The Great Recession refers to the drastic economic downturn that started in December 2007 and continued through June 2009, ignited by the bursting of the US housing bubble and leading to a global financial crisis (and some pretty cool books and movies afterwards). The cracks in the foundation of the housing market began to appear in February of 2007, when the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac) announced that it would no longer purchase subprime mortgages or mortgage-related securities. Two months later, as the tide of that announcement washed ashore, subprime mortgage lender New Century Financial drowned in bankruptcy. In August 2007, American Home Mortgage Investment Corp. was also floating belly up.

Despite the carnage in the mortgage market, the Dow Jones Industrial Average broke 14,000 for the first time in history on Oct 9, 2007. The next day, the Dow would start an 18-month tumble, losing more than half its value before bottoming out at 6,547 on March 9, 2009. By March 2008, the venerable 85-year-old investment bank Bear Stearns collapsed and narrowly avoided bankruptcy by selling itself to JP Morgan Chase at a cut-rate price of $2 per share (on October 5, 2007, the stock had closed at $131.58).

In April of 2008, I moved into a friend’s under-utilized beachfront condo in Florida. My friend suggested that with my spare time and his convertible, I find cheap property we could buy and flip. In this context, “we” meant his money and my time.

Less than a year later, we closed his first purchase—a nice two-bedroom condo with a garage. It cost $59,000, needed under $5,000 of work, and had most recently sold for $265,000. The next month, he bought a two-bedroom townhouse for $32,850 that had sold four years earlier for over $150,000. The third

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