Friday, October 28, 2005

Real Estate Bubble Ends?

I think it does. Yesterday I saw by the "for sale" sign in my townhouse cluster that they'd reduced the price on the house. Houses in the cluster have been selling for steadily climbing values since the millennium. Seems to me we started at about $100K, the most recent houses have been selling for $300+, and this house was priced for about $390K originally. It's in an area near the toll road in Reston--it's sort of on the fringe in an area with lots of townhouses and condos.

I've lived here for almost 30 years, buying back in a previous bubble in the 70's when land values and housing prices were taking off, before the crash that came with Reagan (a "crash" for ag land and office buildings, a leveling for houses). Back then the townhouses were good first homes, though there was a development of real small single family houses (like 800 sq. ft) that went for about $10K less. Over the years we've had problems with crime, lack of maintenance, renters, etc. (They seem to be over for the moment, although as people crowd multiple families into a single house and MS-13 becomes present, they may reemerge.) Prices took 25 years to double, which isn't a good return on investment, but now they've increased 200 percent more in 5 years.

It's sad--who can buy a house at $300K, much less the 900K for single family houses? It used to be a house was 2 1/2 times your gross. Today I think they're using a higher multiple, perhaps because basic living costs (food, etc.) take a smaller share of one's income. But still, a teacher who earns $50K has no hope. But with no kids I've only an academic interest in the health of the schools, but I've a greater interest in coffee. The local Safeway has big problems in hiring people for their Starbucks. Many of their clerks have worked there for a good while, so they're ensconced somewhere they can maybe afford. But Starbucks is new, takes a significant number of employees to staff, and the turnover has been tremendou. It's worrisome, because my coffee is essential to my health and sanity.

1 comment:

Rae Ann said...

Yeah, coffee is essential for me too! lol I think that different regions of the country are experiencing the real estate bubble differently. In some areas, perhaps like yours, the bubble has grown as much as it can, but here in Knoxville the bubble still seems to have plenty of growing room. Actually, though, I hope that the real estate market here doesn't expand too much too soon. Houses here are still pretty affordable for the average family.