Will inflation help the housing market: how real estate is affected

by Dan Krell
© 2011
DanKrell.com

Homes for saleMany people believe that as inflation increases, home values decrease. The argument put forth is that as purchasing power decreases, so do the value of your assets.  However, some economists say that it is flawed thinking to assume that housing, like other goods, decline in value as inflation increases.

Collin Barr reported that Yale economist Robert Shiller (coauthor of the Case-Shiller Home Price Index) has spent years collecting data that indicates “that house prices over time tend to rise more or less in step with inflation” (fortune.com: Why house prices will keep falling; March 29, 2011). That’s all well and good, except that home prices far exceeded the rate of inflation during the recent “bubble years;” and is reported as still having a 25% gap from baseline. So, unless we see an increasing rate of inflation, some believe that home prices drop another 20%.

Brian Summerfield, Online Editor of REALTOR® Magazine, describes (in an April 5th Realtor.org blog post) a scenario of how inflation can lift the current housing market. By highlighting affordability, he explains the cost of housing is currently cheaper to own a home (compared to renting). Additionally, as inflation creeps up and eats more of the family budget by decreasing buying power, the a person’s housing budget will be pressured by rising rents and buying a home will be increasingly more attractive.

Of course, Mr. Summerfield’s scenario is hinged on several “caveats”: interest rates will have to remain relatively low (he says no higher than 7%); implementation of “accessible” 30 year fixed mortgage programs; housing supply will have to remain low; and no additional economic crises.

In several Realtor.org blog posts, Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist for the National Association of Realtors®, discussed inflation and housing. In an April 18th post he explained that “Unexpected inflation” does erode savings, however actually benefits borrowers. Additionally, in a September 15th post reporting that housing starts are the lowest since World War II, Yun explains that some investors are returning to undervalued real estate as a hedge against inflation. Since new housing is not on track with population growth, some believe there will be a housing shortage that will cause increased demand in coming years.

House for saleThe reality is that although there is a relationship between home prices and inflation, it does not signify causality. In other words, although one may have an effect on the other, housing and inflation are independent. Even in Brian Summerfield’s scenario, he is cautious to provide conditions to bring his vision to reality. And no one has talked about the affects of stagflation.

When talking about a recovery, the typical homeowner should remain cautious- especially in espousing a view that a home is an investment vehicle. Even though our consumer oriented society has encouraged people to pay for their lifestyles with their home’s equity, it’s now widely decried as irresponsible.

In light of the current economic conditions, many potential home buyers are becoming more pragmatic as well. Even though the basic benefits of homeownership include affordability, community, etc, many potential home buyers view owning a home as anchor that will keep them tied to a specific area. And in a time when jobs are scarce, many people want the freedom of mobility in case they have a career opportunity elsewhere.

Will inflation help the real estate market? We will only know in hindsight.

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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 November 28, 2011. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2011 Dan Krell.

The Art of Pricing Your Home

by Dan Krell © 2007
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As February gives way to March home buyers make their way out of hibernation, while many home owners are preparing their homes for sale. Some home sellers will list their home with a Realtor, while others will attempt to sell by owner. As the home sellers are making their preparations, one item is still undecided-the list price.

Pricing your home correctly is the key to having a successful sale and will make the difference in going to settlement in a reasonable time or having your home languish on the market for weeks and months.

Although it is true that selling a home is not rocket science; however, home pricing is a science to some and an art form to others. There is a certain knowledge and technique in home pricing as well as requiring a lot of work in the form of research.

If you are presently selling your home, (if you haven’t realized it yet) market conditions are no where near the market conditions of several years ago. Don’t expect your home to sell fast at a higher price and/or in poor condition than other homes in your neighborhood-those days are over.

The first step in pricing your home is to see what is happening in the local market and neighborhood. You can see this by getting a comparative market analysis (CMA) from a Realtor. I would ask several Realtors for a CMA as there may be differences in approach and presentation. A CMA is not an appraisal; however it is a comparison of your home to similar homes. It is important to compare your home to homes of similar style and size. Dissecting the analysis in six, three, and one month segments will show you any market trends.

When looking at the analysis, compare recent sales to currently active homes. Are the current listing prices consistent to recent sale prices and days on market? Is your competition is over priced for present market conditions, or is the market slowing down?

Look at the expired and withdrawn listings too. Try to find out why these homes did not sell and avoid doing the same mistakes. Also, look any pending sales for price reductions and seller concession as these may give you a hint to where you need to be in pricing your home.

Now that you have the analysis, it is important to know your competition first hand. Go visit your competition when they hold an open house. Compare active listings’ condition and amenities to your own home. Does your home compare; is the price reasonable; would you consider buying this home?

Be honest with yourself about your home’s condition and features. Are there amenities that will attract home buyers? Are there any problems or shortcomings that will turnoff home buyers? You will need to adjust for these items accordingly.

Home buyers in today’s market are looking for homes that show well and are reasonably priced. Additionally, many home buyers are in need of closing cost assistance. Don’t expect home buyers to make an offer just because the home is on the market-they won’t. Be realistic, as there are lots of other homes on the market that show well and are competitively priced.

This column 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 2/12/2007. (c) 2007 Dan Krell.