Housing market is just right

Orange County Divorce Attorney>Homebuyers have cause to be nervous: during the crisis of 2008 and 2009 prices fell by 60% in some places. Yet since then America has bounced back remarkably. Median property prices in the north-east are well above previous highs, having risen by 51% between 2009 and 2013. Prices in the Midwest and South pipped previous peaks in 2012. Only in the West are homes worth less now than in the bubbly mid-2000s. Yet prices there are rising fast: by over 11% in 2013. At that pace, they will beat past records by the end of this year according to The Economist.

Some worry about this rebound. Peter Wallison of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think-tank, warns that a new bubble is forming. Mr Wallison reckons rents are a good yardstick: house prices that rise in line with rents make sense, since both are a sign of high demand. But when house prices outstrip rents, as has been the case recently, buyers should worry. An analysis of 20 cities by The Economist shows that homes in Denver, Boston and Los Angeles all look over-priced.

There are already signs that the market is stalling. Data released by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) on April 22nd and 23rd reveal a bloodless market. Existing home sales were down for the seventh time in eight months, and are 7.5% lower than in March 2013. New-home sales were even worse, down 14.5% between February and March. Price rises are slowing: data released on April 22nd showed annual rises of 6.9%, down from over 8% a year ago. Prices in New England dropped a startling 2.5% in a single month.

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