Libertarian Jackass

"Life is short, but truth works far and lives long; let us speak truth." -- Schopenhauer

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

DEFINITIVE EVIDENCE OF A REAL ESTATE BOOM?

Rental income is stagnant. Housing prices have soared, rents have risen only modestly:
The ratio of prices to rents is a sort of price/earnings ratio for the housing market. Just as the price of a share should equal the discounted present value of future dividends, so the price of a house should reflect the future benefits of ownership, either as rental income for an investor or the rent saved by an owner-occupier. To bring the ratio of prices to rents back to equilibrium, either rents must rise sharply or prices must fall. Yet central banks cannot allow rents to surge as this would feed into inflation. Rents directly or indirectly account for 29% of America's consumer-price index, so rising inflation would force the Fed to raise interest rates more swiftly, which could trigger a fall in house prices. Alternatively, if rents continue to rise at their current annual pace of 2.5%, house prices would need to remain flat for over ten years to bring America's ratio of house prices to rents back to its long-term norm. There is a clear risk prices might fall.

...

Rent asunder

Take a two-bedroom flat in London, which you could buy for £450,000 ($865,000). To rent the same flat would currently cost £1,700 a month. In addition to a 6% mortgage rate, a buyer would face annual maintenance and insurance costs of, say, 1.25%. In the first year, the rent of £20,400 compares with total mortgage interest and maintenance payments of £33,000, a saving of £12,600. Interest payments would be less if a large deposit were paid, but in that case the income lost from not investing that money elsewhere has to be taken into account.

Assume that rents rise by 3% a year, in line with wages, while house prices from now on rise in line with inflation of 2%. At the end of seven years (the average time before the typical homeowner moves), you would be almost £35,000 better off renting, taking account of the capital appreciation and buying and selling costs. In other words, even without a fall in real house prices—which many believe to be likely—buying a house in Britain today seems a poor investment.
House review

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