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Bubble Babble: Who's got it right?

July 7, 2004

Part 1: Making sense of a changing housing market

By Bradley Inman
Inman News

Editor's note: The housing bubble debate has grown louder in recent weeks. Rather than add to the mix of confusing stories that attempt to decide who's right and who's wrong, this four-part series takes a closer at look at the numbers, what's happening in specific markets and how the media is relaying the message.

Part 1: Making sense of a changing housing market and
Part 2: No agreement on real estate market
Part 3: Some real estate markets are cooling
Part 4: Media caught in real estate bubble fray

In the early 1990s during a real estate downturn, I was turning out newspaper column after newspaper column about the consequences of a depressed housing market in Southern California

One day, I received a note from a reader with a line I will never forget: "The worst thing about this market is Bradley Inman."

In the mind of this real estate agent, I was to blame for the downturn in the real estate cycle. I only wish I had such power. Or maybe she just did not want to read about what she was experiencing. I can understand that.

The recent talk of a changing real estate market prompted our writers and editors at Inman News to investigate how we might think about this differently. It is not another housing bubble analysis story; we've already done that (several times in fact). And lately the New York Times, CNN and Wall St. Journal and several good magazines and books have tried their hand at deciphering the question of whether there is a real estate bubble.

Tell us your opinion on the housing bubble debate.

Instead, we decided to look at three important parts of the debate in a series titled, "Bubble babble: Who's got it right?"

On Wednesday, "Part 2: No agreement on analyzing the real estate market," will attempt to reconcile two sets of numbers: bullish industry forecasts and the dire crash predictions by credible institutions like UCLA. Never has there been so much confusion over the future of the housing market. How can consumers and real estate professionals make sense of these clashing forecasts?

On Thursday, "Part 3: Pockets of real estate market are cooling," will go under the covers in several local communities and try to spot any hint or suggestion that markets may actually be turning. Some local housing markets are cooling, while others are booming. We tried to find out if some markets have a mess on their hands.

And on Friday in "Part 4: Media caught in real estate bubble fray," we'll talk to the media and see if they have any accountability in this trend. Are they ignoring the facts in what could turn into the biggest bust since the stock market crash of the late 1990s? Or, are they guilty of looking for trouble where there is none?

But let's start with some sobering facts. Housing markets do turn bad and this one has been hopping for a very, very long time.

Nationwide existing-home sales Year Sales (in millions)

1969 1.59
1978 3.98
1982 1.99
2004 6.80

Median home price

Year Price
1969 $21,000
1978 $48,700
1982 $67,800
2004 $183,600
Source: National Association of Realtors

Copyright: Inman News Features

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