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The Psychology of "Ownership"


By HARM   Follow   Wed, 22 Feb 2006, 5:00am PST   3,183 views   74 comments   Watch (0)   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

It's pretty obvious that our society (and most other societies) places a substantial cultural premium on the concept of home "ownership". We hear time and time again how most people believe --with almost religious fervor-- that renter=loser and owner=winner. Why is it that?

Why is somone who grossly overpays for a condo in a marginal neighborhood considered to be "smart", while someone who rents a better home in a better neighborhood for a fraction of the carrying costs considered to be a "loser"? Why does renting money carry more social status than renting housing? What makes someone who purchased using a $0-down I/O or neg-am loan more of an "owner" than someone who rents an identical home without the all the leverage and risk?

Discuss, enjoy...
HARM

Caligirl Says:
February 21st, 2006 at 9:01 pm
… I have a down payment saved up but don’t want to buy now, for obvious reason. But I would like to own a home soon. I have two kids and would like to have a home to call our own. How long do you think I’ll be waiting before it’s safe to buy?

Face Reality Says:
February 22nd, 2006 at 1:29 am
“these highly-paid professionals like to experience lower-middle-class lives in transitional neighborhoods. ”
They don’t like it, but that’s all they can afford, and they’d rather buy than rent.

To BA Or Not To BA Says:
February 22nd, 2006 at 2:31 am
I cannot even count how many times people have tried to brainwash me into buying. It’s a tremendous struggle to not give in to buying a home. Even my wife thinks I made a BIG mistake by not buying 4 years ago.

TimeSaver Says:
February 22nd, 2006 at 10:50 am
...It’s more of “settling down” factor than the economics and investment.
…Now I am stuck like you all, coming here daily reading the stats, checking out the charts…wasting an hour a day to go through all the links and posts and hoping for the prices to come down…

Fewlesh Says:
February 22nd, 2006 at 11:40 am
…I’m in an Asian household, with my wife from Korea. They think that not owning a house = loser.
...I keep on getting the: why don’t you work for and make a lot of money and buy a house?, etc.

« First     « Previous     Comments 35-74 of 74     Last »

Peter P   befriend   ignore   Wed, 22 Feb 2006, 8:20am PST   Share   Quote   Like   Dislike     Comment 35

I think many landlords will let you change color schemes, provided that you restore the walls to their original color when you leave.

I even talked to one that will allow us install central A/C, and they will even split the cost with us.

The point is that flexibility is possible with renting, if you find good landlords and are willing to be generous with them. Trust me, it will still be much cheaper than owning.

DeoVindice   befriend   ignore   Wed, 22 Feb 2006, 8:21am PST   Share   Quote   Like   Dislike     Comment 36

Sushi, hmmmmmmm, yes, sushi. Maybe not Toro. You could only eat like 3 pieces of that stuff. Too fatty. Sushi AND Tequila? Hmmmmm.

--DV

Peter P   befriend   ignore   Wed, 22 Feb 2006, 8:23am PST   Share   Quote   Like   Dislike     Comment 37

Maybe not Toro. You could only eat like 3 pieces of that stuff.

How about sea urchin? The first to gross out loses.

(Don't get me wrong, I love Uni. But large quantity of it will make you sick)

nomadtoons   befriend   ignore   Wed, 22 Feb 2006, 8:23am PST   Share   Quote   Like   Dislike     Comment 38

Hey DV,
Same thing with us. My wife's family is coming over next month along with her 2 brothers and their kids because out of all her family that lives here, we have the only house with a yard,and the living room big enough to host them. It's a 3 bedroom place with 2 stories, an office, 2 bathrooms, a balcony and deck, front porch, 2 car garage, garden and front and back yards.. all for 1700, which given the fact that 4 of us rent it means we pay $450 each. The real kicker is that 2 of the housemates are always gone, so it's like we rent the whole house to ourselves. People are amazed beyond belief that I tell them I rent a whole freakin' house for less than half of what they rent for in the city( we live in alameda) and less than 1/4 what someone would pay to buy this place. Cheap livin!

HARM   befriend   ignore   Wed, 22 Feb 2006, 8:26am PST   Share   Quote   Like   Dislike     Comment 39

@Deo & Peter P,

How about Fugu (as in, prepare your own meal)? That would make it a "real" duel. :twisted:

DeoVindice   befriend   ignore   Wed, 22 Feb 2006, 8:26am PST   Share   Quote   Like   Dislike     Comment 40

ABG:

If we find the right sushi/tequila bar, I'll tell you a no shit honest to goodness true story. Only if you promise not to wear a wire. You can still be retried if your momma bought off the jury.

--DV

DeoVindice   befriend   ignore   Wed, 22 Feb 2006, 8:28am PST   Share   Quote   Like   Dislike     Comment 41

nomadtoons2:

Smart. Very smart.

Peter P   befriend   ignore   Wed, 22 Feb 2006, 8:31am PST   Share   Quote   Like   Dislike     Comment 42

But the freedom to change a place more dramatically, say, knocking out a wall, adding a bathroom, etc., is very appealing to many people. I think that “paint” is often code for “whatever change I can think of and execute.”

After paying for the mortgage, not many new homeowners can afford to do dramatic changes any more. :)

Adding a bathroom is not cheap, and you will have to put up with contractors.

surfer-x   befriend   ignore   Wed, 22 Feb 2006, 8:37am PST   Share   Quote   Like   Dislike     Comment 43

Peter P, you pussy, I have personally ate over 4 orders of Uni with nary an ill effect, oh wait, it has made me even more profain.

:)

HARM   befriend   ignore   Wed, 22 Feb 2006, 8:42am PST   Share   Quote   Like   Dislike     Comment 44

In At the Rise,

I don't think most of us would consider 215K or a $1300/mo FRM a bad deal at all. However, your case is not representative of the no-price-is-too-high easy-money credit orgy and living-way-beyond-your-means mentality that we're trying to analyse here.

The question is, would buying your home *still* be a good deal at TODAY's prices?

DeoVindice   befriend   ignore   Wed, 22 Feb 2006, 8:44am PST   Share   Quote   Like   Dislike     Comment 45

Does anybody follow a stock that goes by the symbol DSX? Help appreciated.

--DV

Peter P   befriend   ignore   Wed, 22 Feb 2006, 8:45am PST   Share   Quote   Like   Dislike     Comment 46

Peter P, you pussy, I have personally ate over 4 orders of Uni with nary an ill effect, oh wait, it has made me even more profain.

4 orders or 4 boxes?

Randy H   befriend   ignore   Wed, 22 Feb 2006, 8:47am PST   Share   Quote   Like   Dislike     Comment 47

All right Randy H: I’m sick of your irrelevant fact distorting ways! I’m taking you up on your offer! I challenge you to a duel! Tequila shots to the death! I demand satisfaction! Just name the bar, pal! Name the bar!

It's a duel! I can't handle Tequila, so I cede that to you. Either whiskey in a proper roadhouse (you can choose either kind of proper malt, Kentucky or Tennessee), or Sushi with proper sake-bombs. I don't like the idea of mixing Ikura and Tequila...

First one to see the ghosts of Lee or Gen. Sherman loses. Anyone figuring out a new momentum arbitrage hedge-play exploiting the residential RE fall automatically wins.

HARM   befriend   ignore   Wed, 22 Feb 2006, 9:18am PST   Share   Quote   Like   Dislike     Comment 48

Debt can be used to your advantage, either to finance future expectations
...I’m quite happy to use their cash while mine earns more in CDs. If anything were to go wrong, we’ll just pay it off. I always use other people’s money when it’s cheaper than mine.

Randy H,

This is very true ASSUMING the borrower: (a) understands time value of money and opportunity costs, and (b) understands that in order to come out ahead, your finance costs cannot exceed ROI on money invested elsewhere. Oh yeah, and (c) has the discipline to actually pay it off someday and not go into permanent hock.

For Joe & Jill McDebtor, these are tall assumptions indeed.

Peter P   befriend   ignore   Wed, 22 Feb 2006, 9:19am PST   Share   Quote   Like   Dislike     Comment 49

BTW, sea urchin tastes even better steamed.

DeoVindice   befriend   ignore   Wed, 22 Feb 2006, 9:24am PST   Share   Quote   Like   Dislike     Comment 50

Randy H:

How bout McHallan? What is your general direction? SF, SJ, Peninsula, Ebay, or Sac? Personally, I get around.

Can you train your math skills on DSX? The yield looks great.

--DV

DeoVindice   befriend   ignore   Wed, 22 Feb 2006, 9:41am PST   Share   Quote   Like   Dislike     Comment 51

BTW, anyone have an opinion on Southern Copper (PCU)?

I'm into this notion of a long term secular bear for stocks coupled with a long term secular bull for commodities. I'm impressed with David Tice's power point over at prudent bear that shows the 15-18 year cycles.

No doubt, the commodities are volatile as heck, but there are a lot of companies paying great yields (12% plus). And what does volatility matter, if the long term trend is up over the next decade? Would a US housing collapse = a global collapse in the price of commodities? Will the growth of newly industrializing economies inevitably place insatiable demands on resources? Will China crash if the US does? Indonesia? Vietnam? Brazil? Russia? India?

If past patterns of industrialization repeat, then newly industrializing economies will require vast hinterlands of raw materials. Look at the chunk of the Congo that the Belgians needed to keep its tiny little country supplied with resources. Look at the British empire: one tiny little island, vast expanses of resource-rich colonies throughout the world. Can billions of people raise themselves to the standards of the OECD over the coming 15 years without causing commodities and related investments to soar? Also, the population in the developing world is the opposite of the OECD: more young people entering prime consuming/producing years versus aging populations that will tax OECD economies for decades to come.

Won't everybody in India/China/Indonesia/Brazil/Russia/Malaysia/Vietnam want houses, cars, and plasma TVs too?

Peter P   befriend   ignore   Wed, 22 Feb 2006, 9:42am PST   Share   Quote   Like   Dislike     Comment 52

I’m into this notion of a long term secular bear for stocks coupled with a long term secular bull for commodities. I’m impressed with David Tice’s power point over at prudent bear that shows the 15-18 year cycles.

If you are interested in commodities, take a look at DBC.

Randy H   befriend   ignore   Wed, 22 Feb 2006, 9:44am PST   Share   Quote   Like   Dislike     Comment 53

DV,

I'm in the North Bay, Marin, so SF is really my only option for getting home without risk of driving sideways off a bridge afterwards.

I'll look into DSX. I don't follow the transport sector at all, so others can probably offer more useful insights. I did see that there is some price momentum building since December, but that's just an eyeball reaction.

--Randy

Peter P   befriend   ignore   Wed, 22 Feb 2006, 9:45am PST   Share   Quote   Like   Dislike     Comment 54

BTW, DBC is the first derivative-based ETF. It uses futures contracts on commodities to track prices. It should be a good alternative to relatively illiquid CRB and GSCI contracts.

DeoVindice   befriend   ignore   Wed, 22 Feb 2006, 9:48am PST   Share   Quote   Like   Dislike     Comment 55

I work in SF. I can meet you by the Ferry building, so you can just stumble to the boat. I like Sinbads. It's right on the water, and it has good food/bar.

Next Thurs? Happy-hour-ish?

--DV

DeoVindice   befriend   ignore   Wed, 22 Feb 2006, 10:22am PST   Share   Quote   Like   Dislike     Comment 56

DBC isn't for me. Not to put myself in the same company as the great one, but Warren Buffet says that diversification is for suckers. (Actually Mr. Buffet, I don't know him well enough to call him Warren). On second thought, I better sleep on that one and get back to you. I'm not that good at investing yet. I do consider the lessons part of the return. I want to get away from additional funds, and move more toward individual picks.

Seriously, my strategy is to hedge dollars with hard currency, precious and base metals, and energy. I much prefer high dividend paying stocks, because I tend to hold them in my IRA. DSX ships commodites, so it is an indirect play. The banter on the board is that it should drop after the dividend date. I may buy it then.

For the record, I own BGEIX, IAU, PWI, FDG, CCJ, MERKX, PCU, HSGFX, WMT (Gonna be big in China, small position). I also own UCBH and an International Equity fund. Mostly I have laddered CDs. I would like to increasingly accumulate resources that cash flow high dividends. If the thesis in my previous post is correct (not that it necessarily is) then the future will bring much greater demand for resources. If commerical/apartment REITS crash 50% to yield north of 10%, I will buy some of those. My bet is that I will get my chance in 2 years.

In fact, I think I have the future figured out, and it involves a slow dollar and general US decline, and a developing world that uses US dollars to move into natual resources across the globe. What else can our creditors do but slowly allow a controlled inflation while quietly(as they can) moving into hard assets. If the only viable reserve currency is fading slowly, then why not move into hard assets that your industrializing economy will need? Energy, copper, other base metals, and gold and silver for its traditional role as honest money. You could add timber, suppliers to commodity producers (CAT?), and shippers of bulk commodities to the trend.

THE ABOVE SCENARIO IS ALSO THE ONLY WAY POLITICALLY TO FIX THE BUDGET DEFICIT / BABY BOOMER CHALLENGE. IT IS A MUTUAL ADVANTAGE TO OUR CREDITORS AND US.

I think that if you overlay David Tice's work on market cycles with the other set of facts about the "flat" world that is emerging, that the scenario that I describe is THE investable mega trend. In 1982 it was buy the DOW and S&P and NASDAQ and hold until 2000. In 1998 it was buy Real Estate and hold until July 2005. Next I think it will be buy hard currency until the dollar drops 20-30% and buy commodities demanded by the decline of US hegemony and rise of the newly developing world. It can be that simple again, right? Maybe this is just the light going on for me. I'd be interested to hear from others that have already gone down this path.

--DV

StuckInBA   befriend   ignore   Wed, 22 Feb 2006, 10:52am PST   Share   Quote   Like   Dislike     Comment 57

I do not disagree with the logic presented by most people on this blog regarding how renting is much cheaper than buying at these atrocious prices. But what I am trying to understand is how the bubble will deflate, how long, how much etc. Because eventually, I like most, want to own a home.

Hence I started focusing on how the bubble formed, hoping it would help me make informed guesses about the eventual downturn. And this blog (and Ben's blog) helped me tremndously in understanding that.

But I still felt all the explanation did not explain why my friends, and their friends, and their friends's friends bought the houses that were 50+ years old, looked decidedly lower middle class, required lot of changes (roof, kitchen etc), paid lot over the asking price, and then felt tremendous relief when the house was finally their "own".

None of these, AFAIK, chose I/O mortgaes. Most have 5 year ARM. Some smart ones have now converted to 30 year fixed. So cheap credit helped, but was not the only reason. Peer pressure, fear of being priced out forever and strong income also played significant role. They live frugally, and (kind of) know the risk they have taken. They have stretched themselves to a limit, but if their dual income continues, they will be able to weather the storm. If prices drop, they would loose equity, but not more, depending on how bad the drop is. In short these are the last people to go the forclosure route. When they loose their home, it will really be the bottom.

I have admitted before, and do it agin now, this is a narrow sample. The million $ question is, what % of BA homeowners is "such" people ? That will decide the speed and the depth of the bust. I think it's going to be slow and shallow, but would definitely love to be wrong on that ;-) Unless there is loss of jobs, which might happen due to bust in nationwide RE causing significant economic problems. The moment dual income stops, it will be excruciatingly tough on this group.

The next question is, in that case, even my job opprtunities will be in trouble. So even if the median price in Santa Clara county corrects from 700K to 500K (a big drop), I still won't be able to afford a home here. Unless there is lot of inflation, half a million will remain a "big debt" even after couple of years. Maybe it's not a bad thing. Being forced to move to other areas of the country might be a blessing in disguise.

HARM   befriend   ignore   Wed, 22 Feb 2006, 11:21am PST   Share   Quote   Like   Dislike     Comment 58

None of these, AFAIK, chose I/O mortgaes.

You have just proven the point that your sample is NOT representative of the typical CA buyer, 82% of whom in 2005 chose I/O or optio-ARMs (it was around 70% last year, if I remember correctly).

I agree that they may be "the last people to go the forclosure route." Many others (highly leveraged flippers) will fold long before that.

The million $ question is, what % of BA homeowners is “such” people ?

See above.

Peter P   befriend   ignore   Wed, 22 Feb 2006, 11:26am PST   Share   Quote   Like   Dislike     Comment 59

The million $ question is, what % of BA homeowners is “such” people?

I have otherwise frugal friends that are holding 15 houses.

I have friends who kept their houses as rentals after trading up.

Chuck Ponzi   befriend   ignore   Wed, 22 Feb 2006, 11:26am PST   Share   Quote   Like   Dislike     Comment 60

In At the Rise:

Joe Schmoe Says:

February 22nd, 2006 at 3:04 pm
Agree that At the Rise is in fairly decent shape. I might quibble over the amount that he would be able to rent the place out for, but the analysis is fairly sound.

not so fast.

What many people forget about is other costs outside of the normal monthly payment. For example:

1. Monthly Mortgage Payment is $1300
2. Taxes would be 1.25% of PP: $224/month
3. Minimum flood insurance: .15% of replacement (purchase) or $27/month
4. Maintenance and upkeep (usually about 2% per year of purchase price, or $4,300/year): $358/month

Total monthly cash outlay: $1910

After-tax benefit would be generally in the $1600/month range (but itemizing doesn't always pay off, so this is generous)

To think that an 1800 sq foot house would rent out for $2000 in the IE is not just a bit optimistic, it's not at all realistic. Just check CL. When I found my 4 Bd 2000sq ft house in prime Orange County (Laguna Niguel)last year, I looked at brand-new Corona homes that were 2600sq ft renting for $1750.

Here's a link to CL search for 3+BR in Riverside :

http://tinyurl.com/lc48j

Renters have a lot of power in the current market. I live in one of the best areas in Socal with a large yard in a larger 5 year old home with 15 minute commutes to Irvine for $2500; I doubt your rent would come anywhere close to what you currently think it will ... Best case scenario is that you might break even after all is considered; and you accept the risk of natural disasters. I remember a 7.6 out near Barstow late 1999. Double-whammy will be if the economy weakens and houses foreclose around you.

No offense intended, but you need to be your own worst critic when making sound financial decisions.

In the long run, you will probably be fine; but appreciation should not be the reason for buying; it is very possible that your price will look normal or slightly high in a few years.

BTW, Zillow has no clue. It says the house I live in is worth 524K, when a smaller 3BR house nextdoor just sold for 729K. It also says my wife's parents' house in Utah is worth 2.4M when it sold 1.5 years ago for 242K. Zillow is not at all accurate in any sense of the word. Simply put, nothing is right about their valuations. Until they sort out their problems; the only valid valuation is what someone else is willing to pay for it; and there are not that many buyers around anymore.

Peter P   befriend   ignore   Wed, 22 Feb 2006, 11:28am PST   Share   Quote   Like   Dislike     Comment 61

None of these, AFAIK, chose I/O mortgaes.

Most of my friends are using I/O or Option ARMs. They need these creative products to handle multiple mortgages.

I only know 1 friend who owns responsibly (large downpayment, 15 year loan)

DeoVindice   befriend   ignore   Wed, 22 Feb 2006, 11:30am PST   Share   Quote   Like   Dislike     Comment 62

DinOR, I hadn't heard that one. Still, his charts are pretty convincing. I said this b4, but it bears repeating. I recently re-read Peter Lynch's book, "Beating the Street". He was buying stocks with PEs like 5, 6, 7. We are NOT in a bull market given the tax incentivized baby boomer money chasing the market. How many 401Ks do you know that offer DBC or similar commodity fund? How about gold? The retail investor has definitely moved into resources, but that is necessary for any bull market. I'm just not hearing people like my mom talking about commodities. It hasn't reach anywhere near the level of mania. It has reached stage 2.

In other words, I don't know nothing about no "bad ju-ju", I just think that the world tends to move from one simple to follow investable long term trend to another. I think Tice (and others like John Mauldin) are spot on that we are in a secular bear. So if its not the S&P, if it's not housing post July, then what is it? What's the trend that fits all the data?

I humbly submit that the US and the dollar will decline while several large nations with enormous populations move inevitably towards indsutrialization and perhaps beyond. Brazil and China have a space program, after all.

It would not be unusual historically speaking for a challenger to leap frog us. Regardless, I don't think that the billions of people yearning to have a better life will do so without hydrocarbons, metals, and increasing political clout that their new economic status will bring them.

The European powers in the 19th century scoured the world for resources. We colonized the vast American continent to get the resources needed to become an industrial power. We even comitted genocide against the aborginal peoples and fought a war over it.

I don't think the Chinese or Indians are dummies. They will quietly secure the resources they need while simultaneously ridding themselves of the worthless paper they get for selling us crap.

I think that commodities are the inevitable beneficiary of these megatrends. The old addage about "Not seeing the forest for the trees" seems to be at work in every bull market. People don't get in because they tend to shy away from abstract conversations and "Philosophy". Most people reject vision, and so they miss the trend. Faggedabout history. Yet the world has seen this before.

I am beginning to think that analysts will look back at 2000 and say, "see, all you had to do was buy DBC, and leave it for 15 years. You would have made a fortune. And who couldn't see that one coming, with all that population coming into the flat world and all".

Sorry for the length, but I'm finding my conviction.

--DV

surfer-x   befriend   ignore   Wed, 22 Feb 2006, 11:36am PST   Share   Quote   Like   Dislike     Comment 63

Peter P, steam Uni? Never tried. $anta Barbara uni is the best ahhhh, but the best uni is the uni that is served on Mr. Rights toiliet seat, now that's some good eats, and quite frankly as a maggot rentor I feel better knowing that Mr. Right's well heeled arse was near my Uni.

surfer-x   befriend