What a difference a day makes in the world of housing bubble blogs. Yesterday, sadness and confusion reigned as bloggers digested the surprising news that existing-home sales in February jumped 5.2 percent. But today, a delirium of schadenfreudic glee broke out as word spread of a whopping 10.5 percent decline in new-home sales, the biggest drop in nine years. Median prices for new homes also fell for the fourth straight month, and the unsold inventory of homes rose to 548,000, the largest in a decade.
Yes, that's right, just as the Web is home to vivacious communities of peak oil doom-and-gloomers, gleefully sharing notes on the latest signs of the coming apocalypse, so too does the Internet offer its welcome arms to hordes of obsessive real estate watchers, busily fixating on every last bit of data that might indicate the great U.S. real estate boom of the 21st century has finally imploded. (There are scores of such sites -- check out the right-hand column of Bubblemeter for a starting point.)
How the World Works loves sites like the Housing Bubble blog and the Northern New Jersey Real Estate Bubble blog, because whenever a confusing statistic that goes against the grain of recent events occurs, like yesterday's existing-home sales data, we can rush over to the comments section of our favorite watering hole and find clarity in scores of comforting conspiracy theories. Maybe it was the unseasonably warm weather in January, or a "dead cat bounce." Or look inside the numbers -- the "hot" markets of yesteryear (Orange County, Phoenix) saw big drops: that's the data to really pay attention to. But perhaps most convincing -- a single graph, showing the long-term trend. February's blip was just a blip. Move along, nothing to see here.
Today's numbers needed no echo chamber mutual reinforcement. A 10 percent decline in new-home sales is bad news for the real estate industry and, by extension, the U.S. economy, and perhaps the global economy. And even though mortgage rates have dipped slightly in recent weeks, mortgage applications appear to be plummeting, which sends dire signals about the months ahead. As one commenter at the Housing Bubble blog asked, "When is a mainstream media outlet going to have the balls to pronounce "Real Estate Death Plunge of Doom Continues?"
Personally, I'm not sure why so many posters at the housing bubble blog sites are overjoyed at this news, unless they're all renters waiting for the market to collapse so they can finally get in and buy a home. Too often, the glee makes me uneasy, just as I get the heebie-jeebies when peak oil doomers appear to actually be licking their lips at the prospect of a mass die-off. One can warn about imminent catastrophe without taking satisfaction in the likelihood of widespread misfortune.
But there's no denying it: Today's a great day for the housing bubble blog bubble.