Saturday, January 12, 2013

12/1/2013: House Prices Valuations via The Economist

An interesting table from The Economist (link) on house prices in select countries (H/T to @greentak ):

Note, obviously, Ireland. Not the bits on changes in prices, but the -1% under-valuation on rents side and -5% under-valuation on disposable income side. This is interesting because, in my opinion, the prices currently are in a 'bounce-along-the-bottom' pattern.

Here are some points of thought:

  • Usually, house prices over-correct, overshooting the longer-term equilibrium levels. This implies that if we are currently close to the bottoming-out of prices (I am not saying we are), then there is a fundamentals-driven upside of small proportion. 1-5% might be a reasonable range.
  • Another feature is the gap in 'under-valuation' between rents-implied and incomes-implied. We have no idea what disposable income The Economist has in mind (GNI? earnings? etc - and these are non-trivial), but we do know they have 'per person' metric. Per person of working age? or children counted in as well? Setting these and other issues aside, the gap between the two is, roughly, reflected in probably two main factors: supply of rentable accommodation relative to demand (which is keeping rents lower, relative to income) and distribution of income (with more potential renters in lower income brackets, while more existent homeowners in higher, implying that renters can't convert into purchasers, while feasible purchasers have no need to go into the market). In other words, the gap is very wide and is significant, in my view, of the tenuous nature of income-based price assessments.
  • The 1-5% undervaluation today, on the slope as steep (-49.4% since 2007) is highly unlikely to be the range of reasonable overshooting of the longer-term prices. In other words, if past experiences are a guide, Irish house prices can easily fall another 10% or more even if we consider the above table-listed drivers alone.
Now, as per arguments that these under-valuations are going to drive the market up, just look at Germany. According to The Economist, German house prices have an upside of 17% both on rental valuations and income valuations bases. Good luck, if you expect that to materialise. 

In short, I am not so sure the above table is meaningful in any sense. Nice to see that someone out there thinks Irish housing markets are undervalued, but I am still to be convinced that this is (a) real, and (b) likely to lead to sustained values increases. 

If you are keen to look at some interactive charts on the above data, go here.

And if you are keen on checking out one crazy property market... look here:

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