Real Estate Prices Finally Leveling Off

Markets correct themselves over time. After periods in which too much supply was dumped on the market, depressed prices lead to an increase in demand. This has been reflected from the fact that foreign buyers are buying properties with cash in the most distressed markets. And population growth has help absorb the excess inventory. Real estate is now in line with historical prices in many localities. This will help create a bottom in the market going forward.

In most US markets, the excess inventory has slowly been getting soaked up over the last five years. If you were a homeowner during this span, you realize how painful it has been. On a more positive note, buying a home is very affordable. In the most distressed areas, it’s considerably cheaper than renting. This situation usually only occurs in distressed markets and the opportunity will not last forever.

This good news does not imply that housing will immediately rebound and prices will start going up. They likely will go up in price over a long period of time. And real estate is a good long term inflation hedge. However, we are still in a period of deleveraging. This means that many consumers have too much debt and are slowly paying it down. This will be a drag on our economy for a while yet. Deleveraging is a process that takes years to complete. Deleveraging is the main reason why it takes such a long time to recover from a major financial crisis.

The one thing that can speed up the deleveraging process is liquidation. Bankruptcies and foreclosures can clean up a person’s balance sheet quickly. Obviously, there is a huge drawback to this. If too many people liquidate at the same time, bankers and creditors will also suffer and perhaps go bankrupt. This creates a downward spiral and leads to financial crises and panics. Although liquidation gets us through the debt problems more quickly, the pain is much sharper.

Record low interest rates make buying a home a great bargain for new homeowners. This is a big part of why buying is so much cheaper than renting in many markets. Low interest rates aren’t likely to last forever. They could be around for a while as it’s impossible to predict when they will rise. The Federal Reserve has announced that they will keep interest rates low through 2014. When inflation inevitably rises, they will have no choice but to raise them. Inflation will likely rise once we get to the end of the deleveraging cycle.

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