I can’t recall if I’ve mentioned this before, but I have a theory as to a big part of why our economy is still sputtering along, instead of motoring nicely. That theory is basically this:
The professional class is mobility impaired.
Not something most people think about, really, but I keep hearing about all these companies with tons of jobs and they can’t find bodies to fill them.
Partly I think it has to do with a lack of qualified people (since we as a society tend to worship entertainment heroes over intellectual ones), but I don’t think, for the most part, that training is the issue. I think it’s the fact that during the housing bubble, people like me bought houses we could afford.
Turns out, not everyone was an idiot & bought a house where the payment was 50% of their take home on the hope that they could flip it in 9 months for an extra $100K. Some of us bought a home. Problem was, when the bubble burst, my home lost 30% of it’s value. Now if I stayed there for 10-15 years, it wouldn’t be a problem. I’d have paid down the mortgage enough that I could sell and move on without a profit, but also without bringing anything to the table.
But an opportunity appeared that I couldn’t pass up, and then my son was born, and the realities of personal & temporal economics demanded that my family relocate to Bellevue, WA (it was going to be Los Angeles, but I dodged that bullet!). Now I’m lucky, as the rental market in Everett is doing very well, & we contracted with a management company & rented out our house. Granted, we can’t demand enough rent to cover the mortgage, but it covers most of it, and we get a nice write off (I reckon this year, I will do well at tax time). We also found a very nice place in Bellevue that is just 2 miles from my office, & five from my wife’s. So all is good.
Still, a lot of professionals like me are stuck in cities where the housing market tanked hard, jobs vaporized, and they are unable to relocate. They can make the payment on the house they own, but they can’t unload it, and they can’t rent it out. They can’t chase opportunities, and companies can’t attract talent (except for kids fresh out of college). And if they walk away from the mortgage, they trash their credit & risk losing the new job, & many new opportunities (since companies use credit checks nowadays).
I think everyone made a critical error when they focused on helping people stay in their homes that they could not afford, and did nothing for the people who wanted to unload and keep the economy moving by keeping the human capital in motion.