So what happens when prices fall?

I received an email from a concerned reader last night. The concerned reader wanted to take the time to let me to know that I am entirely wrong, that residential real estate values never go down over the long term, that real estate is and always has been a ‘good investment’. He concluded by telling me that I’m basically just trying to scare off people.

He was partly right. I am trying to scare people, more accurately I’m trying to scare some sense into potential buyers. Consumers are getting a biased message from the media and from real estate professionals. Real estate professionals have a vested interest in keeping the market going strong. The more prices go up, the higher their commision checks get. I, however, have no vested interest in the market, I am standing on the sidelines as an unbiased observer. If I come off as sounding doom-and-gloomy, it’s only because that is what I honestly believe.

So back to me being entirely wrong, and prices never declining. Sorry everyone, I wish it could be that way, but it’s not. Not so long ago a bubble did burst, and real estate values plummetted, and they still haven’t recovered. Where? Japan. When? Late 80’s How Bad? >50% Did Prices Recover Yet? No, not even close….

To help tell my story, I’m going to ask that readers open the following link to an article by Standard and Poor’s Global Fixed Income Research Group, it was just published and contains some good information on the Japan Real Estate Crash. It’s not the only source, you can find quite a bit of information on the Japan Crash through Google or any other search engine.

Go ahead and read through until you get to the chart on Page 2, you’ll know when you find it, if not, it’s the one that looks something like Mount Everest.

Well, there is it, what else can I say? Residential land prices fell over 50% over a 6 year period, and then proceeded to slowly drop and stagnate for some 10 years more. Only recently (and with some fanfare) have prices “blipped” upward, ever so slightly.

So sit, think about this for a while. Look at that asking price again, but this time, cut it in half. Wow, that’s alot of money to lose, a significant risk. I certainly wouldn’t want to be paying a mortgage for a home that isn’t worth half what I paid.

I know, I know, everyone is still saying it can’t happen, it just can’t, not here because “things are different here.” I’ll stand on my soap box and yell out that it can, it did in the past, and it is happening here right now. We’re not so different.

Take some time to research what happened in Japan, and what the experts (those who have no vested interest in the real estate market) are saying about our bubble. Think hard, really think hard about being the greater fool that buys into this market.

Caveat Emptor,

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16 Responses to So what happens when prices fall?

  1. NJGal says:

    I feel like people who say it always appreciates are the ones that say, “But look! This house cost 60Gs in 1977 – now it’s worth 1 million!” Um, ok, so on the surface the numbers are higher, but they completely ignore the fact that in 1977, 20Gs a year was a great salary, among other things.

    Haven’t there been articles and studies on appreciation that count inflation and what not? I could have sworn I’ve read them.

    Wondering if the person who sent you and email was a realtor or recent homeowner…

  2. Don’r forget the last time NJ prices dropped in the late 80″s early 90″s, and than stayed flat for years.

  3. Anonymous says:

    If you call it a bubble the assumption is that it will burst….

    you hear so much about the housing bubble and it seems as if everyone is predicting it. Coming off the internet bubble which few people predicted (and if they did no one heard them) there seems to be a mad rush to be the one who predicted the housing bubble burst.
    For a prosepective 1st time home buyer this is welcome news. But, as prices keep rising it becomes a risk. Get in earlier before prices go even higher OR wait on the sidelines hoping for a bubble burst.
    A bubble burst is less likely than a flat spot as PascackValley said. Unlike the internet bubble even over inflated real estate in a good location is still of significant value. Think correction instead of bottom dropping out of the market.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I disagree with you about the internet. Many were warning of internet bubble as now many are warning about housing bubble.

    Don’t listen to soemone with a vested interest when buying a home. They are not to be trusted.

    Like the friend that bought a house in 1993. The realtor told him she would not accept his bid. The house was asking $129k and he bid $95k. He told her either put it in or bye bye. She put it in and he got the house 2 weeks later for $105k. Goes to show you you can’t trust industry commissioned people.
    Also had a friend who bought a condo in 1988 cuz he had to get in before they kept going up. $120k was the price ended up selling 4 years later at $85k.
    Condo prices fell 50% in last housing bubble and many houses fell 25%+ (1992-1995)
    it’s your money and you will be the one stuck with it if you overpay. Just bid less. Prices are really out of wack now.
    This coming from seasoned participant who cleaned up in last housing bubble in early 1990’s buying low not rushing in and selling most except primary recently at hefty profits cuz prices are not rational.

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