Realty Check

Home Builders Get Needed Break--And Yes, I Think They Should


Late yesterday, after much hashing and re-hashing behind closed doors, a bipartisan team of Senators emerged with the beginnings of a bill to help troubled borrowers, local communities and the nation’s home builders.

The home builder provision is, I believe, necessary and huge for the industry.

The Senate bill, which remember is still in the very early stages, would allow builders to carry back losses on their taxes four years, i.e. to more profitable years. We all know how bad the losses have been, and being able to apply them to the boom years will surely get them some cash back. This provision was stripped out of the Economic Stimulus Package, which became law earlier this year.

Even before the Senators came out of their talks, I began to hear rumblings about the home builder tax break. A lot of critical folks claim the government shouldn’t be “bailing out” builders who overbuilt in the first place and caused all of the excess inventory that is pushing prices down. In other words, they brought it on themselves.

I say, “So what!” You’re shocked, right? But here’s how I see it: If you’re going to point the finger of blame fairly, then you have to dole out the fixes fairly as well.

There are a slew of top-brass government types on the Hill today defending their bailout of Bear Stearns , one of the big investment houses that fuelled the subprime craze by eating up all kinds of horrid mortgage products that were doomed to fail.

Bear got greedy and Bear got the bailout. And everyone and their brother, from the Treasury Secretary to FHA to Fannie to Freddie are jumping over each other to bail out troubled borrowers, many of whom frankly should have known better than to get into mortgages that were WAY over their heads. They were greedy, and they’re getting the bailout.

Hearing Preview

So why not the builders? They’re no more to blame than anyone else in this mess, and therefore they should get some help as well.

These are the companies that build everyone’s biggest investment, and I think we need to invest a bit in them, even if they did get on the boom-bandwagon like everyone else. Unless of course you’d rather see your new three-bedroom three-bath colonial shipped over in pieces from China.

Questions?  Comments?