September 27, 2006

HousingPanic calls for the immediate firing of Nicolas Retsinas, Director of the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University

As HP'ers may remember from June 2006, Harvard's "Joint Center for Housing Studies" put out a bizarre and incredibly bullish report on housing, much to our amusement and bewilderment, as housing was already well in meltdown mode by then.

So the bubble bloggers did their thing and dug a bit, and sure enough, the "Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard" is 100% bought and paid for by the REIC. Their sponsors read like the who's who of the REIC. And King-Bought-and-Paid-For is, of course, as fate would have it, it's head, one Nicolas Retsinas, whose entire livelihood rides on putting out bullish reports to support his masters, the REIC.

So we exposed it, had a great time, and though we nipped that one in the bud. Mr. Retsinas looked silly and stupid then, but I'm sad to say, as of today, he now looks seriously corrupt.

Mr. Retsinas took it upon himself today to put out the strangest of strange articles, again trumpeting housing, and calling naysayers like HP "Cassandras", "Pollyannas" and "Chicken Littles".

Seriously. No, seriously.


He bizarrely uses no data (since he can't - it's all so amazingly ugly as we're in full meltdown mode now), and his arguments are sophomoric at best, frankly smacking of the University of Slippery Rock, not Harvard University for god's sake.

According to the blatantly bought-and-paid-for Mr. Retsinas:

"Cassandra, though, can stop wailing: the expected price corrections mark a slowing in the rate of increase - not a precipitous decline. This will not spark a chain reaction that will devastate homeowners, builders and communities. Contradicting another gloomy seer, Chicken Little, the sky is not falling"

He goes on to state:

"Cassandra can stop wailing, and Pollyanna can stop cheering. Home prices in some regions are moderating, but for a nation inured to CNN's headline-of-the-moment, this moderation does not rate high on the Richter scale of cataclysm."

So, HousingPanic today calls for Harvard to fire Mr. Retsinas, immediately. He is polluting the image and mission of Harvard University. He is bringing disrepute and, frankly, a stench to your fine university.

HousingPanic also calls for Harvard to investigate the personal finances of Mr. Retsinas, who, with his bizarre rantings, has at a minimum the appearance of being on the take from his many REIC masters. We would encourage a hard look at sporting tickets, restaurant tabs, travel expenses, junkets, bank statements and any other quid-pro-quo possibility which would cause such blatant bias and disinformation.

Finally, HousingPanic is requesting Harvard look at the funding and structure of the Joint Center for Housing Studies, so that REIC bias is eliminated from the entity, and a truly unbiased and uncorrupted study of housing may be undertaken in the future.

Harvard is a the pinnacle of American education. To have such REIC corruption within the hallowed halls of Harvard shows just how entrenched the REIC is in American institutions, beyond the Congress, the Media and our financial institutions.

HP'ers, join me in contacting Harvard on this issue:

Joint Center for Housing Studies Harvard University1033 Massachusetts Avenue, 5th Floor Cambridge, MA 02138
Main Number: (617) 495-7908
Fax:(617) 496-9957

Media Relations: Elizabeth England (
Harvard President Derrick Bok (
Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies Head of REIC Corruption: Nicolas Retsinas (

Finally, here is the dirty list of Mr. Retsinas' Real Estate Industrial Complex masters.

Lumber Company
Andersen Windows
Armstrong Holdings, Inc.
Beazer Homes USA
Boise Cascade, LLC
Boral Industries
The Bozzuto Group
Bradco Supply Corporation
Builders FirstSource
Building Materials Holding Corporation
Canfor Corporation
Cendant Corporation
Centex Corporation
CertainTeed Corporation
Champion Enterprises
Countrywide Financial Corporation
Crosswinds Communities
Fannie Mae
Fannie Mae Foundation
Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston
Fortune Brands - Home and Hardware
Freddie Mac
GAF Materials Corporation
Georgia-Pacific Corporation
Gibraltar Industries
Hanley Wood, LLC
Home Depot
Hovnanian Enterprises
Huttig Building Products
Johns Manville Corporation
KB Home
Kimball Hill Homes
Kohler Company
Lafarge North America
Lanoga Corporation
Lennar Corporation
Louisiana-Pacific Corporation
Marvin Windows and Doors
Masco Corporation
Masonite International Corporation
McGraw-Hill Construction
Meritage Homes Corporation
MI Windows and Doors, Inc.
Move, Inc.
National Gypsum Company
Oldcastle Building Products, Inc.
Owens Corning
Pacific Coast Building Products
Pella Corporation
Pulte Homes
Reed Business Information
Rinker Materials
The Ryland Group
S&B Industrial Materials S.A.
The Sherwin-Williams Company
Stock Building Supply
The Strober Organization
UBS Investment Bank
Whirlpool Corporation

And this from the Harvard website:

The Policy Advisory Board is comprised of senior executives from leading corporations involved in the housing sector, including home building, building materials manufacturing and distribution, housing finance and mortgage banking, design, construction and renovation.

The Chair of the PAB is Thomas C. Nelson of National Gypsum Company and the Vice Chair is Stuart Miller of Lennar Corporation.


Anonymous said...

I have never been more proud to call myself an "HPer" than this very moment.


Anonymous said...

Why I must ask is it left up to the bloggers to do this kind of reporting? Where is the mainstream media on issues like these? Are they afraid to do their jobs because of lawsuits?

This is important stuff. Great job.

keith said...

Did you all see that nowhere in his article today does he mention toxic mortgages, liars loans, the disappearance of flippers, rampant speculation, the commoditization of loans, or any of the issues that created the bubble

It's almost like Bob Toll gave him a call and said "we really need you - get out there and stop this panic! People TRUST Harvard!"

HP'ers - I've forwarded this post to the three contacts I listed. Please do the same - overwhelm them with email, especially the Harvard President. Be direct and be professional. Also feel free to forward the post to any media or other bloggers. Let's get the word out and end this attempt at disinformation

Days like today I love being a blogger, but yes, I wish the MSM would just do their damn job. I don't know why they don't - good question.


Anonymous said...

ummm.....what exactly does he say that is so inflammatory? he is saying that housing is moderating, and the economy won't collapse. Though a lot of people on this blog refuse to believe it, moderating housing prices and a moderately healthy economy is probable (not improbable).

Dogcrap Green said...

Kieth you numb nutts.

Everything predicted came true. It was a soft landing and recovery is taking shape.

rdub9000 said...

Thanks for the blog.
I just emailed the Harvard President the following.

It is my understanding that academic institutions should teach the truth, not spread lies.
When our current housing situation is accurately understood and accepted - this man's opinion and article will only discredit your institution.,2232,REDD_17527_5024778,00.html

"Please investigate the personal finances of Mr. Retsinas, who, with his bizarre rantings, has at a minimum the appearance of being on the take from his many REIC masters. We would encourage a hard look at sporting tickets, restaurant tabs, travel expenses, junkets, bank statements and any other quid-pro-quo possibility which would cause such blatant bias and disinformation."

Thank you,

Riley Murphy

RipeDurian said...

"what exactly does he say that is so inflammatory?"

For one thing he leaves out the years of collapsing house prices before his rosy "house prices will increase at the rate of inflation" prediction kicks in.

Anonymous said...

What is your definition of moderating housing prices? Do you mean it will go up 10% per year from now on like other housing bulls claim? I think housing prices will go down 20-30 % over the next 5 years on the coasts and in other bubble areas. Non-bubble areas will see +/-10% depending on the local economy and foreclosures. Of course none of this calculates the comps and freebies thrown in by sellers.

I think the economy can handle a housing bubble collapse if gas prices stay around $2/gal next year and we have a mild winter and summer 2007

Anonymous said...

i don't know why people like lereah and retsinas, spent a number of years in college, perhaps 10, until completing their Phds. only to become a spinmaster. anybody can do that. if they use their degree to make people believe in them, then that would be the most expesive way to become a spinmaster.

keith said...

Dogcrap - publisher of "The Upcoming Housing Boom"

ha ha ha

Dogcrap - you can always apply to Harvard, you're on the same page

Dogcrap Green said...

Are you hanging out in Wales today?

Anonymous said...

you know that this whole thing is like a reverse psychology? if these people like lereah and retsinas are now constantly coming out with their opposite views and predictions about the "health" of the housing market, you know that it is "critical." i bet you, when you have a situation where the monthly payment rose to 50% or more and have depleted the equity, there's no amount of lereah and retsinas can turn it around.

i think, what they're trying to do is reach out to the first time buyers and motivate them to buy. they can have all the motivation techniques that they can think, but if the salary to price ratio is out of whack, one has to give and that is the house price.

Disgorge! said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Disgorge! said...

One thing's for sure, there are now 2 totally different takes on the situation:

1) We've simply had a mild correction that may continue for a while but will not be dramatic. Good buying opportunity! ;-)

2) The Mother of All Housing Busts has now begun. Take cover!!

I watch with interest to see how this pans out .....

Anonymous said...

Nice Post Keith!

Taking on the Housing Industrial Complex!

Anonymous said...

This guy is an Ajax nerd!

Anonymous said...

borkafatty's love monkey!

Anonymous said...

The dumbing down of Amerika is Alive and Well!

Anonymous said...

i think at a minimum, he's in violation of the Realtor's code of ethics

Paul E. Math said...

Wow, that article is so full of self-contradiction and inconsistency that I can barely process it. His attempt at logic is laughable. And his application of the laws of supply and demand would get him an F on a 100-level macro exam. Mr. and Mrs. Retsinas, we regret to inform you that your son will be required to attend 1st year economics in summer school for the following reasons:

a. He admits that house prices will stop rising because people can't afford a home that is 5x their salary. No s@@t, Sherlock. But, he says, the prices will 'moderate' and not fall because there is still strong demand due to the rate of household formation. So, if existing households can't afford a house that is 5x salary, how is a newly formed household going to afford it? He doesn't say.

b. He also admits that houses will return to their position as a 'domicile' rather than an 'investment. (I couldn't find the numbers for 2005 but..) With 23 percent of all homes purchased in 2004 being for 'investment', how is that not going to hurt the demand side of the equation? You've just lost 23% of your demand but somehow equilibrium price remains unaffected?

He doesn't even mention the 50% surge in the rate of foreclosure - that would increase supply, further putting it out of whack with demand.

c. Where new household formation is high there will be high demand. Okay, makes sense. But then he goes on to say that in those regions with the highest demand there has also been the highest levels of new construction. Oooookaaaayyyyy...? This might answer why house prices would not go up, not why they would not come down. All other things being equal the equilibrium prices should remain the same if supply matches demand. But all other things aren't equal. If prices only 'moderate' then they are still 5x household incomes so these new households still can't afford to buy the houses at these prices. This is not a state of equilibrium.

d. Retsinas further admits that, even if prices do come down, there would still be an 'affordability' crisis due to rising interest rates. He's hit the nail on the head with that one finally. But how is this a reason for prices to 'moderate' and not decline? Does he think that, since noone will be able to afford the houses even at a moderately lower level, this means that prices won't bother to come down at all? Why would this not mean that home prices have that much further to descend before the new equilibrium price is reached?

Boy, reading that article was certainly an exercise in frustration. This guy represents Harvard?

Melba Tomeo said...

What did Slippery Rock University ever do to you?

Shakster said...

Kieth- You are the Mass Media.I see it all the time ,the losses in readership/viewers of FOX,CBS,NBC,ABC,NEW YORK TIMES,LA TIMES,WASHINGTON POST,etc. THE real news is in the Blogs ,and the world is coming to find out.

Anonymous said...

Keith, when do you think it is safe again to buy in Phoenix. How much off of say a $250,000 dollar house should you bargain to assure you don't lose your shirt?

BubbleShanker said...

Anon in Phoenix, if you want to protect yourself, and have to buy right now, I would guess you would need to get a minimum of 75k off, or $175k. Phoenix is a craphole, with sh*tboxes piling up on the side of the 10 like yesterdays garbage, I would shoot for $145K by Christmas, curious to see what Keith thinks.

Anonymous said...

largest mortgage frauds in American history

Anonymous said...

I live in PHX and the place is just starting the first quartile of a full blown bust. right now the sellers and builders are entering the stage where they are finally starting to lower prices just a bit to get the next FB (F**KED BORROWER) to take them out of the ponzi scheme. But confidence is fleeting and the potential buyers will not go into debt slavery on a house value headed fast on the down slope with no end in sight. The next stage is a preciptious drop which I see working downward by 1st quarter of 07. These desert boxes are going to lay empty for several years and will, for the most part, be REO inventory a - la the S&L depression of the 1980's here in PHX. There might be some money in renting them for meth labs and Illegal Mexican drop houses, but thats about it.

MMAfia said...

When I first read the original article, and then read the REIC's funding of the committee, I was like "oh well, let them be" because there was still not as much damning evidence.

BUT NOW- different story. The board has degraded itself. In spite of the damning evidence, where "wiggle room" through creative analysis has all but been eliminated, to come out with such a blasphemous article- truly shocking.

Especially from a body that is associated with THE most prestigious academic institution in this country.

They took the lead and recently eliminated "early decision". Looks like they need to eliminate something else, ASAP before the institution's repuation is permanently tainted. They are smart people- they know how fast word travels online, and how it ultimately spreads to the MSM.

Bill Bond said...


I'd keep this article handy and in about 24 months when housing truly starts to bottom out, that's the time you go BIG with the story and after this dude.

We're just early in the bust. Maybe the 2nd or 3rd inning. These types of stories and articles will only get better after the full meltdown has occured.

Anonymous said...

Great Work! How Harvard can employ such an idiot shill as Retsinas and still consider itself a first rate institution of learning is beyond me. This is the type of crap I would have expected from the adult extension center of a community college.

By far your best work. When you are good and keep on topic, nobody can come close.

Anonymous said...

"What hath Blog wrought?"

Samual F.B. Morse

No Kidding. It is actually F.B.
Coincidence, I think Not.

Anonymous said...

Great picture! His picture says it all. What a nerdy looking idiot.

idi amin said...

why the shock and horror, Harvard people have been full of sh*t for years

mutual fund said...

Thanks for the list of stocks to dump.

Anonymous said...

mr. retsinas view does not totally reflect the "mission statement" of the office he represents.

Anonymous said...

Too wierd. Retsinas was on CNBC just last week talking about how housing was slowing down. thought he'd finally gotten honest!

And now this again? serious backtravking on his part.

Anonymous said...

Way to go!

Anonymous said...

i think, what they're trying to do is reach out to the first time buyers and motivate them to buy. they can have all the motivation techniques that they can think, but if the salary to price ratio is out of whack, one has to give and that is the house price.


first time buyers?? Who HASN'T bought yet?? People that cant afford this nonsense!

Anonymous said...

Too bad he didn't say that female realtors were not as adept as males- then, Harvard might can him.

Harvard may still have its rep, but it's been dumbed-down like the rest. They will take a stand for "diversity" issues, but "truth" ? Forget it.

borkafatty said...

Anonymous said...

borkafatty's love monkey!


Nice looking Mother you got there.

Anonymous said...

What still blows my mind is that not one single one of these REIC d--chebags "expected" price declines even a few months ago. Now all they talk about is how they "expected" price declines. I can't believe no one calls them on it.

However, Matt Lauer called out that chick from one of those tv shows the other day - he said something along the lines of "I hate to say it but weren't you the person who said just 5 months ago that prices wouldn't drop?"

Patch Tuesday said...

And today we have the Harvard/no ethics article in the news...

"What do these men, former titans of the new economy, have in common besides being snared by federal investigations into securities fraud? They have MBA degrees from Harvard Business School."

Anonymous said...

Does he wear a little skirt and have pom-poms when he cheers on the house building industry? Please have a little blonde wig with pigtails and fake freckles put on too! Too hot!




The headline hints of catastrophe: a dot-com repeat, a bubble bursting, an economic apocalypse. Cassandra, though, can stop wailing: the expected price corrections mark a slowing in the rate of increase - not a precipitous decline. This will not spark a chain reaction that will devastate homeowners, builders and communities. Contradicting another gloomy seer, Chicken Little, the sky is not falling.

Let me alleviate some fears.

Fear One: Prices will plummet.

From the start, the much-vaunted housing "boom" was an uneven phenomenon, driven by a strong demand for housing, coupled with constrained supply, particularly on the two coasts. In much of the nation, housing prices rose modestly; in a few areas, prices did not budge.

In those overheated markets - often fueled by immigration - prices were rising by as much as 20 percent a year. But even with soaring demand and limited supply, that escalation was not sustainable. Even with too-good-to-be-true mortgages, people cannot afford to buy homes that cost five times their income.

So in those overheated markets, moderation is expected. Moderation means that prices will stop rising at meteoric rates: The homeowner who expected a double-digit profit after one year will be disappointed. A home will once again be more of a domicile, rather than an investment. In some regions, prices will flatten, rising around the inflation rate, which is the historic average. The fundamentals behind high prices - strong demand (more households will form in the next decade than in the last) and constrained supply - persist.

Fear Two: The economy will collapse.

Housing now represents over 20 percent of the gross domestic product (compared with 18 percent from the manufacturing sector). For most families, the investment in a home constitutes de facto savings: the build-up of equity is in the trillions of dollars. And homeowners have tapped into that equity, using their homes as ATM machines for refinancing and home-equity loans.

Consequently, we are "well-housed." Indeed, two bathrooms, air conditioning, garages - the amenities our grandparents called luxuries - are standard. All this activity has fueled consumer spending.

A Cassandra fear is that as home prices moderate, the moderation will show up in the gross domestic product. Yet, again, moderation is not a free-fall. The housing market will adjust slowly, with fewer sales and starts. History tells us that housing booms are not eternal - that most end - enabling incomes to catch up with prices. Furthermore, builders have been building to meet demand. In regions where the number of households is growing, so is the need for housing.

Of course, Cassandra has not been the only one watching housing prices fall. Some Pollyannas have cheered the fall, predicting that at last housing will become more affordable: The $200,000 home will go for $150,000; the $150,000 home (in some parts of the country, this is a rare ramshackle) will go for $100,000. Renters desperate to buy into the American dream yet lacking the down payment - much less the income to finance a mega-mortgage - will get their raised ranch. And as more middle-income renters buy homes, the shortage of rental housing will ease; rents will drop; and the "affordability" crisis will fade.

Pollyanna, though, is shortsighted. Yes, some would-be owners, previously shut out of the market, may at last buy a home. But the "affordability" crisis will persist - exacerbated by rising interest rates.

The working poor face their own income-and-expenditure imbalance: Their incomes fall short of their need for housing, food, transportation and health insurance. They will still be hard-pressed to pay for a basic apartment close to their jobs. If the market "self-corrects" in the fast-growing parts of the country, that self-correction will not trickle down far enough to help the Wal-Mart clerk or diner waitress.

In our new economy, low-wage jobs are growing. These people will still need public intervention.

Cassandra can stop wailing, and Pollyanna can stop cheering. Home prices in some regions are moderating, but for a nation inured to CNN's headline-of-the-moment, this moderation does not rate high on the Richter scale of cataclysm.

Nicolas P. Retsinas is director of the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University.

keith said...

why would 'the real estate guru' post the exact article we were mocking?

what a dolt!

Jip said...

Methinks someone has his head AND shoulders WAAAYYYY up his @$$...

Eti said...

I just checked historical US population at this site and one can clearly see that the population growth rate is not increasing.

For population growth to have such a huge affect on housing there should have been a sudden increase on the birth rate which did not happen in the last 20 years.

I have no clue on what he bases his research.

Patch Tuesday said...

Said: I have no clue on what he bases his research.

11 million illegal immigrants bringing in their relatives?

1,000 people per day moving to Florida?

brokersleaveyoubroke said...

1,000 people per day moving to Florida?

I think that statistic was taken several major hurricanes ago and before the meteoric rise in insurance and property taxes. Also, one of the reasons for retired people moving to florida was the cheap housing. All those reasons are now gone and I seriously doubt Florida is currently seeing a net gain in population. Can anybody provide a link to a current statistic?

GK said...

I think you are very naive if you think that Harvard University is not aware of who sponsor the center for housing studies. Your “call” to dismiss Retsinas, of course, will be ignored. While you are doing a good service for exposing Retsinas and the Harvard center for what they are, a shill for the housing industrial complex, it will have no effect. Nonetheless, keep up the good work!
Thank you.

Anonymous said...

gk - watch

mitch said...

it's not just Harvard, UCLA is doing the same thing. check out what they are saying about a soft landing and who left because he could not express his true feeling. UCLA has been bought by REIC also.

Anonymous said...

Retsinas is right...for this week. Housing inflates by a factor of two or more, crests, and drops a measly couple of per cent and that's supposed to be a correction?

Please anon, if you're out there, post "the gains are permanent" again.

Anonymous said...

First of all Keith, Harvard is an overrated American University. It has a lot of cash, Wall Street connections (see Abby Cohen and everyone else at Goldman Sachs), Govt/Law outplacements, etc and is able to rest on the laurels of luminaries like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Buckminster Fuller, and a slew of America's most famous, earlier times intellectuals and leaders. Today, however, there are numerous institutes that compare well, Johns Hopkins/Rockefeller for medical research, Columbia/Yale for international studies, MIT/Berkeley for the sciences and engineering, Wharton/LSE for finance, Univ of Chicago for economics, etc. So stop worrying about the place with all the dinero and old boys networks.

awaiting bubble rubble said...

Bravo, Keith. I think you're demonstrating the power of blogging. The Anderson school REIC mouthpieces just released a report today that says CA home prices will not fall, but stagnate. Of course, they said the same things in 1989 but who's counting?

dan said...

Record supply. Meteoric rise in prices not matched by a meteoric rise in rents. It could only mean one thing: Immigration.

keith said...

motleyfool picked this post up and ran with it

sh*t hits the fan now

Anonymous said...


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Anonymous said...

JCHS at Harvard puts out a good report on the State of America's Housing using legitimate sources (e.g., American Housing Survey, Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data, etc). So, I'm not going to dismiss their work completely--however, it is very important to know their funders. Thanks, Keith.

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