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Housing market: Is it a bubble, or not?

(REAL ESTATE BIG DATA) There’s a lot of talk about whether or not the current housing market is a bubble. Let’s unpack both sides of the debate.

Woman and man in an argument determining if one was lying.

The housing market is crazy right now, with some attributing soaring prices to business as usual and others warning that those same prices are indicative of a bubble—one that, some fear, is close to bursting and triggering another recession. Whether you’re looking to buy or you’re simply window-shopping, here are some valid arguments for both sides of the issue.

A common argument for the existence of a housing bubble includes the issue of rising housing costs, with experts pointing to a strong upward trend in house prices as proof of an invariable crisis. On paper, this is an argument that makes sense since it mirrors the events leading up to the crash of 2006.

However, the reason the market crashed in 2006 has less to do with high prices and more to do with an abundance in risky loans and high interest rates—two things that don’t exist in today’s market. Adjustable rates are also virtually nonexistent for mortgages issued in 2021 (according to Bloomberg, only 0.1% of those mortgages allowed for interest adjustments) while around 60% of mortgages awarded in 2006 carried adjustable interest.

Bloomberg also points out that, between the aforementioned price hikes and common demand, most homeowners are situated to sell at a profit these days. This helps prevent the foreclosure issues evident in the crash of 2006.

Combine a high demand for homes and a relatively short supply of them (in comparison to decades past), and the market seems pretty tight for now—certainly not attributes one would expect leading up to a housing crisis.

But that isn’t to say that there isn’t cause for concern; there are a few reasons why the current housing environment could collapse.

Firstly, while it isn’t fair to compare current prices to their 2006 counterparts, it is fair to point out that the market will eventually hit a ceiling—something that often precedes a crash. Markets fluctuate all the time, but real estate tends to do so more slowly and over longer periods of time—and the market has been rising for long enough that a crash seems inevitable. It isn’t entirely out of the realm of feasibility to be worried about that.

Banks are also starting to invest in cryptocurrency, and, as the primary financiers of real estate endeavors, that could bode really poorly for people looking to get loans should the (very real) cryptocurrency bubble burst. Banks like Goldman Sachs have hired crypto investment specialists to avoid such a catastrophe, but the fact remains that cryptocurrency is still a wildcard—and, in a market that craves stability, that’s a problem.

On a different note, Finimize pointed out that JPMorgan reported an anticipatory drop in earnings from trading during the current quarter, which could also be an ill omen: If trading is slowing down, it could preempt another crash.

Frankly, this could go either way and nobody would be terribly surprised. While it does seem like the market is stable enough to prevent a catastrophe of 2006 proportions, you won’t catch anyone making fun of you for preparing for a drop in the near future.

Jack Lloyd has a BA in Creative Writing from Forest Grove's Pacific University; he spends his writing days using his degree to pursue semicolons, freelance writing and editing, oxford commas, and enough coffee to kill a bear. His infatuation with rain is matched only by his dry sense of humor.

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