Negative psychology and the Random Ten

"Clearly a negative psychology pervades consumers, which has hurt home buying," Baumohl said.

That's a quote from this piece on the continuing woes in the housing market. It's one of those "duh" pieces to anyone who's been following the story--the most fascinating thing to me has been the attempted spin by almost everyone involved in the financial side of the story. The problem is always taxes or negative psychology or negativity in the press or a lack of enthusiasm in the market. You know what it never seems to be? Prices are too high for what people are earning. That's really it--prices are too high for what people are earning.

Think about how many times you've read these words or something like them over the last couple of years, as the housing market went into free-fall.
For many borrowers, exotic subprime loans featuring adjustable rates, interest-only payments or short-term teaser rates were viewed as the only way they could afford to get into the housing market. But soaring monthly payments have led many to default, and most lenders no longer offer these types of mortgages.
If that's the only way you can get into the housing market, then you can't afford to get into it--but to acknowledge that prices are too high would mean that everyone on the financial side would have to back down on their goal of making even more money every year.

I mean, this is basic economics--a thing is worth what someone is willing and able to pay for it. In the case of a lot of these houses, there were people who were plenty willing, but completely unable; ergo, the houses are too expensive. These people didn't need "creative financing;" they needed cheaper houses. As do we, seeing as we live in one of those places where the majority of middle-class wage earners who own houses couldn't afford to buy their own houses at the peak of the boom.

There are only a couple of realistic options for correcting this problem, it seems to me. Either salaries have to go up so that people can afford the asking prices for these houses without having to resort to creative financing, or the prices have to come down. I'd prefer the former, frankly, as I have some other, fixed-interest debt that would be cheaper to me if my salary went up, but I'll take what I can get either way. I suspect that in the long term, there will be some sort of meeting in the middle, and that house prices will hit bottom and then remain flat for a few years until the next ridiculous expansion begins.

This is the last Random Ten of the year for me, obviously--no special attempts at hipness or sarcasm--just ten songs from the shuffle mode of my new iPod Touch, which is one slim piece of awesome. Here we go:
1. Soon--Squirrel Nut Zippers
2. More Than a Woman--911
3. Tread Water--De La Soul
4. Super-Hoe--Boogie Down Productions
5. Go to the Mardi Gras--Professor Longhair
6. Get Back--The Beatles
7. Sol Tapado--Thievery Corporation
8. Instinct Blues--The White Stripes
9. Magic Suitcase--Carbon/Silicon
10. Ever Fallen In Love--Nouvelle Vague
Musical question of the week--what's the best album you discovered this year? Doesn't have to be one that came out this year--it just has to be new to you.

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