Monday, March 26, 2007

And the eyes in his head, see the world spinning 'round...

After lamenting the lack of posts from local bloggers on Friday, I'm basically phoning it in today. I guess that makes me a hypocrite. C'est la vie.

To those who want to fight Evil Developers, you should be taking a few pointers from the owner of this house.

Yup, that's a house surrounded by a crater, which is the product of a rather large redevelopment project in Chongqing, China. The owner, Wu Ping, wasn't satisfied with the relocation compensation she was offered and decided to fight the developers and city (in China, there really isn't much difference between the two). Alas, the fight will likely end soon -- the official papers have been filed to have it demolished. Here's the New York Times story.

Speaking of houses, the real estate market is definitely cooling off. Judging by the number of For Sale signs I've seen recently, I'm not surprised. But what does this mean for us? Are we likely to see housing prices drop? More likely, I think, is that prices come down a little, but houses stay on the market much longer. Bad time to sell a house.

Montgomery County builds the state's first green school, and we have some catching up to do. There's an important point in the story about the usefulness of having green buildings certified by the U.S. Green Building Council. If they're not, "green" is basically just marketing.

Finally, if you're a geek for this stuff like I am, then you'll be happy to know that Microsoft's on-line mapping program now has bird's eye views of Howard County. Go ahead, see who's got the nice swimming pool in your neighborhood and make new friends. Special bonus points to the first person to find The Maroon Dragon.


Anonymous said...

"The owner, Wu Ping, wasn't satisfied with the relocation compensation she was offered and decided to fight the developers and city"

Shouldn't that read "The homeowner, Wu Ping, was satisified with where she lived and the developers and city decided to fight her"?

"Are we likely to see housing prices drop? More likely, I think, is that prices come down a little, but houses stay on the market much longer."

Newsflash: Prices have already been dropping (and more than a little), since July '06, the same month that much higher electricity prices kicked in.

Hayduke said...

You're right. That's probably how I should have phrased it.

Do you have any information to substantiate your "Newsflash"? I'm don't doubt that higher energy bills would be associated with a decline in home prices. But we haven't really seen a decline in prices, your assertion notwithstanding.

Anonymous said...

Of course there's substantiating information.

"Importantly, home prices are not sagging as much here as they are in much of the U.S...." (Howard County Growth Report February 2007, HCEDA, p. 6) which obviously implies home prices here are sagging.

Reports with hard numbers from MRIS also confirm the above statement and the original comment's assertion, with the MRIS data even correlating well to the July '06 crest. Their reports - .

If seeing a drop in median home price for the county drop 7% in the 8 months since July '06 (which annualizes to 10.5% or about $42,000) isn't, as you put it, "really seen a decline in prices, your assertion not withstanding", how big does the drop need to be before you'll acknowledge it's real?

Hayduke said...

Perhaps, as someone who bought their first house exactly one year ago, I'm trying not to see what's in front of my nose.

Still, since "a little" and "more than a little" are pretty subjective, I still have a sliver to hold on to.

You seem to know things; what does this mean?

Anonymous said...

Assuming a corollary of "those who forget history are condemned to repeat it" could be "those that remember history may be less apt to guess wrong about the future", here goes.

In general, the onion's many layers are illustrative. If one hasn't asked "why?" repeatedly when looking at an issue and upon getting to the next corresponding answer, one is probably still seeing symptoms rather than true causes. The most cost effective solutions come from addressing what is found only upon pursuing more than a couple "why?"s. Not novel, but helpful to keep in mind.

More specific to this topic and stating the obvious, average incomes haven't kept pace with cost of living increases. At the same time, outstanding debt per capita has risen and interest rates have increased. Economies to be had from productivity and technology advances aren't being universally applied to provide increased standards of living to all groups. Timing-wise, we're at the end of a several year noticeable run-up in home prices (meaning the market has had plenty of time to well tune its valuation of real estate, countering any momentum effect, just like we saw in the rapid '90's dot-com and then '00's Internet fallback) and there are demographic stage-of-life factors at play as well.

Still more specific to this topic, the numerical data from MRIS combined with general comments from the Federal Reserve do provide good guidance for the near term.

Chris said...

whoa...i finally got the microsoft map thing working. its incredible. see ya google....nice knowing you.

i think i may have also found "the maroon dragon". is it 2nd row from the left, 4th car down by any chance?

Chris said...

whoops...nevermind...i see now from looking at my office parking lot that these pictures are at least 2 years i was not even in the right parking lot looking for the dragon...

Hayduke said...

Anon: Thanks. You make a lot of good points, but I think you ignore a few specific-to-HoCo issues that help mitigate the possible bust: the looming "build out" of our county being one of the main ones. Also, the comparison to the stock market is both good and bad. Stocks can easily be liquified and provide no benefit to owners other than financial. Houses, quite obviously, are both financial assets and places where we live.

Chris: The pictures of Columbia, at least, were taken last spring, as far as I can tell. Note the existence of the Cheesecake Factory, which opened in late 2005/early 2006 (I can't recall exactly when it opened, but I know it was before February of last year, as it was there that we first heard our friends were selling their -- now our -- house). So, yes, you found The Dragon.

Regardless, that's a pretty addictive web tool, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

I agree that the pictures were taken last spring in March or early April. We were having some work done on our house then, and I can see the workman's truck and the dumpster in our driveway. Pretty amazing.

Chris said...

i saw my co workers old truck in our parking lot and thought he had gotten rid of it a while ago, but it was only feb/jan of last year. This is in Baltimore, so maybe the pictures are taken at slightly different times

Anonymous said...

Regarding housing costs:

The unanimous analysis of housing in my neighborhood says that costs have not decreased in the past year.

However, one year ago a house in the same development on the same street went for 1.2 million, and lately I saw one go for ~1.0 milb. $200k is alot to loose in one year. Well... alot if you're selling, a lot if you're borrowing against equity. If you're staying then the concern is taxes, which should drop in tandem.

Anonymous said...

The build out of the county isn't going to have that big an effect. New home sales are only a small percentage of home sales each year, especially when it comes to median and affordable housing.

Build out is years away thanks to APFO and housing allocations whereas the property value decrease started a half year ago and is happening now and into the near future.

What you'll see when build out comes is just more TOD, more tear downs like Alexandria/Arlington (meaning more infill issues), and, unfortunately, pressure to increase density in the east and in the west.