"Pour Vivre ou Investir", seen in Toulouse.
This is an ad I see every day on my way to the office: “For Living or Investing”. They sell villas and apartments up to 4 rooms.
I have often defended the position that a house cannot be considered an investment. Recently I read yet another article at The Economist, in which they showed the latest graphic of the Case-Shiller index (below). I showed this graphic in a post last year. Now the prices have decreased some percentage points more. Most importantly, the curve and the article point that a further decrease will come. Down to the point where the prices stay stable along the last 130 years once inflation is adjusted.
Taking that into account, when I see that ad in the morning I can only smile and think of that other story which I included in another post about a message from the future describing how the housing craze continues to go on in Spain for decades… (extremely funny – in Spanish).
I have only one complain to the promoter of these houses in the ad: they are using land so close to the city to build houses for investing… if these houses are just meant for investing, and not necessarily for living, they could have built them under the sea and leave the land in Toulouse for living, public parks, roads, etc…
In a previous post I commented that in times of crisis it was much better to have your investment in real assets than in government bonds. I gave the typical examples given by Bestinver managers: real assets being portions of an enterprise (stocks), chairs, and pencils, even houses…
While this is true in order to make sure you keep the value of your assets through the crisis period, it is another story when we are talking about investing as in “To commit (money or capital) in order to gain a financial return”. Then I dare to say that buying a house is no investment. When buying a house there are not goods or services produced for others in the hope of a profitable sale; so if someone buys it in the hope of realising some profit that is pure speculation.
After having said this, I wanted to share two graphics from Case-Shiller Home Price Indices for American houses since 1890… In the first graphic you can see that after adjusting for inflation at the end of the 20th century, in absence of crisis and booms the value of a house was nearly the same than 100 years before, merely 10% higher. Why should it be higher if no goods/services are produced? Then you can see the boom that took place in the 2000’s up to mid 2006. That was pure greed and speculation.
Case-Shiller Home Price Indices for American houses, 1890-2006.
In the second graphic you may see the prediction made based on Case-Shiller Home Price Index. The prediction is pretty simple: there is no reason to forecast that homes prices have to stabilise at a higher point than the average of the past 120 years… other way to say that a home does not generate any value (still, it doesn’t destroy value either!).
Case-Shiller Home Price Indices for American houses, 1890-2009 and forecast.