Forget GDP – real estate is still a local phenomenon

real estate Are you one of those who are ignoring the recent negative GDP report? Or are you chalking it up to the weather or other factors? If you are unaware, the May 29th news release by the U.S. Department of Commerce – Bureau of Economic Analysis (bea.gov) reported that the Gross Domestic Product for the 1st Quarter 2014 was revised to -1%. Of the number of reasons cited was a negative contribution from residential fixed investment (basically poor home sales).

Although one poor quarter is not a trend, two consecutive quarters of negative GDP could be considered a recession. But this rule of thumb is not always accurate – after all, this is the second time during the current recovery we have had a negative GDP. Many economists are not concerned and expect a rebound, citing the recent employment report; while some are very concerned, citing the low employment participation along with declining personal income and spending.

I hear you saying: “Ok, even though home sales have been lacking, home prices have been increasing,” which is a sign of strength in the housing market. According to an analysis by Ray Valdez (The housing bubble and the GDP: a correlation perspective: Journal of Case Research in Business & Economics; June 2010, Vol. 3, p1), there is a strong relationship between GDP and home prices. Local data for Montgomery County MD during May 2014 not only indicates a year over year decrease in sales volume, but average home sale prices may have decreased bout 1% compared to May 2013. Other indications that the local housing market is cooling this year is the sharp increase of new listings, and a lower absorption rate of listed homes.

The BEA GDP release also cited Gross Domestic Income for the 1st Q as decreasing 2.3% (compared to the 2.6% increase the previous quarter). Putting income in perspective, Rick Newman of Yahoo’s “The Daily Ticker” (The Middle Class is Even Worse Off Than the Numbers Show); “The “average” American worker earns about $44,000 per year and saves around 4% of his income. And the “average” household has a net worth of approximately $710,000, including the value of homes, investments, bank accounts and so on. But many Americans, needless to say, fall well below those benchmarks, which fail to capture widespread financial distress…” Newman points to the growing wealth of the affluent as skewing income data: “The rich have always skewed wealth and income data to some extent, since they pull up averages and make ordinary people seem a bit better off than they really are. But the outsized gains of the super-rich during the past 25 years have become so disproportionate that some measures of prosperity may be losing their relevance.

If you’re concerned about mixed economic reports affecting the housing market and possibly your sale or purchase; you can take heart in the notion that the current environment is different than that of the Great Recession. Some economists expect a rebound, citing relatively low mortgage interest rates and some loosening lending standards as incentivizing home buyers.

Nevertheless, real estate is still a local phenomenon; and just like the differences between regional markets, external influences can create differences among geographical areas as well. If you’re planning to be in the market, consult with your real estate agent about recent neighborhood data and trends to assist you with your pricing strategy.

© Dan Krell
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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 June 9, 2014 (Montgomery County Sentinel). Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © Dan Krell.