The Decline of the Middle Class or Just Greed?

The talking heads believe that we are a nation in the process of destroying our middle class and its way of life.  This thought has repeatedly struck me as particularly fatalistic and a bit defeatist.  Now I can begin to put words to why I believe that way. 

Virginia Postrel has a good column in the September 4th issue of Forbes magazine titled The American Standard of Whining.  While at first I thought the title was a bit on the acerbic side, there is a lot of truth to that title.

I am fond of telling anyone who will listen that, in a service industry, one needs to run to the bank with any compliments that are tossed your way, because folks are more likely to complain than compliment.  Virginia’s article does a great job in showing how Americans have honed their ability to whine based on what others have that we believe we should posess.  We are a nation that doesn’t wait (or want to wait) too long for anything; instant gratification is the name of the game.  As a nation, we have come to see things as necessities to carry out our daily lives even when the basics are more than covered.

So how does this correlate to the real estate industry?

I would argue that the slowing of the housing market in Michigan, and across the country is, in part, due to folks grabbing what we believe is our right to have.  But we also believe that we shouldn’t be taken advantage of, so we need to sell the property we grabbed for a profit. 

There is nothing, I repeat, nothing, wrong with making a profit.  [ed.-please tell this to your bank account, Todd]

What we are experiencing is, in part, due to folks extending themselves and their homes through and past the inherent homes value.  All to get into a home that was barely affordable or just a little more than we can comfortably afford.  Is this really worth it to keep up with the Joneses of the world?

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0 Responses to The Decline of the Middle Class or Just Greed?

  1. Could you attach a percentage o th enumber of houses on he market in Michigan that are a result of ARM’s and rising interest rates forcing people to sell vs people losing their jobs and the house being put on market?

  2. Trish,

    I would be pulling a percentage out of the air for either of those scenarios. By way of anecdotal evidence, 3 of my current selling clients are selling for job related issues, 2 listings are foreclosures, and the rest are selling for various life-stage reasons.

    By way of example, CNN’s Money had an article in November last year about the amount of dollars to be affected by the ARM craze. About $330B in ARMs are expected to adjust in 2006 and $1T expected in 2007.

    Rising interest rates, while they do smart, are not a huge motivator for folks to sell their home. For the most part, the folks in ARMs that needed to refi, and could, did. Rising interest rates typically push buyers off the fence; they either decide to purchase or rent, depending on what they believe is going to happen.

    I believe the glut of homes on the market is due to two main factors: folks cashing out of the live-in ATM before the paper gains disappear (greed), and jobs/state economy.

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