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« Honest I didn't know they were agents in training | Main | Signs of fall all over »

October 11, 2007



I fundamentally believe this entire real estate bubble and artificial wealth is NOT merely the result of speculators and low interest rates.

Rather, if you look further at the cause, is that people want desirable real estate because the transportation infrastructure in the United States is so weak compared to what it could have been.

We're jam packed around cities and coasts because of transportation inefficiencies AND archaic real estate zoning laws.

While there will always be people who will pay a premium for ocean sites, there is a limit to desirable real estate which leads to artificially high prices.


The real pricing equation is very complex. Part of the reason I associated Beaufort, NC with George Will's article is that some of the high prices in Beaufort are there for pure prestige. Some of the very wealthy want to live in Beaufort because other wealthy people are living there.

Now there are some other factors, you can easily anchor your expensive sailboat there, and some restaurants that cater to them are there, but primarily the Beaufort Historic District address is one that carries some weight.

It also turns Beaufort into a ghost town since many of the owners can afford to live there but only have time to visit on occasion.

However, they typically don't rent their places. I'm not sure the transportation argument carries weight with the super rich. As we watched the expensive toy dock yesterday, it was clear that this particular docking was unusual because the owner or someone with fewer skills than what I normally see was doing the docking.

Almost always, the ships have a crew of professionals and few if any owners until they get to their destinations. If you can pay for a crew to drive your boat around and not worry about the tank that holds well over a thousand gallons, I don't think you care too much about the transportation system.

It would be interesting to do a pricing study between Beaufort and Emerald Isle, NC.

Emerald Isle has some very expensive places and more are being built. The reason those places survive and even thrive is that we have become a society that enjoys sampling the houses of the rich.

The best Sand Castles on Emerald Isle rent from $12K and up per week. These places generate enough income to justify their high prices.

If you look at housing prices on Emerald Isle, it resembles airline pricing more than anything else. There are people who need to be in first class, ie Sand Castle on the beach. They are willing to pay for it. Of course it may take four families to pay for that one seat on the beach for week which is why they have eight bedrooms and eight baths.

Two rows back homes are much less expensive in economy but they still sell out and generate enough income so that a home 30 years old and only 1,300 square feet can be worth $350K as opposed to the $3.3M for the giant Sandcastle.

Right across the street from the Sand Castles would be business class. Some people will pay more for being close to an "exit" or in our case a beach access.

We also have the last minute special folks and our homeowners desperate to fill their airplanes will discount for that also.

The rental market also provides a prop to prices here, even on the mainland. If you have a nice home, close to the beaches you can still get $1,400 a month for it.

I'll be writing more on this as it is fascinating.

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