Finding things to be thankful for in real estate this year requires a little creativity, but in the spirit of Thanksgiving, here goes our list of things and people for which we are grateful:
1. We are grateful for still having our homes. There were at least 2.7 million foreclosures in the past five years and another 3.1 million homeowners are staring down the barrel of the foreclosure rifle, according to a study by the Center for Responsible Lending at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Since there are about 130 million housing units in America (yes, we know the census was counting apartments in here too), it still means that most of us have not lost our homes so far. For this, we are grateful, although we acknowledge that it ain't over till the fat lady sings.
2. We are grateful for Candy Spelling, who sold her house for $85 million to Petra Ecclestone, the luckiest 22-year-old heiress this side of the Atlantic. We are grateful because this means we don't have to write about it anymore as the highest priced listing in America. We are grateful to Mrs. Spelling for her willingness to take $65 million off her asking price of $150 million and are certain that her listing agents share in that gratitude. We wish we could say the same about the Fleur de Lys mansion owned by Suzanne Saperstein, which has been on and off the market since the dinosaurs roamed without a price drop from its perch of $125 million.
3. We are grateful to Matt Perry, Charlie Sheen and Ozzy Osbourne, for continually buying and selling properties and giving us things to write about. Please forgive our occasional unkindness as we wonder aloud about your collective sanity for listing homes in this market when you don't have to. Although in Ozzy's case, we do wonder if he has to. For more on Matt's madness, click here and here and here. Charlie bought this and sold this. As for Ozzy's homes for sale, he has this one in Malibu and his principal residence in Hidden Hills.
4. We are grateful that Las Vegas is having a modest little housing recovery thing going. Sure it's all investors, and yes most of the properties being sold are priced under $100,000, but still we're encouraged. May what happens in Vegas, not stay in Vegas just this one time.
5. We are torn over being grateful for investors, since most of them are from overseas. While we welcome new money to our shores, we fear that America will become a nation of renters mailing our rent checks to people in China, Brazil and Canada. Is this really what we want?
6. We are grateful for Kamala Harris, California's feisty state attorney general (pictured left), who told the big banks where to stick it. Harris withdrew her state's involvement in the work-in-not-so-much-progress settlement agreement that the nation's attorneys general have been hammering out with lenders -- the ones who brought us robo-signing and other foreclosure "oversights." Harris held a hard line and said that she won't give the banks a do-not-go-to-jail card unless they cough up some principal reductions. Can she please run for higher office soon?
7. We are grateful for low-interest mortgage rates, even though it appears that no one can get them. We fail to understand why banks, whose business it is to lend money, appear so unwilling to do that. Too many people can't buy homes because of tighter lending standards. Too many other people are simply afraid to try. With more people working in the gig economy -- holding a series of freelance and part-time jobs -- it's just plain dumb for banks to insist on seeing corporate paychecks as our main sources of income. The recession changed how we support ourselves these days and lending standards need to reflect it.
8. We are grateful for the absurd thinking that occurs when those with vested interests in saving the housing market get together to come up with out-of-the-box ideas. When it isn't especially cold-hearted, we find it amusing. We did not laugh or feel gratitude, however, when the banks began bulldozing homes to reduce unsold inventory. And we are not thankful for HAMP, HARP, Streamline loan modifications or any other drop-in-the-bucket plan out of Washington that didn't work anyway.
9. We are grateful that we live in a democracy where, when we have a government who has been so ineffectual in helping people through difficult times and prefers to diddle around blaming someone else, we can do something about it. We are grateful for Occupy Wall Street for starting a national discussion. (Read our piece about the Occupy Movement taking on today's housing problems here.)
10. We are grateful for the American spirit, which we do believe in the long run will reconnect us with our national sense of compassion for those crushed by the bad lending policies and collapse of the workforce.
Happy Thanksgiving all!