Buying a house? In this economy?
Apr 7, 2022
Episode 637

Buying a house? In this economy?

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It's only getting more expensive.

Yesterday a listener asked about the real estate market, and we’ve still got housing on our minds. We’ll talk about fresh data that shows homes are less affordable across the country. Plus, the devastation of one Ukrainian city shows the brutality of Russian forces. Then, Ketanji Brown Jackson became the first Black woman to sit on the Supreme Court today. Could this moment inspire change in the corporate world? Finally, some music news that made us smile.

Here’s everything we talked about today:

Join us Friday for Economics on Tap. We’ll be livestreaming on YouTube starting at 3:30 p.m. Pacific time, 6:30 p.m. Eastern.

Make Me Smart April 7, 2022 transcript

Note: Marketplace podcasts are meant to be heard, with emphasis, tone and audio elements a transcript can’t capture. Transcripts are generated using a combination of automated software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting it.

Kimberly Adams: Oh my gosh, there’s a karaoke and dim sum bar about to open up in my neighborhood. I’m so excited. Next time you come to DC for good hangs we can do that. All the things we can eat.

Amy Scott: Hello, I’m Amy Scott, and welcome back to Make Me Smart where we make today make sense. Thanks for joining us.

Kimberly Adams: Yes. And I’m Kimberly Adams. Happy Thursday. We are so close to Friday. Hang on for one more day. No, hold on for one more day. That’s the Wilson Phillips line. We have got a news fix. I know, that’s a deep cut. Right? That’s far in the eighties.

Amy Scott: Yeah, I’m impressed.

Kimberly Adams: Thank you. Thank you. All right. So today, we have a news fix for you. And then we are going to lighten – actually, we’ve got several news fixes for you. And then we’re going to lighten things up towards the end of the show with some Make Me Smiles before we let you go. And yeah, let’s get to the news. Amy, after you.

Amy Scott: Are you sure? All right, I’ll do it.

Kimberly Adams: I mean, sure.

Amy Scott: Well, you’ve got some good ones, too. So we’re gonna have a lot to talk about. So yes, yesterday, we had a great listener question about the housing market. And when people trying to get into the market might see some relief. And so today, there’s some new data to add to that conversation I thought we could talk about a company called Attom Data Solutions put out its home affordability report for the first quarter of this year, and found that median priced single family homes were less affordable in the first three months of the year, compared to historical averages in 79% of counties. You know, all real estate is local. But that’s a lot of counties. And that’s up from 38% of counties this same time last year.

Kimberly Adams: Wait a minute, I’m sorry. I want to make sure I understood that properly. Last year, homes were unaffordable, like on the median in 38% of counties. And now it’s 79?

Amy Scott: Yes, that’s correct.

Kimberly Adams: So it went from like a minority of counties to just about everywhere?

Amy Scott: Pretty much. And that’s I should say, That’s everywhere, where they had sufficient data to make these calculations, but it’s a lot of counties. Wow. And they go on to say that homeownership hasn’t been this out of reach for a typical family since mid-2008, when the market was still coming off of the highs from the bubble. And we should talk about how they define affordability. Because I think a lot of people define this differently. Attom looks at how much income it would take to cover the mortgage property taxes and insurance on a median priced single family home, assuming a 20% down payment. And we know a lot of people don’t put that much down, you can put as little as three and a half percent down with an FHA loan, which would make that house more affordable in some ways, but if a typical family, they found that a typical family would have to spend more than 28% of their income on those payments, which is a threshold considered unaffordable in those 79 counties. So I think it’s just more evidence of how overheated the market is. But I did want to mention one other related item, though, which is the Wall Street Journal had a story today about people selling their homes rushing to put them on the market before interest rates climb too much higher. And maybe the market cools off. So that’s really good news for maybe seeing more inventory.

Kimberly Adams: Oh, that’s interesting. Yeah.

Amy Scott: Yeah.

Kimberly Adams: But I mean, then those people are also going to have to rush to find – buy new a house.

Amy Scott No, I know. That’s a good point. Yeah, they’re gonna be buying house elsewhere. But I think one of the couples they talked to was like selling their house in Frederick, Maryland or somewhere here in Maryland, and it’s quite a big house. They’re going to downsize in Ohio and pay cash.

Kimberly Adams: I’m sure the Ohio house hunters just love them for that.

Amy Scott: Yeah, right.

Kimberly Adams: Okay, well…

Amy Scott: Yeah, how about you?

Kimberly Adams: I’ve got a grim one. And then I’ve got a significantly less grim one. So I would direct people’s attention to a lot of the coverage coming out about Ukraine and some of the awful human rights violations that seem to have occurred in the city of Bucha. And there’s a particular piece in The Washington Post I will warn people it has extraordinarily graphic images in it. To to the point that like you really want to be thoughtful about whether you even want to look at these photos, and video. But as the Ukrainian forces are moving back in after the Russians have retreated just some of the bodies that they’re finding Some of the people that they’re talking to it seems to have been absolutely horrific. Russia got booted from the UN Human Rights Council today. And it’s the evidence that’s being uncovered is pretty awful. And as hard as it is to look at, it’s worth knowing. And I’m not going to go into some of the details of it, because they’re quite gruesome. But there’s, there are several, many, many reporters and many human rights activists and local Ukrainians out there trying to document what has happened for some accountability down the road. But it’s real bad. So I there’s going to be linked to this piece on the Show page. There’s a lot of really amazing coverage coming out of Ukraine, and I hope folks will look at it. So switching to incredibly less grim today, the very first Black woman to ever be confirmed for the Supreme Court was confirmed. Judge – Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson 53 to 47. So a little bit bipartisan. Rand Paul was being Rand Paul and slowed up things at the end, by kind of just not showing up for the vote, and then just sort of, as I understand it, poking his head in and giving a thumbs down, but it got done. And it made through.

Amy Scott: He was busy slowing down the sanctions bill, right. Anyway, I digress.

Kimberly Adams: But yeah, there’s just so many interesting articles coming out about this, I’ll point to a couple, one by the 19th, by folks at the 19th about just what it means to have her in this role, even though she’s in the minority, how she might still change the Supreme Court. And, you know, because she’s in the minority, it may not necessarily make a huge difference right now. But she’s there, and sometimes just seeing representation in different places, is very meaningful to different people. And the other part is the dissents if she ends up voting against what the court is doing on the upcoming cases, the – what she writes in her dissents, those dissents often become the foundation for cases later on.

Amy Scott: It’s what we saw in Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Kimberly Adams: Exactly. So even justices who are in the minority, still do have some influence. I’ll also point to a piece that was again in the Washington Post, an op ed by Anita Hill, who famously was part of Justice Clarence Thomas’ confirmation hearings, accusing him of sexual harassment and facing an extraordinarily difficult time in those confirmation hearings that many looking back now view is very racist and sexist. And she has a very thoughtful piece about the way that Justice Brown Jackson was treated in these hearings. And what it tells us about the nomination process and the confirmation process, in general, and how toxic and damaging it is not only for the nominees, but also for the institution of the Supreme Court. And then I want to hear your thoughts on this, Amy, but I have one more detail, which is that Axios is Jonathan Swan interviewed Mitch McConnell, US Senate, Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, today about a wide range of things incredibly fascinating interview to watch, but among them, Swan tried to pin down Mitch McConnell about whether or not if Republicans win the majority back in the Senate, if there happens to be another opening on the Supreme Court, would they allow Biden’s nominee to get a hearing? You know, famously under Obama. McConnell refused to allow a hearing for Merrick Garland. And that, obviously has had lasting repercussions. And he basically refused to answer the question. And it looks like based on the content of the rest of the interview that he has very little interest if the Republicans win back the Senate, and Biden has a nominee of giving that nominee hearings. So there’s that I know, I’ve laid out a lot Amy, what are you thinking?

Amy Scott: Well, speaking – yes, speaking of a broken process. You know, I saw a piece in Business Insider talking about how this confirmation could lead to more diversity in the corporate world, which I thought was interesting. And I think what you’re talking about in terms of representation, you know, there’s obviously been a lot of pressure for boardrooms and executive offices to diversify. And and some folks who work in that space, we’re speculating that this might lead to, you know, more Black women CEOs and, and board chairs and you know, other executives. And I think that’ll be interesting to watch. I don’t know how directly we could make those links. But there is a there’s momentum, it seems.

Kimberly Adams: Yeah. A very historic day. Indeed. I have to say, I really look forward to the day when there aren’t so many firsts.

Amy Scott: Yeah.

Kimberly Adams: Yeah. All right. But let’s do some smiles.

Amy Scott: Some smiles.

Kimberly Adams: Smiles! I’m gonna do – okay …

Amy Scott: You want to go first?

Kimberly Adams: I do want to go first, just because…

Amy Scott: Go first, go first!

Kimberly Adams:  I became in the last 24 hours, obsessed with the show. “Watch out for the Big Grrls” on Amazon Prime. So all right, I was trying to be a responsible human being. And I sat down in front of the TV to like, eat some dinner before I was going to like clean my house. And I was like, Oh, I’ve been meaning to check out the show. And I’ll watch an episode, I watched all eight. I did not go to sleep until very late at night, slash very early in the morning. And it’s great.

Amy Scott: A genuine binge!

Kimberly Adams: A genuine binge. Not great for my health, but it was so interesting. Because it’s a reality TV show about the singer, dancer, performer, writer, rapper Lizzo, trying to find more backup dancers. And she very famously has backup dancers who are plus sized women. And the dances are extremely physical, extremely elaborate, and very much fighting the stereotype that plus size women cannot be healthy and athletic, and just really working to push against those stigmas. So it’s a reality competition to get a slot performing with her in a festival and then going with her on tour. But it’s done in such a different way that I truly appreciate in that, like, in the first episode, there’s like 13 competitors, and they knock it down to 10. But after that, she’s like, “I have room for all 10 of you, if you can do it.” And she’s judging them based on their dancing and their attitude, and their ability to work together as a team. And so like, after that point, they’re not competing with each other. They’re competing against themselves. And it’s such a powerful model. And this show was just so good. I loved it. So.

Amy Scott: That sounds super fun. I watched a clip of it. And I do like the these shows that pit people against each other make me deeply uncomfortable, especially I think as a someone who works in the media, you know, what’s going on behind the scenes, and what questions are triggering people. And so I’m always nervous about when people kind of are in competition with each other. But that sounds kind of empowering actually.

Kimberly Adams: Yeah, it really was I really enjoyed it. Kind of like the there was an HBO series I also thought was really cool. Although it was a sort of elimination-type show, which was “Finding Magic Mike.” And it was about the Las Vegas show, the Magic Mike Las Vegas show, which has like, male exotic dancers. And they got like all of these just –

Amy Scott: Like based on the movie?

Kimberly Adams: Just, yeah, based on the movie, and they got all these regular dudes, who were just trying to sort of reclaim their own physicality and sexuality and ran them through the training of becoming a Magic Mike. And it was actually such a very interesting exploration of what masculinity means in the world today and in the United States in particular, and how all these different men for all these different reasons wanted to get in touch with this side of themselves, and all the things they had to go through. So I thought that was also a really interesting one, okay, those are all my things. Will add that to the list of things that I will watch when my kids grow up. Yeah, neither one of these shows is appropriate for your little ones.

Amy Scott: Right, right. And these days, I go to bed when they go to bed. It’s pretty pathetic. So I’ll have to catch up. All right. So you may have seen that archival news clip that was going around earlier this week of a young Prince, the Prince. Prince Nelson, who grew up in Minneapolis and then became a superstar and unfortunately passed away several years ago. But there’s this cute little clip. He was 11 years old and a TV reporter interviewed him for a story about a teacher strike in Minneapolis in 1970. And can we play that clip?

Reporter in archival clip: Are most of the kids in favor on the picketing.

Young Prince in archival clip: Yep.

Reporter in archival clip: How come?

Young Prince in archival clip: I think they get a better education , too cause – And I think they should get some more money because they are being, working extra hours for us.

Kimberly Adams: Aww.

Amy Scott: Aww, it’s so cute. So I saw that a couple days ago and I was like, oh, that’s adorable. But today, the New York Times had a lovely little story about how the local CBS station in Minneapolis WCCO-TV found that clip. Back in February, producer was looking at old footage of that strike in 1970 thinking it might provide some interesting context because a strike was brewing among public school teachers this year, which did end up happening. And he saw this footage of this little boy with a blue jacket and light blue ear warmers and this very distinctive little smile. And it was so clear that this child was having a fun time being on TV. And he asked his colleagues like “is that Prince?” Everyone at the station, I love that everyone in the station was like “that is definitely Prince.” I mean, he was a big deal, obviously everywhere but especially in his hometown of Minneapolis. But because they’re good journalists, they spent five weeks investigating make sure this really was Prince. They finally tracked down someone who had known him as a kid named Terrance Jackson. And Jackson looked at this image and said, “That’s Skipper!” which I guess was a childhood nickname. And the Time’s says this beautiful quote from Zaheer Ali,  a Prince historian, who’s also the executive director of The Hutchins Institute for Social Justice in New Jersey. And I think he summed this up so well, he said, “That little boy is standing there maybe thinking this was the most famous he would ever be talking to that reporter. And think about all the potential he had bottled up inside him.” That’s so sweet.

Kimberly Adams: That’s lovely. Aww that’s super cute.

Amy Scott: That really made me smile.

Kimberly Adams: It’s making me smile right now. It’s very cute.

Amy Scott: The moral for us audio reporters, Kimberly, which is don’t throw away your old tape, you may never know when you might need it.

Kimberly Adams: My issue is not throwing it away. It’s labeling it. I’ve got it all, I just don’t know what any of it is.

Amy Scott: Good point.

Kimberly Adams: All right, and that point is probably a good one to end on. today. We’re gonna be back tomorrow for Economics on Tap. Most fun all week. We’ll be live streaming on YouTube as well and hopefully you can join us that will be at 6:30 Eastern Time on the timezone with Amy and I, and 3:30 Pacific time, so hope you can make it.

Amy Scott: As always you can send us an email or voice memo to makemesmart@marketplace.org. Or leave us a message at 508-UB-SMART.

Kimberly Adams: Make Me Smart is produced by Marisa Cabrera with help from Marque Greene and today’s episode was engineered by Jayk Cherry.

Amy Scott: Bridget Bodnar  is the Senior Producer the director of on demand is Donna Tam.

Kimberly Adams: The other thing I watched Amy that Tiffany Bui flagged in our in our chat was “Turning Red.” I watched that this weekend too.

Amy Scott: Oh isn’t that so nice? I loved it.

Kimberly Adams: So good.

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The team

Marissa Cabrera Producer
Bridget Bodnar Senior producer
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Marque Greene Associate Producer