David Lereah takes a turn as Chicken Little

The former optimist in chief for the National Association of Realtors is no longer a font of housing hope.


Andrew Leonard
May 7, 2008 8:04PM (UTC)

Last we heard from David Lereah, the one-time chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, the professional Pollyanna had left the trade group to take a senior executive position at Move Inc., an online real estate service. Thoroughly discredited by years of pumping the real estate market even as it was cratering, and reeling from regular abuse from the blogosphere, it was high time for the man to get out of the spotlight.

Now comes a very friendly Newsweek profile, in which real estate "expert" Daniel McGinn reports that Lereah has a new gig: "He has recently set up a new firm called Reecon Advisors, which is advising Wall Street firms and institutional investors about the real estate market."

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At his new firm he's also looking to cash in on the weak market. He's currently talking with several Wall Street folks about setting up an investment fund that would buy pools of distressed real estate, which it would convert into rentals. "We think there are some very good acquisitions that can be made," he says.

More than a year ago, David Lereah declared that the bottom of the housing market had been reached in September 2006, when the bust had hardly gotten started. But his stance has ... evolved.

"We're not at the bottom," he says. "[People] want it to be near the bottom, but we're not there yet. The leading indicators are still very bad. Pending home sales are still in bad shape. Mortgage applications are low … There's still supply out there in abundance … This thing is going to get worse before it gets better."

Lereah now says that he, like everyone else, underestimated the impact of the subprime lending explosion on the housing boom: "That got so out of hand, and none of us realized the magnitude of it until it was too late."

Maybe so. But maybe it's also worth noting that near the height of the boom, in October 2005, Lereah gave a presentation in New Orleans in which he called two of the most vocal critics of the housing boom, Robert Shiller and Dean Baker, "Chicken Littles."

Chicken Little was right. Might be nice for David Lereah to acknowledge that someday.


Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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