Bad Housing Market News: The Surprise that Surprises

House prices have stayed even with the overall inflation rate from 1950-1995. Since 1995 they have risen by more than 50 percent in real terms. There has been no remotely comparable increase in rents. As a result, home building has been hugely outpacing the rate of household formation and vacancy rates are at record levels. Given this information, economists should see a bubble in the housing market and expect prices to plummet. Instead, when they see bad news on sales, they are surprised.

The news should be, "why are economists surprised by the collapse of a housing bubble?" Of course, the news five years ago should have been "why are economists surprised by the collapse of a stock bubble?" Unfortunately, the media never wrote that story five years ago, and they seem determined not to write the story about surprised economists this time either.

--Dean Baker

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