Fortune Magazine & The Wall Street Journal: Time to Get Back Into Real Estate

Ok, I know many of us have been saying this for some time now, but when the news media starts saying it – well, I guess that makes people stand up and take notice. A number of recent articles in the national press are now saying that it might be the right time for consumers, who have largely been on the sidelines, to jump back into the housing market.

I understand why potential buyers, whether first-timers or move-up buyers, remain cautious given all the economic headwinds and bad news out there. Economic growth has been slow, the jobless rate too high, and don’t even get me started about the politics in Washington, the euro-zone debt problems and the challenges facing Greece.

But I often urge buyers to examine what I like to call your “personal economy.” That is, if you have a steady job, reasonable credit, and enough savings for a solid down payment, you might want to take a deep breath and think about taking the leap into the housing market while prices and interest rates are so low.

Read what two of the nation’s top business publications, Fortune magazine and The Wall Street Journal, are telling their readers:
“Forget stocks. Don’t bet on gold. After four years of plunging home prices, the most attractive asset class in America is housing.”
“Real estate: It’s time to buy again,” Fortune Magazine article by Shawn Tully.

“Two key measures now suggest it’s an excellent time to buy a house, either to live in for the long term or for investment income.”
“It’s Time to Buy that House,” The Wall Street Journal article by Jack Hough.

Tully in the Fortune piece interviewed Mike Castleman, founder and CEO of Metrostudy, who has spent more than 30 years tracking data on the inventory of new homes in the United States. Each quarter, inspectors go through 45,000 subdivisions from California to Maryland. According to Fortune, inspectors examine 5 million lots and record whether they contain a house under construction or completed.

What has Castleman observed? The glut of new homes that the U.S. had a few years ago at the peak of the market has rapidly disappeared. Instead, he told Tully that he has seen a rapidly declining inventory that could force prices higher. In the 41 cities Metrostudy looked at, there are just 78,000 houses vacant and for sale, or under construction – less than a quarter of the 343,000 units at the height of the market in 2006 and less than the total a decade ago.

“The talking heads who are down on real estate will hate to hear this, but America needs to build a lot more houses,” Fortune quoted Castleman as saying. “And in most markets the price of new homes is fixin’ to rise, not fall.”

Metrostudy collects figures on the number of homes that are vacant and for sale in each city, and the number of months it takes to sell all them to determine whether individual markets have a surplus or a shortage of homes. “If we had anything like normal levels of buying, those houses would sell in 2½ months,” Castleman told Fortune. “We’d see an incredible shortage. And that’s where we’re heading.”

Fortune says that consumers may be confused by conflicting news reports on the housing market, and that could be impacting their confidence in buying a home. On one hand, housing affordability has never been better. But on the other hand, they continue to see housing starts falling and home prices still heading down in some markets.

Thanks to Chris Mygatt, President & COO for Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage Colorado, for allowing me to republish this article.