?), are rising substantially this year.

The reality of the market turned out somewhat different from the expectations implied by the bigger chart above:

(from the National Association of Realtors)

There is now a ‘comforting drumbeat’ of stories about renewed confidence by homebuyers, realtors, economists, bankers – you name it. The average house in the UK is appreciating at a rate of £50 per DAY, and apparently the real estate investment trusts and large hedge funds who bought distressed properties in 2009-2010 at firesale prices are now flipping them:

Britain's biggest building society said the acceleration in house prices had been "surprisingly quick", with the annual rate of growth now running at 5% nationally and 10% in London – in both cases the strongest figures since 2010. As recently as May this year, the UK annual rate was just 1%.

The figures were published as it emerged that the Treasury is to give the Bank of England a key role in monitoring the impact of its flagship Help to Buy scheme on the housing market.” – Guardian

For a rather egalitarian-minded treatment of the same topic in the US, you can check out this NYTimes post:

Now, five years after the start of the financial crisis, the housing market has come back, and many of these investors are cashing in. According to tabulations by Redfin, an online real estate listings site, banks have already sold about 1.5 million of the nearly 2 million homes that were foreclosed on during the past half-decade. […]The boom-bust-flip phenomenon is just one of the most obvious ways that research suggests the financial crisis has benefited the upper class while brutalizing the middle class. Rents have risen at twice the pace of the overall cost-of-living index, partly because middle-class families can’t get the credit they need to buy.” -- NYTimes

Housing bubbles in the other 2 larger Commonwealth nations also have yet to pop (Canada & Australia).

So, what IS one to do? Obviously, no relief or reset has come from the exposure of title and mortgage fraud. It is unlikely (at this point) that any such thing will occur under current paradigm. Mortgage rates – despite the (alarmingly) rapid rise in Treasuries recently -- remain low compared to historical standards. As higher debt service load levels are untenable for the government, interest rates CANNOT be allowed to rises substantially (see PIMCO boss’s thoughts on the matter recently). Repealing the income tax credits for mortgage payments does not look imminent.

Despite their zombified state, the government loan guarantees afforded by Freddy/Fannie are still around, exerting influence and buying up loans.

Theoretically, all of these bode for a continued rise in housing prices in the near-medium term.

While sort of a non-sequitur, here is a bonus snippet of our friend Benny promising low inflation, a scaling back of extraordinary monetary measures, reduction of the Fed balance sheet and why it's perfectly natural and healthy that banks should get free money for parking reserves at the Fed. It is a beautifully honest, prescient forecast for the 4 years that followed:

Video unavailable

(note the date: Feb. 22, 2009)

It's good that we can count on our monetary policymakers and macroeconomic forecasting experts to unwaveringly guide us to prosperity through these troubled times... My only gripe is WHEN will flash trading FINALLY be introduced for single-family residences so we can have efficient, real-time, computer assisted price discovery and sufficient, constant liquidity in this market, finally?

So how DOES one approach a house purchase with the knowledge of the above, but in light of the ongoing end of the G(reat)K(eynesian)E(xperiment)? What is the calculus for possible prospects under a variety of potential future scenarios:

  • Continuing stagflation (persistent financial repression, manipulated/centrally controlled prices for EVERYTHING without any significant economic growth or structural reform -- but also no collapse)
  • Deflation (actual and acknowledged default cascade destroys capital and results in cascading reduction of monetary base)
  • Inflation (FedRes raises inflation targets, claiming ‘necessity to address persistent unemployment’ and the need for continuing response to exigent economic circumstances) – but as BB promised all those years ago – moderate, controlled inflation
  • Repeat of 2008, only writ even LARGER
  • True economic ‘recovery’ – through a miracle of science, technological innovation or a race of aliens who want to trade purified hydrocarbons and pure oxygen, in return for CO2, radioactive waste/fuel/corium and iPads
  • Hyperinflation
  • More than one of the above in the next 12-18 months.

About the Author


Oct 4, 2013 - 8:30pm

Oct 4, 2013 - 9:07pm

NPR story on Bitcoins on now

Apparently significant as a local currency in Berlin. This after the negative spin on Silk Road... Interesting mix of messaging. Seems like I never get a chance to reply in earnest to comments on my threads because of work & timing, but appreciate the feedback,ideas, news & jokes. Never got the chance to elaborate on the zombie analogy in the title, will try later. 28 Days Later vs. Romero

Mr. Fix
Oct 4, 2013 - 10:22pm

Must read:

Part of it:

"House Republicans Plan To Link Debt-Limit And Shutdown Into One Fiscal Fight

House Republican leaders plan to bring up a measure to raise the U.S. debt-limit as soon as next week as part of a new attempt to force President Barack Obama to negotiate on the budget by merging the disputes over ending the government shutdown and raising the debt ceiling into one fiscal fight. This is not what most sell-side strategists expected as a base-case; in fact it is close to a worst-case for many

(this could be the big kahuna. If the debt limit fight is not resolved upwards by 17th Oct, hell will ensue.) — you saw already 1-month T-bills yield rise by 650% today, on the off-chance that the rollover of that debt gets defaulted on in a month’s time.


ancientmoney Watcher
Oct 4, 2013 - 10:25pm

@watcher re: great Jesse commentary . . .

"My correspondent is a little less shy of putting out a forecast but no timeframe.

"The most likely scenario is that physical gold goes up to a really, really big number in some sort of global currency system reset, thereby completely collateralizing most of the sovereign debt out there."


Jesse's correspondent sounds a lot like FOFOA.

Oct 4, 2013 - 10:51pm
TomMack Bollocks
Oct 4, 2013 - 11:08pm

Greenwald interview

Bollocks, fantastic interview. it is amazing the difference in caliber of these two journalists. Greenwald constantly reminding Neville-Jones what exactly journalism is and is not.

Oct 4, 2013 - 11:16pm



Jesse has a lot of cred. I would think his associates do too. In his piece he tells us that there is a bank run on gold and no one is reporting it in the msm. When they're ready they will implement the new system.

Oct 4, 2013 - 11:49pm

The Reason I Have No Faith...

...That there is any way out for these United States, rests primarily in stupidity.

I'm sure most everyone here already sees this clearly, but it is patently obvious that, even if congress doesn't authorize additional borrowing, the government need not default. I haven't looked at the specific numbers, but I'd bet one silver dime that if the military were to simply stop buying fuel, there would be more than enough money to meet all of the debt obligations.

Sure, my simplistic example may in some way or ways be a little misguided, but why, oh why, do people so readily accept the absurdity that the government must borrow more money in order to avoid default?

Spartacus Rex
Oct 5, 2013 - 1:01am

LOL! US banks fearing default stock up on cash

03-Oct (Financial Times) — US banks were stocking cash machines with extra funds, investors dumping Treasury bills and US equity indices sinking on Thursday in a sign of mounting unease that Washington risks defaulting on its debt later this month.

On the third day of a government shutdown, policy makers and business leaders expressed increasing concern that Republicans and Democrats would not reach a deal before the October 17 deadline to raise the debt ceiling.

…One senior executive said his bank was delivering 20-30 per cent more cash than usual in case panicked customers tried to withdraw funds en masse.


Spartacus Rex
Oct 5, 2013 - 1:14am

Latest From KoosJansen Blogspot

Week 39 Shanghai Gold Exchange Physical Delivery

I was very delighted yesterday that me and Jan Skoyles published the second part of our collaboration. A fantastic overview of the Chinese gold market. Watch out next week for the sequels! Now let's rush to last weeks SGE delivery numbers.

Shanghai Gold Exchange

- 50 metric tonnes delivered in week 39 (left the SGE vaults), 23-09-2013/28-09-2013
- w/w + 113.83 % - 1662 metric tonnes delivered year to date
- weekly average 42.6 tonnes YTD, 2013 estimate yearly total 2173 tonnes.

Source: SGE, USGS

For more information on SGE delivery read this, on it's relation to Chinese demand read this.

Screen dump from SGE delivery report; the second number from the left (本周交割量) is weekly delivery, the second number from the right (累计交割量) is total delivery YTD.

Premiums based on the SGE week reports. Difference between SGE gold price in yuan and international gold price in yuan.

Screen dump of premium section; the first column is the date, the third the international gold price in yuan, the fourth is the SGE price, and the last is the difference.

Geplaatst door Koos Jansen op 10/04/2013 @
Strongsidejedi Mr. Fix
Oct 5, 2013 - 1:16am

@Mr Fix - debt ceiling negotiations and political strategery

Mr. Fix - thanks for your hat tip earlier today.

After reading your prior postings and thoughts, you and I share a common degree of skepticism regarding governmental intrusion in small and medium sized businesses. I suspect that you and I share commonality in terms of targeting.

After the news came to light regarding how the Obama campaign and first-term Obama team was working through IRS to target tea-party participants, it is clear that multiple levels of government were used to target small businesses across the United States. I suspect that you and I have shared experiences despite being in different jurisdictions. Previously, you mentioned how you were a small business person and ended up in the 2007-2009 time frame enduring much. I share that experience and believe that we are mutual victims of the same political action by the same puppeteers. It is also unfortunate that our last five years have been hampered in terms of revenue, productivity, and activities by the same patchwork of bureaucracy. Between the corporate, employment, and business regulations on a state and federal level, it is clear to me that regardless of your line of work, it is damn near impossible to launch any enterprise that is scalable and can grow into a long-term competitive presence.

You and I also seem to see the same headlines that capture our mutual attention. I think our life experiences cause us to red-flag the same headlines. Most of the time these headlines are not in the MSM and are hard to identify even in the alt-media. But, thank you for posting them in order to call attention to them.

Now, with the publicly posted personal message complete, I'd like to turn our attention to the same topic that you noted (the political posturing on the debt limit and the continuing resolutions).

I have noted that both CNN and MSNBC are clearly creating headlines saying "blame republicans" for the shut-down. In fact, the political posturing is so apparent that the "anchors" are intentionally jumping on the Republican congressmen on air. The rudeness of the anchors is among the worst broadcasting behavior in my 30 years of closely observing the politics of the broadcast media. Fox News, run by Roger Ailes (for those not tracking me, look his political history up), is clearly running in the other direction (expressing Republican views).

The Continuing Resolutions passed by the House have included funding for NIH, DOD, and other programs. However, Harry Reid as Senate Majority Leader has been tabling the measures in the Senate. For those unfamiliar with Roberts Rules of Order and the Senate Rules, the tabling of the measure is a step generally used to kill a bill. Tabling means that you are putting the measure on the table for future consideration (i.e. later vote when the bill can be brought to vote by a majority). However, tabling a bill is tactically a step used to stop a bill coming to vote. If the measure is tabled, it means that a majority of people do not want to vote for the measure. Therefore, the Senate Democrats are effectively blocking consideration of individual funding measures to keep the US Government open. These same Democratic Party affiliated Senators were the individuals in the press conference yesterday (Schumer and Reid were side by side) claiming that the impasse was due to Republicans and Obamacare. The reality is that the Senate has never once brought a specific Obamacare measure to vote in the last few weeks time. There is no such measure under consideration at all because they won't bring the individual agencies to consideration. Instead, the Democrats in the Congress want to lump all the agencies into an omnibus (grouped) bill that can be massive. The politicians tactically like these omnibus bills because they can say to the voters at home, "I voted for ____". However, buried in the bill is the legal language used to do A-B-C and X-Y-Z (usually bail-in).

I would like to forecast that the legislative language for the debt ceiling resolutions will include the "bail-in" provisions that Jim Sinclair has been warning about. That language was probably discussed with the banking chiefs yesterday. Notice that there has been NO discussion about that meeting's talk points, outcome, or agenda by the White House. Instead, we are treated to articles giving no specifics. Therefore, it is logical to conclude that the Democrats have shared that language between each other. The Republicans are probably not in the communication stream and therefore, the House politicians are mad.

It is doubtful that the White House would be asking these banks to buy more UST's (through the Fed Reserve banks or not) without giving these same banks substantial bail-in provisions to address the banking liabilities.

Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that the Congressional impasse is really a manifestation of the banking cartel exerting deals with the White House and the Senate Democrats. Recall that nearly all of Presidential line of succession are individuals with ties to the US Senate and the Democratic Party. Both Obama and Biden are former US Senators. There are only two individuals in the POTUS line of succession who are Republican (John Boehner is second in line and Chuck Hagel is sixth in line as Sec of Defense). Therefore, if the banking meeting on Thursday was used to coordinate language for the raising of the debt ceiling and the new bail-in laws; the language would be passed from the White House to Harry Reid and Patrick Leahy of the US Senate.

The point is that it is pretty clear to me why the Republicans are throwing a fit. In prior times, the POTUS would have forwarded the language to both sides of Capitol Hill. But, in order to set up the Democratic Party candidates in 2014, the Dems want to the party of the bail-in. Similar to the double speak of the CFTC under Gensler et al, the Obama team will act like they are anti-bail-in in order to bamboozle the voting base. However, the proof will be in the language.

In the case of Obamacare, has anyone in government or healthcare actually read the language? No. They have not. The reason is that nobody saw the language. The language passed by the Congress came out of conference committee and was never distributed. At the time House members were unable to really vote on the actual language. It is reasonable to expect the same behavior when it comes to the debt ceiling resolutions and bail-in language.

Spartacus Rex
Oct 5, 2013 - 1:20am

Ohh Contraire SSJ

"has anyone in government or healthcare actually read the language? No. They have not." The Insurance companies in "Healthcare" read it. In fact they WROTE that piece of legislation.

Strongsidejedi Spartacus Rex
Oct 5, 2013 - 1:49am

@Spartacus Rex - Obamacare, not one size fits all

In response to your comment that insurance companies wrote the Obamacare legislation, you are correct if you provide a few caveats. Among the caveats are clarification that you are remarking on the original bills introduced in the House at the time (Pelosi/Kaiser Foundation anyone?). However, the House GOP congressmen are also recipients of contributions from the insurance lobbyists.

It would be incorrect to assume that the insurance industry functions as a total block. Such assumption would be the equivalent of assuming that Google, Apple, and Microsoft are in agreement on legislation regarding intellectual property. There certainly can be times where such companies agree, but in general they are competitors.

In the case of the Obamacare law, it is my view that the House GOP are representing the political interests of some medical / health insurers that have come to realize that the Obamacare language exterminates the niche for their companies. This is the origin of the comments that Obama appears to be favoring socialized medicine.

These medical and health insurers are realizing that the Obamacare language may have opened the door for federal regulation of their industry in a previously unrecognized way. Specifically, these medical insurers prior to Obamacare had a complete exemption from prosecution under federal anti-trust laws. They were one of the few industries that could run monopolies and not be prosecuted for it. In addition, the medical insurers were largely exempt from state level regulation because the companies could dish the risk of decision making on others.

By 2008, it was clear that the major medical insurers in the United States were not operating profitably. Because several of those companies are publicly traded on NYSE, it was clear by 2008 that some of those companies would go bankrupt without a bail out.

Obamacare delivered the bail out to the publicly traded medical insurers (Blue Cross/Wellpoint, Aetna, CIGNA, etc) by legislating federal subsidies for the enrollment of individuals through the state exchanges. The state exchanges would bring individual subscribers together in a pool. The insurer was federally banned from excluding patients based upon prior diagnoses. Exclusion based upon pre-existing conditions would have violated constitutional rights of equal access to federal programs.

I go through this explanation because to date, we've not really used this board to pick through the details. We should.

The key here is that some insurers will get more enrollment. Some will get less. The insurers with substandard delivery of care will end up being eliminated from the market. Those are typically the insurers that rip off people the most. The voters are not stupid and the community, once informed of the patients having trouble with the "death panels", basically stay away from those insurers and never go back.

A typical example of this is to examine the enrollment behavior of voters in states with mandated healthcare (Massachusetts and Hawaii are two good examples). In the years following adoption of mandatory medical insurance, some insurers and healthcare systems literally went broke within years. While their executive management were talking the long talk, those exact managers eventually "retired" just before the implosion of the insurer, medical group, and/or hospital. I can discuss more of these interactions if people want, but the key is that posting by CL on pensions.

In the case of several hospitals (both for profit and non-profit hospitals/systems) in California, I have seen pensions get stolen by executive management teams where the pension fund is moved between legal entities, and eventually the pension fund is tied up in legal issues for years. Meanwhile, the employees are left without access to funds while the state figures out the legalities. This is probably more of a problem in California than smaller states, where control is more direct.

But, if baby boomer executives are scared enough, it is logical that they would run on the pension funds and attempt to "retire" out of the system in the immediate future. Therefore, I am expecting that some of the health/medical insurers will turn on the Obamacare plan in the immediate future. Those executives will realize that they have destroyed their own company by backing Obamacare.

Oct 5, 2013 - 7:51am

Another piece of the false flag puzzle?

Government Suspends Border Patrol According to National Border Patrol Council Vice President Shawn Moran, agents have been instructed to curtail all duties related to keeping Americans safe during the ongoing federal government shutdown. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s drugs, bodies, or how large the group is,” he said during an interview with, “our agents are being ordered to stand down by Border Patrol management.” He said he has heard from officers across the southwest who provide very similar stories. “They are not being relieved in place,” he explained, “they are simply being told that someone else is being dispatched, but none of us have seen that occur.” Read more at

Oct 5, 2013 - 8:22am

Stop-Work Orders

Some number of US gov suppliers received Stop-Work Orders this week. This was a serious buzz-kill for many, taking all the fun out of grazing and bleating. It ruined their willful ignorance.

Remember what it's like to wake up?

Oct 5, 2013 - 8:24am

So here's an idea...

Ireland asks voters to abolish Senate "Irish government plans to abolish the country's Senate in a cost-cutting move are facing a tough test in ballots being counted Saturday. [...]Proponents say the upper house wields no essential powers and its closure could save taxpayers 20 million euros ($27 million) annually." I think the savings in the US would be SUBSTANTIALLY higher -- and not primarily from saved wages & overhead... More on the story:

Oct 5, 2013 - 8:39am

Cheaper to shut down

From the Wiki page on the shutdown:

"The White House estimates that a one-week shutdown could cost the US economy $10 billion."

So, it costs $85 billion per month for life support, and most analysts think the number has to go up soon to keep the patient alive.

The White House just confirmed that the economic impact of the government shutdown is far less than the cost of life support.

What a joke.

I don't know how real this is and perhaps I'm just numb from years of collapse fatigue, but (given the unbridled ability to create currency) it must be assumed that it's a planned, deliberate attempt to wake people up, ignite something, or prepare the sheep for the next step.

It cannot possibly be related to an inability to get the cash, so what is it?

Oct 5, 2013 - 8:43am


So here's some seasonal filler.

ancientmoney Watcher
Oct 5, 2013 - 9:30am

@watcher re: Jesse's credibility. . .

I agree--he is very credible. It's just that what he and his associate are now saying is what FOFOA has been saying for several years. Of course, it takes time for systems as large and complex as this to crumble, so if Jesse is right, and I think he is, then FOFOA was right as well, just early. Whether it manifests as "freegold" will be interesting.

ancientmoney ag1969
Oct 5, 2013 - 9:35am

@ag1969 re: border patrol standdown order . . .

"he said during an interview with, “our agents are being ordered to stand down by Border Patrol management.”


Wouldn't surprise me if Eric Holder's DOJ agents are handing out "fast and furious" assault rifles to anyone crossing during the standdown.

Oct 5, 2013 - 9:58am

my congressman

Atarangi... everything is true except the what is missing is the unconditional love

stock photo but pretty close

Oct 5, 2013 - 11:34am

This Just In....

Did you hear?

The government is threatening to start back up if we don't pay more taxes! ;-)

If only it was that simple to keep them from "helping" us.

Oct 5, 2013 - 4:15pm

I've come to the conclusion

I've come to the conclusion that America et al (means and everything/one else - eg, Syria, Russia, Australia whatever, you name it) IS the bread and circus act (amongst others). I will ignore all of them henceforth and go about my life. Good luck Americans et al . try not to hurt the rest of us on your collective way down ;)

Oct 6, 2013 - 4:01am

Mr. TFmetals

I started posting here at a Very Wrong time with this.

9/11: A Conspiracy Theory

I was immediately banned.

I think it was a couple of years ago. I've posted some Karen Hudes efforts since. But Mr. TFmetals doesn care, has never responded.

It's OK. I will remain a 'member', and I thank Turd for waking up people. I just never thought is was going to be this hard, and the Turd is SO playing the game.

I will check in from time to time.

Fred Hayek
Oct 6, 2013 - 1:27pm

Great concise video, Karankawa

I've tried to go at that issue with other people starting only with WTC 7. It's "collapse" is so comically fraudulent that it's impossible to accept. It's funny how in the popular conception there were only two buildings that went down on 9-11-2001. I live in central Massachusetts so the buildings in Boston are a good reference for people. The two tallest buildings in Boston are about 50 stories tall, just barely higher than WTC7. So, I send video of the fires in WTC7 which I think could be matched with 6-8 waste baskets and the right amount of wood and ask if people think the Prudential Center or the Hancock Building in Boston should collapse from 8 waste baskets worth of fire. I don't think anyone gets all the way to refusing to accept the full 9-11-2001 story from that alone but it shakes their confidence.


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Key Economic Events Week of 4/22

4/22 10:00 ET Existing Home Sales
4/23 10:00 ET New Home Sales
4/25 8:30 ET Durable Goods
4/26 8:30 ET Q1 GDP first guess

Key Economic Events Week of 4/15

4/16 9:15 ET Cap Util and Ind Prod
4/17 8:30 ET Trade Deficit (Feb)
4/17 10:00 ET Wholesale Inventories
4/18 8:30 ET Retail Sales (March)
4/18 8:30 ET Philly Fed
4/18 10:00 ET Business Inventories (Feb)
4/19 8:30 ET Housing Starts and Building Permits

Key Economic Events Week of 4/1

4/1 8:30 ET Retail Sales (Feb)
4/1 9:45 ET Markit & ISM Manu PMIs
4/1 10:00 ET Construction Spending (Feb)
4/1 10:00 ET Business Inventories (Jan)
4/2 8:30 ET Durable Goods (Feb)
4/3 9:45 ET Markit & ISM Services PMIs
4/5 8:30 ET BLSBS