Category Archives: SeattleHome.com

Posts by Sam DeBord on the Seattle Homes Group blog, SeattleHome.com

Understanding The New 3.8% Healthcare Tax on Real Estate

This article was originally published on the Seattle Homes Blog:

Understanding politically-charged tax and health care issues can quickly lead to plenty of disinformation. There are far more emails and web sites disseminating incorrect information about the new health care tax on real estate than there are real guides to the issue. Anyone involved in a real estate transaction with questions about this tax should consult their own tax attorney or tax consultant, or refer to this guide produced by the National Association of Realtors.

3.8% Real Estate Health Care Tax

As a brief introduction, here are the facts:

Beginning January 1, 2013, a new tax will be levied on some real estate transactions. This tax was created to fund the U.S. health care legislation created two years ago, commonly referred to in the media as “Obamacare”, but officially termed Patient Protection Affordable Care Act.

Let’s start with the most basic issues. The new tax is levied only upon single tax filers with over $200,000 in Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) or married filers with over $250,000 in AGI.

The tax is not levied upon the value of the original basis price of the home, nor is it levied against the current tax-free gains that most home sellers of personal residences qualify for: $250,000 of tax-free gain for single tax filers, and $500,000 for a married couple filing jointly on personal residences.

At this point, all income earners under $200k/$250k are exempt, and all transactions without a gain of more than $250k/$500k are exempt. This makes up the majority of real estate transactions today.

Here is where it gets a bit tricky (seeguide for examples). For the additional gain, over and above the $250k/$500k tax-free:

The new tax applies to the LESSER of (a) Investment income amount, or (b) Excess of AGI over $200k/$250k. In other words, in some cases, this new 3.8% tax will still not apply to the gain, but could apply depending on the income makeup of the taxpayer.

All-in-all, this tax affects only a small portion of real estate sales. Many in the industry would argue, though, that any new impediments to the sale of purchases in any way should be avoided in the current economic/real estate climate. We don’t want to discourage home sales at any price level, as the offset loss of the current tax revenues from those sales would far outweigh an add-on such as this.

If nothing else, this new tax is a great example of the bureacracy of our tax code and the lack of transparency in the tax-writing process. You would be hard-pressed to find a home seller who understands the tax fully, even after reading a review of it. It’s difficult enough for a real estate broker who deals with these kinds of transactions every day. When home buyers and sellers don’t understand the process, they often react out of fear of the unknown. When we lay out clear real estate tax policy for consumers, we find home buyers and sellers make informed, rational decisions in the real estate market.

While We’re Thanksgiving Napping, Uncle Sam is Readying to Carve Up The Mortgage Interest Deduction

This article was originally published on the Seattle Homes Blog:

Thanksgiving mortgage interest deductionThanksgiving is a time for Americans to relax with family, eat a bit too much, and take a tryptophan-induced nap. We’d all be happy to ignore politics for a while with the election finally over, but politicians are sharpening their knives over one of American taxpayers’ most-cherished financial incentives. While more than 90 percent of Americans support the mortgage interest deduction, there is broad agreement that it will be targeted in Washington, D.C. in the coming year in an effort to reduce budget deficits.

Changing Course(s)

Every Thanksgiving you can’t wait for your mother’s homemade turkey stuffing. It’s practically the main reason you’re coming to dinner. So, when you arrive this year and it’s a Peking duck with an orange sauce, you may feel like you’ve been had.

This is how millions of homeowners will be treated if we change the rules of the mortgage interest deduction. They created a budget to buy a home. They worked with their mortgage adviser and tax planner to decide what they could afford. They bought a house, knowing how much they could deduct in taxes every year and set their budget accordingly. Reduce the MID, and we immediately increase their housing payment. Through no fault of their own, families will struggle with their budgets because the tax rules they had planned on were pulled out from under them.

Cook it Fast and Hot or Slow and Low?

Reducing the MID is one of those shortcuts that seems like a quick fix. Raise homeowners’ tax bills, and reap the immediate budget rewards. In reality, it’s like baking a turkey at twice the temperature to save half the time. It will certainly get done faster, but the blackened bird is going to shorten next year’s guest list significantly. When tax bills go up quickly, short-term revenue increases, but take home pay and disposable income for home buyers go down. Without the deduction, homes become less affordable, and stagnating home sales are never good for long-term tax revenue or the economy.

The mortgage interest deduction, on the other hand, has a long-term, slow growth effect on the economy. It makes purchasing a home more affordable for first time buyers, but it also has a multiplicative effect. Those buyers start a slow heating of the market as they purchase homes and allow the sellers to become move-up buyers. More buyers create more competition and the ensuing price appreciation creates fewer underwater homeowners, fewer foreclosures, and healthier neighborhoods.

When we encourage home sales through the mortgage interest deduction, there are far more sources of long-term revenue. More real estate agents, appraisers, lenders, inspectors, builders, tradesmen, title officers, sign companies, marketing companies, office supply companies, and hardware stores experience increased income. They all pay more income tax, resulting in more tax revenue–but their take home pay is still increasing. Consumption has always been the engine of our economic growth, and people with more income will inevitably spend more.

Who’s Coming to Dinner?

Much of the debate over the mortgage interest deduction centers on who “deserves” to get the deduction. Some proposals will contend that homeowners with certain incomes shouldn’t be included, or that homeowners with higher-priced homes and higher-balance mortgages are not worthy of the deduction (keep in mind that 2/3 of homeowners claiming the deduction have less than $100,000 in total household income).

These exclusions really miss the point. The mortgage interest deduction exists to encourage homeownership and keep the market healthy as a whole. A bottom-heavy or top-heavy market isn’t healthy. Strong sales at all price levels are required to increase overall prices and reduce distressed properties. Any reductions in this incentive will have a negative impact on the market as a whole.

Time To Wake Up and Go Home, Folks.

Continually standing up in defense of the mortgage interest deduction can become tiresome, much like your holiday house guests. The first time you hear a story it can be intriguing and energetic. By the third time, it just feels like an effort to keep your eyes open. We don’t want to talk politics over the holidays. Falling asleep on the mortgage interest deduction would be easy.

Right now, though, the stakes for this much needed homeowner benefit are high. Ever-increasing voices in Washington, D.C. are lining up to take a piece of the pie. American homeowners (who already pay 80 to 90 percent of the nation’s income tax bills) shouldn’t be singled out for tax increases simply because they bought a home.

Reducing the MID would be counterproductive for the nation’s economy as a whole. Real estate accounts for nearly 1/5 of the nation’s GDP. It is in our country’s best interest long-term to encourage homeownership, healthy real estate markets, and economic growth through incentives like the mortgage interest deduction.

Sleep off that stuffing, get your Black Friday shopping done, and then it’s time to get back to work protecting the American dream.

Announcing The New Seattle Homes Real Estate App

This article was originally published on the Seattle Homes Blog:

We’ve been developing an app for Seattle-area home buyers and sellers to use on their mobile devices for some time now.  We’re happy to announce that it has arrived, and is in the Apple, Google, and Blackberry app stores.

The Seattle Homes Real Estate App – for iPhoneiPadAndroid, and Blackberry (Windows Phone users, we’re working on it!)

iphone android real estate app Seattle

Download the newest real estate app for the greater Seattle area.  Search homes all around the Puget Sound region from your iPhoneiPadAndroid, or Blackberry mobile phone or tablet. The new Seattle Homes real estate app is designed specifically for our local market, and has the fastest link to the MLS database.  That means you’ll know more quickly when a new home hits the market, and you see far more available homes than on the national portal apps.

The Seattle Homes Real Estate app only shows the active listings on the MLS and is updated every day.  No more outdated, expired, and sold listings to waste your time. The iPad version takes your mobile experience to the next level, with even more options.  Search on the map for nearby dining, entertainment, book stores, wineries, shopping and more.

ipad tablet app real estate homes Seattle

Download it, try it out, and let us know what you think.  We’d love to hear your feedback.  And of course, if you like the app, please give us a good review in the app store.  Thanks!

iPhone app   |   iPad app   |   Android app   |   Blackberry app

Eminent Domain Seizure of Underwater Mortgages: How it Works (And Why it Won’t)

This article was originally published on the Seattle Homes Blog:

Eminent domain seizure underwater mortgages

Eminent domain has become a popular topic in real estate circles recently as a number of local governments are contemplating using the power in a new way.  Cities like Hayward, CA and North Las Vegas, NV have recently considered measures that would attempt to seize underwater mortgages and lower their principal balances, under the guise of preventing foreclosures in their local markets.  Seattle is the latest city to begin studying the possibility.

Eminent domain has traditionally been used by governments to condemn and seize a property and, in most cases, is only allowable when the public good will be served by the taking.  Property owners must be compensated for the loss, meaning the seizing entity must pay fair market value to the property owner.

In the latest proposals, eminent domain would be used not to seize the physical property itself, but the mortgage attached to the property.  While a homeowner is the affected party in a traditional home seizure, in these cases banks, lenders, and investors are the mortgage owners and would be the concerned stakeholders.  “Mortgages” in many states are actually deeds of trust, but for simplicity’s sake we’ll call them all mortgages, and their owners investors.

Local governments are proposing to partner with corporations that specialize in the mortgage seizure process, and to use their investors to finance the purchase of those mortgages and their resale.  There are numerous legal and practical challenges facing this process, but here is how the process would likely play out if approved:

Step By Step – The Eminent Domain Mortgage Seizure Process

The city government condemns a mortgage on a home that is underwater.  In this case, the home is worth $200,000 (the city’s valuation), and the mortgage on the home has a $300,000 balance.

By law, when seizing property through eminent domain, the city must pay the investor back the fair market value of the property.  In this scenario, that property is the mortgage, not the home itself.  Proponents of this process have posited that the market value of a mortgage is 80% of the home’s current value.

In this case, the city would pay the investor who owned the mortgage $160,000.  To raise that $160,000, the city needs a financier.  They partner with a mortgage seizure specialist corporation.  This corporation has investors ready to make loans to the city and facilitate the process.

The corporation’s investor partners loan the city $160,000, which the city pays to the original investor.  The city now owns the mortgage.

The corporation’s investors now “refinance” the city’s mortgage at $190,000.  This new mortgage can be retained by the corporation’s investors, or packaged and sold with other loans as securities.

The city now has enough money to pay back the original $160,000 loan, plus a $30,000 margin for paying transaction expenses and profits to all of the necessary parties.  The corporation is paid a flat fee, the new investors get equity profit plus interest, and the city takes a cut as well.

Of course, the homeowner must technically agree to this new mortgage on his/her home.  When approached with the proposition of a $110,000 reduction in mortgage balance and a new position of $10,000 equity in the home, the home owner naturally agrees.

Who Determines Market Value?

While the process sounds like an innovative idea, there are a plethora of problematic issues.  The first is obvious.  Everyone profits, except for the original investor, who is paid only about half of the amount of his original mortgage balance.

The problems start when determining the value of the home itself, since the mortgage’s valuation is based on the home’s current value.  The city, which stands to profit from this process, is determining the value of the home.

While the condemning city is clearly not an independent analyst for the valuation, it is also likely not an able analyst.  City officials are far less skilled at property valuation than independent, full-time real estate professionals.  An unrelated appraiser would be the logical person to make this valuation but, in this case, the city is naming its own price.

A Mortgage’s Value is Much More Than the Home it is Tied To

Our next leap in logic is the belief that a mortgage is only as valuable as the home to which it is secured.  To demonstrate the folly of this idea, one of the mortgage seizure corporations, in partnership with Hayward’s city government, recently sent out letters soliciting the sale of underwater mortgages from the mortgage owners of over 600 local homes.  Not surprisingly, all offers were rejected by the original investors.  85 percent of those mortgages had on-time, current payments coming in, even though they were technically under water.  The investors were still seeing a healthy return on their mortgage investment, even when the home’s value had sunk significantly below the mortgage balance.

The value of a mortgage is not just in the value of the home or the principal balance, but in the likelihood of long-term interest payments being received.  Lenders lend money to earn interest.  Without a proper analysis of the present value of a mortgage based on its long-term repayment, a valuation process has little credibility.

Setting aside the lack of attention to interest payments, the valuation of a mortgage at 80 percent of a home’s value should cause plenty of raised eyebrows as well.  It is widely know that mortgages are being made up to 97 or even 100 percent of a home’s value.  These are mortgages backed by investors who understand their worth, and can easily demonstrate a mortgage’s market value far above 80 percent loan-to-value.

Hands In The Mortgage Cookie Jar

This process hits its lowest credibility point when the straight-faced participants refinance a mortgage on the same property at a higher loan balance.  The very same set of characters tell the original investor “Your mortgage is worth X,” while telling their own investors “This mortgage is worth X + Y.”

If it weren’t so obvious and financially irresponsible, it would be comical.  The entities in this process will be required to prove in a court of law that they’ve paid fair market value to one group of investors, and repeatedly, successively, resold those same assets to other investors at higher prices in a short time period.

Unfortunately for proponents of the eminent domain process for seizing mortgages, this is where the rubber meets the road.  Without that profit margin, there is no mortgage seizure corporation running the program.  There are no investors on the back end lending money to the city.  There is no one to refinance the mortgage later.  No one is willing to make this process go forward without shorting the original investor, because when you pay fair market value, there are no ill-gotten profits to spread around.

If The City Gets What It Asks For

There may still be some cities that push forward with this process, even with all of its legal problems.  As Seattle has gotten a recent taste for the seizure madness, the less-than-convincing mantra has been “Let’s just test the courts.”  While neither Seattle nor any of the other cities have officially started using eminent domain in this way, there are many proponents pushing the cause heavily.

A lack of foresight on these issues would likely cause a municipality far more headaches than the relief it might find through a few foreclosure rescues, however.  There will be lawsuits from investors and banks, some of which have already been filed and are waiting for an official opponent.

The nation’s largest lending institutions are weighing in with serious concerns.  HUD, which supplies FHA insurance, has said that it will likely not insure any new loans that are created through eminent domain seizure.  FHFA has said that it may limit or stop Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from lending altogether in cities which approve this process.  Those two statements alone should send chills down the spine of a city leader concerned with the valuation of local homes.  Add in private investor reluctance to take on a risky market and a city would see vast repercussions, from sinking sales to diminished home values due to the lack of access to financing for its local residents.

The Gift That Gives Back

To add personal damage to the community issues, real estate professionals familiar with short sales will quickly see the similarities in tax concerns.  The IRS often looks on debt forgiveness as income or a gift, for federal tax purposes.  The result of the mortgage reduction could, without further legislation, create a taxable six-figure income gain for the homeowner, for which they might owe tens of thousands of dollar in the following year.

Practicality and the Current Reality

Maybe the most interesting concern is whether or not the process would even have an effect on underwater homeowners in the end.  The likelihood is that every single transaction would include legal challenges from at least one opponent.  Not only would the individual investor/mortgage owner contest the seizure, but larger groups of bond holders would as well.  Many mortgages are bundled in large groups as securities, and the removal of any of those individual mortgages from the bundle would damage the value.  Many individual bondholders would be financially affected by a single transaction, making the seizure of this class of mortgage either an invitation to a multiparty suit, or totally off limits to the city.

In some markets, the determination of market value can be subject to a jury trial.  This would be a city’s worst nightmare, eating up massive amounts of time and local court budgets for every single seizure.  Every loss in court would be a net negative to the city’s budget and one more homeowner who couldn’t be helped because the profit margin on the transaction naturally disappeared under scrutiny.

In the bigger picture, real estate value appreciation is being seen nationwide.  We’ve erased years of losses, and the number of underwater homeowners shrinks by the month.  Foreclosure numbers are dropping as homeowner confidence grows and more people decide to keep paying their mortgage until they reach an equity position once again.  By the time any of these seizure processes begin to get legs under them, they may be focused only on a tiny percentage of homes that are still underwater.

Eminent Domain and the Necessity of Clear Public Utility

In the end, the groups proposing to seize mortgages may be missing the most basic element needed for the use of eminent domain powers.  There must be a “public good” that is created through the use of eminent domain.  Good ideas, vision, and purpose do not suffice.

For this process to provide a legally-necessary positive public outcome, the proponents would need to show that:

1) they would be able to reduce a significant number of homeowners’ mortgage balances,

2) those reductions would prevent a significant number of homeowners from being foreclosed upon who would have otherwise lost their homes if the city had not intervened,

3) the city’s greater housing situation would be perceptibly improved by those specific homeowners’ improved plight,

4) the collateral damage to the local real estate market from restricted access to lending for the city’s home buyers and sellers would not negate the potential positive impacts of the mortgage seizure process.

This is not an easy thing to demonstrate, and it should not be.  The use of one of our government’s most onerous powers over individual private property rights should, and does, have a very high bar to clear before it can be exercised.  With the current proposal for the use of eminent domain to seize underwater mortgages, we’re still a far cry from clearing that hurdle.

2013 Seattle Real Estate Stats Review: Home Prices Up 13%, Sales Up 12%, Condos Up 17%

This article was originally published on the Seattle Homes Blog:

2013 was one of the strongest years the Seattle real estate market has seen in a long time.  With double digit gains in almost every category of total sales figures and median home prices, the greater Seattle metro took back a large portion of the equity that had been lost during the real estate downturn that began in 2007.

Total home sales for King County in 2013 stood at 30,976 closings, according to the NWMLS database.  Houses made up the bulk of that figure with 24,400 sales, compared to 6,576 condo sales

Residential King County Sales and Median Home Prices, 2012-2013 (Houses and Townhomes)

Seattle real estate 2013 statistics

Those sales represented a 12 percent increase in total home sales compared to 2012.  The condo market had a slightly larger gain with 14 percent year-over-year gains.

Median home prices in the Seattle market had similar increases.  The December 2013 median price of a house in King County was $421,000, around 13 percent higher than one year earlier.  Median condo sale prices this December were up a surprising 30 percent over the same month in 2012, while the full year’s median price gain was closer to 17 percent.

Condominium Sales and Median Condo Sale Prices, King County 2012-2013

Seattle Condo Sales - Median Prices, 2013 Statistics

The continued strengthening of the technology employment market in the Puget Sound region shows no signs of slowing down, and the real estate market reflects that.  Seattle and its surrounding cities will likely show a moderated growth pattern for 2014, as prices and sales grow at a slower pace.  The overall trend will still be one of fairly strong buyer competition but increasing inventory to lessen demand a bit from the ultra-tight market we saw in 2013.

Chinese Real Estate Rush to Accelerate in Seattle? Canada Cuts Off “Buy a Green Card” Immigration Policy

This article was originally published on the Seattle Homes Blog:

Vancouver, British Columbia has been a favorite international destination of Chinese real estate investors for decades.  Immigration laws in Canada have allowed for wealthy foreign investors to “buy” citizenship through a direct investment in the domestic economy, and Vancouver was the poster child for Asian investment.

That investment appeal is now shifting South toward Seattle, as Canada’s immigration policies have abruptly changed this year and altered the benefits of buying in these two nearby cities.  Canada has ended their policy of granting citizenship to foreign investors, while the United States has recently streamlined its investment program, allowing for an easier route to a “green card” for foreigners.

The U.S.’s EB-5 program has been in existence for years, but its application and review process had previously been painstakingly slow.  Created to generate job growth, its applications numbered only in the hundreds per year and investors were wary of being tied up in bureaucracy.  Recent changes to the program promise to cure those bottlenecks, though, and as applications are now rising into the thousands per year, it appears that the timing couldn’t be better with the change in international interest.

In the simplest terms, the EB-5 requires foreign investors to:

  • Make a $1,000,000 investment
  • Create or preserve 10 jobs locally

There are some exceptions, but these rules apply to most applicants.  The applicants receive in return:

  • Conditional permanent resident visas for applicant and dependents
  • 2 years to prove the creation of those jobs and the investment

As thousands of applications pour in every year now, the numbers will likely balloon as Chinese investment shifts to the Puget Sound region.  Real estate prices are significantly lower in Seattle than they are in Vancouver, and the ability to buy a luxury home, get a world-class education for your children, and live in a healthy, beautiful, and safe area like Greater Seattle is unmatched.  Foreign home buyers on the Eastside already make up a significant portion of the buying market today.  The trend will likely accelerate moving forward if the immigration policies of the two countries continue on their current courses.

Why You Can’t Find That Home For Sale on Zillow or Trulia

This article was originally published on the Seattle Homes Blog:

I talk with home buyers and sellers every day.  Most are in the initial stages of deciding if the market is right for them.  They’re searching on Google for real estate sites with local home listings and prices.  The first search results they receive are often big, national websites that aggregate listings and look great.

These usually include sites like Zillow and Trulia.  While consumers gravitate to these sites because of the high-end user experience, very few realize that they’re missing a huge portion of the market.  It seems counter-intuitive, but for all of the programming horsepower of the largest nationwide sites, there are actually far more timely and accurate listings on the average real estate agent’s site than there are on these monstrous property portals.

Zillow Trulia Seattle HomesBig Portals Have Fewer Real Listings, More Duplicates and Expireds

To cite just one example, a recent study compared agent websites to portals in the Seattle market.  While agent websites with a regular MLS feed had 100% of the agent-listed homes available, on that same day, Zillow had just 72% available on their website.  Trulia only had 63% of those same homes.  Consumers searching on these sites for homes were literally missing out on 30% or more of the market.

How can this be?  It all comes down to where real estate listings are created and how they’re distributed.

Agent Websites Receive Direct Feeds While Portals Patch Together Secondary Sources

Real estate agents create and enter their “for sale” listings into the local MLS database.  Those listings are available for the public to see, the very same day, on the website of every real estate agent that signs up for the listing feed.  It’s fairly simple.  The day the listing goes live, it shows up on the agents’ websites, and the day it’s sold, it goes away.  There are no outdated listings or duplicates, just the raw list of homes for sale, straight from the MLS.

With a big property portal, on the other hand, there are a multitude of different sources being pulled in to attempt to construct a full market picture.  Some agents send their listings directly to the portal, some brokers do it for them, some indirect feeds are pulled in, and some listings are just never submitted to the portal at all.

The inefficient process creates delays in the display of new home listings, and a backlog of sold and expired listings that remain on the portal websites long after they should be gone.  The inventory of listings on a portal site balloons with outdated listings, while the newest homes often show up days or weeks after they’ve already been on the market.

Serious Home Buyers And Sellers Are Using Their Agents’ Websites For Listings

While it’s clear why a consumer would enjoy browsing homes on a beautifully-designed portal website, it’s also important that real home buyers and sellers are informed about their choices.  If you’re truly looking to buy a home, or to assess your chances of selling, you need to see the entire market picture to make a good decision.  Portal websites’ beautiful graphics and charts notwithstanding, inaccurate data in an attractive format will not overcome missing out on that perfect home, nor will it help you find the right set of comparable homes to make a good decision for your sale.

So, if you enjoy browsing real estate on a national portal’s website, just remember that while the local information and statistics are interesting, the listing portion of the site is merely an advertising platform, not the full picture of homes for sale.  If you’re a serious buyer or seller, use an agent’s website.  Whether it’sSeattleHome.com, SeattleCondo.com, or your favorite local REALTOR®’s site, you’ll feel much more secure knowing you can see that perfect home on the first day it’s available.  In a market where many homes are selling within a week, you’ll never miss out because you were looking in the wrong location.

Is There A Real Estate Bubble in Seattle? Inflation and 11% of our Home Equity Says No.

This article was originally published on the Seattle Homes Blog:

Home prices are on the rise in Seattle, and home buyers who remember the last real estate downturn well are mindful of the possibility of another drop in real estate prices in the future.  So, are we building up to another Seattle real estate bubble?

The most recent data say “No.”  While home prices have certainly appreciated in the area for the past few years, much of those gains were simply due to the long-term necessity of reversing that extended real estate downturn of the late 2000s.  Price appreciation, according to historical data, is the unequivocal course of real estate for the long-term, due in large part to inflation.

Seattle Home Prices and Active Real Estate Listings, 2004-2014

No Seattle Real Estate Bubble

Home prices in Seattle are still almost 11 percent lower than they were at the real estate peak in 2007.  August 2007’s median home price for the city of Seattle was $498,000.  As of last month, our current median was at $444,000.  There’s no rush to get back to those peak levels immediately, but idea that we’re nearing a bubble similar to what we saw in 2007 just doesn’t pan out yet.

There’s a bigger reason for this, when we look at the long-term effects of the economy.  Inflation makes general consumer prices rise, no matter if the market is hot or cold (we rarely see price deflation in the overall U.S. economy).  In 2007 we saw 2.8 percent inflation.  In 2008, as the downturn really got rolling, we hit 3.8 percent.   The worst economic year we’ve seen in decades saw just a 0.4 percent deflation rate, which was immediately wiped out by 1.6, 3.2, 2.1, and 1.5 percent inflation rates through 2013.

The big picture here?  We’ve probably seen price inflation across the country of around 15 percent since 2007.  Of course, this doesn’t translate directly to home prices, but the overall takeaway should be fairly clear–home prices today are nowhere near what they were during the last real estate bubble.  The situation is vastly different, and while that in no way guarantees a healthy real estate market going forward, it certainly makes the comparisons to 2007 unwise.