Monday, May 05, 2008

Bad Neighbor

As a document of the reach of the subprime mortgage meltdown into a posh coastal city of privilege with a median income higher than Beverly Hills, the Santa Monica Distress Monitor provides color commentary about local foreclosures and mocks the wishful thinking of speculators and homebodies alike.

Its masthead promises a dispassionate mission: "Monitoring current real estate market conditions in Santa Monica and testing the hypothesis that Santa Monica's real estate values are subject to the forces of a currently deflating bubble." Fortunately for the prurient reader, the actual copy is largely devoted to catty Schadenfreude rather than any scientific study of market forces. The rhetoric is characterized by lots of bemused quotations from the Pollyanna-ish ad prose of listings like "Ashland Architectural" and "Sophisticated English Manor." To the uninitiated it probably seems strange to see the gratification of local gossip as it gets translated into the more abstract language of real estate comps. It's also illustrated with logo parodies of the corporate branding of subprime lenders and even the occasional editorial image, such as this noose.

For all I know, it may be a brilliant strategy on the part of a professional buyer to psych out sellers by publicly humiliating them for their capitalistic hubris. Here's a sample passage where the writer takes the gloves off and exposes his or her own suburban prejudices.

This house is only 6 lots away from that ghetto grocery store. I know this area well and yes, that grocery store has some shady folks hanging around there and parking their RVs in the parking lot. The second negative is the fact that this street has a light on the end of it and is busier than some of the others. Of course the biggest negative is the bloated price but that is obvious...The trend of flips and semi-flips (2 year holding period or so) failing to sell at a bloated market price is here. The sellers are figuring this out and are thus simultaneously listing their overpriced, granite covered shacks for rent at astronomical prices.

Apparently the author also writes for the marginally more businesslike Westside Bubble, which includes a blogroll with online offerings such as "Housing Doom," "Housing Panic," and "Sudden Debt."

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