Prior to 2007-2008 most of the American public and most mortgage lenders believed, and often would state in conversation, “real estate never goes down!” Since that time frame buyers and sellers have gone to the other extreme and now the common wisdom is “real estate will never go back up.”
Well never is a long time. Both perspectives are wrong.
For the last several years we have been pummeled for a seemingly continuous stream of negative events: tidal wave and earthquake in Japan, un-employment over 10%, European Debit crisis looms as Greece nears default on its debt, (The last one just kills me: the entire GDP of Greece in 2010 – $310 Billion +/- – is approximately the same as the State of Maryland in 2010 – $300 Billion +/-. Do we actually believe if the State of Maryland defaulted there would be a worldwide financial crisis?), and each of the events has run a shock wave through people’s emotions which does affect their willingness to make the long term commitment to home ownership. It’s not reality! Fear sells newspapers, magazines and broadcasts. Fear does not ever produce the best results or good decisions.
Truth be told, the down turn in housing started in the third quarter of 2005. In June of 2005 the Fed bumped rates up in order to stimulate “a soft landing in housing” the curves between housing units sold and housing prices began to diverge at that point with house prices continuing to increase for another two years, while units of sales began to decline at an ever increasing rate. By the time the reality hit it was already too late. That being said, let’s look at the sunnier side of the situation. All of this is clearly tracked by something called the Housing Affordability Index published by the National Association of REALTORS.
The Housing Affordability Index has two basic components: average mortgage rates and average house prices which is then compared to the average household income. The higher the number, the easier it is for people to buy homes, and the lower the number, the harder it is for people to own homes. The number is designed to indicate how affordable the median home is to the median income family in the United States. An index of 100 means that the median income household has exactly enough income to afford the median income home; when the index is greater than 100 then the median household has more than they need to purchase the median home and when it’s below 100 then they don’t have enough. (When I started selling homes in Pasadena, Maryland in 1982, the Housing Affordability Index was well below 100 due to very high interest rates, in the 13-15% range). Today due to all the price declines and interest rates being at historic lows, the Housing Affordability Index has soared to a record high number well over 100.
So what’s the point? The point is that a balanced perspective and a positive outlook on life are the key to making good decisions in housing as well as in other areas of ones life. Scientific studies have shown, (See Dr. David Lykken’s work), that your happiness set point is about 50% genetic and the rest is up to you. There can be little or no doubt that the homes that are being purchased today at historically low interest rates and the lowest prices in a decade or more will fuel the American economic powerhouse in a few years – so be positive, keep your perspective and never say “never”.
By Dick Thackston CRB, ABR, ABRM
Broker NH, MA & VT