So Dana Bratton, at the Bend Chamber’s annual real estate conference held yesterday, called the bottom in the local real estate market and the Bulletin is more than happy to publicize his bold optimism (it has to be the most prominent headline for a real estate article I’ve seen since the downturn began).

Hang on a sec; let me get this straight: a group of realtors, mortgage brokers and appraisers are saying, “It’s time to buy! Don’t miss the boat!” and this is considered news? Weren’t they saying this last year, too? And the year before that?

Two years ago, at the 2006 conference, Bratton asked the audience, “are we going to have another jump [in local home prices]? The answer is yes. In 2006, we’re going to see another $50,000 to $60,000 jump in Bend housing prices.” (Translation: “It’s time to buy! Don’t miss the boat!”)

According to Mr. Bratton’s own newsletter, prices only rose a fraction of his estimate during the course of that year. As of the most recent data series, prices are now lower than they were when Bratton made this earlier prediction.

So tell me how Bratton’s stubborn and, in fact, imprudent optimism constitutes news?

Warren Buffett likes to say that asking a stockbroker if you should buy a stock is like asking the barber if you need a haircut. Asking a realtor (or mortgage broker or appraiser, for that matter) if you should buy a home is just as foolish. Some people may remember that most stockbrokers in 2001-2002 were telling people to buy Yahoo! and AOL (Time Warner) all the way down (90%+ down).

I don’t know if this is the bottom for the local real estate market; my guess is that it’s not. What I do know is that the local real estate industry and all of its participants (including the Bulletin) have quite a keen interest in convincing us that it is. By now, this should be news to nobody.
LIV