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The Wealth Effect Shifts Into Reverse

Written By Brian Hicks

Posted August 25, 2008





Yippee!! We’re rich.

That’s what so many believed as they looked around their homes and saw nothing but dollar signs. Beverly Hills here we come.

But for a large portion of the market, those big gains turned out to be pretty short lived.  And when the price of their homes turned suddenly south, they woke up worse off then when they started.

But I guess it was fun while it lasted. Granite countertops, Hummers, trips to Mexico, and your own cement pond out back.

Boy those were the days. 

From the San Diego Union-Tribune by David Hasemyer entitled: Economy forcing many to let go of luxury toys  

“With paperwork in hand, Ashley Sparks set off in search of his newest target – a 2005 Winnebago motor home.

Sparks, an adjuster for ABA Recovery Service, found the vehicle on a well-manicured street in Point Loma, surrounded by homes nearing the million-dollar mark.

This was an easy one. The owner willingly handed over the keys, and Sparks’ partner drove off in the latest luxury item repossessed by the Grantville company.

ABA owner Marcelle Egley-Sparks said that in the past year, high-end repossessions have swelled from about 15 percent of the 350 items taken by her company each month to about 50 percent.

“People are finding themselves overextended now that the economy is failing,” Egley-Sparks said.

Egley-Sparks’ adjusters have hooked up and hauled away opulent motor homes worth $800,000 and powerboats with price tags of $300,000. They’ve picked up travel trailers, dirt bikes, all-terrain vehicles and the trailers used to carry them.

Never in her 28 years in the repossession business has Egley-Sparks seen so many discretionary luxuries being lost to hard times. And it’s happening all across the country, economists and industry analysts say.

Automobile repossession has soared 20 percent this year over last year, when nearly 1.7 million vehicles were taken back by lenders, said Tom Kontos, executive vice president for Adesa, a company that sells repossessed automobiles at outlets across the country, including one in Otay Mesa.

The super-wealthy are more easily buffered from the economic decline, but it’s the worst of times for middle-and upper-middle-class Americans who splurged on toys in recent years, said David Jones, president of the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies based in Fairfax, Va.

“It’s happening in numbers never seen before,” said Jones, who estimates that 2.25 million Americans sought debt consolidation in the past year, a 20 percent increase over the year before.

Banks, credit unions and other lenders try hard to help people out, rewriting loans or granting extensions, because they’d rather not take the things back, Jones said.”


At least the repo-man is still hiring.

By the way, here’s a chart for Winnebago Industries Inc. (NYSE:WGO). The company’s third quarter profit skidded 73 percent as high gas prices, tighter credit and a soft economy  pushed motor homes sales lower industrywide.