Are we in a housing bubble?

by | May 25, 2016 | Blog, Denver Real Estate Market

10427796_sRising prices. Buyers in a frenzy to find homes. Credit becoming easier to find. To many, this description of the Denver and national housing market, seems to indicate pending trouble. Our clients often ask us: Are we headed for a new housing bubble?

Rest assured, most experts are quick to dispel this fear. Market conditions today, they note, are far different from those prior to the 2008 housing crash and resulting Recession.

“[T]he suggestion of a new bubble is misplaced,” writes Lawrence Yun, chief economist and senior vice president of research at the National Association of Realtors, whose thoughts appeared in Forbes magazine.

Yun notes that three major points are often overlooked when the bubble discussion takes hold. “First, even though the credit conditions appear to be easing somewhat, the move is from overly stringent conditions to not-so overly stringent conditions. It is a far-fetched view to imply the current mortgage approval process in any way resembles the loosey-goosey, easy subprime mortgage access conditions of a decade ago.”

Credit scores necessary to gain a loan today are around 690-710, he notes, compared to 650-660 during the years preceding the Recession.

Second, while home prices are increasing 3-4 times as fast as the national average wage growth rate, historically low mortgage rates are helping homeowners compensate for this, allowing people to stay within their budgets even in the face of higher prices. “For someone making a 20% down payment, the monthly mortgage payment at today’s mortgage rates would take up 15% of a person’s gross income. During the bubble years, it was reaching 25% of income,” writes Yun.

Finally, while today’s low inventory is similar to the tight inventory during the “bubble years,” new home construction back then was far higher than it is now. During the four years leading up to the peak of the bubble, homebuilders constructed an average of 1.9 million homes per year, says Yun, compared to 950,000 in the last four years. In fact, far from a housing glut, “it is this lack of supply that is causing home prices to rise well above people’s income,” says Yun.

In short, while the current market certainly poses problems of its own—most notably a lack of affordable homes for many—homebuyers can rest easy that they aren’t buying at the top of a market poised to crash: Yun and many others assure us that market conditions do not add up to a new housing bubble.

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