The Phaserl


Last Time this Happened, the Housing Market Collapsed

by Wolf Richter, Wolf Street:

“The ultimate bubble signal.”

The most expensive home listed for sale globally is in Bel Air, a neighborhood in Los Angeles. Its main house is a 74,000-square-foot monstrosity. Among the special attributes: a 30-car garage. The compound, being erected by speculative builder Nile Niami, has an asking price of $500 million.

Seven of the world’s 10 most expensive listings are in the US. Four of them are in Los Angeles, including lesser abodes, such as a 38,000-square-foot mansion with a 5,300-square-foot master suite, several guesthouses, and staff housing, for $150 million.

Other countries have cool stuff for sale too, such as Pierre Cardin’s 13,000-square-foot “Le Palais Bulles” (“the Bubble Palace”) on the French Riviera, listed for about $450 million.

More supply of speculative super-homes is coming, including this gem, according to the New York Times: “Real estate agents and developers say a home under construction in Bel Air is likely to have more than 50,000 square feet of living space” and “the world’s largest safe.” It will be listed for “around $300 million.”

For the first time ever, there are now officially 27 residences listed for sale globally with price tags above $100 million, according to Christie’s International Real Estate. That’s up 42% from last year, and up 125% from 2014!

Some super-priced homes are offered only privately, rather than through public channels, to avoid the hoopla that this sort of QE-wealth-effect creation brings. “Brokers say,” according to the Times, that with those “whisper listings,” the total “could easily top 40 or 50.”

But last year, only two homes in that 9-figure price category actually sold, according to Christie’s: a house in Hong Kong acquired by Alibaba’s Jack Ma for $193 million, just as Hong Kong’s housing bubble has begun to implode; and a townhouse in London that went for $132 million. In 2014, only five sold. In the prior three years combined, only eight sold. And now there are perhaps over 50 for sale….

How did we get here? Seven years of global QE and wealth effect, instigated by Ben Bernanke.

On Friday, he himself introduced Fed chair Janet Yellen to the audience. She then said that the Fed’s bailouts and money-printing gyrations engineered by her predecessor during the Financial Crisis were “nothing short of magnificent.” “Ben was immensely courageous,” she said. “America owes him an enormous debt of gratitude.”

So maybe “America” doesn’t owe him that sort of gratitude, but the richest people in the world do. Their homes and other assets have shot up in price during Bernanke’s reign when what he called the “wealth effect” had become official Fed policy.

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