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Cornell Real Estate Review

Abstract

[Excerpt] At the risk of heaping more misery on the struggling residential property market, an analysis of home price and ownership data for period of the last 30 years in California - the golden state with notoriously golden property prices – shows that the average single family house has not been a particularly stellar investment. Over that period, a typical homebuyer would have been wise to learn a thing or two about disciplined investing, and would have been better advised to consider putting his or her money elsewhere if the goals were to build net worth and financial security. The popular misconception that houses are always great investments has wider economic implications as well, as our society becomes increasingly concerned with providing generally for retirement security and housing affordability. Excessive public policy emphasis on owneroccupied housing for social objectives, and reliance on homebuilding as a provider of short-term economic stimulus, may also cause capital to be diverted from more productive investments, and misallocate increasingly scarce public resources. Even if the recent crash is ignored, a house, despite our government’s herculean efforts to give all of us a chance to buy one, may not have been the greatest place to put one’s hard earned money.

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