If you want to be scared out of your wits these days, you basically have two choices: go watch Steven Spielberg's latest, or listen to the hysterical warnings of economists and journalists about the imminent popping of our so-called housing bubble. Robert Shiller, the ubiquitous Yale economist, says home prices could fall 50% from their peak. Taking things a step further, The Economist recently went so far as to call the global housing boom "the biggest bubble in history."
In a free country, it is fair game for the media and economists to scare homeowners with words of gloom and doom, however knee-jerk, consensual and misguided they may be. But housing is a serious business; for most of us, it is our most valuable asset. For generations of immigrants, home ownership has represented the realization of the American dream.
The reality is this: There is no housing bubble in this country. Our strong housing market is a function of myriad factors with real economic underpinnings: low interest rates, local job growth, the emotional attachment one has for one's home, one's view of one's future earning- power, and parental contributions, all have done their part to contribute to rising home prices. Over the past quarter-century, there has been an explosion of second-home purchases, a continued influx of immigrants, and a significant reduction in existing housing inventory through tear-downs. Not all of these trends are accurately reflected in the unending stream of data published daily. Home prices on average have risen at a 6% annual pace since 1999, and 13% over the past year.
The summer of 2005—when he wrote the words above—was actually the peak of the housing bubble.
Congratulations, Neil Barsky! I hereby award you the James K. Glassman and Kevin A. Hassett Award for being completely unable to recognize an asset bubble. Keep up the good work and perhaps you can become a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, too.