David Lereah, formerly chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, who was famous for his unbridled optimism about the future of the housing market, now says he was wrong.

My views are quite different now. I’m pretty bearish and have been for the past year and a half. Home prices will continue to drop. …

I would not have done anything different. But I was a public spokesman writing about housing having a good future. I was wrong. I have to take responsibility for that.

That and more in a Money magazine interview with Lereah, now a private real estate consultant who says his stance is now decidedly more bearish.

Bearish compared to what he once was — one of the rosiest predictors of the housing market in the country, a cheerleader economist targeted as the focus of an entire blog and in commentary by all sorts of analysts, including our own Rich Toscano. Lereah wrote a book published in February 2006 — four months after the peak of the market in San Diego, at least — called “Why the Real Estate Boom Will not Bust and How You Can Profit From It.”

Lereah’s a national example of some of the people I quoted in this story about a year ago, asking some of the loudest buy-now housing evangelists during the boom if they would do anything different considering the slump in the market now.

Here’s a bit from that story, which began with an interview with George Chamberlin, executive editor at the San Diego Daily Transcript, and analyst quoted all over the place, from KOGO to NBC 7/39.

Chamberlin remains one of San Diego’s most high-profile bulls. …

Faced with dropping home prices and skyrocketing foreclosures, Chamberlin and others have barely changed their tune, if they have at all. For that, they get plenty of flack. Posters on housing blogs lampoon them and blame them for much of the trouble in the market. Analysts on the other side who’ve issued warnings about the housing market’s unsustainable meteoric rise for years say enough already with the rose-colored glasses.

KELLY BENNETT

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