Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Unequal land value swings

kw: real estate, speculation

Triggered by ideas in a book I've been reading, I did a little digging around in Zillow (a great site if you've never used it). One of the charts that is usually available for any house is one like this one, that shows a ten-year history of approximate values for the house, its immediate area, and the town.

This chart is for a somewhat random house in Media, PA, an area I know rather well. The upper dashed line is the average price for the zip code, the solid line is for the house, and the greenish dotted line is for Media as a whole. This is an area not too much affected by the real estate crash of four years ago.

Another area I know pretty well is Moore, OK. This house has been sold twice in recent years, as shown by the green dots. Its value has been all over the map, more because of the weather than the recession: Moore has in recent years "hosted" two of the largest tornadoes in history.

The Zip code and the city are coterminous, so there is not a third chart line. I suspect that the averaged line is less realistic, and ought to have more gyrations, in keeping with this individual house's value estimates. I chose this house for its most recent Zestimate (Zillow estimate), to be near that of the house in Media, and I did the same for the following example.

The first two homes' value histories compare quite well to the chart for a random house in northern Phoenix, Arizona. This house, recently valued about $215,000, is down from a value that was twice as high five years ago. The lines for the Camelback neighborhoods and for Phoenix as a whole were more than twice as high five years ago.

This exemplifies the kind of bubble that accompanies an area with a policy of unrestrained growth. It is much more vulnerable to recessionary forces. Even in a recession, this neighborhood is pricey, primarily because the southern half of Phoenix is a "low rent district", with much, much lower home values. It is a classic "other side of the tracks" area. And the unrestrained growth? It is not a viable policy for the current economic situation. More on such things later.

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