Every year at about this date I get a card from my insurance agent wishing me a happy birthday. It would be a nice personal touch if the computer-generated card didn’t leave off the r in Christopher, giving my first name a European flair completely absent from me in real life. The card always contains some trivia from the year of my birth—minishirts and the Ford Mustang debuted in 1965! One of the most interesting parts of the card is a price comparison of key items from then and now. A gallon of milk has gone up threefold in the past forty-one years (from $1.06 to $2.98), a loaf bread six times (21 cents to $1.20). You may curse the U.S. Postal Service and the oil companies every time you fill up your tank or have to deal with a new postage stamp increase, but they’ve gone up in price only seven (for the stamp) and ten times (for gasoline). Even the price of that new Ford has gone up only eight times, from $3,500 to $28,000 over the years. The big winner when it comes to price increases? The three-bedroom home. It’s gone from $16,000 to $220,000 over the past four decades. That’s a nearly 14-fold increase, and one that blows away the increase in population (50% to 300 million) and average personal income (a six-fold increase from $7,000 a year to $44,800). Read into those numbers what you will. In the mean time, Happy birthday Homeowners! You’ve made the best investment you could make over the past forty-one years, at least according to my insurance agent.
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.