By Andrew Beattie

When: 1926
Where: Florida

The amount the market declined from peak to bottom: Land that could be bought for $800,000 could, within a year, be resold for $4 million before crashing back down to pre-boom levels. The prices were so inflated that to buy a condo-style property in 1926, you would've had to pay the same as you would now have to pay for a luxury home in the guard-gated communities in Miami ($4,500,000) - without adjusting for inflation!

Synopsis: In the 1920s, the United States of America was chugging along like the British Empire of the 1700s, and it was only natural that people were beginning to believe such prosperity was infinite. But it wasn't the stock market that was the recipient of a bubble. It was the real estate market.

In 1920, Florida became the popular U.S. destination/residence for people who don't like the cold. The population was growing steadily and housing couldn't match the demand, causing prices to double and triple in some cases, which was not exactly unjustified at this point. But, news of anything doubling and tripling in price always attracts speculators. So, once people began pumping huge amounts of money into the real estate market it took off. Soon everyone in Florida was either a real estate investor or a real estate agent.

Unfortunately, the rules are the same whether you pay too much for a stock or for a piece of land: you have to make that much more to claim a profit. This did happen for awhile, and land prices quadrupled in less than a year. Eventually, however, there were no "greater fools" to buy the disgustingly overpriced land, and prices began to adjust ever so subtly. Speculators realized there was a limit to the boom, and began to sell their properties to solidify their profits while they could.

Then everybody simultaneously saw the writing on the wall, and panic selling ensued. With thousands of sellers and very few buyers, prices came down with a sickening thud, twitched a bit, and then crawled down even lower.



Next: Market Crashes: The Great Depression (1929) »



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