Shiller on housing bubbles

Yale economist Robert Shiller worries that a housing bubble could form in the USA, creating conditions for another financial crisis.

There is still no consensus on why the last housing boom and bust happened. That is troubling, because that violent housing cycle helped to produce the Great Recession and financial crisis of 2007 to 2009. We need to understand it all if we are going to be able to avoid ordeals like that in the future.

But the explanations for what happened in housing are not, I think, to be found in the conventional data favored by economists but rather in sociologically important narratives — like tales of getting rich through “flipping” houses …. ….

By now, the notion of getting rich by flipping houses is entrenched. I searched Amazon for books on “flipping houses” and came up with 325 hits, most written in the past few years. …. [M]any of these books make extravagant pitches and seem aimed at inspiring amateurs to plunge into risky ventures.

The public fascination with speculating in housing has been held in check by regulators empowered by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, but that restraint is tenuous with the election as president of a real estate promoter intent on reducing regulators’ power. These narratives are still potent and could easily spur further spirals in the housing market.

Robert J. Shiller, “Economic View: How Tales of ‘Flippers’ Led to a Housing Bubble“, New York Times, 21 May 2017 (gated paywall).


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