The incapacity of the administration to come up with an anti-inflation policy that a reasonable person can trust will stimulate the flight of depositors from savings banks and other thrift institutions. Ten years ago rampant corrosive inflation was such an unfamiliar experience that people kept their savings in cash and allowed their purchasing power to be corroded.
After a decade of dedicated inflationists in Congress and the White House, people have come to understand that they're being robbed when the savings and loan association pays 6.5 percent while the government destroys the value of money at the rate of 8 percent and then has the gall to tax the interest from the savings account. People have been taught by politicians that only children save; put it into the bank and the guys in Washington'll steal it.
Thus more and more millions of us are learning that you never lend money, you borrow it. Borrow money today and, with Jimmy Carter in the White House, you'll be able to repay the loan six years from now at 60 cents on the dollar. Solvency is for suckers.
In their determination to never a lender but a borrower be, many people are going into debt buying real estate. Their reasoning is plausible. In the last few years, through inflation and recession, residential real estate values have held up very well. Stocks and bonds have been a disaster; gold has only made money for a few shrewdies; antiques, jewelry, art and objects, d'art, like rare stamps and oriental rugs, demand specialized knowledge, and anyway, you can take a bad beating, even if you've made a good buy, in the event you have to sell in a hurry.
Real estate, especially homes, has had the best track record. They're easy to sell compared to some of the things mentioned above, and the price on residential housing has not only kept pace with inflation, but far out-distanced it. That's why you hear of more and more people refinancing the homes they themselves live in so they can realize the enhanced values of their property immediately. Many of them taking the money they're getting from refinancing their homes and buying other properties, not to live in but as an investment.
The difficulty with that is that rents haven't kept up with housing prices. People are paying $100,000 for the house that sold for $75,000 three years ago in expectation that in three or four years they'll be able to sell for $140,000. In the meantime, they must rent it and a lot of them are discovering the rental price won't even pay the monthly mortgage installment, much less taxes and upkeep.
In the banking busines they call people who're paying out two or three hundred dollars a month now in hopes of realizing a $40,000 profit down the road "overexposed." Everything depends on the market in residential reat estate holding up and there's no guarantee of that. In fact, the signs indicate this is a poor time to buy residential reat estate for any purpose other than living in it.
In many parts of the country, residential reat estate prices are being driven up not by potential occupiers but by people hoping to sell later at a profit. They're going up so fast it looks like a buyer's panic is on, with people's business judgment swept away by an hysterical conviction that if they don't buy now and buy at almost any price, they'll lose the opportunity of a lifetime.
If you really think real estate prices will continue to shoot up indefinitely with no relationship to the price of other goods and services, then this is the moment to buy at any price. In the real world such a situation is unlikely so that the danger grows that a bad collapse that will find many innocent, hardworking people badly dumped on.
The last last recession saw that happen with certain kinds of real estate. Second or vacation home prices were murdered as was the office-building segment of the real estate industry. Residential reat estate, of course, did well, but that was last time, when prices weren't climbing at the discerting rates they are now.
In times like these, remember the new adage, don't seek shelter against inflation where too many others are already huddled.