On October 31, CNN Money reported: “Home prices headed for triple dip”. Reporting on information provided by Fiserv (a financial analytics company), a 3.6% fall in prices on a national basis is expected by next summer. This will result in the Case-Shiller Home Price Index falling to 35% below its peak in 2006 and marking a triple dip in U.S. housing markets. [i]
Say it ain’t so! Is housing set for a third dip in five years? This depend on factors being in place to lessen the impact from market anxiety brought on by worries over a pending wave of foreclosures and the U.S. debt crisis, which we will start to hear more about shortly.
So, what are these factors and what do they tell us? These factors are really fundamental drivers that encourage individuals to buy versus rent their personal residences. They are sometimes referred to as housing affordability measures. The price to income, mortgage payment to income, and a buy versus rent analysis for various markets provide strong evidence that factors are in place to encourage home ownership or favor renting depending on the resulting measurements. In ongoing research being performed by Beracha and Johnson, these measures are at record levels in favor of buying. [ii] In fact, the price-to-income ratios in 23 of the 50 states are at 30-year record lows. The payment-to-income ratios are at 30-year record low in all 50 states. A buy versus rent analysis performed in 23 of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas also indicates that hurdle rates (the rates at which potential buyers are indifferent between buying and renting) in all 23 cities are below 25-year average appreciation rates. All of these results strongly favor purchasing.
What about per capita income and present day prices (relative to past prices)? Presently, U.S. per capita income is on the rise again and has regained to the level of 2007 (roughly $40,000 per person), while prices of homes on the other hand rest at 2002 levels according to the Case-Shiller Home Price Index. What about mortgages rates? Presently, 30-year fixed rates are at near-record low levels.
So, let’s put this all together. Housing is presently more affordable than at any time in the last 30 years. While income is only at 2007 levels, home prices are even lower coming in at 2002 levels. All of these factors set the stage for many individuals to favor purchasing over renting. Thus, while there are grave concerns over the overall health of the economy, fundamental drivers now appear in place to staunch any further significant plunges in home prices.
The ship appears to be turning. [iii]
[ii] Beracha and Johnson (2011) – ongoing research.
[iii] This conclusion obviously assumes nothing unprecedented and catastrophic occurs such as the removal of the home interest deduction to combat the national debt or the often predicted foreclosure tsunami actually finally occurs. While the likelihood of both is worth mentioning, neither is very likely.
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