Monday, August 23, 2010

Housing no longer a wealth builder

From The New York Times, via CNBC:
Housing will eventually recover from its great swoon. But many real estate experts now believe that home ownership will never again yield rewards like those enjoyed in the second half of the 20th century, when houses not only provided shelter but also a plump nest egg.

The wealth generated by housing in those decades, particularly on the coasts, did more than assure the owners a comfortable retirement. It powered the economy, paying for the education of children and grandchildren, keeping the cruise ships and golf courses full and the restaurants humming.

More than likely, that era is gone for good.

“There is no iron law that real estate must appreciate,” said Stan Humphries, chief economist for the real estate site Zillow. “All those theories advanced during the boom about why housing is special — that more people are choosing to spend more on housing, that more people are moving to the coasts, that we were running out of usable land — didn’t hold up.”

Instead, Mr. Humphries and other economists say, housing values will only keep up with inflation. A home will return the money an owner puts in each month, but will not multiply the investment.

Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, estimates that it will take 20 years to recoup the $6 trillion of housing wealth that has been lost since 2005. After adjusting for inflation, values will never catch up.
The end of housing as a wealth builder is especially true in areas where the bubble has not fully corrected, like Washington, D.C., New York City, and Boston. Nominal prices there will likely remain flat for a long time.


  1. This isn't true for Arlington.

  2. I definitely do not think that all of the wealth building benefits are out of housing but would agree that the degree to which real estate has appreciated in the latter part of the 20th century would be hard pressed to happen again.

    Very interesting quote "there is no iron law that real estate must appreciate"...makes you think a bit. Great read

  3. The wealth that housing created for many has evaporated. Back to actually earning money from working. But when credit is tightening and more jobs are disappearing, good luck!

  4. I think the whole nation should all move to Arlington. That would fix the economy!

  5. The most ABSURD real estate bubbles have been going on in India and China for the past 20-30 years, where homes have appreciated about a THOUSAND times. A one thousand US dollar investment in India's metro real estate in the 1970s is now worth more than a million US dollars. Home owners in India and China are unbelievably rich and are far more wealthy than their Western counterparts. Despite the ABSURD appreciation in the past 30 years, the mentality in India and China is that real estate is the easiest and best form of investment, with values doubling every 2-3 years. Note that these so called homes in India and China are small, with little features, very low quality, have no good infrastructure and so filthy that no sensible person would spend even a 100 bucks on, yet are being sold and bought for millions of dollars each in the greatest PONZI game ever played. Note also that the median income in these places is still just a few thousand dollars per year, yet the median home prices are about a million dollars. This PONZI game has created inflation, which then fuels the PONZI game even more and you get the idea. Compare all of this to the United States. Homes have hardly even tripled in value in the last 30 years, and yet, we are quick to point this out as a bubble. We are playing the reverse PONZI here, where we want to destroy absolutely fabulous homes to complete worthlessness. A regular 2000 sqft 4-BR American home would cost several million dollars everywhere in the world except in the USA, where it costs a measly USD 200000. Yep, Americans want everything for free. If it is not free, it has to be a bubble.