I stopped by my bank last week to deposit a couple of checks. The teller cheerfully processed my paperwork, and we chatted about the Australian Open and this and that. When he had me at ease, he popped his pitch:
“Mr. Beyers, are you still a homeowner? You know, mortgage rates are at historic lows. Would you be interested in hearing about our refinancing options?”
Yes, actually, I would be interested, I thought. Except, that’s not what I said.
“Honestly, I just want to pay the thing off and be done with it.”
He didn’t stop smiling, but I’m sure I saw the twinkle fade from his eye.
I think I’m suffering from financial engineering fatigue. Or maybe I have capitulated to the housing malaise. Whatever, it all seems so depressing.
Last week, The Washington Post ran a report on home prices nationally, saying we’ve reached a post-bubble low, the product of a steady slide for the past 18 months.
“In the Washington region, seasonally adjusted prices have been relatively flat since April 2010, according to [Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller housing index], but they remain about 27 percent below their peak.”
Some people say we haven’t hit the bottom yet.
There do not seem to be any quick fixes around the corner.
President Obama proposed a plan last week to help people restructure their underwater mortgages — and the pundits declared it dead on arrival.
The government announced plans last week to sell off chucks of foreclosed properties owned by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, on the condition the properties be turned into rentals, at least for a while.
Remember when home ownership was all the rage?
Instead, Capital Business has been filled with stories of late about new apartment projects springing up all over. Renting is suddenly cool, if for no other reason than it is not easy to buy a house unless you have chunk of change in your bank account, a stable job and a sterling credit rating.
On Wall Street, they like to say you can’t really get people buying again until the market capitulates.
Count me as one of the surrendered.