Matthew Ferrara, Philosopher

Archive for May, 2009

When was the last time a product or service made you shout with joy?  Read more

It’s true that I’ve never agreed with the National Association of REALTOR’S Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. It’s nothing personal; but it’s everything professional. I just don’t understand why today’s economists can’t figure out why inflation is bad. Of all of the complexities of economics, inflation is pretty much the easiest to understand. We’re not trying to figure out the reasons for irrational exuberance or call the bottom on the stock market. Inflation is simply the slow and steady erosion of a currency’s value. And with a devalued currency comes devalued everything. Including housing. Yet for some reason, NAR’s chief money-thinker  Read more

Once again, as REALTORS converged last week for their MidYear meetings in Washington, D.C., the forces of stability and sameness were present, coming up with last-gasp-ways to protect the tattered vestiges of Real Estate, the Last Generation. New white-papers and shiny-Powerpoint presentations proclaimed the “we-can-renovate” mentality of Gen 2.0 MLS systems struggling to enter the 3.0 version of the industry. Much like Google and Yahoo – who refuse to admit their advertising model is crumbling in the face of social networks – MLS’s are trying one last time to burnish a brand that has already worn off the chrome. What’s  Read more

Fans of Spencer Johnson’s book will recognize the theme in today’s column: Something has definitely moved in today’s real estate industry. For decades, the industry built by Baby Boomers for Baby Boomers has essentially run the same race through the maze, finding the cheese almost every time. Periodically, the cheese was moved or a wrong turn was taken, but never very far and never a dead end. Usually, within months, the industry figured out how to navigate new turns and once fattened themselves again on the rediscovered cheese. Yet could a recession have pose a different problem to this “re-routing  Read more

Why is it impossible for anyone – REALTORS, banks, media or economists – to accurately describe what is going on in the marketplace? If buyers are going to feel confident about moving back into the market, we should expect all of these groups to be providing clear, verifiable market facts that back up the “best time to buy” sloganism thrown at consumers. Yet most of the punditry has left consumers – especially skeptical Gen X’ers and impressionable Gen Y’ers – more confused than ever. And with a few trillion extra dollars sloshing around the economy and gas prices already moving  Read more

Real estate is a tricky business. At some point, you’d expect things to “mean” what they say. Yet we’re an industry that can’t even decide what exactly constitutes a “bedroom.”  In some markets, it’s a broom closet; others extend the definition to unfinished attics. Of course, small dens and breakfast nooks in big-city condos qualify as bedrooms as long as a curtain divides them from the next room. Funny stuff, but it gets more serious when you try to apply these definitions to market data. If we can’t decide what certain market data means, how can we plan a business  Read more

Yesterday, President Obama announced he was prepared to break the law. After blaming the senior debt bondholders of Chrysler for pushing the company into Chapter 11, he sanctioned a plan to abrogate their covenants and force them to take pennies on their loaned dollar. No matter that their bonds were secured by the company’s assets. The rights of “speculators” are easily swept aside in populist frenzies. Notice how the President didn’t blink a teleprompter-eye when he stood with the union workers, the families and the communities – while transferring to them 55% control of the company assets. American lenders filled  Read more