Monday, August 03, 2009

What's happening to houses?

Mish gives us a few interesting graphs on the US housing market and asks whether it's hit bottom yet. I did leave a comment but it disappeared, so here's the gist:

It looks as if most of the air has come out of the balloon - in the US. Houses doubled in 5 years, and in some cities have now halved again.

As the tide recedes, it uncovers evidence that the market is segmented - look for example at New York compared to the others. The "best" areas are holding up better, and I'll bet the best houses within those areas ditto.

I think this segmentation will continue to be important, because of growing inequalities of wealth. This has been going on over there since 1980, but also historically (as Fischer in "The Great Wave" points out) the rich get comparatively richer in times of crisis.

I also think that the not-the-best-but-better-than-average housing sector will enjoy support for some time, because I suspect that there are not a few people downshifting from the most sought-after areas. These will be aware that they could have got more if they'd sold in 2007 (when I was mooting a caravan to my dearest), but have still done okay and so will not haggle too hard to get that nice little place in the country, especially since many sellers are hanging on stubbornly, waiting for an upturn.

Here in the UK, we have much less land available for residential development, and nothing like the oversupply of housing that exists in the US, so quite possibly our house price bottom will not be so deep. Of course, if our government hadn't encouraged the (legal and illegal) import of masses of poor people who also need a roof over their heads, the picture might have been somewhat different.

In both countries, we still face long-term economic decline; lower real wages as we continue to lose our manufacturing sector, higher energy and food prices and so on. So I expect house prices to continue their decline in real terms over the next generation.

On average, that is. I think we can take the Blair's real estate coup in Connaught Square as not untypical of what will happen in the best end of the market. Speaking of whom, I note that Tony's practising the "sneer of cold command" these days. Pitiable, really.

1 comment:

James Higham said...

The oscillations will continue as long as the Fed and CBs control the currency. An Indian summer is coming but that was predicted anyway.