Mar 25, 2008

Jeremy Grantham on housing prices being tied to median incomes

A: The other near certainty is that house prices will go back to a normal multiple of family income. In the end, we, the people, have to be able to afford the houses and they are affordable at something around 2.8 times family income. When they peak in Boston at 6 times and nationally at 3.9 times, you know you are in for tough times.

Incidentally, it was late in '06 when [Fed Chairman Benjamin] Bernanke said he thought the high prices of homes in the U.S. merely reflected a strong U.S. economy. Was he not looking at the data? Did he not measure long-term house prices? Had he not seen how they ebbed and flowed as a multiple of family income, which they do here and in the U.K. and everywhere else? And with it being so obviously a bubble, how could he have said that?

Q: Where else does this housing crisis lead us?

A: It has a lot to go. It still has to drop 20% to 25% to reach more normal levels, or if you prefer, it could wait five years for income to catch up, barring no big recessions.

~ Jeremy Grantham, "This Credit Crisis Has a Long Way to Run," Barron's, February 11, 2008

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