The SF Chronicle, which served as a major cheerleader for the housing bubble while it was inflating, reports “Foreclosures in Bay Area, statewide hit record highs in 3rd quarter” —
The vast majority of recent foreclosures stem from subprime loans made to people with poor credit, many of whom put no money down. After an introductory period with low interest rates, such loans often reset sharply higher, so monthly mortgage payments increase by hundreds of dollars. At the same time, home prices have stagnated or fallen, so struggling homeowners cannot refinance because they owe more than their houses are worth.
Never has a story been so predictable. This emerging crisis, which is real, was obvious for at least the past three or four years when housing prices were soaring at what anyone with even a tiny amount of economic knowledge realized was an unsustainable rate.
Now we’re seeing tales of woe from “homeowners” — a word that is ridiculous for the no-down-payment crowd — who are losing “their” homes. I feel badly for them, because it has to be a horrible experience. But they should have known, and so should their lenders, that this was a high probability.
Some solid journalism when it counted — years ago — might have prevented a part of this slow-motion mess.
SF Chronicle: Home sales plunge in September. Sales of existing homes in the Bay Area and California plummeted in September and prices sank as the subprime mortgage crisis and resulting credit crunch put a squeeze on would-be home buyers, a state real estate trade group reported Wednesday.
The only real news would have been any other news.
NY Times: Libraries Shun Deals to Place Books on Web. Several major research libraries have rebuffed offers from Google and Microsoft to scan their books into computer databases, saying they are put off by restrictions these companies want to place on the new digital collections. The research libraries, including a large consortium in the Boston area, are instead signing on with the Open Content Alliance, a nonprofit effort aimed at making their materials broadly available.
Google is not doing a bad thing, by any means. But it’s too much to ask a for-profit company to not ultimately abuse the basic monopoly it’s seeking in this case.
The Open Content Alliance is the right next step. It’s worth everyone’s support.
The SF Chronicle reports, “Home sales in Bay Area crash to 20-year low after jumbo loan cut.”
Bay Area homes sales sank to a two-decade low in September, as tighter lending standards walloped an already-declining market. A total of 3,118 existing single-family homes changed hands in the nine-county Bay Area in September, down 44.8 percent from 5,645 homes last September and down 34 percent from August, according to a report from DataQuick Information Systems, a La Jolla (San Diego County) research firm.
Those “tighter” standards are, in part, about forcing borrowers to show they can pay back the money — something that wasn’t really on the agenda during the bubble.
Glenn Fleishman: Software Kit for iPhone, iPod touch Applications Set for February 2008. (I)t will be interesting to see what the iPhone hacking community does. I suspect they’ll continue to explore the innards of iPhone 1.1.1, both to bring back existing third party applications for the four months and to figure out how to unlock the iPhone again. The final reason hackers won’t just wait patiently until February? Because hacking the iPhone is a challenge.
Still more questions than answers. Apple’s control-freakery with the iPhone doesn’t inspire confidence, yet, that it’ll ultimately be truly open. Still, this is unquestionably a positive move.
In my (not) copious free time I’m helping out with Dopplr, a share-your-trips travel site (my title is “Founding Traveller”). It’s getting more attention, with recent funding news. CTO Matt Biddulph and the others on the amazing development team are busy adding features and making the service more useful. It’s still invitation-only for the moment, but if you want an invite, give me a shout.
Meanwhile, kudos to Martin Varsavsky, the founder of FON, a Madrid-based startup that’s trying to seed the world with a bottom-up wireless network. (I’m on the board of advisors in the U.S., and could eventually benefit financially if the company succeeds.) FON just signed what could be a breakthrough deal in the U.K. with British Telecom. Congrats to Martin and his team.
We’re moving servers over at the Center for Citizen Media site, and redirecting DNS stuff, etc.. So it’ll be down until later this morning, maybe a bit later. This will increase reliability over time.
As Glenn Greenwald observes in his Salon colum, the pending immunity for telecommunications companies that committed felonies by acceding to the Bush administration’s wiretap lawbreaking is beyond disgraceful:
By definition, our Beltway establishment does not believe in the rule of law — at least not for them. They are creating a completely segregated, two-track system where high Beltway officials and their corporate enablers arrogate unto themselves the power to decide when they can break the law. They are thus literally exempt from our laws, even our criminal laws, while increasingly harsh, merciless, and inflexible punishments are doled out for the poorest and least connected criminals — who receive no consideration of any kind, let alone presidential commutations or special laws written for them by Congress retroactively rendering legal their patently criminal behavior.
The Republicans have made it entirely clear that they hold the Constitution increasingly in contempt. But to see the Democrats remain such pathetic wimps on fundamental liberty, and the rule of law itself, is deeply depressing.
California Sen. Dianne Feinstein will certainly vote for this travesty. I hope Barbara Boxer upholds her oath of office, but in these days — when the rule of law is an discardable inconvenience to the people who write the laws — it’s hard to be optimistic.
The SF Chronicle banners on its front page, “Neighborhoods Crumble in Wave of Foreclosures“:
The combination of plunging values and higher mortgage payments created the perfect breeding ground for foreclosures. Homeowners who could not afford escalating monthly payments also could not refinance if their homes were worth less than the mortgages, and could not sell for enough to pay off their loans. That left foreclosure as the most likely outcome.
If any other Bay Area newspaper was more of a cheerleader for the real estate bubble as it inflated than the Chronicle, I don’t know what it is. Now as the meltdown occurs, there’s apparently no reflection inside the paper about its own role in this mess.
SF Chronicle: Bay Area home foreclosures triple in September. The most dramatic spike was in the number of bank-owned properties, which rose more than tenfold to 1,017 in the nine counties, compared with 95 at the same time last year.
The Chronicle, as much as any local media outlet, was a prime cheerleader as the bubble inflated. Now it’s time for tales of woe that should have been easily anticipated — and explained — years ago. Very poor journalism in this case.