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Danger ahead for housing?

Posted by Scott Van Voorhis October 7, 2013 09:46 AM

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Check out this Times piece by housing guru Robert Shiller.

The Yale economist and co-founder of the Case-Shiller index concludes we are not yet back in full bubble mode.

Yet Shiller sees some signs of trouble looming on the housing horizon.

I was struck by one simple number in Shiller's piece : Home prices, after being adjusted for inflation, shot up 18.4 percent during the 18 months ending in July.

That's not much off from the 22.7 percent increase during the 16 months leading up to the peak of the housing bubble back in 2004, Shiller notes.

Still, while homeowners show signs once again of losing touch with reality amid a spate of double-digit price increases, we are not quite back to the completely delusional thinking about home prices that prevailed when the last housing bubble peaked in 2004/2005, Shiller points out.

He points to a Case-Shiller survey of recent buyers across the country that was taken over the summer.

Schiller makes much of this difference, and who am I to argue with the one great one?

Still, I think it's odd to compare what homeowners are thinking now - very early in the current housing rebound - to the attitudes back in 2004 and 2005, which, after all, followed years of escalating prices.

Home prices had begun to take off again as far back as 2001 and 2002.

In fact, the buy-now-before-you-get-priced-out mania was already taking hold back in 2002, when my wife Karen and I bought our Natick fixer-upper. There was a big difference from when we started looking in early 2001, when there were OK options below $300,000, and when we bought in July 2002, when prices for anything decent were already well beyond that point.

By comparison, the current housing rebound, recovery, bubble-in-the-making, or whatever you want to call it, is still relatively young, barely a year-and-a-half old.

Let's just say it could be very interesting to see what home buyers and sellers and thinking are thinking a year or two down the line, especially if home prices continue on their double-digit tear.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
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Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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