Homeowners are watching anxiously for any signs of housing market stabilization. So, too, are all those who believe the market may hold the key to the economy.
And yet the most recent data makes for more gloomy reading.
The closely watched Case-Shiller index, which tracks prices across twenty major cities, shows that through January the crash was getting worse, not better. ...
How much further will prices fall across the country? Nobody knows, of course. But history says the bigger the bubble, the bigger the crash.
Those "professionals" in the market continue to be wrong-footed. Early last year I wrote that even though prices in Florida and California had collapsed, those markets were still overvalued. Naturally I was on the receiving end of lots of angry emails from real estate brokers who told me I was an idiot (or worse). Events since then have borne out my analysis. ...
Even today, prices overall have only reverted to levels seen in late 2003. Yet by that stage the bubble was already well inflated. You would expect a crash of this scale to retrace its steps much further. To find pre-bubble prices you have to go back to about 2000 – when values overall were about a third lower than they are today.
It's true that mortgage rates, now at 4.5% to 5%, are currently very low. But relying just on that is far too simplistic. Rates were also low from 2003 through 2005 – as many pointed out, disastrously, at the time. ...
Over the long term, average home prices have tended to track average earnings. And by this measure the market may have much further to fall.
I looked at Case-Shiller's index back to 1987 and compared it to federal data on average earnings. ... By this (admittedly very simple) measure, today's home prices are actually more expensive, in relation to average earnings, than at the peak of the 1989 property bubble.
Equally noteworthy is that when the last property bubble burst, it took about eight years before the market showed really strong signs of revival. This bubble was far, far bigger.
Thursday, April 02, 2009
WSJ: Home prices "still no bargain"
Wall Street Journal columnist Brett Arends says home prices still have a long way down: