tonight on "nightline," buy or rent? to buy or not to buy? for more and more people, the answer is a resounding "no." now, even with home prices as new post-bubble lows, is it smarter to rent than own? plus, gas price godzilla? he may look small, but to the energy companies who want to tap these potentially oil-rich plains, this little lizard poses one giant threat. we look at what one tiny reptile could do. and, off-court chic. they're paid to do this. but off the court? a growing number of professional basketball players have a passion to rival hoops. mens and womens fashion. we look at how the nba suits up.
>> announcer: from the global resources of abc news, with terry moran, cynthia mcfadden ame and bill weir in new york city this is "nightline," may 31st, 2011. >> good evening. we begin tonight with housing costs. today, newly released figures show that home prices are still dropping. the case schiller home price index is now 33.1% below its july 2006 peak. sound like a good time to buy? well, not so fast. home ownership levels are falling, too, to their lowest levels since 1998. so, what is going on? is the american dream changing? what's the smartest move in the world of post-bubble real estate? juju chang set out to answer that question. >> reporter: to buy or not to buy? it's a question that looms so large, there's even a show on
hgtv devoted to it. on "my first place," potential owners weigh renting against taking the big plunge and buying their first home. >> we're buying this place. >> reporter: and today, with home prices dipping even lower than at the bottom of the housing bust, the uncertainty in the housing market is causing confusion and outrage. >> people should be upset. they should be outraged. this has been a betrayal by their government in some ways. >> reporter: in what sense? the banks are doing well and homeowners are still struggling? >> the promise to helping homeowners, that up abled the government to bail out the banks, included a promise to preserve home ownership and that promise has been broken. >> reporter: neal oversaw the t.a.r.p. program, the government bailout of the banks in 2008. >> it is an honor to testify. >> reporter: he's been critical of the treasury department for rescuing the banks and leaving homeowners high and dry. you are saying that the popular
perception that the banks got off scott free and the homeowners are struggling and the government didn't do anything to help -- is true. >> it's what happened. and what the bailout was supposed to do and compared to what the results are and come to any other conclusion. >> reporter: for jeff and karen pryor, this is just terrible times. they've been renting in new jersey for ten years and have been waiting to buy a house for the past year and a half. they just can't quite pull the trigger. >> the one we nearly purchased it would potentially have been depreciated by 8%. >> reporter: and with all the talk of low, low home prices, they sense it's a buyer's market. >> it seems like a good time for us to buy. it's really a good time for our family to be looking for a home. doesn't seem like there would be any benefit to us to continue to wait. the economy is going to do what the economy is going to do and hope it works in our favor. >> reporter: this says man cave to me. >> eventually. >> reporter: they're both
professionals, double income with a daughter in kindergarten, and a preapproved mortgage. they wish list? three plus bedrooms, a big kitchen, a yard, an easy commute and a good school district. the question today is, to buy or to rent? >> i think we're at the point now where we want to be putting our money into a place that's, you know, building equity for our family and for our future. >> reporter: all the scary things that are happening in the housing market doesn't scare you? >> we don't want to hesitate forever. >> you could expand the main bath. >> reporter: that hesitation has been stalling the housing market. just ask roberta baldwin. what has the roller coaster ride been like? >> it's confused buyers across the board. no matter whether they're wealthy buyers who are buying over $1 million or first-time home buyers who have never done it before. they just don't know if they're making a big mistake. they are looking back at 10, 15 years and saying, i don't want
to do what other stupid homeowners did. maybe the way to do it is just no to buy. >> reporter: home prices ballooned, doubling even tripping from 1997 to 2006. but when the bubble burst, home prices lost all that value and then some. today's figures show prices down over 33% from its peak. and since the bottom fell out, skittish buyers have been turning into renters. >> reporter: we have a rental desk in my office and we're doing about five times the number of rentals we did three years ago. and not just for one year. maybe two or three. everybody is waiting for that other shoe to drop. >> reporter: some experts believe it's better to rent than to own. that might be true in california, where rents are still low. but in sections of florida and new york city, rental fees have ticked up. which means buying might make more sense. low prices combined with historically low interest rates. the current rate is 4.84%. that's down from a high of 16.63% back in 1981.
even so, economists believe the tide of foreclosures will continue to rise, while home prices will continue to drop. what's happened to the american dream? >> we have to go back to the old idea of why you owned a home. that was for the pleasure and love of that experience and all of the memories that you are going to create in a certain environment and the friends you're going to make and the happiness your children or your family will have. >> reporter: not as an investment vehicle? >> yes. that's the way my parents bought a house in 1956. >> reporter: owning a home may still be the american dream. it's just making a killing on it that's no longer guaranteed. i'm juju chang for "nightline" in new york. >> a distant dream for a lot of people in hard times. just ahead, they're cute, they're cold blooded and they live on top of an awful lot of oil. so, could these little lizards get you at the pump? ♪
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>> announcer: "nightline" continues from new york city with cynthia mcfadden. >> remember the snail darter, the spotted owl, the grey wolf? endangered animals that some claim, in turn, endangered industries like timber, ranching and emergency. well, there is a new critter in town, a cute one at that. how do you feel about lizards? the oil industry is not loving this kind. here's jonathan karl from texas. >> reporter: meet the little critter that is terrorizing the texas oil industry. it's only about four inches long and spends most of its day buried in sand, but -- >> it's godzilla. >> the biggest threat facing the
oil business in memory. >> the rigs will keep working. >> reporter: the problem? the federal government is the about to place it on the endangered species list. good for the lizard, because its habitat will be protected. but bad for the domestic oil industry, which has 500 billion barrels of texas and new mexico oil could be put off limits. >> i've been doing this for 27 years now and we've never run into a situation like this that could virtually crumble an industry. >> reporter: officials at the fish and wildlife service told us that's an exaggeration. but they couldn't tell us how much oil drilling would be affected. what if it curtails some oil and gas exploration? >> well, we don't know that yet. that's what -- >> reporter: does it matter if it does? >> sure, definitely. >> reporter: would that be a reason not to list it? >> the law says we need to look at the science -- >> reporter: the science, not the economics. >> right. when we are listing a speciespe we look at the science.
>> reporter: we set out to find a lizard, but it's so rare that most people around here have never seen one. ah-ha! you can see where the tail has dragged in the sand. you can see the footprints. a sure sign that we are in lizard country. in midland, we met up with the lizard's nemesis. texas land commissioner jerry patterson. a retired marine who carried a gun in his left cowboy boot. patterson agreed to take us up in his 1978 cessna, on a mission to find the lizard. we've got a chance, i think, to introduce you to a lizard. >> is this a strafing run? another career i had a long time ago. >> reporter: when patterson looks out over the lizard's pab at the, he sees oil. and the dollar's oil revenues generate for the texas public education fund he oversees.
how much do you care about the lizard? >> well, it's not -- i don't have a stuffed lizard in my house anywhere on the couch. i mean, we started referring to this conundrum as reptile dysfunction. >> reporter: as we were flying, we heard from a researcher just across the new mexico border who located a couple of lizards. here we are. we landed on an abandoned airstrip where we would finally meet our lizard. you have actually met the lizard? >> no. >> reporter: never seen one of these? >> never seen one, no. >> reporter: this is a little history in the making then. dan has been studying the lizard for years. >> do you want to hold him? >> reporter: doesn't look that scary. dan says there the oil exploration is destroying the lizard habitat. >> are they there? yes. are they in the same numbers?
no. in some locations they are absent. >> reporter: the commissioner seemed to warm a little bit to the lizard. his concern is that the government will take a heavy-handed approach to protecting it. >> we're opposed to just say, okay, fine, lizard is out there somewhere, so y'all be careful and you can't drill and you can't do this, you have to mitigate. we need to know, where is the lizard located. >> reporter: you have nothing against the lizard. >> no. he's cute. look at that. >> reporter: we found out the hard way just how quick that lizard is. >> got him. >> reporter: my fault. sorry. but rest assured, the lizard was not hurt. a final decision on declaring the sand dune lizard an endangered species will be made in december. but the story doesn't end there. >> we're in the midst of a bio-diversity crisis. the core ethic of ensuring that
no species goes extinct is an american value and that people support it. >> reporter: john horning of the environmental group wild earth guardians, has petitioned the government to protect some 800 species, including several threatened by oil drilling. >> there are a whole host of species across the west that have been 'em pearled by oil and gas development. even species fairly common, like prong hong antelope have been endangered by oil and gas. >> reporter: next up, the grater sage grous may join the sand dune lizard as the terror of the american oil industry. jonathan karl for "nightline" in odessa, texas. >> cute versus crude, tough choices. next up. if you think basketball stars like lebron james can be flashy on the court, like he was tonight, wait until you see the off-court styles of the nba's most fashion forward. to my grandkids, i'm nana.
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finals was played tonight. the miami heat topping the dallas mavericks. final score, 92-84. but tonight, we take a look at how these guys are looking off the court. you may be surprised to learn that many of them care an awful lot about scoring fashion points. and for john berman, that's a "sign of the times." >> reporter: huge threes. monster blocks. power slams.
and some absolutely stunning slacks. yes, when lebron james took his talents to south beach, most people assumed he was talking basketball. but he also apparently brought some suits. because miami's big three, they dress up nicely. the whole league does. it all began in 2005, with a new dress code that required at least business casual while on team business. as a result, the national basketball association morphed into the national fashion association. and now, nba all-stars include ralph lauren, versace and giorgio armani, worn here by lebron, carmelo anthony and kobe bryant. another first teamer, calvin klein. here, laying on the broad shoulders of amar'e stoudemire of the new york knicks and one of the nba's true fashionistas. a man who can tell you why he's
going necktie and not bowtie wet this tux. why with this tie? >> we have a certain fabric here on the lapel, so, instead of going with the bowtie, want to keep the attention on the lapel. >> reporter: fashion forward from the 6'10" power forward. though, 6'10" poses some challenges for designers. you can't get this off the rack? >> actually this size? i don't think so. no, we have to do it on his body and custom made for him. >> reporter: and check out amar'e's home closet. this is just a small section. it's like footwear heaven. and this three-piece suit from tom ford? his favorite. >> my go-to suit. one of my favorites. tom ford. tailor-made for me. >> reporter: the stoudemire style has caught the eye of "vogue" goddess anna wintur. he was her front row guest, and she, an occasional guest at knick games. but she turn to you for advice? >> no, she has that under control. >> reporter: do you go to her
advice for her on basketball? >> i may. i've seen her at the games. help with the free throws out there. >> reporter: truth is, stoudemire needs little help. basketball is his first love, but he swears fashion is his second. and his skills, formidable. so formidable that rachel roy asked him to help design a women's, yes, women's clothing line. we sat in on a discussion about leather shorts. leather shorts? >> yeah, absolutely. >> reporter: you're into weather shorts? >> for the women, i think it's hot. i like this. >> reporter: that's hot. stoudemire's ultimate yay or nay. and rachel gives him final word on decisions, saying, he's an artist. you're calling him an artist? >> absolutely. >> reporter: a fashion artist? >> yes. anyone that takes their entire life focused on an art and they practice it over and over and over, to me, that's an artist. >> reporter: if you can help the ladies the real question is, what can he do for me?
>> that's a little better. this jacket should work. try that. >> reporter: sure. >> this level is up. level 10. >> reporter: this is good, right? >> oh, yeah. >> reporter: i wan do anything. extreme makeover, nba edition. i'm john berman for "nightline" in new york. >> ready to go. >> oh, john's working it in those big chic clothes. finally tonight, good late-breaking news. the space shuttle "endeavour" returned to earth for the last time touching town safely at the space center in florida to end its final spaceflight. the mission commander was mark kelly, husband of wounded arizona congresswoman gabrielle giffords. in retirement the shuttle "endeavour" is to be put on permanent display at the california science center in los angeles. that is our report for tonight. thank you for watching abc news. we hope you'll tune in for "good morning america." they're working while we're sleeping. we'll see you right back here tomorrow.