The Kitchen Sink for Dec 23-25

The Kitchen SinkWelcome to this weekend’s Kitchen Sink! Because there isn’t a ton of business/mortgage/housing news breaking over weekends, each Saturday and Sunday I’ll be highlighting worthwhile insight and analysis appearing in media outlets and blog sites across the country. This post will be updated throughout the long weekend with mortgage-related ‘stuff’ – of course, feel free to chime in. Saturday:

  • Housing market was a roller coaster ride, Ocala Star-Banner (Richard Conn; 12/23) As the AP rolled out its list of top ten stories of the year, many local news outlets went to press with their own bureau’s rankings.  The Ocala-Star Banner, out of Florida, made housing their #8 story.
  • Lender Norris eyeballs O.C. housing ’07, OC Register (Jon Lansner; Lansner on Real Estate blog; 12/23) I’ve come to love this blog run by Lansner over at the OC Register, not only because Orange County is my hometown and a leading real estate market, but also because Lansner’s blog sent some pretty significant traffic to HW this week by linking to one of our stories. Right now, he’s running his ‘Eyeball 07’ series, where he’s asking a different housing expert during the upcoming holiday week for their thoughts on where OC and national real estate is headed in the year ahead. Starting things off today is Bruce Norris of the Norris Group.
  • Chubb to Offer Flood Insurance for Some Upscale Coastal Customers, WSJ (Lavonne Kuykendall; 12/23) Sensing a market opportunity, niche insurance provider Chubb is diving into hurricane-saturated markets while other insurers are pulling out. Of course, its policies aren’t for everyhomeowner in Florida – just those wealthy enough to pay the astronomical binder fees.
  • Experts: Housing slump persists, Sacramento Bee (Jim Wasserman; 12/22) This Sac Bee article offers a good take on this week’s NAHB year-end conference call, which hasn’t been as widely covered as I expected. Even the NAR’s David Lereah wasn’t overly rah-rah, saying an 8 percent drop in prices wouldn’t suprise him — which by itself should have been bigger news inside a blogosphere that has vilified him so much as of late.
  • Blogspotting: Via Housing Panic, Paper Money points out the NAR’s attempted slam of the venerable Robert Shiller. Shiller, of course, is the namesake behind the S&P/Case-Shiller housing indices used to trade housing futures on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. In other words, Shiller’s no idiot, and something tells me this particular ‘Shiller slam’ won’t do anything to quell most bloggers’ less-than-positive view of the NAR.


  • Pursue options before defaulting on mortgage, Newsday via the Chicago Tribune (Tamy Luhby; 12/24) A sign of the housing slump, major media stories looking at real estate are turning more often than not towards stories about managing a troubled mortgage. This one’s no different, but it does get it right and outlines primary loss mit options available to most troubled borrowers. 
  • State can’t keep up with mortgage fraud, St. Paul Pioneer Press (Jennifer Bjorhus; 12/24) Mortgage fraud’s probably more rampant than most of us might think, in spite of creeping press coverage of the matter. This article looks at how overwhelmed the state of Minnesota is with claims of fraud. Just imagine Florida or California right now.
  • ‘Pay option’ loans putting many on the edge, LA Times (David Streitfeld; 12/23) Probably the hottest story right now in major media is how exotics are putting homeowners in hot water. Something tells me the problem isn’t limited to exotics, which still represent a small portion of mortgage volume outside of CA — default hotbeds including Michigan and Ohio originate very few of these loans. And yet the default rates inside these states is triple what you’ll see elsewhere.
  • Incentives prop up area housing market, Reno Gazette-Journal (Zack Hall; 12/23) Nevada’s been hit hard by the housing slump, and this article asserts that buyer incentives are masking an even more painful decline that what’s being reported in the numbers. There’s probably some truth to this, even outside of Nevada.
  • Blogspotting: The good folks at Housing Doom have an interesting post about Arizona real estate, with an economist at ASU commenting that the housing market has leveled out. He cites a ‘steady, sustainable growth path’ in new and existing inventory — what data he’s seeing isn’t mentioned, however. And therein lies the problem.


  • Housing Market in US May be Stabilizing, Bloomberg (Vince Goll; 12/24) Bloomberg’s survey is showing increased optimism on housing on most key measures; whether this is a sign of a better 2007, or just starry-eyed hope on the eve of a new year, only time will tell.
  • When Homeowners are Evicted, Who Should Help?, The Ledger (Len Bonfield; 12/23) Interesting article. The columnist argues that local governments have a responsibility to help displaced homeowners, particularly MH owners who are the victims of land use change. I can’t say I disagree with his premise.
  • Housing Comes in For a Landing, Baltimore Sun (Douglas Lamdin; 12/25) Lamdin is an economics professor at the University of Maryland, and here he argues that the inherent illiquidity of real estate as an asset is part of the reason we’re seeing a housing downturn. He’s also optimistic that we’ll see a soft landing, although he does hedge his bets on what ‘soft’ really will mean.
  • Blogspotting: Consultant Hahan Eyeballs Housing ’07, OC Register (Lansner on Real Estate; 12/25) Lansner’s excellent blog is getting quite a few eyeballs of its own these days, and it’s well deserved. This is day three of his 7-day “Eyeball 07” series.

Have a merry Christmas, everybody. Warm wishes. 

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