Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Housing price update

Today's release of the January Case Shiller Home Price Index confirms what we have known for most of the past year: home prices have been rising, following the bursting of the housing "bubble." The housing market is emerging from its worst calamity ever.


This chart compares the Case Shiller home price index to the one compiled by the folks at Radar Logic. Case Shiller is seasonally adjusted, but the Radar Logic series is not. Nevertheless, the two have been tracking each other nicely. Case Shiller reports that home prices have increased 8% over the past year, while the Radar Logic series shows a 12% increase. Split the difference: it's a safe bet that home prices have risen about 10% on average in the past year.


The housing "bubble" was caused by excessive demand, fueled by artificially cheap credit, which caused prices to rise to unsustainable levels and housing construction to create a significant excess inventory of homes. It took six years of sharply reduced new home construction and an approximately 40% decline in real home prices to "fix" this mess. Supply and demand for housing have come back into balance, though we are seeing signs that housing may now be in relative short supply, which is why prices are once again rising.


As home prices have fallen, rents have increased, with the result that prices and rents are now back to a more reasonable relationship. It's taken six years, but market forces have brought things back into balance.

3 comments:

honestcreditguy said...

I always wonder why the PE and investment purchases of homes for pennies on the dollar by the fed is not put into context when discussing housing price fixing...

along with holding inventory of foreclosures across the land due to govt. interfearence....

William McKibbin said...

When I look at the trajectories of the charts above, I do not see any good news for homeowners...

NormanB said...

It could be this rise in house prices is not unlike the previous one: Bad lending practices. From a website:

In the fourth quarter of 2012, 44% of all FHA borrowers either had no credit score or a score of 679 or lower. In addition, the overwhelming majority of FHA guaranteed loans are being made at 95% or greater loan-to-value. This means down payments are an afterthought. Under the FHA's Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP), loans are now even extended to underwater borrowers whose mortgages may be worth far more than their homes. As a result, the FHA could be exposed to enormous losses in the event of future housing market downturns. Such an outcome would be likely if mortgage interest rates were ever to rise even modestly from their current low levels.

In fact, losses on low-quality mortgages have already left the FHA with $16 billion in losses. To close the gap, it has had to raise the insurance premiums it charges to borrowers. With those premiums expected to rise again next month, many fear that marginal borrowers could be priced out of the market. But rather than learning from its mistakes, the government just announced that Fannie Mae would pick up the slack, lowering its lending standards to match the ones that had led to losses at the FHA. In other words, we haven't solved the problem of bad lending - we have simply made it bigger and nationalized it.