When Tony Soprano says you're in trouble, you're really in trouble. But his latest target can't exactly run for the witness protection program. Impossible, because this unlucky loser is everywhere. That's right, in your house as we speak; in fact, it is your house.

Forgive me if you don't watch HBO's ode to the ultra-violent, but last night's episode bears blog-age. So Carmela, Tony's wife, has been positively pats-SO about this spec house she's been building with a shady contractor from "the family." After all kinds of under-the-table permutations to pass inspections, she finally gets a buyer to sign on the dotted line (of course, a cousin of some kind). She comes home to announce the sale, and Tony, as usual, wants to drink a toast to her success (he'll drink to a free cannoli in Canarsi).

Carm, as usual, is fretting about the whole deal, worried that the house is going to fall down before the closing, but Tony assures, "Carm, you sold the house, which ain't easy to do nowadays," or something to that effect.

Yes, even Tony Soprano is concerned about the state of the nation's housing market (and he's in "construction," as you may know). I realize we in the business of business news have been talking about the downturn in real estate non-stop, but when it actually makes its way into popular culture, well, as Tony would say, "That's a problem."

I get a lot of flak on the blog about hyping the bust (I got the same flak about hyping the boom). Realtors write in and tell me that all real estate is local, and all these brash nationalizations that I'm always reporting are unfair to neighborhoods that are doing very well. I understand that, I get it, and we all try to pinpoint where things are good and where things are not so good. But a lot of investing is based on macro-generalizations, and mood swings of the markets, and while we do our best to go micro, the macro makes the mood, and that's what we have to report.

Real estate is clearly in a bad mood right now, and investors -- be they individual home-buyers or private equity firms -- need to know exactly how bad that mood is from day to day; and by that I mean, is it just taking a beating, or headed for the trunk of somebody's Caddie sometime soon?

Questions? Comments?