Don't speculate: Could the end of spec housing be skewing the market lower?

I was talking to a real estate agent today about how reported home value declines have been exacerbated by distressed sales -- often of properties that have been neglected by cash-strapped home owners with no incentive to maintain properties that they have no hope of holding on to.

Ever the salesperson, she pointed out another factor that may be skewing homes sales data lower: the decline in sales of speculative housing.

During the bubble, home builders put up luxury homes completely on spec -- and then listed them with real estate agents in the hope of finding a buyer and making a quick, huge profit. Now, "building on spec" is a thing of the past, and any new luxury homes are constructed for specific buyers on land plots that have already been sold.