View From Lodi, CA Pittsburgh, PA: Real Estate Market Lethargic (Still For Sale: Great Three-Bedroom House In Lodi, CA!) But Don`t Despair!

Every day, I ask myself which will
happen first. Will my grandchildren, now ages eleven and
9 graduate from high school or will I sell my

Lodi house?
I`m leaning ever so slightly to
unloading my house. But my position shifts daily so
check back with me for updates.

I base my cautious optimism —if that`s
the correct word—on the 100 percent consensus among the
so-called experts that

financial conditions
will continue to hurtle
downward for the foreseeable future.

These are the same guys, I remind
myself, who just months ago said that everything is fine
and the economy is, pardon the pun, “sound as a
dollar.”

Obviously, they have been trained in
the

Y2K school of analytical thought
. Disaster is always
right around the corner until it suddenly isn`t.

Nevertheless an endless string of
polls indicates the public perceives that the nation is
on a collision course with, at best, a deep recession
or, at worst, a full blown depression.

The bleakest outlook focuses on the
real estate market. A recent

Associated Press-AOL Money & Finance
poll found
that, "Sixty percent said they definitely won`t buy a
home in the next two years, up from 53 percent who said
so in an AP-AOL poll in September 2006."

Fear of foreclosure, heightened by
the

rising number of foreclosure filings
, has many
afraid of losing their homes.

The AP poll found that "more than a quarter of
homeowners worry their home will lose value over the
next two years. Fully one in seven mortgage holders fear
they won`t be able to make their monthly payments on
time over the next six months."

Investors looking to sell properties
in the coming months should be aware that, according to
the poll, only 11 percent are certain or very likely to
purchase a home soon.

Well, as my agent keeps telling me,
it only takes one buyer.

But let`s take a long look at what

looser credit standards
have wrought. Making it
possible for

virtually any warm-bodied adult
to qualify for a
mortgage has morphed into a
national
catastrophe.

I bought my first home more than
thirty years ago. At that time, I had to provide
in-depth credit information supplemented by a long list
of references from professionals in high places.

After submitting ten pounds of
paperwork the banker, still deeply skeptical because I
was twenty something and “a first time home owner”
told me that the committee would get back to me—within
forty-five to sixty days!

I had to wait two months even though I
had cash in hand for the standard 20 percent down and an
impeccable financial resume. Now, “instant”
credit prevails.

Luckily for me, my story has a
happy ending. The bank approved my application, I bought
the house and made my monthly payments on time.

Over the years, my house
appreciated and the bank earned a small fortune in
interest income.

What happened to the good old days?

Abruptly, during Clinton`s
administration, the

White House
decided that every American should own a
home. And Bush accelerated Clinton`s goal when

he announced
in 2002 his

Minority Homeownership
plan that included a $2.4
billion tax credit and a $200 million national down
payment grant fund to facilitate lower-income first-time
buyers home purchases.

Bush`s objective was to increase
minority home ownership by 5.5 million.

And Bush did a great job of getting
more minorities into houses. In
one
documented case
, a man who reported $12,000 income
from selling vegetables off a truck bought a $300,000
house in

Maywood
that he financed initially with interest
only loans.

What never occurred to anyone, except
for people like me who have had

traditional commercial bank training
, is that a
house can easily be sold to anyone—especially with no
money down and sub-prime borrowing rates—but how would
it be paid for?

We all know

what happened
. None of the unqualified buyers could
actually pay for their houses and after their creative
financing options ran out, they walked away.

Ironically, they`re not the only ones
left holding the bag. 
Also going down with the ship are millions of
Americans who played by the rules but, because of
eroding market conditions, are watching their home
equity rapidly evaporate.

Because I refuse to end a

Thanksgiving weekend column
on a sour note, I`ll
reach back for an old chestnut that I rely on to comfort
myself and apply it to the housing market.

As the saying goes, it`s always

darkest before the dawn
.



Joe Guzzardi


[email
him]


is a California native who recently fled the state
because of over-immigration, over-population and a
rapidly deteriorating quality of life. He has moved to
Pittsburgh, PA where the air is clean and the growth
rate stable.

A long-time instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School,
Guzzardi has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It
currently appears in the



Lodi News-Sentinel
.