Bad policy and a bad economy make it a terrible time to buy. Instead of pushing cheap credit, Uncle Sam must let the market lower prices.
Menlo Park, Calif.
Our long national bender of house price inflation has finally ended. Now all that remains is for the government to get out of the way and let the housing market sober up completely. Unfortunately, Washington is still tempting Americans to have one more drink – "on the house."
As I explain on my website, http://patrick.net, the value of a house depends entirely on what it would rent for. It doesn't depend on what you paid for it, or on how much you spent to build it. If you can save money every month by renting the same quality house in a nearby location, then it is foolish to buy at that asking price. The price is just too high.
Rents, in turn, depend on salaries. Try walking into a bank and asking for a loan to pay your rent. You know what the answer will be. So why is it that the bank will lend us vast amounts of money to take out a mortgage and take on expenses that will be much higher than rent for the same place?
Because it is profitable to get people into debt. Those profits result in political pressure to pass laws encouraging mortgage debt. For everyone above the buyer on the food chain – from seller to real estate agent to bank to Congress, the White House, and the Federal Reserve – there is a strong interest in getting young and inexperienced families deeply into debt. Once in debt, new buyers, too, become part of the game – they need to find new housing victims if they want to eventually sell at a profit.
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