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A history lesson

Posted by: Dean Foust on August 18, 2005

Another interesting report out today from Merrill Lynch’s crack economics team. North American economist David Rosenberg notes that thanks to the ongoing runup in housing prices, the affordability ratio for first-time buyers has deteriorated to levels last seen in the third quarter of 1989. Yes, interest rates are still low by historical stands, but prices for starter homes (which are up 14% in past year, notes Rosenberg) have outstripped first-time buyer incomes (up 4%) by an
unprecedented pace. And here’s where Rosenberg offers a history lesson, reminding up what happened in the third quarter of 1989…

Here, I quote from his report:

"...For those who need a history lesson on what happened in 1989Q3,
what happened was that the bids dried up the following year as existing home sales slid 10% and new home sales by 20%. Inventories surged as the backlog of unsold new homes rose from 7.1 months’ supply to 8.4 months’ a year later; the inventory backlog rose from 7.8 months to 9.6 months in the resale market. The median price of a new home fell 5.8% in the ensuing year while existing home prices essentially stagnated after rising 60% in the prior decade. Needless to say, consumer confidence sank and retail sales sputtered during that painful adjustment period, which by the way, also featured a sharp rise in energy prices and a Fed tightening cycle...."

Which suggests that anyone contemplating buying a house at this moment might want to think twice...

Reader Comments


June 14, 2006 6:26 PM

Looks familiar indeed. Funny how short the memory of humans can be at times.

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BusinessWeek editors Chris Palmeri, Prashant Gopal and Peter Coy chronicle the highs and lows of the housing and mortgage markets on their Hot Property blog. In print and online, the Hot Property team first wrote about the potential downside of lenders pushing riskier, "option ARM" mortgages and the rise in mortgage fraud back in 2005—well ahead of many other media outlets. In 2008, Hot Property bloggers finished #1 in a ranking of the world's top 100 "most powerful property people" by the British real estate website Global edge. Hot Property was named among the 25 most influential real estate blogs of 2007 by Inman News.

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