~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, an overview of our investment approach, and more can be found on my firm's website.

Thanks for stopping by…

Case-Shiller Index Declines for First Time in Sixteen Months

Submitted by Rich Toscano on October 26, 2010 - 5:31pm
As anticipated, the Case-Shiller index of San Diego home prices fell in August.



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Foreclosures May Be Just a Sideshow in Paperwork Scandal

Submitted by Rich Toscano on October 16, 2010 - 9:29am
I'm a finance and economics nerd, not a legal nerd, so I'm trying to make heads or tails of the whole foreclosure signing mess just like everyone else.   Fortunately a friend sent along a Citigroup research piece, summarizing the views of a Georgetown law professor named Adam Levitin, that I found very enlightening.  Unfortunately, the piece is proprietary so I can't link to it.  But I will try to sum up some of the major points.

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September 2010 Resale Data Rodeo

Submitted by Rich Toscano on October 10, 2010 - 8:04pm
Now that I have a version of Excel that allows a greatly expanded color selection, I took the opportunity to update the graphs to match the site's muted theme.  (I'm using a loose definition of "now"... I figure there is wiggle room to the effect of a year or so... but let's not quibble about the details).

What's that you say?  You're interested in the actual data, and don't want to read a discussion about color schemes?

Well.  It takes all kinds, I guess.

Price-wise, the data didn't have anything too exciting to offer:



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Foreclosure Freeze Could Have Mixed Results

Submitted by Rich Toscano on October 8, 2010 - 6:34pm
As many of you have doubtless read over the past week or so, it seems that some loan servicers have been a bit lax in following those pesky "rules" when processing foreclosures. 

In some states, California not among them, the foreclosure process requires that servicers sign an affidavit swearing that they have confirmed certain facts about the loan to be foreclosed upon.  In their efforts to blaze through all the piled-up foreclosures, some servicers signed such forms in bulk without having actually confirmed the individual facts.  This puts the legitimacy of some foreclosures into question.

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Home Prices Rose in July; High Tier Weak Again

Submitted by Rich Toscano on September 30, 2010 - 3:29pm
The Case-Shiller index of San Diego home prices was up by .7 percent between June and July... 



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Both Job Surveys Indicate San Diego Slowdown

Submitted by Rich Toscano on September 25, 2010 - 5:17pm
We haven't checked in on the household job survey in a while.  This set of employment data is distinct from the "establishment survey" I usually cite in a couple of ways.  The household survey is conducted by polling -- as the name would suggest -- households about their employment status, while the the establishment survey polls businesses.  The effect of this difference is that the household survey measures employment among people who live in San Diego (regardless of where they are employed) and the establishment survey gauges employment at San Diego businesses (regardless of where those businesses' employees live).  The second big difference is that the household survey counts self-employed people, while the establishment survey does not.



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Local Job Market Takes a Turn for the Worse

Submitted by Rich Toscano on September 20, 2010 - 7:31pm
The news has been pretty good on the San Diego job front this year.  Not great, or even close to it -- but good.  Employment rose steadily in the year through June even when accounting for the temporary effect of US Census jobs.  Employment decreased in July, but this is a seasonal effect that happens each year largely as a result of school getting out.  Despite the summer break for educators, July saw employment in the "non-bubble" sectors of the economy grow on a year-over-year basis for the first time since October 2008.

Last month, in contrast, was not so good.  That is, according to the estimates from the payroll survey conducted each month by California's Employee Development Department.

The graph below shows that San Diego employment is estimated to have dropped by .2 percent between July and August:



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August 2010 Resale Data Rodeo

Submitted by Rich Toscano on September 19, 2010 - 6:56pm
The median price per square foot of San Diego homes dropped in August, at least on the whole. Condos managed to rise by 2.0% for the month, but detached homes were own 3.5%, putting the volume-weighted aggregate at -2.0%:


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Higher-Priced Home Weakness Asserts Itself Again in June

Submitted by Rich Toscano on September 2, 2010 - 4:36pm
The Case-Shiller home price index for San Diego was up a mild .4 percent overall in June.  Hidden in that increase, however, was a drop in the high-priced tier (composed of the most expensive one-third of homes sold during the April-through-June measurement period).

This continues the general (though recently dormant) trend in which the rebound has been far stronger in the low-priced than the high-priced tier, with the mid-priced tier splitting the difference:



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Shambling Further From Affordability

Submitted by Rich Toscano on August 28, 2010 - 10:13am
The continued rise in San Diego home prices has pushed valuation ratios northward -- but according to the home price-to-per capita income ratio, prices are still fairly reasonable:



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Non-Bubble Job Growth Goes Positive

Submitted by Rich Toscano on August 21, 2010 - 3:10pm
I can't get too specific in titles, as much as I'd sometimes like to, so let me quickly clarify the subject of this post: the non-housing-bubble portion of the economy grew on a year-over-year basis in July.  This is a significant milestone, as the last time the non-bubble private sector registered an annual increase in employment was back at the beginning of the big crash in October 2008.



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July 2010 Resale Housing Data Rodeo

Submitted by Rich Toscano on August 12, 2010 - 12:28pm
In the first month after the [insert preferred double homebuyer tax credit catchphrase here], prices as measured by the median price per square foot were pretty much flat:


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Post Double-Dip Price Flatness

Submitted by Rich Toscano on August 6, 2010 - 11:27am
The Rodeo approacheth... in the meantime, for those wondering what happened to prices in the first non-double-dip month, the answer is that they were pretty flat overall:



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Bubble Sectors Account for Bulk of Job Losses

Submitted by Rich Toscano on August 1, 2010 - 7:24pm
In my analysis of the local job market I've long singled out what I referred to as the "housing bubble beneficiary sectors."  As the name implies, these industries enjoyed huge growth as a direct result of San Diego's housing bubble.  They were, in no particular order:
  • Construction, which grew enormously as a result of the scramble to build to homes.
  • Finance, a sector which includes real estate and which benefitted from vastly increased real estate and mortgage transactions.
  • Retail, which boomed as San Diego home owners cashed out their ever-growing home equity to finance spending sprees.
These industries flourished as the housing bubble inflated earlier in the decade, eventually becoming bloated well beyond what a normal, non-bubbly economy would call for.  I looked at this topic in a 2006 article in which I tried to relay how dependent San Diego's economy had become on the real estate bubble.  That things were out of balance was apparent in the rate at which the bubble sectors had grown during the decade to date: construction by 38 percent, finance and real estate by 18 percent, and retail by 10 percent.  For comparison, the rest of the economy had grown only 6 percent over that same period.  The housing bubble sectors accounted for 49 percent of all San Diego job growth during those first six years of the decade.

Predictably, the swollen bubble sectors deflated right along with the housing bubble itself.  And while much of economy suffered, the bubble sectors took the brunt of it.  In this article I will take a closer look at how much these three sectors contributed to the region's multi-year job loss trend in comparison to the rest of the region's industries.  Just for kicks, I am also going to break out the government sector because it accounts for a big chunk of local employment (19 percent as of June 2010) and, unlike the private sector, its ups and downs are not strongly affected by the business cycle.

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May Case-Shiller Charts

Submitted by Rich Toscano on July 28, 2010 - 3:15pm
Kelly Bennett rounded up the latest Case-Shiller numbers yesterday. (Her final C-S writeup?  Sniff sniff...)  I don't have much to add to Kelly's analysis this latest release so I will just supplement with the usual assortment of charts:



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