~Welcome to the Econo-Almanac~

I started this website in mid-2004 to chronicle San Diego’s spectacular housing bubble.  The purpose of the site remains, as ever, to provide objective and evidence-based analysis of the San Diego housing market. A quick guide to the site follows:

  • New visitors are advised to begin with the Bubble Primer or (if wondering about the site name) the FAQ list.
  • Housing articles I’ve written are found in the main section below.
  • Discussion topics posted by site users are found in the “Active Forum Topics” box to the lower right.
  • This website is an avocation; by day I help people with their investments as a financial advisor*.  Market commentary and more can be found on my firm's website.

Thanks for stopping by…

Condo Hell Freezes Over

Submitted by Rich Toscano on March 8, 2006 - 10:14am

Folks in the UTC area (fondly called "Condo Hell" by inhabitants--I know because I used to be one) may be interested in today's Voice of San Diego piece on the University City housing market. This area has apparently sat out the latter part of the boom, with prices pretty stagnant since late 2003. The zip code winners/losers list I recently put together shows the UTC area as having a 3% median price increase over the past year... positive, at least, but not enough to cover the cost of selling.

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Housing Market Report: February 2006

Submitted by Rich Toscano on March 3, 2006 - 9:36pm

This article will examine trends in San Diego home price levels, breadth, sales volume, and inventory in order to determine where the undercurrents are taking the market. Additionally we will take a look at a warning light that has started to flash for the local economy.

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When Mortgage Brokers Attack

Submitted by Rich Toscano on March 1, 2006 - 5:30pm

A reader forwarded me a hilarious Craigslist posting. This is from, of all places, the "casual encounters" section:

If you are interested in having some fun with a cute (5'4" 110 lbs, size 3), and openminded girl...

Hmmm... sounds pretty good so far. But read on...

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Disappearing Demand

Submitted by Rich Toscano on February 28, 2006 - 11:50pm

Will Carless at the Voice of San Diego writes about January's steep home sale decline. While the January year-over-year decline was particularly dramatic, the trend towards shrinking sale volume has been firmly entrenched for months. And, complete lack of concern on the part of the interviewees notwithstanding, long-term trends in declining San Diego sales volume have usually lead to declining home prices in the past.

I will examine the latest housing market data in great detail in the next Monthly Housing Report, which I hope to release tomorrow.

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Big Housing Players Turning Bearish

Submitted by Rich Toscano on February 27, 2006 - 10:13am

Thanks to a reader who pointed me at a Business Week article called Jitters on the Homefront (warning: this is BW subscriber access only). The article interviews famed housing bear Robert Shiller along with Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo and KB Homes CEO Bruce Karatz. Shiller's thoughts are no surprise, but I was pretty shocked by the bearishness of the two CEOs, especially Mozilo. Here is a brief excerpt; emphasis is mine:

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A New Low for the Bullish Propaganda Mill

Submitted by Rich Toscano on February 24, 2006 - 7:20pm

A reader sent the following article in last weekend. This has been mocked elsewhere, but I couldn't resist taking my own shots, as this is without doubt the most inept attempt at real estate cheerleading that I've seen to date:

CONTRARY TO POPULAR BELIEF…IT PAYS TO BE A CONTRARIAN.

Sir John Templeton was known as the “Dean of Investing”, and he was a classic contrarian. Mr. Templeton said to buy when things looked most pessimistic and sell when the masses felt most optimistic – and his attitude paid off. He began his Wall Street career in 1937, created many of the world’s largest and most successful international investment funds, and is now a full time philanthropist at age 92.

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Credit Market Report: February 2006

Submitted by Rich Toscano on February 20, 2006 - 9:29am

Rates are on the rise again, Bernanke has given us some hints as to what's in store for his first few months, and two US Senators threaten to inadvertently burst the housing bubble in March. The various goings-on in the credit markets, and their likely effect on San Diego housing, are discussed below.

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It's Dark Matter Week!

Submitted by Rich Toscano on February 15, 2006 - 10:25pm

We continue with Dark Matter Week, in which I outsource all content writing and then pat myself on the back for having so much intellectual capital (or something like that).

Today's outsourced content comes from an Econo-Almanac reader who is an appraiser here in San Diego. He recently sent me a note indicating how he thought things would play out for San Diego. I thought he made several interesting points so I got his permission to share it:

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A Bad Month for Everyone

Submitted by Rich Toscano on February 15, 2006 - 10:22pm
San Diego wasn't the only Southern California region to see a home price drop in January. The median Orange County home price dropped by 6% between December and January, although the year-over-year appreciation is notably stronger than San Diego's at 9%. SoCal as a whole was down 2.1% since December. Of course, it's never a good idea to make too much of one month, especially when that month is January, but we will obviously be watching for emerging trends in the months to come.
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Dark Matters

Submitted by Rich Toscano on February 14, 2006 - 10:58am

This post may only appeal to those among you who are really into the global finance aspect of things, but here goes. A couple sites I read have recently discussed the "Dark Matter" theory that's become all the rage. The very short version of this theory is that since the US makes a net profit on its foreign investments, it must actually be a net creditor, instead of a net debtor as everyone thinks. The dark matter in question consists of those apparently unmeasurable assets that turn our national balance sheet positive.

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In Like a Lamb -- Some January Stats

Submitted by Rich Toscano on February 13, 2006 - 8:28pm

The Union-Tribune has some January San Diego housing statistics up. In short, prices were down from December, but still slightly positive year-over-year. Resale homes and condos did fine, while new homes once again absorbed the brunt of the price damage--the median new home price was hammered for a $104,000 loss on the month!

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Cluster Selling

Submitted by Rich Toscano on February 10, 2006 - 10:21am

Will Carless at the Voice has written an intriguing piece on cluster selling. This term describes a dynamic that is apparently taking place in San Diego wherein homeowners put their homes up for sale as they see their neighbors doing the same, resulting in concentrations of for-sale inventory in neighborhoods where this is happening. Several real estate agents "in the field" have apparently corroborated that cluster selling is taking place for the first time since housing bottomed out in the 90s.

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Price Changes by Zip Code

Submitted by Rich Toscano on February 6, 2006 - 10:58pm

I thought it might be interesting for people to see how the individual zip codes stacked up on a year-over-year basis. The below tables list each San Diego zip code's condo and SFR medians for Q4 2005 vs. Q4 2004. I'm tagging it as Premium Content because the creation of these tables required the DataQuick data, for which I pay through the nose, in addition to a substantial amount of time spent writing code to mine the data. (Forgive the excuses, but someone was recently bagging on me on another website because I charge a fee for access to certain content—so I felt compelled to explain why I do this).

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Worst Shortage Ever: Downtown Edition

Submitted by Rich Toscano on February 3, 2006 - 12:24pm

Will Carless at the Voice of San Diego released a column yesterday, hot on the heels of my own, about the building climate in downtown. Central to the story is a builder who has gotten land, designs, permitting, and everything else ready to start building—but is instead just trying to sell the project and bail out. Of course, this is just one project and one builder, but it may be indicative of things to come. One real estate agent is quoted as saying that the boom attracted a lot of inexperienced people to the downtown building game: "In the heyday, a monkey could be a developer in downtown."

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There's a New Sheriff in Town

Submitted by Rich Toscano on February 1, 2006 - 9:47am

Gentle Ben is now at the helm. My friend Tim Iacono said it best:

These were the photos in the Wall Street Journal write-up for the [Federal Reserve] policy announcement. Can you tell who's coming and who's going?

I suppose I should write a missive about how things might go down now that Bernanke has taken over the Fed... but I pretty much already wrote it back in October when they announced that Benito had gotten the nod. Good luck, Ben... you're going to need it.

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