Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Other Bubble

I have visited 47 states (all except North Dakota, Arkansas and Oklahoma) and seen a lot more of this country than most will ever see, so when I look at the various foreclosure and subprime maps that have been making the rounds lately, it is easy for me to picture many of these places and the residents I have met there along the way.

On the other hand, I live just north of San Francisco in Marin County, which in many ways, is like living in a completely different kind of bubble in terms of real estate values, disposable income, attitudes, politics, etc. When it comes to real estate in the area, starter homes in the $3 million range are not uncommon. For some additional context, a couple of years ago my wife and I looked at a local $8.5 million house that lacked a private master bedroom and was in need of a fair amount in the way of repairs.

In spite of the projections by the Marin Real Estate Bubble blog, local real estate has been surprisingly resilient. The Marin Real Estate Report tracks a variety of real estate data and is the source of the graphic below, which shows that for the past seven years, real estate has climbed fairly steadily, at least when adjusted for seasonal trends. The story is different in other parts of California, as comparable San Diego data show, but for now at least, the full extent of the Marin bubble seems to be intact.


Anonymous said...


If the jobs go away it will be a different story. People will spend until they can make minumum payments. There will always be pockets that are not effected as bad....maybe old money helps people get by, but if they depend on getting by with a job, things can get real messy.

Anonymous said...

I would have to agree with the previous post for areas such as San Jose and Palo Alto, California, where the job volume correlates well to the home values. However, having significant familiarity with the views, weather, protected open space, and sheer beauty of Marin County, I think Bill's labeling it a bubble is spot on. That said, there are no guarantees in life, but if I were betting, I'd feel better with my money in Marin real estate than in almost any other county in the U.S.

Good or bad, enviable or not, Marin real estate does not seem to be held up, to any real degree, by the working class. In fact, I often wonder what people living there did when they *were* working. I think the county is home to lots of fortunate folks who either cashed out at the right time or were trust babies. Nice for them.

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