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False-Bottom Blues


With the first phase of the real estate decline seemingly over, HuffPost's Evelyn Nieves feels confident using the past tense while writing prose poetry about the decline in Stockton, California:

The heart of Foreclosureville, U.S.A. – the Stockton subdivision that had more bank repossessions than any other place in the country for much of the last two years – is starting to look like its old self again.

The "For Sale" signs that overwhelmed Weston Ranch are mostly gone, and the lawns where weeds grew like corn stalks are shorn.

Foreclosure businesses that sprang up, including one that spray-painted brown lawns green and another that offered a foreclosure bus tour, have folded. Every time a foreclosure hits the market, bargain hunters snap it up.

But looks are deceiving. In Weston Ranch, financial devastation struck like a natural disaster and the ground has not yet settled. Speculators are buying houses to rent out. On streets where everyone knew everyone, no one knows anyone.

California's Inland Seaport is lovely in this postcard.

Your receptivity to this stuff will vary with your fondness for more-truthy-than-exacting literature. While Nieves refers to a "decimated" community, Stockton's peak foreclosure rate of 9.5 percent doesn't even meet the pedant's modest definition of "decimate"—to reduce by a tenth. To call buyers in today's market "bargain hunters" also presupposes that today's prices are bargains, though the preponderance of evidence suggests California real estate remains overvalued. And a person who buys a house to rent out is not a "speculator." The proper term for that person is either "landlady" or "male landlady." 

But I'm trying to be more upbeat, so I'll say I enjoyed Nieves article and found it positively Vonnegut-esque. And also note that even in the heart of Deadbeatville, houses sell when you price them closer to what they're worth.

Courtesy of Calculated Risk.

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  1. Stockton, is that near Crackton?

    1. Close enough. It’s probably the easiest place to score crack in the state.

  2. Saying that 9.5% isn’t 10%, dude, that’s pedantry. But I do love the shorn corn shocks. Shear this!

    1. Except that nobody actually used the word to mean “reduced by a tenth.” In fact, they use it to mean “almost entirely destroyed.” The poetess is using the expansive definition to describe something that doesn’t even fit the literal definition.

      1. I’m pretty sure the Romans meant it as “kill a tenth of them”.

      2. Tim’s right. The original meaning was literally to take out ten percent of the offending legion, but it’s morphed into something more dramatic these days. If our troops decimated Iraq’s army, that would mean we virtually wiped it out, not that we reduced it by 10%.

        1. Although, to be fair, a 10% fatal casualty is pretty catastrophic, and will pretty destroy the effectiveness of most military units, I believe.

  3. positively Vonnegut-esque.

    This is a pejorative, I hope.

    1. I dunno – I like Vonnegut, but this was just horrible writing.

  4. Tell the truth – Stockton was one of those Barney Frank “CRA” inner-city zones where they FORCED banks to give loans to every “nigra” in California.

    At least, that is what Rush Limbaugh (King of the Rednecks) told me on my AM radio the other day….

    1. Limbaugh is a redneck? How so? I’m not defending him, but I don’t think that label makes much sense. Am I missing the big picture–are you suggesting that all Republicans are racist rednecks?

      1. Definitely.

        Redneck = willfully ignorant, anti-education, anti-science, racist, closed mind.

        Its not about money – who is the Git’r done guy? He is rich too.

        1. Are all rednecks “willfully ignorant, anti-education, anti-science, racist, closed mind[ed]”?

          1. You brought “Republican” into it – not me.

            I would vote for William Weld, Lincoln Chaffee, Mike Castle, the Maine ladies, etc.

            Its the Teabagging Rednecks I hate.

            The SoCons – the theocrats, the Southern Trash, the Creationists, the “true conservatives” — the


            Get it?

            1. Ditto ProL

              1. Look, the ignorant rednecks in the Senate are no secret..

                the two Mississippi rednecks

                pure redneck.

                Are you a fucking idiot?

                  1. You must be ProL, you must. You don’t tow the shriek lion.

  5. For more HuffPo comedy, read their latest anti-WalMart riff about how WalMart has cost the City of Chicago jobs. As if the amateur sociologists at HuffPo know better than the actual residents of the neighborhood.


      1. +1
        Everybody git nekkid!


  6. all Republicans are racist rednecks?

    Well, duh.

  7. California’s central coast real estate has enduring value. Stockton isn’t there.

  8. Anecdotal and related: At one point last year, my So. Cal. community was ranked #1 in foreclosure sales in the whole US of A. Lots of foreclosures; but lots of folks picking them up for a good price.

    Recently, there haven’t been a whole lot of foreclosures on the market. When one does hit, there are multiple, all-cash offers. Two of my neighbors have tried–successfully–to do “flips” on these types of properties. Buy ’em, sort-of fix ’em up, then sell them quick for a profit.

    Two other neighbors, however, are doing something a bit different: Both haven’t paid a mortgage payment in well over a year. They received 30-, 60-, and 90-day late notices, but that’s it. Not a whiff of foreclosure proceedings. It seems like there could be a lot of properties that *should* be foreclosed upon and on the market, but aren’t. The housing market prices around here seem to be artificially high.

    1. Lots of people are living on the “free rent program”, like your neighbors. They will be foreclosed eventually, however-these bad loans have to be cleared off the books or the economy will never recover. (Look at Japan for an example of how keeping fake loans on the books kills an exconomy.)

      I think the number of foreclosures will pick up in the next few months, once it’s determined which, and how many, loan mods work on a permanent basis. If the banks are smart, they will still trickle them out, albeit at a slightly faster pace. If there’s a flood of them all at once, prices will fall further.

      In any case I’m enjoying the foreclosed house I bought at 62.5% off what the last guy paid for it ($150k vs $400k).

  9. On streets where everyone knew everyone, no one knows anyone.

    And poor little “Beave” has no one to play with. And he lost his paperboy job, what with all the damned intertubes and such, and he can’t even afford a new tire for his bicycle.

  10. I drove through Stockton about 2 weeks ago.

    It was a S-H-I-T-H-O-L-E

    1. Sounds like you drove through the neighborhoods adjacent to the raised freeway section of Highway 4….

  11. you made me cry

  12. And a person who buys a house to rent out is not a “speculator.” The proper term for that person is either “landlady” or “male landlady.”

    A winner is you.

    1. Seconded.

  13. I hate false bottoms. They’re so tricky. I want to know just what I’m grabbing when I go after one of those things.

    Speculator hell. America turned house flipping into a spectator sport.

  14. Its the Teabagging Rednecks I hate.

    Well, them, and apparently taking your medication.

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