Monday, July 06, 2009

Lost Wages

How bad are things in Vegas? This bad:

A house is a money pit, but a vacant house is a liability. We have nearly 20 million of these liabilities all over the country and every one of them is looking for cash, whether it be for taxes, insurance, mortgage payments, condo fees, maintenance and repairs or basic standby utility service. With rising unemployment and declining rents, I submit that we are not at bottom yet.

Those who think the real estate bottom is in should look at real estate markets in Las Vegas, Phoenix or Miami/Fort Lauderdale. In Las Vegas, there is a huge condo complex called Meridian at Hughes Center located 2 blocks from the Strip. 2BR 2BA condos that sold for $540K in fall 2005 were going for about 120K at the beginning of 2009.

My uncle wanted to invest in a couple of units in January but I told him "not yet." I watched the units drop to $99K around March or April, and thought about buying one, but didn't. Today those 2BR units 2 blocks from the Strip can be had for $75K, or about 15 cents on the peak bubble dollar. Another Vegas complex I follow has units that sold at $191K in 2006 now going for $35K.

Is this the bottom for Vegas? Well, I lived there for 8 years, and I don't think the bottom is in just yet. We are getting closer, but the bottom will not be in until we see some of these properties going for 10 cents on the peak bubble dollar. I see similar price declines in Phoenix and Fort Lauderdale, and I think those cities are also getting closer to bottom but they're not there yet.

The reason is simple: We still have rising unemployment and hundreds of thousands of new foreclosures every month. The supply of houses exceeds demand, yet builders are still building new houses!

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