From a breezy New York Times article from yesterday (3/14/12) showcasing a condo in Macau (emphasis mine):
“Last June, rising prices prompted the government to pass a special stamp duty to prevent the purchase of a home with the intent to sell it quickly for a profit. The policy, which is in effect for another year before being reconsidered, means sellers must pay 20 percent of sale proceeds if a home is sold within one year of its purchase, 10 percent if the home is sold within two years. It has had more of an impact on the housing market than the global financial crisis, said Benjamin Kao, a managing director for Macau Land Developments Limited, a firm that in 2007 built one of the first luxury condominium towers, called the Manhattan.”
The concept of house-flipping is one of the more glamorous and despicable ones I’ve encountered in life. Certainly it’s great for the guy doing it, but in Chicago I saw it drive up housing prices and homogenize neighborhoods and erase history and inspire such greed that I found myself disgusted by it. I suppose that I see housing, like a lot of other things, as something that should not be a commodity, and I believe that in a healthy society, everyone should be housed at a reasonable cost. The kind of speculation and profiteering and multiple-property-ownership that goes in with house-flipping is antithetical to that in my mind.
So when I read this passage above, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we Americans had regulations in place like this.” They would probably be decried as unfair or stifling or “un-American,” which is a shame, with the deck already stacked so heavily on the side of greed.
Another recent perspective from the always-thoughtful Thomas Friedman in NYT here is more akin to what I’m thinking at the moment.