Real estate recovery and opportunities

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According to one data collection group, sales volume of homes in California during September was up 65% over last year. That's a promising sign, although nothing to get too excited about just yet. California was hit very hard by the real estate bubble, probably in large part because of its sky-high property prices in recent years.

Those home values have been cut drastically in the last year, with Los Banos, California as a good reminder of how much. Home prices in that city are said to be down 66% from their peak, which can be a major hindrance in selling a home, paying off a mortgage, or attempting a refinance.

But are decreases in housing prices and increases in foreclosures all bad? Not for some home buyers. Imagine being a first-time home buyer with a small nest egg saved to buy a home. Your money now goes much further, and you're able to get a great deal on a piece of property. The popping of the real estate bubble is a godsend for people in that position.
That's why it irritates me when people moan on and on about all the people hurt by the collapse of real estate. I can't feel too sorry for the people who had no equity in their homes and leveraged them for every dime of value. Consumers should have been more careful with their equity and their debt levels. Yes, I'm troubled by the economic problems caused by the real estate and mortgage markets, but that doesn't excuse irresponsible behavior by property owners.

Lower real estate values hurt the balance sheets of companies and individuals. But they also open up home ownership to a whole new group of consumers who previously couldn't have afforded to buy a house. For them, the real estate market is perfect just as it is.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.
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