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Archive for April, 2011

“In order to fund government services for the wealthiest ‘poor’ people on the planet we borrow money from a nation of subsistence peasants where pigs are such prized possessions they sleep in the house.”

The incomparable Mark Steyn. Cowardice makes cannibals of us all — and nobody can eat just one.

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  • How Socialism makes beggars of free people: “The predictable result of these efforts at preventing the exploitation of man by man was the collapse of production, pauperizing an already poor country.”
  • Barney Frank: “I believe this committee will be recommending, abolishing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in their current form and coming up with a whole new system of housing finance.”

  • 4 comments

    Unchained Melody: Timing is everything…

    This is Garrett Hedlund, who played Patroclus in Troy, doing one of the gut-wrenching songs from Country Strong:

    I actually hate the metaphysics undergirding this song, but that doesn’t matter in the end: It’s a great country song. Simple, visceral, ineradicable from your mind because you’ve lived it again and again.

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  • Comments are off for this post

    It’s Time To Think About…Money…Brian Brady’s Money

    We’re going to take a brief break from the political apocalypse that surrounds us and deal with money.

    Your Money.

    I’m something of a master at listening on Twitter.  When someone says “After effects”  or “motion graphics” I’m there.  There are a dozen or so other ones that work much better, but you get the picture.  I’m unlikely to share them.

    It’s what’s building Simplifilm.com (our work is here, I’ll share some good stuff sometime soon).

    I have dozens running on my tweetdeck.  I pitch a few times a day.  It works.

    Now, I learned something that Brian Brady better use.

    The phrase “New Client,” and “New Buyer,” are tweeted a few hundred times a day.

    Over hundred times – 1/3 they are Realtors pandering for Approbation.  ”Look at me, I have a client.”  Most of the time, it’s a buyer.  A buyer that needs a mother frolicking mortgage loan.

    What if a great lender, googled, called, and then offered the Realtor approval?  What if that lender played dumb and pretended they didn’t see things on Twitter, but had a polished, refined pitch?

    Fish in a barrel.  Takes seconds to skim, minutes to sort, and needy people are forever most easily persuaded.

    Also: if you have clients- shut up about them.  Marketers brag about new, unsigned clients.  I appreciate them identifying who is in the market for me, saves me the research.  (Be silent, or be better than silence).

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  • 2 comments

    It’s About Time to Think About… Time

    It’s time for me to apologize.  Some time back I introduced an idea – a set of ideas really – called the POPs Program, which I always meant to get back to it, but haven’t until today. So, to those of you who faithfully read my articles and were excited to learn more about the POPs Program, I am sorry.  I hope all four of you will forgive me…

    In that Introduction, I discussed the autopilot that so often ends up running a great deal of our lives, and how diligent we must be to prevent it.  But it’s not easy, especially if you are a real estate agent!  One of the most common complaints I hear from agents is there’s not enough time in the day to get everything done.  Sound familiar?  Well be careful because that’s the beginning; that’s when we first begin to reach for the autopilot button.  Not on anything important – at least, not yet.  We turn it on to handle little things in our schedule; we allow it to help us move through a very busy week.  But tuning out is a slippery slope and eventually leads to the two great roadblocks of success: Guilt and Fear… and it all starts with Time.

    Temporal Awareness is the great gift, and great curse, of sentient beings.  Unlike any other organism on this planet, we are aware of time as a line; we are cognizant of a past and a future.  This no doubt has served us well.  We know how to delay gratification, plan ahead and save.  We are adept at learning from mistakes, recognizing patterns and creating the possibility of a more successful future based on experiences of the past.  BUT (and you just knew there was a big “but” coming), this linear understanding of time is the seed of our undoing as well.

    To understand this better, go with me on a quick, imaginary trip to the Serengeti plains of Africa where a tiger is chasing a gazelle… presumably for lunch.  The entire chase lasts less than a minute before both animals are exhausted and, in our happy little trip, the gazelle has escaped.  Do you know what happens next?  Nothing!  The tiger lays down to rest; the gazelle joins the herd and does some grazing.  That’s it.  The tiger doesn’t look over at the gazelle and say “Next time, I’ll get you…  If it weren’t for my paw bothering me a little bit… You are so lucky I’m not really that hungry” and so on.  Neither does the gazelle join his friends and say “Did you see that?  That damn tiger was going to eat me!  I just barely got away… no thanks to any of you.”  No.  Instead, they both just move on to the next moment, and often less than forty yards apart!  That’s because they have no forebrain: they are unaware of any time other than the present.  We humans, on the other hand, oh jeez; there would be discussions and meetings and all kinds of nonsense.  If we were the tiger we’d look back and regret that we didn’t pounce earlier or pick a different gazelle.  We’d worry about whether or not we were going to eat in the future based on our performance today.  If we were the gazelle, we’d worry about going near the watering hole again, or maybe we’d wish we hadn’t run away from our little gazelle offspring so quickly.  In other words, we’d find reasons to experience Fear and Guilt.

    So, you ask, what does any of this have to do with Real Estate?  Dumb question, I’m going to ignore it.

    Here’s the integral part of all this: the past and the future – while arguably great conceptual tools – don’t actually exist.  They are not real.  But we can spend a lot of time there can’t we; especially if we attach emotions.  Let me ask you a question: Have you ever heard from someone, that a friend said something unflattering – even hurtful - about you?  Do you remember how you felt?  The anger, the confusion, maybe even the embarrassment?  Then, two days later, you run into this “friend” and it turns out they never said any of it!  Everything had been mis-communicated and you felt such relief.  Ever had that happen?  It’s interesting isn’t it?  Here we are feeling very strong emotions, becoming stressed, aging our bodies, and all over something that didn’t happen… that never even existed.  It’s the same with Past and Future.  They don’t exist – they can never exist.  Yet we spend a lot of time there in our minds, experiencing Guilt and Fear: the double-header of useless emotions.

    Alright, so let’s tie this back to real estate for the sticklers out there who believe reading an online magazine for and about real estate should have something to do with real estate.  Things go wrong.  Let me repeat that for any brand new agent out there: Things go wrong.  As a matter of fact, things go wrong so often in real estate, you might be better served occasionally reminding yourself: Things go right.  Either way, it’s a learning experience… and that’s all.  Figure out what you did right or what you did wrong, make an adjustment, and move on.  Regretting something that’s gone wrong in the past is no different than being angry about something your friend never said.  It doesn’t exist.  But worse… MUCH worse, at least in our profession, is: Fear.  Worrying about how an appointment will turn out or whether a new marketing campaign will succeed or (God forbid) if the next person you talk to might say “No” – this is worse than being embarrassed about something someone didn’t say.  This is catastrophic because Fear paralyzes us; Fear prevents us from taking action; Fear blocks our success.  And the worst part: Fear is borne of the future, and the future doesn’t even exist.

    Next time we’ll talk about the “meaning” of things in the past and the future, and the present as well.  In the mean time,  here’s a fun exercise to try.  Next time you find yourself a little fearful about picking up that phone, the next time you hesitate because “it might not work out” or “it didn’t work so well for me last time,” think again about how you felt the last time you thought someone said something about you, and they actually hadn’t.  Look yourself right in the eyes and say “<Insert First Name Here>, (you are on a first name basis with yourself, right?),  What if the future doesn’t actually exist?”

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  • 6 comments

    “By the time T. Rowe Price is investing, you know it’s too late.”

    I don’t give a rat’s ass about Facebook, but the observation in the headline is priceless. Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a good return on your investment of your time, South Park never fails to deliver.

    Fair warning: This clip is not safe for anywhere.

    HUMANCENTiPAD
    Tags: SOUTH
    PARK
    more…

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  • 6 comments

    The Stick, the Carrot, and The Men Behind the Curtain

    Monday, I talked about how real estate is better described as a store of value rather than an investment, referencing the work Reason’s Anthony Randazzo published.  Randazzo really hit it out of the park because he showed, without a doubt, how the residential real estate bubble started right after 1992.  Look at the second chart (Case-Shiller Real Housing Price Index).  That chart shows the adjusted for inflation index.  It looks like an EKG after a jolt from defibrillator paddles.  Every curious person would want to know what those defibrillator paddles were.:

    Only once the so-called 1992 Government-Sponsored Enterprise (GSE) Safety and Soundness Act opened up the floodgates of federal subsidies, later to be caffeinated by the Federal Reserve’s loose monetary policy in the early 2000s, did prices double nationally.

    ZAP!!! The 1992 Government-Sponsored Enterprise (GSE) Safety and Soundness Act which turned out to be an oxymoron.

    One commenter didn’t buy the results of the EKG and said:

    Seems to me that America has had a succession of bubbles, market manipulations and public speculations since the mid 80s. Gold/Silver in the mid 80s, the Saving & Loan scams later, then the tech stock mania, then the real estate bubble and now we’re seeing gold/silver mania again as well as two recent bouts of crude oil speculation.

    And these things were caused by activist government planning? No, these things were caused by BIG, BIG money jumping from place to place and “making the market”.

    I asked a leading question:

    What makes it “jump”?

    I should have pointed out that there was a commodities bubble in the late 70s (remember the odd and even days at the pump?) but, let’s add that 70′s commodities bubble, to the many asset bubbles cited by the commenter, and ask “Is that normal?” and, if it isn’t (by the way, it isn’t normal), we must wonder, did anything happen in the 1970′s which would cause money to move quickly in and out of asset classes?  Isn’t there some asset standard to which our dollar could be pegged?

    The answer is like a bar of gold, hidden in a big, steaming pile of off-balance sheet financing: Bretton Woods.

    The U.S. created fiat money which means we poofed the value of the dollar from thin air.  Actually, we trusted a very powerful man, to manage this nation’s money supply as if there was an underlying reserve.  We gave the man behind a curtain, a stick and a carrot, and said “go get ‘em Art, Paul, Alan, Ben!”  The men behind those curtains started dangling carrots and beating with sticks (desperately, I might add) until they could find “sectors” of the economy to inflate (in hopes of pulling the rest of the economy along for the ride.  When the men behind the curtain couldn’t pull the rest of the economy along, they channeled Lord Keynes, through their buddies in DC, and tried to “boost aggregate demand“.

    This isn’t a “conspiracy theory”, promulgated by evildoers committed to a New World Order, it was a farce, a scam, a Ponzi scheme, enacted by well-intentioned men with the hubris that they were more powerful than what Adam Smith described as “The Invisible Hand”.  Men who considered themselves…God-like.

    What makes it jump?

    Big, BIG Money jumps to whichever asset bubble it’s being led to be it by carrot or stick.  To wit:

    Today, we’re throwing back the curtain and finding out the results of the arrogant shenanigans:

    A newly-released study from the Congressional Research Service bolsters claims that the nation’s largest banks profited off the Federal Reserve’s financial crisis-era programs by borrowing cash for next to nothing, then lending it back to the federal government at substantially higher rates.

    Duh!  I told you this would happen two years ago when I pointed out that the BawldGuy axiom (Lenders Lend) was, for the first time, false:

    The “government option” makes it impossible for private mortgage financing to make a profit. Certain banks received TARP funds, at a ridiculously low carrying cost (like .25%), and lend that money out, risk-free, at 5.0%.  That’s an awfully FAT profit for a virtually risk-free transaction.  That may sound good to you but it tells me that we are dissuading private lenders from entering a market which so sorely needs them.

    If you aren’t having this conversation, with the poor victims of this Ponzi scheme (your underwater clients), you are a hustler, a salesman, a full-fledged, mindless drone, hiding behind your paid-up NAR dues.  If you’re not having this conversation, with would-be home buyers, you are a huckster, a salesman, a debt-pushing pimp, hiding behind your paid-up dues to the welfare queens at the MBAA.

    You are not a professional, regardless of the pin you wear on your lapel.

    Stand up for your clients !  Eat that carrot, break that stick, and expose the men, hiding behind curtains, for what they are; home wreckers.  Tell your clients how dangerous their actions were so that they have full disclosure about the future of real estate.  It’s still bright but your clients need to know how this mess happened so that it never happens to them again.

    Primum non nocere.

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  • 5 comments

    Housing Might Not Be a Good “Investment” But It’s Not a Bad Hedge Against Inflation

    Debra and I had the good fortune to met Anthony Randazzo at a Reason Foundation dinner last week.  Mr. Randazzo published an article today, about real estate as a “store of value” (which was consistent with what we’ve been talking about here on BloodhoundBlog).

    Few people will dispute that more homeowners adds “social value” to communities.  Greg Swann articulated that nicely here:

    The essence of our freedom is the free ownership of the land, and yet everywhere we turn, private property is subjected to one law after another, and everything that is not forbidden is compulsory instead.

    This is a grievous error. The men who become Brownshirts or Klansmen or Khmer Rouge — the men who make up murderous mobs — are men without land. It is the husbandry of the land — each man to his own parcel — that most makes husbands of us, that sweeps away our willingness to live as brigands or rapists or thugs.

    By robbing the private ownership of the land of its meaning, the state is, by increments, robbing its citizens of their humanity. No one burns down his own home, nor his neighbor’s home. But when the time comes that we all seem to own our homes only by sufferance, none of us will have anything left to defend.

    What Greg was arguing against was an activist government, abusing eminent domain laws.  I was happy to read that locally, the brigands disguised as National City, CA Councilmen were defeated last week but the war in defense of private property rights will be a long campaign.

    Mr Randazzo’s article however, demonstrates how that “social value” (op. cit.) can be distorted when the planners keep planning:

    When looking at housing this way, the “ownership society” lauded by President Bush in the early 2000s, sounds like a good idea. Especially when considering the social values associated with homeownership, like being a good neighbor and having a stake in nuturing a community. However, while owning a home is rarely a bad thing, it might not be the great investment our parents told us it would be.

    When you adjust these numbers for inflation, housing prices stayed nearly flat from the end of World War II until the mid-1990s. Only once the so-called 1992 Government-Sponsored Enterprise (GSE) Safety and Soundness Act opened up the floodgates of federal subsidies, later to be caffeinated by the Federal Reserve’s loose monetary policy in the early 2000s, did prices double nationally. Of course, that price jump was a bubble and prices have fallen nearly back to levels last seen in the 1990s.

    Randazzo shows here, with charts, that activist economic planning, in pursuit of what would otherwise be thought of as a noble goal (a deed in every safety deposit box), distorted the market, detached housing from its traditional characteristic as a “store of value”, and turned it into a commodity ripe for speculation.

    Eventually real housing prices picked up, doubling from 1996 to 2006 on the back of the housing bubble. But in trying to boost investment values, policymakers and poorly incentivized bankers drove prices unsustainably high, and the peak of growth was short lived as home values have steadily fallen back towards the pre-bubble trend line, as can be seen in the below graph.

    Moreover, the government-encouraged speculation had an opposite effect when the final chair was pulled in the musical game:

    This is not to say homeownership is a bad thing. And on an individual level, low- and middle-income families certainly were able to build equity during this period—which is a good mechanism for creating wealth. But a lesson from the evolving “foreclosure society” in the wake of the housing bubble is that what many thought was homeownership was simply a twisted form of renting. If the only means of getting a family in a home is to provide government subsidies that lower interest payments and down payments, then the homeownership is all a façade, and there is no equity growth.

    To be sure, homeownership is a worthy and attainable goal, but not before a household has the means. A house is not a stock to be wielded as an investment, but rather it is a savings account that maintains its value with inflation.

    Read Randazzo’s article here.  He is one of the few economists who is not only willing to point out the failed policy problems of the past but offer pragmatic policy solutions for the future.

    Certainly, private ownership of real property is not only a virtue of American Exceptionalism but a demonstrable benefit to communities,  Those of us who practice the craft of trading and financing property, would do well to defend our clients against an activist government which would steal their property, and protest loudly when it tries to bestow premature gifts of property to their neighbors.

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  • 6 comments

    Is Brian Brady the Easter Bunny?

    No – he’s better.  Hey, do the Easter Bunny’s eggs tell us what the future has in store?  No, they just keep us busy looking for something that benefits us not at all.  Brian, on the other hand, is not only as sweet as candy, but he actually does give us a glimpse into what’s coming next.  He recently did it again.  This is a clip of Brian on a local television news show about two weeks ago.  Check out what he says around 1:50 into the clip.  If I didn’t know better, I’d say he just warned us that the US ability to borrow money – it’s credit worthiness – is in imminent danger.

    And here, two weeks later, the Wall Street Journal reports on S&P’s decision to… downgrade their outlook on US creditworthiness from “Stable” to “Negative”.

    If only we could impose on Brian to play a little Santa Claus next.  Maybe we’d all end up with more than an economic lump of coal in our stocking this year…

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    Further proof…

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  • Comments are off for this post

    Splendor is where you find it…

    A rose is a rose, but the desert has a beauty all it own…

    No matter how busy I get, I always want to make time in my life for beauty — wherever I might find it. I spied these lovely cactus flowers in the front lawn of a hugely distressed foreclosed home. Sad stories abound. Bad news is the only news people can be bothered with. But every day is a new beginning, a brand new shot at grace. If you quarry the good within you, then splendor is everywhere you go…

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  • 4 comments

    Until there is a brokerage counter at Wal-Mart, there is no real estate bubble

    Ever wonder about the relationship between gold and real estate?

    Jim Klein got me to thinking about a “store of wealth”, when I postulated that there is no gold bubble:

    I think people can get snookered into thinking it’s a great “investment.” It’s protection, it’s barter; it’s a store of wealth. To me, that’s not what “investment” means, which is usually about income. I believe that in actual inflation periods, gold tends to appreciate on the low side, particularly when compared with many other assets. It does much better /anticipating/ inflation, as now.

    I remembered hearing that term before, over on Seeking Alpha:

    Gold and Real Estate have historically been the two ways to store real value as they are as real assets as you get. So what happens when the value of one real asset is artificially manipulated? We all know by now what caused the bubble in real estate, but, at the height of the bubble it was unknown to the market that it was a bubble on the verge of bursting

    Real estate does have income-producing value though, as Sean Purcell pointed out to us years ago.  Also, the median-priced home is larger today than it was 40 years ago, because of change in retail demand.  Still, for fun, let’s compare the median price of a single-family home, in August, 1971 ($25,300) to the price of a single-family home, in February, 2011 ($202,100), in ounces of gold:

    On August 1, 1971, the price of gold was pegged at $35/oz so it would have taken 722 ounces of gold to purchase a median-priced, single-family home.  Two weeks later, The United States terminated its participation in The Bretton Woods Agreement, creating a fiat currency.

    At the end of February, 2011, you might have paid $1,400/oz for gold.  You could purchase a median-priced, single family home then for 144 ounces of gold, about one-fifth the cost (in gold), from 1971.

    What I’m missing here is the net operating income you would have derived from that single-family home, over the 40-year period.  I’d have to know what the rents were for each year, the property taxes and costs for fire insurance, maintenance, etc..  I suppose we could assume 1% of the value of the home for monthly rents, adjust it each year to the median-price, and deduct 25% of that income for taxes, maintenance, and expenses.

    One of the great reasons to purchase real estate is that you can leverage it.  If we could assume that you purchased that home, in 1971, with just 20% down payment, financed the rest, and the rents covered the financing costs and expenses, and amortized the loan for you, we could say that you only paid 144 ounces of gold then, for 144 ounces of gold today but…

    …you could live in that house today. Real estate then might be a real bargain today and, until they have a home brokerage counter in Wal-Mart, there is no bubble in real estate.

    Oh…wait.

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  • 34 comments

    I want to ride around on the back bumper of your car, shouting soundlessly at strangers at your behest.

    I want to write bumper stickers. Like this: 

    • Stigmatize Failure. 
       
    • Charity is Voluntary. 
       
    • Decriminalize Success. 
       

    What would you shout in my place?

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    “When Wal-Mart has a gold coin section in the jewelry department…

    …then we can start talking about a possible bubble in gold.”–Gary North, on LewRockwell.com

    Gold is an investment asset. It therefore will not become popular short of an economic collapse – hyperinflation followed by a depression. The average person owns no gold coins, nor will he anytime soon.

    Where would he buy them? How could 100 million households buy a single gold coin per household? This would be impossible. There are only a few small coin stores in any community. They are mostly mom-and-pop outfits. The U.S. Mint could not meet the demand.

    When Wal-Mart has a gold coin section in the jewelry department, then we can start talking about a possible bubble in gold. Not until then.

    If you’re looking for the best primer for owning gold click the link above and read the whole article.  Of course, if you’re confident that the Fed will find a way to unwind QE II, and that the money center banks are all safe, and that we’re finished with bail outs, and that the Federal budget deficit is under control, you have no need to own gold as an an inflation hedge.  If you think ANY of those shoes could still drop, buy the yellow metal until you see it offered at Sam’s Club.

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  • 18 comments

    Prague Spring in Realtorville…?

    A. It could happen.

    B. Whoda thunkit?

    I’m dumbstruck: When all you have are fangs, everything looks like an artery.

    Sweet dreams, Poohbahs.

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  • 1 comment

    When all you have are fangs, everything looks like an artery

    I’m so glad that the NAR leaders took the time to present the Town Hall meeting. It was both informative and educational and I learned quite a bit about the NAR, how they really function as an organization, and what they hope to accomplish with the Realtor Party. Ya know, the NAR leaders who took the time to prepare and present this Town Hall seem like really nice folks who truly believe in what they are saying, and I believe them when they say it really is about survival, but their solutions are based on what they’ve done in the past, and what they’ve done in the past is look at taxpayers, politicians, and members, as dinner.

    Some of my favorite quotes:

    “It’s the few of us who are pulling everybody else along. A few of us are making and allowing people to stay in business because of our RPAC donations. It’s time that everybody gives… We need to make this fair for everybody and everybody needs to share in what we do at NAR.”

    In other words, “we need your blood in order to survive”. Something doesn’t quite follow, though. If I’m forced to join the NAR in order to be a member of the MLS, how am I being unfair to the NAR because I’m not a willing participant in their RPAC political blood-sucking initiatives?

    Speaking of those political initiatives…

    “(The NAR has) over a million members… about 900,000 of them don’t stand up and charge when we say charge.”

    Oh. Well. I do beg your pardon. And yet, even with such a lamentably small number of  foot soldiers willing to do their bidding, (Dear NAR- instead of looking at us as sheeple, perhaps you should consider upping your own UVP) the NAR proudly proclaims all the fine work it did in pushing for the cannibalizing Home Buyer Tax Credit. That was good for the temporary survival of Realtors, not so good for home buyers who may have paid more for their homes than they otherwise would have if the market had been allowed to work itself out and, especially not so good for taxpayers who have just flushed more than half a billion dollars down the commode on tax refunds to ineligible home buyers. Well done, RPAC. Well done.

    So now the NAR is looking at its own members and licking its lips, and after the Town Hall meeting, I think I might understand the thought process at work here. After all, if all you have are fangs, everything looks like an artery.

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  • 27 comments

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