A Housing Collapse Again**
A particularly notable asset price inflation is, once again, that in the price of houses, which are the biggest investment most households have and are the mortgage collateral for the biggest loan market in the world. House prices are now rising in the U.S. at the unsustainable rate of more than 18% a year, but this is also global problem. Many countries, about 20 by one reckoning, face extreme house price inflation. Said one financial commentator, “This is now a global property bubble of epic proportions, never before seen by man or beast, and it has entrapped more central banks than just the Fed.”
House prices depend on high leverage and are, as is well known, very interest rate sensitive. What would an actual market-determined mortgage rate look like, instead of the Federal Reserve-manipulated 3% mortgage rate the U.S. has now? A reasonable estimate would begin with a 3% general inflation, and therefore a 4.5% 10-year Treasury note. The long-term mortgage rate would be 1.5% over that, or 6%. That would more or less double the monthly payment for the same-sized mortgage, house prices would fall steeply, and our world record house price bubble implode. Faced with that possibility, so far the Federal Reserve’s choice has been to keep pumping up the bubble.
Overpriced, leveraged real estate is a frequent culprit in financial crises. Maybe once again.