But there were concerns. The Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, Alan Greenspan, popularized the phrase, “irrational exuberance” in a speech in 1996, asking, “How do we know when irrational exuberance has duly escalated asset values, which then become subject to unexpected and prolonged contractions as they have in Japan over the past decade?” His phrase would be echoed over the next several years, often angering investors who clearly wanted to keep the NASDAQ gold rush alive.
Within thirty-six months of its peak, NASDAQ had shed three-quarters of its value wiping out innumerable stock portfolios in its wake. Many of the victims could afford a little pain, but many of those that saw their savings evaporate would experience the meltdown as an irrecoverable setback. At the time of this writing NASDAQ has fought its way back to 2700, still nearly fifty percent down from its high of over seven years ago.
There are many parallels between the high flying high-tech stock market of the 1990s and the Florida real-estate rollercoaster ride of recent years. From 1990 until 2000 there was a reasonably steady near-ten-percent annual rise in Florida real estate values. By 2001 price appreciation was in the double digits. By 2003 Florida mortgage brokers, like myself, could barley keep up with the activity. All of our Florida mortgage clients seemed to be talking about getting rich in real estate.
In Mid-2005 Alan Greenspan, expressing concern about the U.S. Housing market said that, “at a minimum, there’s a little froth in the housing market, and it’s hard not to see that there are a lot of local bubbles.” The media picked up on the phrase, and before long we were all hearing about the real estate bubble. The local bubbles in the Florida market were most obvious in areas like Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, and the Port St. Lucie area, but other Florida mortgage brokers that I speak with were expressing concern about the fading affordability of home prices in all areas of the state.
In June of 2004 the Federal Reserve concerned about lurking inflation tapped the brakes with the first of seventeen quarter-point interest rate hikes. In December of 2006 even the most die hard real estate optimists were facing reality. The Florida real estate market had shifted from overdrive into reverse. As it stands today sellers are struggling. And in spite of continued low Florida mortgage interest rates, buyers are affected by the gloom and are hesitant to jump in. And of course, many of the potential buyers are sidelined sellers waiting to be liberated from their current home.
I’m not really a contrarian, but I’m thinking that the pessimism that we are observing in Florida is a clear signal that we are near the bottom. In my observation the moment that all indicators point one direction we are about to go the other way. I think back to the final days of the NASDAQ mania. I remember feeling a bit ill one day after a particularly young and innocent mortgage customer asked me to check my computer for the price of the dot-com stocks in his IRA. The ship had sailed, everyone was on board and I could smell the iceberg.
As a Florida mortgage broker I speak to people all day long about real estate. Recently I’ve noticed that many of the long time optimists have given up. You know the old saying about it being darkest before the dawn? I say that the sun is on the way. My intuition may be a bit questionable, but there is some common sense at work here as well. The markets are driven by psychology. Prices are always highest at the peak of demand – and high demand always sustains an inflated sense of value. Prices are lowest when demand is the least – and when demand is down sellers lose their belief in value. By the time that everyone is perceiving value in Florida real estate again the prices will be far less accommodating. Time will tell
About the Author:
By: Jim Kemish
Jim Kemish is a Florida mortgage broker and president of Power Mortgage Corp. located in Delray Beach, Florida. Power Mortgage is a Florida Mortgage broker doing business in Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, and Virginia. Jim is also the President of Sky Blue Credit, a national credit repair business.