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cashinmattress

Housing's Big Picture Isn't Pretty

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While economists and real estate investors "celebrate" the slight deceleration in the pace of home price declines in the recent data, a quick look at home price trajectories over the past 100 and 50 years reveals little to cheer about and much to be feared.

More significant than small month-to-month changes is the flow of home price patterns over decades. In his book Irrational Exuberance, Robert Shiller determined that in the 100 years between 1900 and 2000, home prices in the U.S. increased by an average of about 3.4% per year. These figures have not been adjusted for inflation. If they had, home prices would have outpaced inflation by only the slimmest of margins.

This 100-year period includes the Great Depression, when home prices sank significantly, and it also involves decades in which our current home mortgage infrastructure simply did not exist. The second half of the century, with its baby boom, heightened inflation, suburban expansion and institutionalized mortgage apparatus, was much kinder to home prices. Even so, in the 50 boom years between 1950 and 2000, home prices increased an average of 4.4% per year. Even this pace barely beat inflation.

By all accounts, the home price boom that began in late 1997 (when the high of the previous 1989 peak was finally eclipsed) and topped out in June 2006 was extraordinary. The Case-Shiller 10-City Index, an amalgam of the home price trends in 10 of the largest U.S. cities, gained on average 19.4% per year during that time. The movements had very little to do with market fundamentals and everything to do with distortive government policies, a national mania for real estate wealth and a torrent of temporarily easy credit.

If we assume that the bubble was artificial, we can instead imagine that home prices should have followed the more typical path during that time. When you do these extrapolations, a very sobering picture emerges.

The authors of the Case-Shiller index had assigned the index a value of 100.0 in January of 2000. This figure does not represent a dollar value for home prices but is simply a benchmarking tool. In December 2008, after a severe 28% decline from its June 2006 peak of 226.29, the Case-Shiller 10 City index stood at 162.1. However, if home prices had followed the 3.4% annual 100-year trend line from December 1997 (when the index was at 82.3), then the index would have arrived at only 118.92 in December 2008.

This would suggest that the index would need to decline an additional 27% to get back to the historical trend line. Extrapolating along the sunnier 50-year annual average increase would put the index at 132.2 by December 2008. This would still put the trend line 18.5% below current prices.

A cursory look at the chart below should disabuse anyone of the notion that home prices have now hit bottom. Policymakers and economists should by no means rely upon projections that see home prices turning around in the near term.

However, the story by no means ends there. Given the current conditions in the real estate market, with bloated inventories, growing unemployment, nonexistent consumer credit and shattered illusions of real estate riches, it would be logical to assume that prices will fall below the trend line. How much is anybody's guess, but 10% would be conservative.

Given that we are entering uncharted territory with price declines much sharper than those seen in the Great Depression, I would argue that the 100-year price trend would be the better projection to use. In such a scenario, the index would bottom out at around 108 if a 10% overshoot on the downside is seen. That leaves another 34% decline in home prices on the table.

But that doesn't mean that I believe home prices will actually reach those levels, at least in nominal terms. Inflation will likely be the biggest difference between the current recession and what is now called the Great Depression of the 1930s, (I expect a new name will be needed in a few years, much as the Great War is now called World War I.) Throughout the Depression, prices fell for everything, not just houses. At the time, even the pump-priming policies of Roosevelt's New Deal did not expand the money supply at anywhere near the current pace. As a result, the deflationary pressures of a recession were allowed to push prices down.

In the coming years, the opposite will happen. The government, through deficit spending, stimuli and bailouts, is literally pumping trillions and trillions of new dollars into the economy. Once the bloated inventories of the boom years are worked through, this torrent of new cash will push prices up with across the board. Inflation, more virulent than the variety seen in the 1970s, will put a nominal floor under home prices. But the benefits of seemingly stable home prices will be illusory. What good is a $200,000 house if it costs nearly that much to fill the refrigerator?

However, inflation putting a floor under home prices does nothing to increase real demand for houses. With the prices for stocks, commodities and food going up faster than the prices of homes, residential real estate will remain a lousy investment. As a result, be wary of those who have called a housing bottom and now recommend beaten-down homebuilding stocks.

Despite savage pullbacks from their mid-decade highs the nation's biggest homebuilders are still overvalued. The S&P 500 is down 4% since the last housing boom began in January 1998. But over that time, Toll Brothers (TOL), Pulte Home (PHM) and D.R. Horton (DRI) are up 195%, 100%, and 97% respectively. The truth is, America's current inventory of homes will last at least a generation or more. These stocks are still not priced accordingly.

He is spot on, as usual.

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He is spot on, as usual.

You are Spamming, as usual.

Endless doom-monger stories, night after night after night. And you completely ignore the countless green shoots reports.

Sad. Are you clinically depressed?

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You are Spamming, as usual.

Endless doom-monger stories, night after night after night. And you completely ignore the countless green shoots reports.

Sad. Are you clinically depressed?

Shhhh! The adults are talking!

Edited by cashinmattress

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You are Spamming, as usual.

Endless doom-monger stories, night after night after night. And you completely ignore the countless green shoots reports.

Sad. Are you clinically depressed?

Are you clinically blinkered?

I wonder which green shoot those people made unemployed so far this year are clinging to?

Edited by the end is nigh

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You are Spamming, as usual.

Endless doom-monger stories, night after night after night. And you completely ignore the countless green shoots reports.

Sad. Are you clinically depressed?

Why are you in my sig?

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Are you clinically blinkered?

I wonder which green shoot those people made unemployed so far this year are clinging to?

I was wondering the same thing.

May I add that Eiji`s signature makes me chuckle every time I see it. The seagull video is also amusing.

Edited by Prof

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You are Spamming, as usual.

Endless doom-monger stories, night after night after night. And you completely ignore the countless green shoots reports.

Sad. Are you clinically depressed?

However sad you claim other people are for posting here, don't you think it just raises the more puzzling question of why you are here yourself?

At least most people here have a legitimate interest in house prices falling, usually because they are considering buying a house at some point when they do. On the other hand the only interest you have admitted to having in the housing crash is that you happen to own one house and have a mortgage on another. If that's really your only interest in the subject then what on earth are you doing here? Why don't you just go away and get on with your life?

People who want prices to come down from crazy levels so they can buy I can understand. You - as you have presented yourself - I can't understand. Maybe you are more exposed to falls in house prices than you have admitted. Otherwise you seem to be spending an inordinate amount of time on a site that should rationally only be of peripheral interest to you.

Edited by waitingscot

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Endless doom-monger stories

If you want to debate Peter Schiff he has a phone in every Wednesday night on his radio show.

I would LOVE to hear you debate him.

No, really :D

[Edit to add link ]

LINKY

Edited by libspero

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You are Spamming, as usual.

Endless doom-monger stories, night after night after night. And you completely ignore the countless green shoots reports.

Sad. Are you clinically depressed?

This is my first reply to you Mctavish, I have to say I have no read all your posting, just some. My background is property, mostly commercial, before the crash I got out, the market was just so going to crash, it should have crashed in 2005. All my contacts in property are sh(one)ting themselves, that is every single one. The only ones not are a very, very few amateur wannabees landlords who think it's a great time to buy.

Please enlighten me to the 'countless green shoots' against the overwhelming terrible warnings written by economists and facts often published here. The most obvious would be the graph of wages against average house prices, prices are clearly to high in normal times, were not in normal times are we. Then we have climbing unemployment, interest rates with virtually only one way to go. The billions of pounds bail out that has to be paid for. We have crashing commercial property prices with crashing rents, these are not expected to turn until at least 2012. We have banks going tits up and oil going up again, we have a GLOBAL crash. We have more debt than is possible to cope with see http://www.cnbc.com/id/30308959?slide=1 you have the whole world on an edge and the UK and USA trying something that has never worked, it's called quantitative easing or in other words, our last resort.

What is it exactly you see as worthy of countering the above issues an facts? What green shoots do you see that the bears do not?

Do you think high prices of homes is good or bad? Sibley said parents can help out with high prices! I trust you can do a better than that.

Edited by Tim Miller

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You are Spamming, as usual.

Endless doom-monger stories, night after night after night. And you completely ignore the countless green shoots reports.

Sad. Are you clinically depressed?

Just in http://www.dailymail.co.uk/money/article-1...urst-globe.html They don't mention any UK green shoots, how remiss of them!

I see you write 'Endless doom-monger stories, night after night after night'. err, so you accept there is a vast amount of bear stories in the press every day then! Tell me, why do you really write the nonsense you do?

Edited by Tim Miller

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Just in http://www.dailymail.co.uk/money/article-1...urst-globe.html They don't mention any green shoots, how remiss of them!

Good sensible stuff.

A surge in Swiss home values during the late 1980s triggered prompt action by the central bank, bringing the mini-boom smartly to an end.

As we contemplate the wreckage of our own property market, we can only wish British policymakers had imposed similar discipline.

This week a property report from Nationwide and mortgage figures from the British Bankers' Association may add to signs that the slump is easing.

But only the very bravest analysts are calling an end to the carnage yet.

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<<<Despite savage pullbacks from their mid-decade highs the nation's biggest homebuilders are still overvalued. The S&P 500 is down 4% since the last housing boom began in January 1998. But over that time, Toll Brothers (TOL), Pulte Home (PHM) and D.R. Horton (DRI) are up 195%, 100%, and 97% respectively. The truth is, America's current inventory of homes will last at least a generation or more. These stocks are still not priced accordingly.>>>

He is spot on, as usual.

Taylor Wimpey et al too on this side of the pond.

Hamish - your response wasn't even slightly thought out. It was just sheer trolling. Sometimes you almost approach lucidity. But not tonight, I'm afraid.

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Guest vicmac64

'Doom mongering stories' ha ha ha ha - like we make up these really dark stories and they come true!!!!!!

Ha ha ha hahahha

I suppose that is Bull Logic (Bull logic is something that does not exist - LOGIC AND BULLS DON'T MIX) just like all that money people have invested in the financials -----------------------------------

This is reality - not doom mongering.

You are Spamming, as usual.

Endless doom-monger stories, night after night after night. And you completely ignore the countless green shoots reports.

Sad. Are you clinically depressed?

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You are Spamming, as usual.

Endless doom-monger stories, night after night after night. And you completely ignore the countless green shoots reports.

Sad. Are you clinically depressed?

No hes showing facts.UK houses are about the worst investment right now in the world.20% to go down yet at least,then at least a decade where they rise less than inflation.Terrible terrible investment.We are only on the starter.18 months as other economies move into growth watch what interest rate rises do to house prices.

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'Doom-monger stories' indeed - it depends entirely on your viewpoint.

To me stories of Doom and Gloom would be house prices rising again.

Edited by Badger

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Guest absolutezero
You are Spamming, as usual.

Endless doom-monger stories, night after night after night. And you completely ignore the countless green shoots reports.

Sad. Are you clinically depressed?

:lol::lol::lol:

No. But you will be in a year's time when your 'denial' phase ends...

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