by Dan Krell © 2010
The shock of the economic crisis is over; however, shock is setting in that the recession is over. Oh, you haven’t heard? The Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research declared that the recession ended in June 2009. Although the recession has been declared statistically “over” (because of an uptick in GDP in that quarter) recent indices and polls might suggest otherwise.
Unemployment, GDP and consumer confidence leads gloom and doom indices that may project how many people feel about the current economic environment. For example, the national unemployment rate is 9.6%; while in Maryland unemployment is 7.3%, which is slightly less than the highest mark since the beginning of the recession (bls.gov). Additionally, GDP measures have been low and/or not meeting expectations; estimates from the second quarter of 2010 have been revised to 1.6% (bea.gov). And, consumer confidence has recently declined.
Although these indices do not instill confidence, recent polling data and housing statistics may be good news.
A Harris Poll (published by Harris Interactive; harrisinteractive.com) of consumer spending that was released on October 4th appears to illustrate the state of the economy through planned consumer spending. The Harris Poll indicates that “economic growth will be sluggish” because of careful spending amid continued unemployment concerns; the overall sentiment is that consumers are not planning to increase their spending anytime soon, especially on “big ticket items.”
However, although all indicators of the Harris Poll point to continued consumer caution, the bright side is that an increase number of consumers are planning to purchase a home in the next six months (10% indicated they are planning a home purchase within six months compared to 7% in May 2010).
Additional good news on the housing front includes increased home sales and home prices. According to the National Association of Realtors (realtor.org) home sales increased about 7.6% during August 2010 (however August sales figures remain about 19% lower than August 2009) and home sale prices are up about 2.9% from the same time last year (although slightly lower from July 2010). Locally, home sales are down from a year ago in the Washington, DC Metro area, but median home prices are about 5.4% higher than the same time last year. The economic forecast provided by the NAR indicates very modest home sale and home sale price increases over the next two years (with 2010 being the bottom).
Signs of housing stability and increased home buyer interest amid continued economic turmoil may not just be a fluke of the polling process. However, it may be an indication of the intrinsic and intangible value that consumers place on home ownership; which is corroborated by research. A recent commentary entitled “Homeownership Matters: Homeownership and Civic Engagement” by Selma Hepp, NAR Research Economist (realtor.org), cited recent studies that purports the benefits of home ownership go beyond home values and is extended into the community. Research indicates that homeowners are more invested and attached to their communities (compared to renters) as evidenced by their increased community involvement and extensive social networks.
Although the shock of the crisis may have subsided, and we have adapted our lifestyles to conform to our expectations of the economy; research and housing indices could indicate that the value of home ownership placed by consumers may transcend the monetary value of the home itself.
This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of October 4, 2010. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2010 Dan Krell.