And boy is he sorry now. Freed from the inhumane pressure of accepting a huge salary and First Class trips around the country provided by his employer, NAR economist David Lereah now admits that he was just a paid flunky who said whatever his bosses demanded, including predicting a “soft landing” for real estate in 2006 when he knew better. But no more -now he’s an independant, free-thinking type, ready to provide objective advice. Trouble is, no one’s listening – his $495 newsletter has less than 50 subscribers, which won’t even pay for the fuel for his Mercedes.
Mr. Lereah now works in a small upstairs office that doubles as an exercise room. He has started his own company, Reecon Advisors, that puts out a weekly newsletter on the housing market and provides consulting services. “I feel I have such a refreshing view now because I’m not representing any interests,” says Mr. Lereah.
He charges $495 annually for the newsletter, and currently has fewer than 50 paying subscribers — a number Mr. Lereah aims to increase to 1,500 by the end of this year.
“He’s starting to make some money off it now, not much,” says Mrs. Lereah. “We have an expensive lifestyle: a big house, a housekeeper once a week, college tuitions, the country club.”
Every morning, Mr. Lereah drives to a Dunkin’ Donuts or McDonald’s and eats in the car, just as he would have on his commute to NAR.
Mr. Lereah’s real-estate portfolio has taken a hit. He says his 3,068-square-foot five-bedroom, 5½-bathroom brick house has lost about 20% of its value in the past two years. (It is worth $780,000 now, according to Zillow.com.) His condos are down, too. He now says housing prices won’t recover for some time.
That’s a bummer, of course, but don’t worry – there’s a new source of optimism at my organization:
His successor at NAR, Lawrence Yun, however, says things might be looking up. In his latest news release, Mr. Yun says that although the pending home-sales index based on contracts signed in November fell 5.3 from a year earlier, with a “proper real-estate focused stimulus measure,” home sales could rise more than expected, by more than 10%, to 5.5 million, in 2009.