Real estate bubble

A real estate bubble or property bubble (or housing bubble for residential markets) is a type of economic bubble that occurs periodically in local or global real estate markets, and typically follow a land boom. A land boom is the rapid increase in the market price of real property such as housing until they reach unsustainable levels and then decline. This period, during the run up to the crash, is also known as froth. The questions of whether real estate bubbles can be identified and prevented, and whether they have broader macroeconomic significance, are answered differently by schools of economic thought, as detailed below.

As with all types of economic bubbles, disagreement exists over whether or not a real estate bubble can be identified or predicted, then perhaps prevented. Speculative bubbles are persistent, systematic and increasing deviations of actual prices from their fundamental values. Bubbles can often be hard to identify, even after the fact, due to difficulty in accurately estimating intrinsic values.

Within mainstream economics, it can be posed that real estate bubbles cannot be identified as they occur and cannot or should not be prevented, with government and central bank policy rather cleaning up after the bubble bursts.

The pre-dominating economic perspective is that increases in housing prices result in little or no wealth effect, namely it does not affect the consumption behavior of households not looking to sell. The house price becoming compensation for the higher implicit rent costs for owning. Increasing house prices can have a negative effect on consumption through increased rent inflation and a higher propensity to save given expected rent increase.

The price to income ratio is the basic affordability measure for housing in a given area. It is generally the ratio of median house prices to median familial disposable incomes, expressed as a percentage or as years of income. It is sometimes compiled separately for first-time buyers and termed attainability. This ratio, applied to individuals, is a basic component of mortgage lending decisions. According to a back-of-the-envelope calculation by Goldman Sachs, a comparison of median home prices to median household income suggests that U.S. housing in 2005 was overvalued by 10%. "However, this estimate is based on an average mortgage rate of about 6%, and we expect rates to rise", the firm's economics team wrote in a recen report. According to Goldman's figures, a one-percentage-point rise in mortgage rates would reduce the fair value of home prices by 8%.

The ownership ratio is the proportion of households who own their homes as opposed to renting. It tends to rise steadily with incomes. Also, governments often enact measures such as tax cuts or subsidized financing to encourage and facilitate home ownership. If a rise in ownership is not supported by a rise in incomes, it can mean either that buyers are taking advantage of low interest rates (which must eventually rise again as the economy heats up) or that home loans are awarded more liberally, to borrowers with poor credit. Therefore, a high ownership ratio combined with an increased rate of subprime lending may signal higher debt levels associated with bubbles.

By 2006, most areas of the world were thought to be in a bubble state, although this hypothesis, based upon the observation of similar patterns in real estate markets of a wide variety of countries, was subject to controversy. Such patterns include those of overvaluation and, by extension, excessive borrowing based on those overvaluations. The U.S. subprime mortgage crisis of 20072010, alongside its impacts and effects on economies in various nations, has implied that these trends might have some common characteristics.

 

 


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