The Great Corona Depression
Buckle up, it’s coming.
Podcast Transcript, Never Too Late To The Game’s Monday Morning Real Estate Update, July 27, 2020
Anyone who believes that our economy or the global economy can just “go back to normal” is kidding themselves. The mistakes were made, especially in the US, and it is highly unlikely that the powers that be will back-track and shut down the US Economy in order to be quell the rage of the Covid-19.
This Autumn. After reviewing all of the economic, business and real estate news, I believe we are going to see the full economic and human effect of Covid-19, in what will come to be known as The Great Corona Depression of 2020. It will be a grim time and a somewhat fitting end of the year.
Many factors affect real estate: unemployment, the stock market, the political climate, real estate laws, inheritance laws, rental laws, ordinances, taxes, the environment, consumer confidence and more.
Yet, real estate stands alone — remaining the most stable and reliable investment, over time. Even if you don’t consider your home an investment, it is and even if don’t consider your home an insurance policy, it is. It is the single most important investment you can make for your wellbeing, happiness, family and retirement.
WHY IS THE OUTLOOK SO GRIM?
As coronavirus rages it has ripped the bandaid off the story that our economy is strong, that our healthcare system is amongst the best in the world and that a social safety net is somehow a gateway drug into the four-letter heroin of societal structures, socialism!
Our economy, even prior to the pandemic wasn’t so good.
ECONOMIC FACTS AND COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE
This past Friday, the moratorium on evictions ended along with the extended unemployment benefits, putting tens of millions of people at risk.
Small Businesses and Restaurants are closing by the dozens in every major city. According to the National Restaurant Association approximately 25,000 restaurants have closed permanently.
Yelp is reporting that nearly 400 restaurant closures in San Francisco are permanent and that Vegas, Honolulu and Los Angeles are also being hit hard.
The fact that so many restaurants are permanently closing is evidence that the relief programs were woefully insufficient, mismanaged and misappropriated for small businesses. Yet, we can’t ignore the fact that most small businesses were already operating on the edge, essentially surviving month to month, for a very long time. Covid-19 only hastened what could have taken a decade or more to happen.
In San Francisco, this has been happening for 10 years, with small corner stores and retail shops not being able to afford the rent and a premium on available rental space — for commercial and residential. Boarded up shops, restaurants and unoccupied retail space is something San Franciscans are woefully familiar with.
Larger retailers are closing record numbers of stores across America. So, Expect a Commercial & Residential Real Estate Apocalypse, boarded up stores and cold empty streets on the scale not seen in 100 years.
Expect to see 70’s style burnt-out neighborhoods that have no services or much less curb appeal for their communities. I see this every time I venture out in San Francisco. Just today I learned a neighborhood store that is, maybe 500 square feet, can no longer afford the $6,500 a month rent. They sell snacks, trinkets, cigarettes, lotto tickets, cold beverages and other essential and non-essential junk. I bought a pair of gloves I didn’t need because I felt so bad.
Like the vitamin shop, the coffee shop, the old Mexican restaurant, a bar that I never knew the name of, the fancy pet supply shop and my corner grocery store, the little convenience store will be closed and boarded up probably for years. Greedy landlords are a real thing, which is why I have always advocated for my retail clients to just buy the building…
WHY ARE SO MANY LARGE RETAILERS GOING OUT OF BUSINESS?
To answer the question, you first have ask why did we have so much retail space in the first place?
While I was rehabbing a property in Sacramento during the years 2018 and 2019, it occurred to me that certain chains of retail stores were redundant. Drive 6 miles in any direction and you will run into a Ross, Marshalls, Walmart, TJ Max and many more.
In the Sacramento area there are a number of indoor malls, many of which are defunct with just a few master tenants remaining. Walking through them you get the feeling that you’re in a post-apocalyptic movie where half the population was wiped out. We also can’t blame all of our retail failures on Amazon.
According to Forbes, the US has approximately 50 square feet of retail space per capita. Now compare that to Europe, where they have 2.5 square feet of retail space per capita. That’s a 47.5 square foot difference! Staggering.
America is a nation of consumers. A nation of super-sized everything, whether it is the size of the stores, the cut of a steak, steroid infused chickens, cars or burgers. We love things big.
We have built, and built so big, and built so often that environmentalists have complained about the sheer amount of blacktop that has harmed animal habitats and literally warmed up the planet.
Contrary to the claims by our current president that we have the most amazing and strong economy in the history of all time, our economy has been sputtering, stagnated and stale for decades.
My personal take on the economy is that it is a fragmented combination of old ideas, delusion and propaganda, it’s an elitist gas guzzling dinosaur, its allocation is preferential and therefore misappropriated by politicians in a usury and cruel way.
Yet, America still shines some hope because it also espouses entrepreneurship, ideas, opportunity, adventure and success.
Our economy, is the proverbial double edged sword in a tale of two cities.
Our economy is a game and if you’re well connected enough, have your wits about you and if you are crazy enough to take risks, you may just win at the game and maybe even go all the way to the top.
According to the Google Machine, the odds of becoming a billionaire are 1 in 578,508 — better than the odds of winning the PowerBall Lottery, which are 1 in 293,201,338.
The idea of becoming a billionaire is a far off concept for many, because for them it’s difficult to just get though the month financially.
The point is, what made American great and when did that change?
What made America great is homeownership. Real Estate.
Fair wages have a lot to do with the millions of people who started out poor but then bought homes and in 10–15 years time, weren’t poor anymore. Millions rode the “housing escalator” from starter home, to larger home, back down to smaller home. Millions were lucky enough to buy second homes and some even 3rd homes. You have your main house, beach house and a mountain house.
Homeownership gave people the opportunity to build equity — and to have dignity. Home is the place where holidays are celebrated, where yearly pilgrimages are made in Thanksgiving.
Anything that stands in the way of achieving the goal of homeownership in the United States is a failure on the part of how we regulate capitalism. It’s a failure of our laws and an abject failure of our politicians. Homeownership is what separated the United States from “lesser” countries.
There is a housing shortage but many are locked out of the market — more than ever before. Student debt, skewed bankruptcy laws, unrealistic banking hoops & hurdles, low wages, inequality / inequity and over-inflated properties.
According to an article in the Daily Beast this past week, the company that American keeps in terms of inequality, is Angola and Colombia. Let that sink in. According to many metrics, America has slipped and fallen way behind other countries (and I’m not just talking about 1st world countries).
Yet, Americans remain prideful about who we are, Americans are deluded, they are gaslit and brainwashed by an arcane sense of national pride fostered by politicians into thinking that their lot in life is better than the rest of the world. Many Americans are a lethal of combination of arrogance and ignorance.
Yet, there is a cure for ignorant, racist, arrogant American Exceptionalism, and Mark Twain prescribed it:
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
If we want to be great, we need to do great things, we need to build great things, we need to like each other, accept each other, accept our differences and work together and for God’s sake we need to take care of each other, those than can, need to lift those that cant — and understand that the common good is our highest duty to each other, to the earth and to building a great nation.
Making America Great Again means building an economy that strives to work for everyone. Making America Great Again means helping others, building high-speed trains, repairing infrastructure, building the highest buildings and creating and preserving natural landmarks. We need to tear down walls, not build them. We don’t need to tear down statues, we need to move them to museums, so that they can take their proper place in history.
Unemployment: More than 1.5 million people filed new unemployment claims during the 2nd week in July.
A look at some headlines that should give you a good idea of what is going on:
CNBC: A Second Great Depression? Unemployment crisis hits big cities hard.
Crain’s NY Business: Bronx Unemployment rate near 25% in June, highest in NY City, during CoronaVirus.
Crain’s NY Business: Residential Rent Collections improve, but vacancies double.
Seeking Alpha: The Real Unemployment rate is 21% — and heading higher.
KCRG: Iowa State researches say unemployment rate may be higher than reported. Please.
WBUR: Mass unemployment rate rises to 17.4% Worst in the Country.
Fortune: An error in how the unemployment rate was calculated means we should be more worried than we already are.
Note #1: Texas reported a drop down to around 8%. Sorry, not buying it.
Note #2: People are protesting outside of Mitch McConnell’s Washington DC home, petitioning for him to extend the unemployment stimulus benefits. Mitch took the weekend off.
And the stock market?
Tensions between the US and China are being blamed for the global stock markets tumbling, but wait a minute, the news came out at the same time as mid-month unemployment reporting did for July. So, what really caused stocks to tumble? No way of knowing…
THE BAY AREA
Earlier this month, The San Francisco Chronicle reported on a group of associations suing the city to overturn a new law preventing evictions that were caused by Covid-19.
The bottom line here, the thing that’s been missing all along, is a lack of government financial help for tenants and landlords. The government doesn’t have a right to pass off their duty to take of people to private landlords. This is why people pay taxes.
The San Francisco residential real estate market’s inventory has hit a 9 year high, running 101% above last year or 200% above 2015. Condo listings are up to an unimaginable multiple of what they were, perhaps 8 or 9x the normal number listed.
The week before last there were 360 single family homes on the market and 47 sold.
This past week there were 362 single family homes on the market and 29 sold.
The week before last there were 930 condos on the market and 66 sold.
This past week there were 1005 condos on the market and 47 sold.
Also this past week there were 157 multifamily properties for sale and 3 sold, 35 single family homes for lease with 0 rented, and 403 apartments on the market with only 11 having leased.
As for prices, well, they have begun to drop.
Steve Job’s Final Words.
I wanted to end this week’s Podcast / Article with an upbeat message.
Someone made a post on Facebook that I thought would be fantastic but after a little research, it turns out to be false. Steven Job’s did not leave any last words of wisdom about life or the pursuit money. According to his sister his final words were:
Oh Wow, Oh Wow, Oh Wow.
That’s good enough for me.
If you would like to hear my Podcast of this article, please visit Never Too Late To The Game’s Monday Morning Real Estate Update for July 27, 2020. You can also find me on Spotify, Google or Apple Podcasts.