Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Comparing real estate cycles

Today's news form the housing front is rather grim. The Case-Schiller national index fell 3.2% in the second quarter versus the same year-ago period, the steepest drop in the index's 20 year history (write up here, PDF press release here).

What does the future hold? I don't have a formal forecast model, but I believe it's useful to compare the current cycle (with a peak in the second quarter of 2006) to the previous one (rising prices in the late 80's, reaching a peak in the 2nd Q 1990).

Comparing the periods before and after the peaks clearly shows that during this cycle prices rose much more steeply. Interestingly, after a moderate decline, prices moved laterally in the previous cycle before starting the definite uptrend began in 1994. I doubt that this will be the case now. The price curve shows every sign of taking a nasty parabolic shape.