Saturday, April 28, 2012

Why did America's housing bubble decline more than those elsewhere?

Much of the developed world (especially America and Europe) had a housing bubble. The Economist asks why America's fell so much faster than the bubbles in Europe:
Perhaps the difference is institutional. American banks had poorer lending standards and have been quicker to foreclose on properties; borrowers have been readier to walk away from their homes. In European countries, owners have been able to sit tight in the hope that prices will recover. European markets are certainly a lot less liquid. Irish transaction volumes dropped by 83% from their peak and Spanish ones by 64%, but American deals fell by just 46%. Europe is going in the same direction as America. It is just getting there more slowly.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Updated housing graphs

I have updated my national housing bubble graphs to reflect the latest data available. It covers home prices from 1970-2011. It looks like U.S. home prices are fairly valued, although it varies by metro area. As I said in the past, I don't expect any significant overshooting nationally. I stick by that prediction.

Here, the red line represents inflation-adjusted housing prices, and the blue line reflects nominal housing prices:

The graph below compares the change in home prices to the change in owner-equivalent rents over time. Without any bubbles, they should increase at roughly the same rate over time:

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

TurboTax Online is a ripoff!

After years of buying the software version of TurboTax Deluxe—originally on CD but last year as an download—this year I made the mistake of using TurboTax Online. I'll never make that mistake again.

TurboTax Online sucks you in with the promise of a Free Edition. Of course, if you have any investments, you will eventually be told that you cannot complete your taxes using the Free Edition. You are then given the option of buying the Deluxe Edition or the Premier Edition, both for a much higher price than you can buy the same editions from

It gets worse. After you have spent several hours doing your taxes, and are almost done, you are told that you must pay an extra $40 to complete your state tax forms. By contrast, if you buy from, state taxes are included with TurboTax.

Here's the cost comparison:

TurboTax Deluxe Online + State: $90
TurboTax Deluxe download from Amazon + State: $30

TurboTax Premier Online + State: $90
TurboTax Premier download from Amazon + State: $40

TurboTax Premier Online is more than DOUBLE the cost of the same software from TurboTax Deluxe Online is TRIPLE the cost of the same software from Amazon!

The lesson: Never, ever use TurboTax Online!

Friday, April 6, 2012

SOPA is back!

Apparently, the Obama administration still advocates censorship of the internet:
After the largest online protest in history, the Obama administration is still voicing support for SOPA. ...

Just the other day, the administration sent a letter to Congress to demonstrate their support for new internet censorship legislation. Victoria Espinel, Obama's so-called "copyright czar" just said: "We still need legislation for blocking foreign websites." You can read the full statement here.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Likely address for Lodsys CEO Mark Small

Apparently there's a patent troll company called Lodsys that is going around suing small software companies. Lodsys is headquartered in Marshall, Texas. The name of its CEO is Mark Small. According to the FOSS Patents blog, Lodsys claims that Mark Small lives in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. Several online sources, such as,, and associate the name Mark Small in Oconomowoc, WI to the address 4886 Hewitts Point Rd, Oconomowoc, WI 53066 and the phone number 262-569-1128. His email address is apparently So, if you're being sued by Lodsys and want to counter-sue its CEO in his correct home jurisdiction, that might be a good place to look. Just don't make the rookie mistake of not verifying this information beforehand.