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High-End Homes' Wobble Is Trouble

This column was originally published on RealMoney on Nov. 17 at 8:55 a.m. EST. It's being republished as a bonus for TheStreet.com readers.

"High-end homes always hold up." There's a bogus shibboleth. However, the data about how expensive homes are really selling right now are scarce, and as many commentators have noted, you can't get a straight answer out of the realty business.

But take a look at a release that came out Wednesday from a small company, American Real Estate Partners (ACP - Get Report), a Carl Icahn-controlled company that builds expensive homes, among other real estate ventures:

AREP has been marketing for sale portions of its net lease portfolio, and accordingly, carries such properties as "discontinued operations" in its financial statements. For the three months ended September 30, 2005, AREP sold no properties. For the three months ended September 30, 2004, AREP sold 12 properties for proceeds of $13.9 million and recorded a gain from discontinued operations of $9.3 million.

At first, I thought that perhaps the company simply might not have put any lots up for sale. But my source close to the company says actually, the company just isn't getting any new sales -- particularly in the $2 million range, where AREP has homes for sale in Westchester County. "It almost stopped cold" this quarter, my source tells me.

Remember, it's been the prediction of Capital Growth Management's Ken Heebner that the expensive home cohort is the place where the most damage might be done, and where the most speculation has occurred.

This little brief from AREP may be the tell that Heebner, who nailed the long leg up in the group for his fund family, may be well on his way to nailing the downside, too.

Random musings: Have some fun, check out how I have done on "Mad Money." We had some folks in from The Wall Street Journal Wednesday, all trying to get "the real skinny" on the show. They didn't know about my "Mad Money Performance" page! Hoo-hah!

P.S. from TheStreet.com Editor-in-Chief, Dave Morrow:
It's always been my opinion that it pays to have more -- not fewer -- expert market views and analyses when you're making investing or trading decisions. That's why I recommend you take advantage of our free trial offer to TheStreet.com RealMoney premium Web site, where you'll get in-depth commentary and money-making strategies from over 50 Wall Street pros, including Jim Cramer. Take my advice -- try it now.

James J. Cramer is a director and co-founder of TheStreet.com. He contributes daily market commentary for TheStreet.com's sites and serves as an adviser to the company's CEO. Outside contributing columnists for TheStreet.com and RealMoney.com, including Cramer, may, from time to time, write about stocks in which they have a position. In such cases, appropriate disclosure is made. To see his personal portfolio and find out what trades Cramer will make before he makes them, sign up for ActionAlertsPLUS. Listen to Cramer's RealMoney Radio show on your computer; just click here. Watch Cramer on "Mad Money" at 6 p.m. ET weeknights on CNBC. Click here to order Cramer's latest book, "Real Money: Sane Investing in an Insane World," click here to get his second book, "You Got Screwed!" and click here to order Cramer's autobiography, "Confessions of a Street Addict." While he cannot provide personalized investment advice or recommendations, he invites you to send comments on his column by clicking here.

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