How speculative madness changed the housing market
It was the summer of 2004. People were camped out in Hollywood, Florida for the chance to buy one of the 285 units in a condo development called Radius. All of them sold out in 10 hours -- half a year before construction was scheduled to begin. Many of the units were bought by flippers who intended to put them up for resale before the development was finished, often as soon as the purchase was completed. This buying frenzy was not confined to the overheated condo markets in Las Vegas, San Diego, Chicago, Phoenix and much of California and Florida. The following spring, panicked buyers were camping overnight to bid on a $700,000 two-bedroom house in a suburb of Washington DC. What had led the American dream of owning a home to come to this? It was three essential ingredients. The housing bubble and its inevitable collapse would never have been possible without (1) hordes of speculators (2) absurdly easy financing and (3) widespread mortgage fraud.