The LA Times ran a story on March 4th on the bust of the Shanghai, China, real estate market. In one of the world’s hottest housing markets, the last three years saw a doubling of prices. Things are now so bad now that thousands of real estate offices have closed, many homeowners have loan amounts that are greater than their properties resale value, recent buyers are fighting with developers to rescind their purchases, and banks are awaiting a wave of mortgage defaults.
Morgan Stanley’s chief Asia economist said “Shanghai’s housing slump is only going to worsen and imperil a significant part of the Chinese economy”. About the property now under construction, this same economist said “They’ll remain empty for years!”
The similarities to our hot US bubble markets, makes me believe this is preview of what we are already starting to experience (though at a much slower pace).
The first signs of trouble in our real estate markets were very subtle and only picked up, or acknowledged, by very few real estate professionals. Since mid 2005 the red flags have been quite obvious to even the layperson. Yet, the forever optimistic ‘it’s always a good time to buy’ industry line is embraced by the mass media (they certainly do not want to lose their immense source of real estate advertising revenue) and the naive general public.
In San Diego in particular and most other major metropolitan real estate markets, it’s quite acceptable to acknowledge and embrace the double digit real estate appreciation of the past. Yet, even the thought of depreciation of real estate is looked on with the same disbelief as if a child molester moved in next door.
There is a proven saying in our stock market: “You can never go broke taking a profit.” In many US markets, seasoned investors can still turn a profit. However, if Shanghai’s real estate market is any indication of what awaits the hot US markets…..the window of opportunity is closing very fast!