~Welcome to the Econo-Almanac~

I started this website in mid-2004 to chronicle San Diego’s spectacular housing bubble.  The purpose of the site remains, as ever, to provide objective and evidence-based analysis of the San Diego housing market. A quick guide to the site follows:

  • New visitors are advised to begin with the Bubble Primer or (if wondering about the site name) the FAQ list.
  • Housing articles I’ve written are found in the main section below.
  • Discussion topics posted by site users are found in the “Active Forum Topics” box to the lower right.
  • This website is an avocation; by day I help people with their investments as a financial advisor*.  Market commentary, an overview of our investment approach, and more can be found on my firm's website.

Thanks for stopping by…

Shrinking-Job-Losses Streak Continues

Submitted by Rich Toscano on March 29, 2010 - 7:22pm
The February employment estimates are out and the downward revision to January employment that I anticipated did not come to pass.  In fact, the January numbers were revised slightly upward.

continue reading at voiceofsandiego.org

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Housing Bailout Nukes Launched

Submitted by Rich Toscano on March 26, 2010 - 8:55am
Last month I discussed the idea of government-sponsored mortgage principal reductions, which I described as the "nuclear option" in the government's housing bailout arsenal.  As unjust and misguided a policy as this might be, I suspected at the time, principal reductions might well be on the way.

Well, the first volley of bailout nukes has been launched. 

continue reading at voiceofsandiego.org

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Two Years in Job Losses

Submitted by Rich Toscano on March 23, 2010 - 6:17pm
Last week we looked at how San Diego's various employment sectors fared during the year 2009.   Let's now widen the view a bit and measure job losses (and gains, in a couple cases) for these same sectors since the start of the recession.

Conveniently, for the purpose of this analysis, the recession is designated to have officially begun in December 2007.  So we can compare San Diego employment on that date with that of December 2009 without having to worry about the seasonal issues that arise when comparing different calendar months.

The chart below shows the number of jobs lost or gained in San Diego's major employment sectors as defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Employment Development Department:

continue reading at voiceofsandiego.org

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The Year in Job Losses

Submitted by Rich Toscano on March 16, 2010 - 7:06pm
Now that the revised job data for December is in, let's have a look at how San Diego's employment sectors fared during the year 2009.

This first graph displays the number of jobs lost (and, in a couple of cases, gained) in San Diego's major job industries as delineated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

continue reading at voiceofsandiego.org
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Rate of Job Loss Slows, But Probably Not Nearly as Much as It Seems

Submitted by Rich Toscano on March 11, 2010 - 8:11pm
The latest estimates from the California Employment Development Department (EDD) indicated a decline in San Diego employment between December 2009 and January 2010.  But there is always a decline in employment between December and January, and as a matter of fact, this January's decline was estimated to be substantially smaller than usual.

And that's where it gets weird.

continue reading at voiceofsandiego.org

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February 2010 Resale Data Rodeo

Submitted by Rich Toscano on March 6, 2010 - 6:15pm
The median price per square foot was up about 1% in February, but that's a smaller amount that its January decline.  So I would characterize prices by this measure as continuing to go nowhere, as they have done since September.

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Cheap Home Prices Rebounded, Higher-Priced Homes Slid in December

Submitted by Rich Toscano on March 2, 2010 - 5:18pm
The Case-Shiller data for December, released last week and covered in detail by Kelly, exhibited the same pattern that we have seen in recent months: prices in the high tier continued to drop even as the low tier rebounded further, with the middle tier and aggregate indexes more or less splitting the difference.

continue reading at voiceofsandiego.org

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The Nuclear Housing Bailout Option

Submitted by Rich Toscano on February 26, 2010 - 8:32pm
A couple of interesting bailout-related items crossed my desk today.  I have given up on trying to keep track of all the bailouts, but these both relate directly to our beloved topic of shadow inventory so I thought I'd note them.

First, the White House is trying to ban any foreclosure unless the loan in question has been screened for HAMP, the government's flavor-of-the-month home loan modification program.  As I understand it, HAMP has been fairly useless, for reasons I will describe below.  But no matter -- an extra mandatory step to screen every mortgage for eligibility will further delay the foreclosure process, perhaps resulting in even more delinquent mortgages remaining in pre-foreclosure limbo.

The reason that HAMP and the government's other varied foreclosure prevention schemes haven't made much of a splash is that they don't address the main cause of foreclosures: that many homeowners owe more than their homes are worth.

continue reading at voiceofsandiego.org

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January 2010 Resale Housing Data Rodeo

Submitted by Rich Toscano on February 21, 2010 - 9:13pm

The median price per square foot declined between December and January for both detached homes and condos:

Prices by this measure have really gone nowhere since September 2009.  As I noted at the Voice last week, the rally that began in early 2009 has clearly come to an end. 

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New Foreclosure Activity On the Decline

Submitted by Rich Toscano on February 19, 2010 - 12:19pm

I haven't focused on new foreclosure activity for a while because the topic has become somewhat irrelevant, analytically speaking.  The question is not whether a large "shadow inventory" of foreclosed homes exists -- it does -- but whether and over what timeframe that inventory will actually become relevant by entering the market.   That being the case, the question of how fast the shadow inventory might be growing isn't terribly high on my list of compelling topics.

It is nonetheless at least mildly interesting to note that new foreclosures, as measured by mortgage default notices, have slowed substantially. 

continue reading at voiceofsandiego.org

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The Home Price Rally is Over For Now

Submitted by Rich Toscano on February 9, 2010 - 8:01pm

The data rodeo will be out shortly, my friends. In the meantime I just put a price chart for January up at voiceofsandiego.org.

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Higher-Priced Homes Still Sitting Out the Rebound

Submitted by Rich Toscano on January 29, 2010 - 12:51pm

Earlier this week, Kelly Bennett gave us the lowdown on the Case-Shiller home price data for November.  I'm going to just add a couple of things.

First, I have updated the requisite post-peak chart...

continue reading at voiceofsandiego.org

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Improvement in Rate of Job Loss Stalls Out

Submitted by Rich Toscano on January 23, 2010 - 4:03pm

Recent months have seen a fairly steady improvement in the year-over-year rate of job losses for San Diego County.  That annual rate of change was still firmly negative -- just less so than it had been previously.

continue reading at voiceofsandiego.org

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Shambing Away from Cheapness But Still Milling About In The General Locale of Affordability

Submitted by Rich Toscano on January 17, 2010 - 10:05pm

Well, I thought the old "Shambling Toward Affordability" title for this series of articles was a bit pithier but it just doesn't quite work now that home prices have been rising for the better part of a year.  In any case, regardless of the what we want to call it, it's time to check in on San Diego housing valuations as of year-end 2009.

The 2009 home price rally reversed the direction of the shamble, but it didn't really change the overall picture, which is that San Diego home prices (in aggregate, of course) are still at middling levels of valuation.

Here's the price to per capita income ratio:

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December 2009 Resale Data Rodeo

Submitted by Rich Toscano on January 10, 2010 - 5:45pm

The San Diego housing market managed to squeek out another gain in the median price per square foot as 2009 drew to a close:

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