We'll never again see the sort of guaranteed high returns on real estate that defined the last 50 years, say experts. Time to retire the phrase "safe as houses"?
"There is no iron law that real estate must appreciate," says Zillow chief economist Stan Humphries, in a New York Times "eulogy" for the housing market. According to experts quoted in the piece, the post–World War II era of good times in residential real estate — when those who invested smartly were practically guaranteed enough wealth to retire and send their kids through college — is over, and may never return. Instead, they say, your home's value will just keep up with inflation. What now? (Watch a Fox Business discussion about the failing housing market)
Real estate's dead? Good riddance: The "thriving real estate industry" gave a boost to the U.S. economy, but its fall to earth will be even better, says Daniel Indiviglio in The Atlantic. If people no longer believe the "false promise" of easy real-estate wealth, maybe they'll invest in more productive assets, like stocks, bonds, and small businesses.
"Housing is no longer an attractive investment. Now what?"
If The Times says sell, buy: Not so fast, says Dan Bigman in Forbes. The front page of The Times is the "gold standard for conventional wisdom and lagging economic indicators." So if the newspaper is prominently making a "nationwide, generational bet" against housing, "maybe it's time to get greedy again" and start buying residential real estate.
"NYT sends buy signals on real estate and stocks"
There's no fast rule on real estate: Historically, housing has never been all that great an investment, with a century-long return of 1.1 percent above inflation, says Barry Ritholtz in The Big Picture. And while the big crash may be over, home prices are still overvalued by 5 to 15 percent. Still, buy if you're going to stay put for 10 years, or if you find a "unique" house in a beautiful place — "the kind that 10 years from now, you kick yourself for not buying."
The Week, Real Estate Truama, Opinion Brief, August 24, 2010