San Diego Real Estate Bubble not Yet Ready to Burst

By: John Harris

Michael Youngblood is a veteran analyst and the managing director of asset-backed securities research for Friedman Billings Ramsey & Co. in Arlington, Virginia. According to an interview he gave to BusinessWeek for its May 15th issue, the idea of a national bubble for residential real estate is fictitious. Since there is no national residential real estate market, there can be no national housing price bubble.
There are, however, residential real estate bubbles in 75 housing markets that he studies. Most exist either on the East or West Coast. San Diego residential real estate market is one of them. In a study he conducted in 2002, San Diego was one bubble city of several for which Youngblood was concerned, along with several other cities within the state of California and elsewhere. However, recent research has proven that the residential real estate markets within these California cities are more optimistic than previously projected and currently debated.
Youngblood assesses prices for the residential real estate markets in 379 metropolitan statistical areas, including San Diego.

Most residential real estate forecasters use reactive indicators to predict future market changes, such as inventory-to-sales ratios and number of months required to sell residential real estate. Youngblood believes such indicators do not predict market changes; they only react to market changes. He created his own economic model, based on two predictive indicators that actually drive the residential real estate market. They are growth in employment and growth in personal income, both of which affect a buyer's ability, desire and willingness to purchase a home and at what price. His findings are much more optimistic than other forecasters and show a much stronger residential real estate market than most other analysts suspect.
Youngblood predicts the greatest declines for the residential real estate market in states other than California. He sees both Bakersfield and Stockton showing the greatest gains in the state at 43 and 39 percent, respectively. The state of Florida also should expect substantial gains.
Though many forecasters believe that residential real estate prices are over-inflated in both California and Florida, these markets are driven by speculation that ignores underlying fundamental factors. Based on historical data, bubbles exist when median existing home prices are 6.8 times greater than the per capita personal income of a particular housing market.
According to Youngblood, bubbles may persist over long periods of time, as long as local economies are good. With a downturn in the local economy, there is typically a one-year lag before the downturn affects the residential real estate market. Even then, the market declines over a long period of time.
Given the gains Youngblood predicts in California, there should be no significant fall during 2006 for San Diego real estate prices. People should not necessarily fear buying or investing in this bubble market, though cautious and informed spending is always the smart path.

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