I came across this little piece about real estate economics over at CnnMoney.com and thought it worthy of passing along to other bloggers.
Per the article;
Myth #1: As long as job growth is strong, prices can't go down
The argument that prices can't fall in a good job market doesn't make economic sense: To be sure, a strong employment picture helps demand. But if far more houses are pouring onto the market than can be absorbed by households lured by the new jobs, and if the sellers are pressured to sell, prices will fall.
That's precisely what's happening now in good job markets such as San Diego and Northern Virginia. In this boom, prices soared to such extraordinary levels that builders kept churning out new homes, and owners of existing houses threw a record number of units on the market to cash out. The supply grew so fast that demand, even in strong job markets, simply couldn't keep up.
Myth #2: The builders learned their lesson in the last downturn. They won't swamp the market with new houses when the market turns
Builders are still pouring out near-record numbers of new homes as sales decline, assuring a further fall in prices. "Buyers" are walking away from deposits on houses that were supposedly pre-sold, forcing developers to throw them back on the market at a discount.
The problem is that even now, margins on new homes are still pretty good, though well below the levels of a year ago. As a result, builders will just keep building until those big margins evaporate. High prices are sewing the seeds of their own demise. They always do.
Myth #3: Low interest rates will keep values rising, or at the very least, put a floor under prices
What really matters for all assets, whether it's houses, stocks or bonds, is real interest rates - in other words, nominal rates after subtracting inflation. And real rates fell sharply starting in 2001. That caused a legitimate, one-time increase in housing prices.
The rub is that prices rose far more than could ever be justified by declining mortgage rates. That's where the bubble kicked in. Today's relatively low rates are not, and never were, a reason why prices would keep rising. Once real rates drop and stabilize, the impetus goes away - again, the gain is a one-time, not a recurring, phenomenon.
Today, real 10-year rates are still extremely low. They have nowhere to go but up. When the one-time gain of 2001-2004 reverses, housing prices could take a further hit.
By the way, a decline in rates due to a fall in inflation isn't the boom to real estate it's advertised to be. Sure, rates go down, but workers also receive lower raises. So the fall in rates turns out to be a wash. As for what matters - real rates - what goes down later goes up, and housing prices go in the other direction, namely south.
Myth #4: Restriction on development in the suburbs ensure low supply, and guarantee rising prices
This argument ignores that the tough zoning laws and anti-development fervor have been a feature of America's tony towns since the early 1970s. The "not in my town" phenomenon is nothing new.
Sure, it's still difficult to get new building permits in suburbs of New Jersey, New York, Washington, Seattle and San Francisco. But America's housing market is extremely fluid. People move farther from job centers, and commute longer hours, to get bargains where housing is plentiful. Then the jobs move to the areas with the cheap houses. People in their 50s and 60s cash out early in San Diego and buy a bigger house for half the money in Texas or South Carolina.
And the cities are just as enthusiastic about developing blighted areas with new, tax-paying high-rises as the suburbs are slamming the door. In the New York area, Brooklyn, Jersey City and Hoboken - and even Manhattan - are sprouting more new housing than in decades, despite a job market that's hardly robust.
A year ago, the reigning clich was that real estate had entered a new world of "no supply." Now, a record 3.85 million homes are up for sale, and buyers are getting scarce.