There have been numerous articles about who's to blame for the current real estate market, and what to do about it.
What I don't see a lot of is people talking about the inherent need created in the American culture to keep up with the Joneses.
There is nothing wrong with wanting a nice house, nice clothes, nice car, etc. Shoot, I want those things, too. What I don't want is the stress associated with pushing my finances too far.
I have to sit back and wonder what things would be like if people could be more content with what they have and what they can afford...
What if people lived in smaller homes? We'd have more grass and turf areas to absorb rain runoff, use less tress for construction, and less chemicals in our environment that are used in keeping it clean.
What if debt to income ratios were really what they were supposed to be? We'd have homeowners that could pay their bills, hopefully save, and then weather through it when the crappy things happen. Crappy things happen to everyone, so it's important to plan for them.
What if people could afford their homes? My father-in-law used to drive a limo and picked up a homeowner at a gorgeous home. When he walked in there was no furniture. The man had lived there for a year, but could not afford to furnish the home. Maybe people could afford to surround themselves with items that made their home feel "like home" to them.
What if people were content with working with what they have? We'd have a less stressed society, maybe less road rage, less anxiety, less depression, and maybe fewer divorces. Let's face it foreclosure isn't pretty.
What if people actually read what they were signing? We'd have a lot fewer option arms, and teaser rate loans generated. Maybe people would have taken a second look and realized what they were getting into for the future.
The American culture shifted somewhere. Instead of saving for the future and down times, many families used their homes as credit cards. The industry made it easy for people to buy homes they could not afford, and easy to walk away when they decided they couldn't afford it anymore. I, for one, hope we as agents, lenders, and home buyers, learn that keeping up with the Joneses has a price to pay.