"It's not a general trend yet, but that's how corrections begin with property: not suddenly but gradually," the economist Robert Shiller told Finanz und Wirtschaft. The US housing market is turning down.The number of US homes sold fell by 11% year-on-year to December, according to data from the National Association of Realtors. In Seattle 22% fewer houses were sold; in Los Angeles 20%.
This is some of the weakest data seen since house prices finally began to recover after the financial crisis shock in 2012. Shiller argues that is a reason for concern, especially given that the US housing boom, which began in 2012, has been the third strongest since 1890. Prices for existing homes, as opposed to new-builds, have gained nearly 55% in seven years.
House price gains are now slowing the most in large markets, "where... prices had overheated over the past three years," says Diana Olick on CNBC. The Case-Shiller National Home Price index (measuring average house prices in major metropolitan areas across the US) slowed from 5.3% year-on-year in October to 5.2% in November. In December, LA house prices grew by just 1%.
Subscribe to MoneyWeek
Subscribe to MoneyWeek today and get your first six magazine issues absolutely FREE
Demand has dropped
No wonder, then, says Richard Henderson in the Financial Times, that US homebuilders' confidence has slipped to a four-year low. The softening housing market and the slide in homebuilders' stock prices "could be a sign of big trouble ahead," says Henderson. The Dow Jones Home Construction index and sales volumes started to slide in 2005, before actual house prices began to weaken in 2006. A broader downturn followed 12 months later.
Don't expect another crisis
Marina has a PhD in globalisation and the media from the London School of Economics, where she worked as a teaching assistant on the MSc Global Media. In 2014 she was invited to be a visiting scholar at Columbia University's sociology department in New York.
She has written for the Economists’ Intelligent Life magazine, the Financial Times, the Times Literary Supplement, and Standpoint magazine in the UK; the New York Observer in the US; and die Bild and Frankfurter Rundschau in Germany. She is trilingual and lives in London. She writes features and is the markets editor at MoneyWeek..
SIPP holders to get cash warnings and be offered default funds
News Providers will be required to offer investors a default fund and must warn customers of the inflationary risk of cash savings the regulator has said. What the new rules mean for your retirement pot?
By Marc Shoffman Published
Zoopla: Asking price discounts hit a five-year high – is now the time to buy a property?
News Zoopla’s October House Price Index shows sellers are accepting discounts of 5.5% on average to secure a sale – we reveal where homeowners are taking the biggest asking price cuts
By Marc Shoffman Published