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Saturday, August 27, 2005 | It’s well that we have combat between the city attorney and just about everyone else, otherwise we’d all be worrying about a “housing bubble.” One major problem about the future is that there are so many soothsayers – a dime a dozen. At least in Delphi, there was a high priest who interpreted what the ancient oracle was mumbling. He was never wrong, mainly because he mumbled and nobody really knew what he was saying, except the rumor mill claimed he was 100 percent right in his predictions. It was popular because you didn’t have to dig into a pigeon’s entrails (very messy).
We love to know the future because we chiefly want to know when and how we will die. In real estate, we have as many predictions as I have pigeons in my back yard (very messy). What I like to do is gain historical perspective instead of just statistical guesswork. Futurists do not assist me in making conclusions. Futurists make a transition from yesterday to tomorrow using today as the connection. Therefore they are almost always wrong. Writers of science fiction, like Ray Bradbury, use their imaginations – not caring whether they will be correct or not – but exploring what the possibilities are. Of course if you brought a Bradbury pro forma to a lender – although today’s lenders have so much liquidity that they make the Amazon look like a puddle – the lender will ask the borrower: “Are you sure you have enough, bubbie (having lent him 110 percent of what he was asking)? That condition – believe me – presages tough times ahead.
Between the irresponsibility of Uncle Sam’s budgets, the consumer’s tsunami of spending and overblown values, the only rule is that there are no rules – get it while you can. Consolidation of big boys into bigger boys erases brand names as new ones are created to handle the multitude of discretionary buyers, loaded with credit cards or cash. On the other hand, we have a health system that brags how great it is but is a failure and cruel; health benefits kill industries as the private pension system is worse than broke, turning into invisible money, as San Diego knows. Scientists, those guys stuck between God and evolution, are working on getting people to live in this world, beyond 125. Now why would any one wish to do that if they really believed in heaven? But science is not based upon any thing but theory and profits for pharmaceuticals, so I’ll stick with Harry Potter’s world, with wizards and phantoms that test our imaginations and possibilities.
Maybe real estate will borrow some of the ideas and pamper our minds as well as our luxury-loving bodies. I note that there are super-luxury resorts growing in strange-sounding places, where the affluent can find escape and an implied safety, where pampering approaches science fiction and amenities approach a Spielberg movie. In my past articles on the future of what homes and offices will look like, I turned into a science-fiction thinker and imagined what was possible. Actually we are in a race between how pampered we can get and how foolish we are investing. Somehow that upsets me when we are waging a war that is even messier than our pension fund.
History has taught me that what flies up will eventually come down – even a bird, let alone a home. It’s just that a bird has a destination; on the other hand, we who have always loved a home – besides being retail’s greatest product – have lost our perspective, drifting somewhere between inflation and infatuation, and will wind up like a pigeon – very messy, I predict.
Sanford “Sandy” Goodkin is acting chairman of Civic Solutions, a group of leaders who analyze San Diego’s problems, prioritize them and search for solutions, representing diverse points of view. He is a trustee of the Urban Land Institute and is a pioneer of residential market and marketing analysis. Read his real estate columns at