New real estate economics; bubbles and trends

A new economic paradigm for housing markets; recovery trends and bubble fears create divided camp on new year predictions.

real estate bubbleLawrence Yun, chief economist of the National Association of Realtors®, stated in a November 8th news release, “…existing-home sales have shown a 20 percent cumulative increase over the past two years, while prices have gained 18 percent, but incomes have risen only 2 to 4 percent in the same timeframe.” Additionally, it is expected that existing home sales to maintain 2013 gains through 2014; and home prices to continue and upward trend (realtor.org).

The 2014 prediction for U.S. housing sounds great. But does this mean we are expecting increased multiple offer situations with further plummeting of average days on market? In a post housing bubble world, some wonder if this year’s real estate activity is sustainable – maybe it was no coincidence that some descriptions of hot housing markets sounded like the go-go market that occurred during the housing bubble years. And yet with hindsight, should we be concerned about “priming the pumps” for another housing bubble?

Sentiment about over-valued markets around the world was expressed by none other than Robert Shiller. Shiller, of the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index, won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences this year for the “empirical analysis of asset prices.” And if Robert Shiller is talking about over-valued markets, maybe we should listen.

Shiller’s book, “Irrational Exuberance” is said to have made the argument for the dot-come (2000 edition) and housing (2005 edition) bubbles, as well as predicting the subsequent market crashes. (Interestingly, the book title is said to be taken from an Allan Greenspan speech described the rapid cycling stock market activity of the mid 1990’s.)

Two weeks after Janet Yellen’s confirmation hearings to become Chairperson of the Fed, Robert Shiller was interviewed by the German magazine Der Spiegel. Yellen’s responses to Senators during the hearing suggested that there were no bubbles in equities and housing, although she conceded that bubbles are hard to predict; while Shiller expressed concern about over-valued equities in many markets throughout the world, as well as a sharp rise in home prices in some global real estate markets (including some U.S. real estate markets such as Las Vegas). Shiller made specific mention of the U.S. Stock market saying that data is suggesting an equities bubble. However, as he cautioned that it might be too early to sound the alarm, there is an expectation that the market will go even higher.

Are bubbles such a bad thing? Economist Matthew Klein (Is the Only Choice Bubbles or Recession?; Bloomberg; Nov 19, 2013) speculates that bubbles may actually be an important part of a modern economic cycle that allows for growth in various sectors. He states “…bubbles can transform wealth that would otherwise be stashed in government bonds and other safe assets into income for those who work in the expanding parts of the economy.” However, many economists assert that eroding wealth and savings to artificially grow an economy is dangerous and unsustainable.

Getting back to the NAR press release, Yun credited the current sales and price trends to a lack of housing inventory and buyer demand. Unfortunately, housing inventory is at about a thirteen year low; and unless inventory increases we can expect an interesting year ahead.

by Dan Krell © 2013

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Disclaimer.  This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice.  Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction.  This article was originally published the week of December 2, 2013 (Montgomery County Sentinel). Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2013 Dan Krell.