Saturday, March 1, 2008

The Subprime Scape Goat

Excerpt from the March 2008 Atlantic Monthly, The Next Slum?, by Christopher B. Leinberger:
The decline of places like Windy Ridge and Franklin Reserve is usually attributed to the subprime-mortgage crisis, with its wave of foreclosures. And the crisis has indeed catalyzed or intensified social problems in many communities. But the story of vacant suburban homes and declining suburban neighborhoods did not begin with the crisis, and will not end with it. A structural change is under way in the housing market—a major shift in the way many Americans want to live and work. It has shaped the current downturn, steering some of the worst problems away from the cities and toward the suburban fringes. And its effects will be felt more strongly, and more broadly, as the years pass. Its ultimate impact on the suburbs, and the cities, will be profound....
...Some experts expect conventional suburbs to continue to sprawl ever outward. Yet today, American metropolitan residential patterns and cultural preferences are mirror opposites of those in the 1940s. Most Americans now live in single-family suburban houses that are segregated from work, shopping, and entertainment; but it is urban life, almost exclusively, that is culturally associated with excitement, freedom, and diverse daily life. And as in the 1940s, the real-estate market has begun to react.
Excitement, freedom and diverse daily life are all hallmarks of the Bay Area. Add a temperate climate and picturesque park lands and it is no wonder our real estate values have held strong. National headlines belie the strength of our local market. Many have found it hard to rationalize our local market against national statistics. Our sales volume is down because buyers and sellers are hesitant to make a move in an area that feels like an isolated anomaly. This Atlantic Monthly article gives credence to the virtue of our housing stock. There is science behind what is happening in the market place. Now is the time to move out of the suburbs. Be on the forefront of a trend that is quickly gaining momentum and take advantage of incredible interest rates and market opportunities that exist today.

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