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Ben Stein’s Four Lessons Learned From the Recession



From the mouth of a real genius

ben-steinWe write a lot about the recession as it relates to real estate- how the commercial sector has taken such a huge hit, how the government has intervened and improved and harmed the real estate industry as a whole, but one of the best analysis pieces I’ve seen regarding the lessons to learn from the recession is written by the incomparable Ben Stein in his column.

What is interesting about the lessons he offers is his ability to see things from such a bird’s eye view that takes into account all pieces of the puzzle whereas many analysts hone in too closely on one piece or another. While we encourage you to read the entire piece, the four main points are listed below.

And now for the four lessons:

“1. Economic forecasting is still an extremely difficult gambit and nowhere near a science. It is a lot more like astrology than mathematics. As the recession bore down on us, the great majority of economic seers said it was not going to happen or if it did happen, it would be mild.”

“2. Financial market forecasting is even more troublesome than economic forecasting. Hardly anyone I am aware of got the recent stock market recovery right. No one saw a recovery of roughly 60% in broad indices in the span from early March to mid-November. To the contrary, even in the spring, I was getting e-mails from people “in the know” seeing a bottomless pit for the stock markets.”

“3. The amount of lying and deception by the financial sector of this country has been breathtaking. The banks lied about the risks they were taking on, about the amount of their exposure, about how well capitalized they were, and about their prospects for survival. Throughout the financial sector there was similar deceit.”

“4. The government has no special abilities to forecast or predict a darned thing. Alan Greenspan, former head of the Fed, a truly wonderful man and a smart economist, not only did not see the crash, but did not see the bubble preceding it. Not only did he not see it, he thought it was an economic impossibility.”

Times have been difficult lately, and we each take our own lessons from the recession. I’ve learned not to take the good times for granted, to remember to extend a helping hand any time I can despite good times or bad (even if it isn’t monetary), and to do my own analysis of market stats and not to listen to paid pundits. What have you learned from the recession?

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius - she has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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  1. MIssy Caulk

    January 22, 2010 at 7:47 am

    #4 wow, and they expected Realtors and Lender to.

  2. Ben Goheen

    January 22, 2010 at 10:38 am

    Looks like Ben Stein is admitting to being completely wrong about his 2007 remarks:

  3. BawldGuy

    January 22, 2010 at 10:46 am

    I’ve very rarely disagreed with Ben, though this is certainly not one of those instances. He’s one of the seriously good guys still left standing with a voice loud enough for folks to hear.

    He correctly pointed out that it’s been the rare bird who’s not missed the major moves of our economy, whether recently or the last few decades. One man who hasn’t, is Max Whitmore, who happily reminds me much of Ben’s traditionally humble persona.

    Max has called every major move since LBJ was in office. He called this current Wall Street rally back in July.

    I’ve relearned what you’ve learned, Lani. Also, that when crunch time arrives, it tends to act as the furnace that either tempers our inner steel, makin’ us stronger, or burns away the paper mache fantasy folks construct to fool the outside world.

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Austin tops the list of best places to buy a home

When looking to buy a home, taking the long view is important before making such a huge investment – where are the best places to make that commitment?



Looking at the bigger picture

(REALUOSO.COM) – Let us first express that although we are completely biased about Texas (we’re headquartered here, I personally grew up here), the data is not – Texas is the best. That’s a scientific fact. There’s a running joke in Austin that if there is a list of “best places to [anything],” we’re on it, and the joke causes eye rolls instead of humility (we’re sore winners and sore losers in this town).

That said, dug into the data and determined that the top 12 places to buy a home are currently Texas and North Carolina (and Portland, I guess you’re okay too or whatever).

They examined the nerdiest of numbers from the compound annual growth rate in inflation-adjusted GDP to cost premium, affordability, taxes, job growth, and housing availability.

“Buying a house is a big decision and a big commitment,” the company notes. “Although U.S. home prices have risen in the long term, the last decade has shown that path is sometimes full of twists, turns, dizzying heights and steep, abrupt falls. Today, home prices are stabilizing and increasing in most areas of the U.S.”

Click here to continue reading the list of the 12 best places to buy a home…

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Housing News

Average age of houses on the rise, so is it now better or worse to buy new?

With aging housing in America, are first-time buyers better off buying new or existing homes? The average age of a home is rising, as is the price of new housing, so a shift could be upon us.



aging housing inventory

aging housing inventory

The average home age is higher than ever

(REALUOSO.COM) – In a survey from the Department of Housing and Urban Development American Housing Survey (AHS), the median age of homes in the United States was 35 years old. In Texas, homes are a bit younger with the median age between 19 – 29 years. The northeast has the oldest homes, with the median age between 50 – 61 years. In 1985, the median age of a home was only 23 years.

With more houses around 40 years old, the National Association of Realtors asserts that homeowners will have to undertake remodeling and renovation projects before selling unless the home is sold as-is, in which case the buyer will be responsible to update their new residence. Even homeowners who aren’t selling will need to consider remodeling for structural and aesthetic reasons.

Prices of new homes on the rise

Newer homes cost more than they used to. The price differential between new homes and older homes has increased from 10 percent traditionally to around 37 percent in 2014. This is due to rising construction costs, scarcity of lots, and a low inventory of new homes that doesn’t meet the demand.

Click here to continue reading this story…

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Housing News

Are Realtors the real loser in the fight between Zillow Group and Move, Inc.?

The last year has been one of dramatic and rapid change in the real estate tech sector, but Realtors are vulnerable, and we’re worried.



zillow move

zillow move

Why Realtors are vulnerable to these rapid changes

(REALUOSO.COM) – Corporate warfare demands headlines in every industry, but in the real estate tech sector, a storm has been brewing for years, which in the last year has come to a head. Zillow Group and Move, Inc. (which is owned by News Corp. and operates ListHub,, TopProducer, and other brands) have been competing for a decade now, and the race has appeared to be an aggressive yet polite boxing match. Last year, the gloves came off, and now, they’ve drawn swords and appear to want blood.

Note: We’ll let you decide which company plays which role in the image above.

So how then, does any of this make Realtors the victims of this sword fight? Let’s get everyone up to speed, and then we’ll discuss.

1. Zillow poaches top talent, Move/NAR sues

It all started last year when the gloves came off – Move’s Chief Strategy Officer (who was also’s President), Errol Samuelson jumped ship and joined Zillow on the same day he phoned in his resignation without notice. He left under questionable circumstances, which has led to a lengthy legal battle (wherein Move and NAR have sued Zillow and Samuelson over allegations of breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and misappropriation of trade secrets), with the most recent motion being for contempt, which a judge granted to Move/NAR after the mysterious “Samuelson Memo” surfaced.

Salt was added to the wound when Move awarded Samuelson’s job to Move veteran, Curt Beardsley, who days after Samuelson left, also defected to Zillow. This too led to a lawsuit, with allegations including breach of contract, violation of corporations code, illegal dumping of stocks, and Move has sought restitution. These charges are extremely serious, but demanded slightly less attention than the ongoing lawsuit against Samuelson.

2. Two major media brands emerge

Last fall, the News Corp. acquisition of Move, Inc. was given the green light by the feds, and this month, Zillow finalized their acquisition of Trulia.

…Click here to continue reading this story…

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