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Friday, September 01, 2006

Seattle's Housing Barometer: Bubble

To find this story, I went from a post on the P-I RE Professionals blog, to an Inman blog post, to a Google News search, where I finally located a substantial story. I'll admit that I've never heard of John Burns Real Estate Consulting, and considering the relative lack of coverage of their most recent study, I'm assuming they're not exactly a big name in the industry. That being said, the study is at least worth mentioning. According to Mr. Burns' Housing Cycle Barometer™, Seattle is one of the top ten bubble markets in the country.

According to a just-released study by John Burns Real Estate Consulting, one of the preeminent researchers in the field, of the 100 largest metropolitan areas (based on annual permit activity):
  • 13 markets are below their historical median affordability level
  • 3 are exactly at their median
  • 84 are above the median.
Nine markets have even worse affordability levels than when mortgage rates were 18 percent+ in the early 1980s: New York, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland (Oregon), Baltimore, Edison (New Jersey), Nassau (New York) and Naples, Fla.

Burns' methodology compares current affordability in each market to historic affordability in the market to determine whether housing is more or less expensive in the market than in price downturns.
Excellent. But don't you worry your little head, because wages will catch up, our education will save us, and our job market is invincible. There's no bubble here... there can't be.

(Jason Knott, CEPro, 08.31.2006)
(John Burns, John Burns Real Estate Consulting, 08.31.2006)


matt said...

Wow! A study that looks at historic fundementals, how innovative?

This is the key, affordability. One has to ask, how can houses still be purchased yet affordability hovers ~15%? Well, exotic mortgages, that's how... Listen folks (and you too Meshugy), people earn wages, wages are used to afford things like shelter, food, transportation, and if we're a little lucky, investment oppurtunities. People live within their means because if they don't they usually declare bankruptcy, or in the old timey days, go to debtors prison or get thrown out on the street.

Its been that way since the U.S. Government invented income tax...PEOPLE MUST BE ABLE TO AFFORD HOUSES! If they can't? Then housing prices fall to where they're able to be purchased by the consumer.

I'm sure Tim's ran the numbers, but it'll take something like 15 years (someone, please correct me) for average wage growth to reach the historic median for home prices... Persoanlly I don't think the market can hold out long enough for wages to catch up when lending standards return to sanity... just my guess..

cosmos said...

Here's just one excerpt from Comstock Partners, Inc.'s 8/31/06 article "The Dangers Ahead":

"Even more alarming, Washington Mutual, a leading issuer of option ARMs, revealed that it had improperly calculated some customer debt/income ratios for 2004 and most of 2005. As a result, borrowers qualified for loans at lower interest rates than was justified by their personal financial situations. According to the company, the unpaid balance of borrowers who mistakenly qualified totaled $30 billion."

Take a look at their whole article, if you dare. In their view, and mine, what we are seeing in the market is just the beginning of a fairly drastic change, in the economy - and in housing.

Anonymous said...

Thankyou for tracking down this article Tim.

Any chance you could track down the great NAR data that shows Seattle as top 6 for ARM's?

It's a pretty graph that's included in the "Leadership Summit August 2006".

There are some very disturbing stats on Seattle that many people here just do not want to face.

My fear is more people will be hurt by this market than need to be.

If the regular media were responsible, this NAR graph would have been published by now in the local papers.

Somebody has to let the people know the facts.

Will you do it please?

Anonymous said...

"I'll admit that I've never heard of John Burns Real Estate Consulting...I'm assuming they're not exactly a big name in the industry."

With all due respect, I think you are getting slightly out of your league here, he's been consulting to the GIANTS for a couple decades. Also, its not "a study", its continually updated research based on relatively broad-brush MSA stats (WSU does some of the same things county-wise for the state).

Similar generic analysis can be found here -

Good starting point, but not micro enough.

bubblehead said...

If someone else used a similarly lame study to prove the there was no bubble here, you'd rip them to shreds. But you're happy to use anything if it confirms your own preconceived beliefs.