Why Housing Has Stalled — And Why Everything Else Will Follow

by John Rubino on April 27, 2014 · 9 comments
It’s not easy being a mainstream economist. You spend your life building models that become your professional identity. And when those models fail to describe and predict reality, you’re left wondering about the meaning of it all.

The latest case in point is US housing. Keynesian economic models say that if you lower mortgage rates you get more houses bought, sold and built. A nice, simple piece of cause and effect. But today’s mortgage rates are at levels that would have incited a buying frenzy a generation ago, employment is rising — and home sales, home building and mortgage originations are all flat-lining.

Zero Hedge and Automatic Earth recently posted good discussions of the current state of the housing market. See:

Economists Stunned By Housing Fade

US Housing Is Down For The Count

Both articles conclude that housing is weak and getting weaker. But the real question is what this means for the rest of the economy. Is housing a discrete sector dealing with its own supply/demand issues, or is it a sign of things to come for consumer spending, government tax revenues, and business investment?

The argument for the latter scenario is based on the idea that newly-created currency pouring into the financial system pumps up asset prices, which convinces people that they’re rich enough to indulge in new cars, new clothes and nice vacations — and more stocks, bonds and houses.

But this “wealth effect” only works when the amount of debt in the system is low enough for new paper profits to change behavior. If people already carry too much debt, then they don’t feel comfortable borrowing even at historically low interest rates, and inflated asset prices become harder and harder to support. Either they stall or start moving lower, which shifts the wealth effect into reverse and sucks the air out of the economy.

The Rest Of The Story Here

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Peter Janisch specializes in short sales in Short Sale Realtor. I am your Short Sale Realtor Short Sale Specialist Realtor and Short Sale Realtor loan modification and distressed property expert. This article and content is for general informational purposes and may not be accurate. This should not be taken as legal advice, technical or tax advice under any circumstance. Seek legal advise and representation in all legal matters.