Saturday, November 27, 2004

Are housing prices heading toward a major meltdown?

The Modesto Bee, CA

We're hearing more sour notes connected to soaring home prices, which until now have been a pretty sweet tune for real estate owners.

First there's the recent estimate by the California Association of Realtors that a family now needs an annual income of $107,880 to buy the median-priced home in the state. Fewer than 20 percent of Californians have that kind of income.

Then there's a report in Smart Money magazine that Modesto is among several Northern California cities where real estate markets are overvalued.

Finally, there's a prediction from some national real estate experts that the California bubble is about to burst.

All of that would seem to point to a significant slowdown, although we sure aren't seeing it here, if the number of subdivision proposals going to government officials is any indication.

We urge Gov. Schwarzenegger to move ahead in appointing Superior Court judges to vacancies around the state, including four in our area. We hope he didn't try to reinvent the wheel in the selection process. Governors have appointed local judges for years, relying on input from nominees' colleagues and others and doing thorough background checks. Many things in state government needed a massive overhaul; the judicial appointment process isn't one of them.

Congratulations to the many people who had a hand in Empire's handsome new park, which will open in January. A dedication ceremony was held last week to allow for the recognition of outgoing Stanislaus County Supervisor Pat Paul, an advocate for the park.

The attractive six-acre facility, in front of Teel Middle School on Yosemite Boulevard, features a playground; picnic tables and shelter; barbecue area; and baseball and soccer fields.

There also are some promising developments in the campaign to add a swimming pool to the park, says Sheriff's deputy Noel Vento. The county is applying for a $1 million grant, using the money and services contributed so far as the required match. Vento also had a recent visit from a representative of the governor and hopes to take his case directly to Schwarzenegger in February.

Finally, on Tuesday, Vento will receive one of the more meaningful contributions to date.

After hearing about the drowning deaths of three Empire boys, children in the neighboring city of Hughson conducted a penny drive to help with a pool. The effort started with the first graders in Bonnie Doyle's class and expanded to include Cub Scout Pack No. 326. In all, the Hughson kids raised $700. We love it!

We all know about the obsession over the Scott Peterson trial. Any time there have been big developments in the case, The Bee's Web site — — has gotten tens of thousands of additional hits. Message boards are devoted to every facet of the case, TV talk shows are cluttered with wild speculations, and on and on.

Thus, it was inevitable that some folks would look for a way to make a buck out of this fascination. And so they have. Following the Nov. 12 verdict, copies of The Modesto Bee and some other papers started showing up on eBay. Someone paid $22.50 for a Nov. 13 edition of The Bee that was sold at a newsstand for 50 cents. The highest price among 21 Bees sold on the popular Internet site: $36 for the Nov. 13 and 14 papers. And then there was the person who shelled out $300 for a junior high yearbook showing Scott when he was voted friendliest in his class. No comment.

Posted on 11/27/04 00:00:00


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