There's a passage in Robin Sharma's popular new-age novel “The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari,” which reads: “Act as if failure is impossible, and your success will be assured. Wipe out every thought of not achieving your objectives, whether they are material or spiritual.”

Cyclical as the home building industry proves to be after spending so many of the last umpteen years reaching its latest crescendo in July 2005, now might be the time to summon a blast of fortitude, such as the one Sharma's narrator urges on his reader. Uncertainty reigns. Equilibrium flits around in the future, a mercurial compound of uncertain demand, uncomfortably rising supply levels, creeping interest rates, and now, soaring gas prices. No one can quite estimate equilibrium's arrival, but until it does get here in the months ahead, the more senior of builders' executive ranks are hunkering down for what could be a bad stretch, and their younger colleagues—many of them denizens of high school junior varsity teams the last time things really got ugly in real estate—are wondering how they can somehow salvage a bit of a bonus.

  • Richard Hawkes, president of Melbourne, Fla.-based Holiday Builders predicts that Florida has barely just begun to feel the chill of the market about to set in, and forecasts that new home sales could plummet by 50 percent from their high point last summer.
  • David Hill, chairman and CEO of Kimball Hill Homes, speculates that, as was the case during at least one of the two downturns in the past two decades, the biggest builders will amass market share at the expense of the smaller companies.
  • Reuben Leibowitz, a managing director at Warburg Pincus and a principal of his own private equity company, says he wouldn't be surprised to see private equity cash troves move dramatically on a big public builder in the months ahead, irrespective of how unlikely the prospect may appear to be.
  • Larry Sorsby, executive vice president and CFO at Hovnanian Enterprises, asserts that a misstep in the treatment of the United States' 12 million-plus illegal immigrants could hugely impact not only residential construction labor teams, but could choke off a vital emergent supply of home buyers among the immigrants who settle in the United States for a stay.
  • Ivy Zelman, managing director and equity analyst at CSFB, (who's the one that recommends Sharma's reflective tale of an attorney who discovers his soul), only half-facetiously claims, “Now's no time to be in the home building industry.”
  • Of course, each of these tasty morsels of intelligence met with debate and challenge as they arose earlier this month during BUILDER magazine's BUILDER 100 conference in Santa Barbara, Calif. It was a meeting of bears and bulls, no bear so impolitic as to taunt, “I told you so,” and no bull so arrogant as to deny that this downturn may exact a heavy toll among today's crop of big builder powers and super powers, even as long-term fundamentals remain positive for the industry.

    Not with us to see where current about-to-be trends in home building will lead in this fateful period ahead are two bulls of different sorts; Jane Jacobs and Louis Rukeyser both passed away in the weeks leading to our publication.

    Jacobs wrote the seminal “The Death and Life of Great American Cities,” and bullishly believed in the power of unlegislated community quintessence as the heart of a healthy society and economy. Her work stands today as a precursor to what New Urbanism promises, and every downtown community maker should be familiar with her original theory. Rukeyser brought Wall Street to Main Street, and was tireless in promoting the upside of investing in the nation's publicly traded companies. Each one's public persona reflected Sharma's urging to, “Act as if failure is impossible and your success will be assured.” Each one will be missed, even among the bears.

    Learn more about markets featured in this article: Santa Barbara, CA.