Recession dashes false hopes for real estate riches

Mood of the Market

Though professor Meir Statman’s latest book, and my latest personal obsession, explores a set of investor values, desires and motivations so comprehensive I’m just skimming the surface by highlighting them in a series of columns, one investor craving he pinpoints is so core to what virtually all of us who live in developed nations (and don’t have to worry about clean water, etc.) desire that it singlehandedly "up-levels" the subject of the book to what humans really want.

"We want hope for riches and freedom from the fear of poverty," Statman states so simply in his book, "What Investors Really Want: Know What Drives Investor Behavior and Make Smarter Financial Decisions."

And when it comes to real estate, therein lies the rub. Much has been made, in recent times, of the fact that many well-off countries don’t have high rates of homeownership. In Switzerland, one of the world’s most prosperous nations, the homeownership rate is only 31 percent, less than half the current American homeownership rate.

As the subprime mortgage market imploded, spawning the foreclosure crisis, real estate industry participants — from individual consumers to media pundits to Capitol Hill economists — began a wide-scale rethink of what’s so great about homeownership, anyway.