Why should we care when it all began? It’s politics. If the housing bubble began during the Clinton administration, it can be blamed on the Democrats and their efforts to expand homeownership to people who, in some cases, may not have been quite ready for it. If it began under George W. Bush, then it can be imputed to the Republicans’ love of deregulation.I spotted the housing bubble in spring of 2001, so I think people who claim it began later than that are fools. Anybody who looks at Robert Shiller's graph of house prices can easily see that the uptrend in real housing prices began in 1997-1998. We were in clear bubble territory by the end of 2000. Rather than blaming it on politicians, the strongest argument coming from economists is that the bubble was caused by a global savings glut that began in the late 1990s.
Of course, as we all know, the causes of today’s mess are far more complicated than either of those hypotheses allow. But nuance rarely figures in the debates of our age.
Edward Pinto, a mortgage-industry consultant who was the chief credit officer at Fannie Mae in the late 1980s, argued in a WSJ op-ed essay Friday that “most agree that the housing bubble started in 1997.”
I asked Mr. Pinto why he chose 1997. He pointed to a chart of long-term home prices patched together by Robert Shiller, a Yale economist. The chart shows inflation-adjusted house prices starting to move up sharply in the late 1990s. ...
Tom Lawler, an independent economist who worked at Fannie Mae from 1984 to 2006, says few housing gurus think the bubble began as early as 1997. In his view, the bubble began around 2002. The collapse of the tech-stock bubble in the year 2000 prompted many people, searching for other types of investments, to focus on real estate.
Here's my graph of nominal and inflation-adjusted housing prices since 1970. Look for yourself. When do you think the housing bubble began? (Click on the graph to see the full-sized version.)
Update: I notice that the Edward Pinto article blames the housing bubble on the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). For Republicans who want to blame the bubble on the CRA and for Democrats who want to blame the bubble on bank deregulation, let me point out that the housing bubble was a global event. There was/is a simultaneous housing bubble in the United States, Australia, Britain, Ireland, and Spain, to name a few countries. The CRA does not explain why there was a bubble in Spain. Also, the November, 1999, passage of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act does not explain why real U.S. home prices began their ascent two years earlier.