Best of the Week
Most Popular
1.Scottish Independence YES Vote Panic - Scotland Committing Suicide and Terminating the UK? - Nadeem_Walayat
2.Independent Scotland Will Disintegrate as Unionist Regions Demand Referendum's to Rejoin UK - Nadeem_Walayat
3.Bank of England Panic! Scottish Independence Bank Run Already Underway! - Nadeem_Walayat
4.Gold and Silver Price Ready To Go BOOM - Austin_Galt
5.Gold and Silver Potential Price Meltdown Scenario - Rambus_Chartology
6.Scottish Independence UK Catastrophe - The Balkanisation of Britain - Video - Nadeem_Walayat
7.The Price Of Gold And The Art Of War Part I - Darryl_R_Schoon
8.Main Reason Why Scotland Will Vote NO to Independence, 70% Probability - Nadeem_Walayat
9.Heavy Gold and Silver Shorting is Bullish - Zeal_LLC
10.10 Year U.S. Treasury Short Best Place to be Remainder of 2014 - EconMatters
Last 5 days
Bitcoin Price Charts In-Depth Analysis - 19th Sept 14
Alibaba is Focused, Will Use Money in Emerging Areas - 19th Sept 14
Bird's Eye View of the Gold Stocks - 19th Sept 14
Scotland Independence Result NO Win 55% to Yes on 45% - 18th Sept 14
Silver Price: A Collapse and a Rally - 18th Sept 14
Here's Why Trendlines are Your New Trading Best Friend - 18th Sept 14
Silver Buyers Keep Stacking And Demand Higher Despite Falling Prices - 18th Sept 14
The "Hidden" Billions in the Alibaba IPO - 18th Sept 14
Russian Union Of Engineers Accuses Ukraine Airforce In MH17 Crash - 18th Sept 14
Monetary Policy Weighs on Gold and Silver - 18th Sept 14
Global Currencies Analysis...The World According to Chartology - 18th Sept 14
Gold Price Hammered by Strong U.S. Dollar - 18th Sept 14
Is Citigroup the Dumbest Bank Ever? - 18th Sept 14
Scotland Must Vote Yes! For All Of Us - 18th Sept 14
Scottish Independence Referendum Result NO 55%, YES 45% - Vote Forecast - 18th Sept 14
A Public Bank Option for and Independent Scotland - 17th Sept 14
The Charade of Independence for Scotland and UKIP - 17th Sept 14
Gold Report - U.S. National Debt Surges $1 Trillion In Just 12 Months - 17th Sept 14
How to Find Trading Opportunities in ANY Market Using Fibonacci Analysis - 17th Sept 14
Why Money Is Worse Than Debt - 17th Sept 14
Can Gold Price Finally Recover? - 17th Sept 14
Scotland Independence - Europe Holds Its Breath - 17th Sept 14
The Energy Prices at Risk with Scottish Independence - 17th Sept 14
Scottish Independence SNP Lies on NHS, Economy, Debt, Oil and Currency - 17th Sept 14
The Truth Behind the Dangerous "Helicopter Money" Delusion - 16th Sept 14
Central Bank Balance Bullying: Investor Implications - 16th Sept 14
U.S. Dollar and Gold Elliott Wave Projection - 16th Sept 14
The Origins and Implications of the Scottish Referendum - 16th Sept 14
The Collapse Of U.S. Silver Stocks As Public Debt Skyrockets - 16th Sept 14
Emerging Markets Are Set Up for a Crisis, What’s on Your Radar Screen? - 16th Sept 14
Scottish Independence Bank Run Already Underway - Video - 16th Sept 14
The Emergence of the US Petro-Dollar - 16th Sept 14
Economic GDP Drives Stock Prices Inestment Myth - 16th Sept 14
Don't Miss This Gold Buying Opportunity - 16th Sept 14
Why ECB QE Is Bearish For Gold Prices - 15th Sept 14
Property Rights and Property Taxes—and Countries That Don’t Have Them - 15th Sept 14
Junior Miners Breaking Out Higher Forecasting Gold and Silver Price Bottom? - 15th Sept 14
Stock Market Patiently Waiting for Mean Reversion - 15th Sept 14
A Closer Look at the US Dollar - 15th Sept 14
The Silver Price Sentiment Cycle - 15th Sept 14
Stock Market Correction Underway - 15th Sept 14
Marc Faber - “I Want To Be Diversified, I Want To Own Some Gold” - 15th Sept 14
The Myth of Nuclear Weapons - 15th Sept 14
US Dollar Forecast to Go Much Higher - 15th Sept 14
Analysis And Price Projection Of The Uranium Market - 15th Sept 14
Bank of England Panic! Scottish Independence Bank Run Already Underway! - 15th Sept 14
The Ethics of Entrepreneurship and Profit - 14th Sept 14
The Big Investor Opportunity in the Orbital Space Junkyard - 14th Sept 14
Kohl's and The Rest of The Retailers are in Deep Doo Doo - 14th Sept 14
Independent Scotland Will Disintegrate as Unionist Regions Demand Referendum's to Rejoin UK - 14th Sept 14

Free Instant Analysis

Free Instant Technical Analysis


Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

Huge Stocks Bear Market

Is a House Ever a Good Investment?

Housing-Market / US Housing Mar 08, 2012 - 03:16 AM GMT

By: Casey_Research

Housing-Market

Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleVedran Vuk, Casey Research writes: Recently, my parents were considering purchasing some real estate. As the financial professional in the family, they asked me, "What do you think? Will it go up in value? You know… not now, but eventually?" I've heard the same thing over and over again. In response, I shared my opinion: "Would you pay the current market price to live there even if its value never increased?" If the answer is yes, buy the property." Essentially, is the house worth it as a home, not as an investment?


In the past few decades, the concept of home ownership has been completely turned on its head. Previously, homes were considered a very long-term consumption good. Do you think anyone in the 18th, 19th, and prior centuries ever considered tripling the value of their homes by retirement time and selling them to move beachside? In the vast majority of cases, such ideas never crossed their minds.

Yet, somehow along the way, this became a reasonable investment expectation. Even today, home buyers still make their purchases with the hopes of escalating prices. But are homes really wise investments?

Consider the difference between your house and an investment such as Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) stock. At a major company, the opportunities can be truly limitless. Apple can produce cashflows from computers, iPods, iPads, and future innovations that are just dreams and concepts today. If the local market is oversaturated, Apple has the option of spreading out all across the world. As a result, Apple's stock price has gone from $17 in 2005 to $540 today. Can your house do the same? Unless there's a hyperinflation ahead or your house is located in the New York City or London of the 21st century, the answer is no. Why? Because your house is ultimately a product – and products have an upper bound to their prices.

To understand this difference, there's no need to drag out the Case-Shiller Index or analyze complex statistics. Suppose one bought a single-family house over a decade ago for $200K. At the peak of the housing bubble, the price reached $500K; to his joy, the owner sold it and moved thereafter to retire in Florida. Can the house's price go higher from here? With Apple, the stock price can just keep climbing with greater profits and innovations. But is that true with real estate?

For the sake of argument, let's say that prices do keep rising. Eventually, the second owner sells to another buyer for $1 million a decade later. Guy number two also peacefully retires in bounty. Well, where does that leave the third guy? Unless real salaries make an incredible jump in the same time period, no one will be able to afford the home next. The median US worker earning $51K won't be selling such a house for retirement; instead, it will take him until retirement to afford it. In many ways, this "investment" more closely resembles a Ponzi scheme. (Yes, Ponzi schemes work: for those who get in early and get out – as the recent real-estate bubble demonstrated.) Ultimately, there's an upper bound to housing prices – they can't continue rising perpetually with no end.

The same is true of any product. At $300 for the newest iPod Touch, Apple might be doing well, but at $10,000 per unit, there likely would be very few buyers. As a homeowner, you're not holding a company that can innovate, cut costs, and enter new markets. You're ultimately holding a product which must be either sold to the next user or leased to the next renter. Houses are a good created for a specific use – to put a roof over one's head. They are not magical money machines. Previous generations understood this very simple concept. One built a home as a place to live and escape the elements – and worse yet, the squalor of tenement housing. Homes were not retirement tools, but rather long-term goods.

Unfortunately, policy makers still view homes as investments and are always worried about low prices. But is it really healthy to play another round of the same Ponzi scheme? Suppose the Fed manages to inflate housing prices again. There will be another boom in which some folks will make a tremendous amount of money. Eventually, housing prices will hit an unrealistic upper bound. Again, home prices will violently drop, resulting in homeowners deeper underwater than now. Of course, the banks will again take a hit as the mortgage holders. As long as real incomes trail the rise in housing prices, there will ultimately be a correction of some sort.

So, do I think the current real estate market is just fine? No, of course not; but I don't think shocking houses prices back into a bubbly stratosphere is the solution. Ideally, I'd like to see increasing housing prices, but only at the pace of real growth in society's wealth. Over the last few decades, houses grew in value for good reasons and bad. On the good side, the economy had been expanding. On the bad side, the Fed's low-interest-rate bubble artificially inflated housing prices beyond what made sense for our economy to sustain.

If US companies such as Apple are creating greater abundance in society, it makes sense for housing prices to grow with greater wealth. But, bringing those prices higher on a wave of printed cash does not make us wise investors, but rather willing participants in a Ponzi scheme where someone else will be left holding the bag. Though that might be an attractive solution for those underwater on their mortgages, it's no solution for the economy as a whole – nor for the next buyer.

[Treating houses as investment vehicles – a strategy pushed by federal government policy – is one part of the complex conditions that have created the current American debt crisis. Start learning about it, so that you can be among those who not just survive, but thrive during the challenging times ahead.]

© 2012 Copyright Casey Research - All Rights Reserved

Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisors.


© 2005-2014 http://www.MarketOracle.co.uk - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


Post Comment

Only logged in users are allowed to post comments. Register/ Log in

Free Report - Financial Markets 2014