It's jobs, stupid
Robbie Fowler, the former Liverpool and England striker, has been investing in property for 15 years and is long of more than 900 houses. They may not all be up to WAG standards but that's quite a hoard.
A less ambitious buy-to-let tycoon is Joanna Page, the spellbinding Stacey of "Gavin and Stacey". She says (in this week's Sunday Times) that she owns eight residential investment properties, worth around £1m (and also a house in South London that she occupies).
They're in good company. Senior civil servants, former ministers, an erstwhile City watchdog, broadcasters and bankers have all swanked to me at various times about their mini property empires.
Now that buy-to-let looks as fashionable as pebbledash, and Bradford & Bingley has become a byword for bungling, they're feeling a little bit anxious, a touch sore. But so long as they bought over several years and haven't borrowed too much on short-term fixed rate deals, they'll lose capital but probably not the lot.
As for Goodfellow, he says Skipton contemplated making a takeover bid for B&B and that his building society would be interested in swallowing Northern Rock.
Goodness knows whether his regulator or Skipton's members would be altogether relaxed about this mutual quintupling its size with one of these deals. But it's rather touching that mutuals like Skipton - which just a few years ago were written off as irrelevant and obsolete - can swagger a bit, while the likes of B&B perhaps regret their institutional sex changes.
More exposed to real hardship than many buy-to-let investors are hundreds of thousands of owner-occupying families, with 90% or 100% mortgages of recent vintage.
Many may end up with negative equity in their homes during the current market downturn. If they're relatively young with little in the way of other savings, their personal finances may be in the red for an extended period.
The prospect is daunting for them, especially since younger families are also being disproportionately squeezed by the jump in energy and food prices.
Naturally, it's the plight of low income homeowners which is prompting bankers, builders and estate agents to bend my ear and insist that the government absolutely must do something to put a floor under collapsing house prices (those who run these battered businesses may also be worrying a little about their own career prospects).
"The electorate won't forgive the prime minister if he allows the housing slump to continue", or words to the effect, is a menacing claim I hear a good deal.
But the bankers should be careful what they wish for. If the Treasury were to directly intervene in the mortgage market, by - for example - providing mortgages directly or guaranteeing banks' homeloans, there would be consequences for the banks.
Taxpayers would I think be reluctant to allow HBOS, for example, to lend their money unless that bank became a much simpler, more risk-averse organisation. The government, as protector of taxpayers' interests, would probably impose severe restrictions on how and where the banks operate. And bankers might have to be paid on a par with civil servants.
It's quite an amusing thought - although for all the way our banks miscalculated risks over the past few years, it probably wouldn't do us good for the creativity of our financial sector to be wholly regulated away.
Just look at the mess at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the so-called state-sponsored US mortgage banks, for two good reasons why you wouldn't necessarily want the government underwriting British mortgages.
So if a Treasury bailout isn't such a brilliant idea, some bankers are looking for succour from the Financial Services Authority, the City watchdog.
They whinge that it's the FSA's fault that banks are not lending enough - because the banks are being forced to strengthen their balance sheets by holding more capital as a proportion of loans, which means they can't lend as much as the economy needs.
Here, in fact, are the horns of a proper dilemma.
It would be crazy for the FSA to allow the big banks to weaken their balance sheets - or to cut their capital ratios - at a time when the economic outlook is troubling, to put it mildly. Without a cushion of capital to absorb future losses, the financial system could come properly unstuck.
However, precisely because the banks are lending less to both consumers and businesses right now to build up their capital ratios, economic activity is slowing down. And that slowdown increases the likelihood that unemployment will rise, which in turn would trigger massive writeoffs in the value of homeloans, as the jobless found themselves unable to keep up the mortgage payments.
Or to put it another way, the very act of forcing the banks to hold additional capital relative to assets or loans at this sensitive moment could magnify future erosion of that very capital and batter the financial system at a later date - which would send the economy into a more vicious downward spiral.
To perform my normal trick of stating the bloomin' obvious, what matters far more than the fall in house prices is what happens to unemployment. But quite how the government could pre-empt a possible future rise in joblessness when its own balance sheet is stretched and interest rates can't be cut lest inflation takes off, well that's a riddle I can't quite unlock.
UPDATE, 14 July, 07:05AM:
When the US Treasury Secretary makes an emergency statement on a Sunday from the steps of the Treasury building in Washington, something has gone seriously awry in the world's biggest economy.
In the past few days the machines that fund the US housing market - or the two so-called government sponsored banks, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac - had come perilously close to collapse.
After two years of falls in the US housing market, investors believed they were almost bust - for all the denials issued by regulators and politicians.
And if they were unable to lend, well the US housing market would probably implode - with dire consequences for the financial system and the entire global economy.
Mr Paulson has asked Congress for the authority to lend unlimited amounts to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and to inject unlimited amounts of new capital into them.
Separately, the US Federal Reserve has said it will give them access to emergency funds.
All this will be viewed as an unbreakable pledge to nationalise these colossal institutions, should that prove necessary.
It means Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac won't collapse - but at quite a cost to the US public finances.
For decades the US government and international investors have conspired in a convenient fiction, that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are supported by the state and yet are not formally on the public sector balance sheet.
That's allowed them to raise money for lending to US homeowners at much lower rates than would have been possible had they been normal commercial banks.
Mr Paulson has now made a formal promise to bail them out.
Which means that if he were to claim that their five trillion dollars in liabilities are still not liabilties of the Federal government, well I'm not sure anyone would take him terribly seriously.
Arguably therefore America's national debt is now equivalent to more than the size of its economy - which may make international investors more wary of holding dollars and dollar assets.