Thursday, June 30, 2005

CNN Newsnight: Aaron Brown Discusses the Housing Bubble

by Calculated Risk on 6/30/2005 11:37:00 PM

On Tuesday night, CNN's Newsnight with Aaron Brown had a segment on the housing bubble. Here are excerpts from the transcript:

BROWN: Back in the mid '90s, when we were all thinking of early retirement after our Internet stocks tacked on another 10 or 15 points, there were naysayers who said it wouldn't last, who said rationality always returns eventually, who said it was a bubble and a dangerous one at that. Oh, those naysayers.

By the way, are you counting on home equity to fund your retirement? Like the fact that your home doubled in the last decade or so? Feeling rich again? So is this deja vu with a mortgage? Here's CNN's Andy Serwer.


ANDY SERWER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Is there a housing bubble? It depends who you ask and where you ask.

DEAN BAKER, CTR FOR ECONOMIC POLICY RESEARCH: Well, there's absolutely a housing bubble. In the last seven or eight years, we've seen an unprecedented run-up in home prices nationwide.

SERWER: No question, certain markets are red hot. Since 2000, the price of a single family home has jumped 77 percent in New York City, 92 percent in Miami, and 105 percent in San Diego. And there are other signs besides just home prices, 86 books on real estate investing were published last year, nearly three times as many as 1998.

Speculators have added fuel to overheated markets. In Los Angeles, for example, the number of homes sold that have been owned for less than six months jumped 47 percent in a year.

Prices are so high in some areas that renting a home has become dirt cheap by comparison. In San Francisco, for example, rent on a median price house runs $1,532 a month. Owning the same house with a typical mortgage would cost $3,424 a month.

But not every market is on fire. Some experts say that bubbles are mostly in cities on the east and west coasts. If those bubbles were to burst, it would shock the entire economy. But some say prices won't collapse, they'll just ease up.

FRANK NOTHAFT, CHIEF ECONOMIST, FREDDIE MAC: As long as the local economy remains strong and there is good job creation, then we're not going to see a drop in home values.

SERWER: In cities such as Dallas or Salt Lake or Pittsburgh, prices haven't risen nearly so much. Radical differences in prices can make moving from a hot zone like LA to a colder one like Syracuse either a windfall or a slap in the face, depending on which way you're going.

So what does all this mean for the prospective buyer?

FRANK NOTHAFT: It's a very personal decision whether or not they should sell now and choose to rent. If you're happy with your home and you enjoy the home that you're in and the neighborhood you're in, there's no point to sell it right now and switch to renting.

SERWER: In other words, don't just buy a home because you think you'll make a ton of money on it in two years. And don't sell your home just because it's appreciated wildly either. Because in real estate, as in everything else in life, you can't count on getting a better deal down the road.

Andy Serwer, CNN, New York.


BROWN: Taking the global view for a moment, globalization being the rage these days, in 2004, housing prices in Spain and France went up even faster than they did here in the United States, 15 percent up for the year. Compared to 9 percent nationwide in the U.S.

But before you bet the farm, or the house, consider this. In Japan, house prices have dropped for the last 14 years. And they are now down 40 percent from their peak back in 1991. Here at home again, the median price of a house is $207,000. That means half the houses cost more, half the houses cost less.
There is more, but that was the most in-depth part of the discussion. Dean Baker didn't get much face time!

Any economic topic is difficult for TV News. No pictures. I can imagine the viewers reaching for the remote ... hmmm, any shark attacks today?