Friday, April 25, 2008

Notes from San Francisco


Just some observations before I kick off writing on the Share Investor Blog again next week.

I have spent the last week and a bit touring around San Francisco and attending the wedding of my Texas outlaws.

I have been commenting for several months on the nature of the credit crunch, economic conditions and things sub prime and it is interesting to see and hear the reality of things when you actually get to speak to the people that it is most directly affecting.

The majority of individuals that I spoke to were largely uninterested in talking about important issues like the coming election or the state of the economy but those who were seemed unconcerned about a probable recession and generally viewed such things with a stoic matter of fact nature.

Getting on with the business at hand seemed the order of the day.

Talking to Chuck from Manhattan, a real estate investor with years of experience, on the airport shuttle to our hotel in Geary Street, I was engaged by the positive attitude to his investment outlook. He was in San Francisco to do business and back in New York he was buying commercial property with a view to a long term gain by buying run down properties on Long Island and refurbishing for higher rentals.

Americas favorite pass time, shopping, seemed in good health in San Fran, as I imagined it would be, and tourists like my good self, from inside and outside America, were spending bucket loads of money on food, goods and services.

On the unfortunate side,depending on which side you are on, one of my Texas outlaws has just spent US$220,000.00 on a foreclosed house in Dallas that cost the previous owners $325,000.00. She has a 30 year mortgage at 5.75%! Kind of puts New Zealand rates of nearly 10% in the shade huh?

In a related matter, it seems the sub-prime lesson hasn't been learnt yet. Glancing at bank windows with "sweetheart" interest rates of 0% for business loans left me with a cold uncomfortable feeling. Like the sub prime loans for mortgages the low rates were for a limited time, after which more substantial rates would kick in.

I know there is cheap state funded credit out there but I'm just hoping the borrowers are such that they can afford to repay their loans. We don't want to be re-visiting a similar credit blowout story a few years from now.

Finally I'm heartened and disgusted at the same time by the huge numbers of "homeless" people begging for money on the streets on San Francisco.

Heartened because at least Americans don't hide their indigent by handing out welfare and disgusted because, well, these people are walking the streets and have no shame anymore.

American capitalism at its best, or worst, depending on ones world view.

Oh, the Golden Gate was lovely...Dude.

Related Share Investor reading


State backed Sub-prime Mortgages in NZ a recipe for disaster

Current credit crunch a blessing in disguise
What happened to risk?

c Share Investor 2008