Friday, June 18, 2004

Harvard Study Should Boost Stock In Housing Market


by Broderick Perkins

Ken Browne initially balked at buying a second home investment property in Manhattan, concerned that a repeat of the 1980s downturn in Hartford, CT would put him in another overpriced market ready to go bust.

After input from real estate market experts and conceding "there is no crystal ball" he felt comfortable that market conditions are in his favor and decided to go for the deal.

One expert, Kathy Braddock a partner with residential real estate consultants Braddock+Purcell in New York thinks he made the right decision.

"History tells us that New York City real estate, if held long enough, has proven to be a great investment. Why? We are an Island. Quite simply, there is a limited amount of new building that can occur. Additionally, we are the financial capital of the world, even 911 did not affect the overall residential real estate momentum here," she said.

"New York City continues to attract more and more people who want to live and work in the most exciting city in the world. There will always be people who would rather buy than rent. America makes it very desirable for us to own property," Braddock added.

While local markets can rise and fall independent of the national trend, New York City may be a microcosm, generally, of today's national real estate market and Browne is typical of many buyers concerned about the past.

Both should find some comfort in the fact that today's housing market, spawned by the nation's longest economic expansion on record, isn't what it used to be. Going beyond just surviving the last recession, unlike the market of the 1980s, today's housing market remained robust throughout the downturn and emerged as an economic cornerstone generating a level of wealth and consumer expenditures sufficient to help lead the nation out of recession.

Given it's recent track record, it's difficult not to bank on housing.

Further deflating bubble market forecasts, a major annual academic study says the housing industry is poised for yet more growth -- 10 more years worth, at least.

Citing greater roles among women, minorities and immigrants, Harvard's Joint Center For Housing Studies' "2004 State of the Nation's Housing Report" says, while fast appreciating home rates have made it more difficult for some to buy, shifting demographics will increase the pressure on the low-end starter home and rental markets as well as move-up and second home markets.

The study is hot on the heels of a similar 10-year forecast offered by Homeownership Alliance, an association of 18 national housing organizations.

From the independent, academic Joint Center come new projections that suggest household growth between 2005 and 2015 will be at least 10 percent higher than previously projected -- bringing the total increase to more than 13 million households.

"As strong as housing construction has been in the recent past, demographic factors will propel housing production even higher over the next 10 years," says explains Eric Belsky, executive director of the Joint Center.

"Given higher household formations, demand for second homes, and replacement of units lost from the stock, production should reach at least 18.5 million and could top 19.5 million if immigration remains at current levels," he added.

Important to repelling bubble market arguments is the fact that even with fast appreciating home prices, incomes have kept pace as low interest rates helped stretch household dollars.

All the news isn't all good. Affordability issues haven't waned and rising interest rates could make matters worse.

"The run-up in home prices, however, is contributing to housing affordability pressures and fueling concerns that at least some markets may be overheated. While two-thirds of Americans are well-housed, the remaining third have significant housing problems and many struggle to meet other basic needs while still managing to keep a roof over their heads," said Joint Center director Nicolas P. Retsinas.

Published: June 18, 2004

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