Between the flashing lights, scantily clad women, and Donald Trump speeches, SFGate.com’s Carol Lloyd found some meaning at a recent Real Estate Wealth Expo in San Francisco.
…as I wandered the halls, visiting workshops on tax evasion (er, I mean, avoidance) and the wonders of pre-foreclosure fortunes and flipping luxury homes — and while listening to the pitches of exhibitors selling everything from Boise, Idaho (the next great boomtown) to West African island resorts (they’re pristine, that’s why you’ve never heard of them) to Florida condos (some are still available, get them while hot (not!)) — one question kept nagging at me:
Real estate has always been a national obsession. Individually, as the saying goes, it’s the American dream. Collectively in the six years since the Nasdaq imploded, it’s been floating the American economy.
But why now in a moment when even the most maniacally optimistic of real estate agents is admitting that the market may be showing signs of decline? Why now that interest rates are rising and homeownership rates are at an all-time high and savings at an all-time low? Why would over 61,000 people in one of the most overpriced housing markets in the world spend good money to learn about real estate investing?
Lloyd wonders if perhaps 61,500 paid from $49 to $499 to attend the seminar simply because real estate is the drug of choice, and we are all addicted. Good sense be damned! A little more digging, though, reveals a little more of an answer:
So when I was milling around backstage I approached [“Rich Dad” author Robert] Kiyosaki to ask if it wasn’t a terribly bad sign that so many people had shown up to a conference like this one.
Kiyosaki admitted that some people would probably lose money in the current market but that the popularity of the conference was actually a sign of people becoming more realistic about their financial futures, not less.
“I think people are concerned about the state of the economy, about Social Security,” he told me. “They don’t trust the stock market. They’re looking for answers. They’re trying to educate themselves.”
Seen from this angle, the crowds were not so much a sign of madness but a rational response to uncertain economic times. People aren’t stupid: Pensions are going the way of the dodo. Social Security can’t be counted on. People are increasingly aware of having to be more responsible for their futures, and real estate seems a good hedge against Enron and the national debt.