Miami Condos Half-Price

Well I lost money trying to short WCI Communities (WCI) and Countrywide (CFC) by being too early. However, I was right on the money and both stocks are less than 50% from where I tried to short them.

Apparently, even the Miami condo market is down 50% from the peak too. Check out this interesting video.

I’ve heard that water-front lots in Florida that used to sell for $80,000 are now going for only $18,000! When the market turns, land gets marked down significantly more than houses. Thats why the builders are taking significant write-downs on their land inventory and are getting rid of a lot of it, or not exercising their options to purchase land at inflated peak prices.

At some point, Miami condos are going to be selling for much less than the price to build them (replacement value). That’ll be a good time to buy them. What do you think? Would you buy a condo/house if it was 50% off?

Housing Continues To Get Worse

Housing continues to get worse. According to a recent article in BusinessWeek:

A strong job market, the thriving casino and convention industry, and the highest population growth in the country made Vegas a boomtown for builders. Sin City represented one of the top five markets.Today, new homes are empty and communities half-built. The number of unsold homes has reached as much as 48,000, by some estimates, up from a more or less steady level of 10,000 over the last several years. “Builders have a glut of houses that’s going to weigh on home prices for awhile.” says Dennis L. Smith, president of Home Builders Research Inc., a local consultancy.

Mike Alley has gotten whacked hard by the area’s declining housing market. In the spring of 2005, Alley, an independent real estate agent in Racine, Wis., moved to Las Vegas, lured by the warm weather and the strong real estate market. He quickly found a sales job with Pulte, where he says agents were pulling in $500,000 a year for basically taking orders. “It was nutty,” says Alley. “Houses were flying off the lot.”

A year later, he decided to jump into the market himself and buy a home. He spent a month searching, settling on KB’s Huntington subdivision. The neighborhood attracted a mix of folks, from couples just starting out to empty nesters. More important, there were a lot of families with young kids the same age as his. The $86,000 worth of upgrades, including higher-end cabinets and granite countertops, thrown in by KB Homes at a discount clinched it. Alley thought he was getting a deal: In August, 2006, he paid $360,000 for a three-bedroom home in Quayside Court, which was appraised for $415,000.

Yet even Alley, who made his living in this industry, says he was blindsided by the markdowns. Today he reckons his home is worth around $300,000. “I didn’t quite keep my finger on the pulse of what [KB is] doing in this community,” says Alley, who’s largely gotten out of the real estate business. “I’m looking at the sales data, and they were selling my model for $50,000 less even months after I bought it.”

This is another example of the fact that real estate agents don’t often know much about real estate cycles or investing. Never ask an agent if its a good time to buy. They don’t know and its not really their job. Their job is to help you select your perfect home based on your criteria and budget and their knowledge of the local neighborhoods. More importantly, they take care of the paperwork that most homebuyers find imtimidating and incomprehensible. Their job profile does not usually include providing investment advice, even if they claim they’re investment experts.