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Peter Hall

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Is a Housing Recovery Possible Without Job Growth?

Posted: 12/04/2012 9:27 am

Housing markets are on a tear south of the border. Against expectations, US housing starts surged to 894,000 units in October, up 42 per cent over last year's number. Some believe this is the real thing, the leading edge of a true and sustainable recovery. Others aren't persuaded, convinced that this is just another flash in the pan. Their reasoning? No jobs, no housing recovery. Are they right?

The logic is compelling. US job growth has been painfully slow, leaving unemployment dangerously high and US consumers unusually gloomy. Small wonder many pundits dismiss the current jump in housing activity as a blip. Who in their right mind would buy a house in a depressed job market?

If their logic is right, then the true housing recovery is a long way off. Employment is well known as a lagging indicator -- when broader economic activity picks up, job growth follows, months later. It makes sense -- following a recession, businesses are understandably reticent to hire. They want to be convinced that the recovery is real. They'll wait it out until they are getting the most out of their current workers, and then hire when they can no longer keep up with orders. Conditions aren't yet that tight in the US, so to date, the economy hasn't seen recovery-style hiring activity.

But there's a key problem with the logic. Housing starts are one of the best-known and reliable leading indicators of economic activity. Homes are built, and when completed, they fill up with large appliances, furnishings and other finishing touches. This late-stage activity is a much bigger part of GDP, spurring broader momentum that in turn creates pressures that ultimately kick up job creation.

Here's the dilemma: if jobs aren't the answer, then what gets the housing market going? Here's how it works: new households, in fact about 1.4 million, are being created every year in the US, and each one needs a new home. Some of these folks are employed, and some households have more than one income. But even these have been reluctant to buy their first home in the last few years. Why? Prices have been sinking since 2005, and no one is keen on seeing their hard-earned down-payment evaporate. These folks are sitting on the sidelines -- staying with mom and dad, renting basement apartments, co-renting with friends -- anything that helps them ride out the price plunge.

When do they jump in? When prices reverse course. As soon as prices start to climb, these folks on the sidelines begin to worry about missing out on the best time to buy. They rush in to the market at that point, and this is what kicks off the boom. What's exciting about the present is that prices have now been rising across the lower 48 all year, and are now up 11 per cent over last year's levels.

What also matters is balance. Huge housing excesses built up prior to the recession, by our count, about eight million units. Since the second quarter of 2010, that number has steadily fallen, and is now well below two million units. By our estimation, the market is now close to balance, a signal that the current rise in starts is only the beginning. The market could sustain two more years of 30 per cent increases, and only just be at the basic level of demand for new dwellings in the US market.

The bottom line? A job surge is not a prerequisite for a US housing boom. But the housing boom now underway is likely to end up creating jobs that will sustain the boom for years to come.

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  • Newfoundland: $2.5 Million

    This surprisingly modest house at 34 Battery Road in St. John's is a historic property dating back to the 1870s. The six-bedroom, 3,500-square-foot house overlooks St. John's Harbour and suggests that, on the Rock, even the wealthy are down-to-earth. Source: <a href="http://remax.nf.ca/">Re/Max</a>

  • Newfoundland: $2.5 Million

    This surprisingly modest house at 34 Battery Road in St. John's is a historic property dating back to the 1870s. The six-bedroom, 3,500-square-foot house overlooks St. John's Harbour and suggests that, on the Rock, even the wealthy are down-to-earth. Source: <a href="http://remax.nf.ca/">Re/Max</a>

  • Newfoundland: $2.5 Million

    This surprisingly modest house at 34 Battery Road in St. John's is a historic property dating back to the 1870s. The six-bedroom, 3,500-square-foot house overlooks St. John's Harbour and suggests that, on the Rock, even the wealthy are down-to-earth. Source: <a href="http://remax.nf.ca/">Re/Max</a>

  • Prince Edward Island: $6.9 Million

    If Anne of Green Gables were around today sh'ed probably want to switch up her seven-gabled house for this 13,000-square-foot home that overlooks the red-earth bluffs of P.E.I.'s north coast. Six bedrooms and nine bathrooms feature in this house that sits on 11 acres of land. Source: <a href="http://www.century21pei.com/">Century 21 Northumberland</a>

  • Prince Edward Island: $6.9 Million

    If Anne of Green Gables were around today sh'ed probably want to switch up her seven-gabled house for this 13,000-square-foot home that overlooks the red-earth bluffs of P.E.I.'s north coast. Six bedrooms and nine bathrooms feature in this house that sits on 11 acres of land. Source: <a href="http://www.century21pei.com/">Century 21 Northumberland</a>

  • Prince Edward Island: $6.9 Million

    If Anne of Green Gables were around today sh'ed probably want to switch up her seven-gabled house for this 13,000-square-foot home that overlooks the red-earth bluffs of P.E.I.'s north coast. Six bedrooms and nine bathrooms feature in this house that sits on 11 acres of land. Source: <a href="http://www.century21pei.com/">Century 21 Northumberland</a>

  • Prince Edward Island: $6.9 Million

    If Anne of Green Gables were around today sh'ed probably want to switch up her seven-gabled house for this 13,000-square-foot home that overlooks the red-earth bluffs of P.E.I.'s north coast. Six bedrooms and nine bathrooms feature in this house that sits on 11 acres of land. Source: <a href="http://www.century21pei.com/">Century 21 Northumberland</a>

  • New Brunswick: $2.5 Million

    You can really get some space for your money in New Brunswick. This 20-bedroom, 11-bathroom resort in Alma, N.B. — composed of three buildings including a chalet — sits on no fewer than 450 acres of land, next to Fundy National Park. There is a 40-acre man-made lake on the property, as well as four islands, picnic areas, row boats, paddle boats, tennis courts amd two garages. Source: <a href="http://www.monctonroyallepage.ca/">Royal LePage Moncton</a>

  • New Brunswick: $2.5 Million

    You can really get some space for your money in New Brunswick. This 20-bedroom, 11-bathroom resort in Alma, N.B. — composed of three buildings including a chalet — sits on no fewer than 450 acres of land, next to Fundy National Park. There is a 40-acre man-made lake on the property, as well as four islands, picnic areas, row boats, paddle boats, tennis courts amd two garages. Source: <a href="http://www.monctonroyallepage.ca/">Royal LePage Moncton</a>

  • New Brunswick: $2.5 Million

    You can really get some space for your money in New Brunswick. This 20-bedroom, 11-bathroom resort in Alma, N.B. — composed of three buildings including a chalet — sits on no fewer than 450 acres of land, next to Fundy National Park. There is a 40-acre man-made lake on the property, as well as four islands, picnic areas, row boats, paddle boats, tennis courts amd two garages. Source: <a href="http://www.monctonroyallepage.ca/">Royal LePage Moncton</a>

  • New Brunswick: $2.5 Million

    You can really get some space for your money in New Brunswick. This 20-bedroom, 11-bathroom resort in Alma, N.B. — composed of three buildings including a chalet — sits on no fewer than 450 acres of land, next to Fundy National Park. There is a 40-acre man-made lake on the property, as well as four islands, picnic areas, row boats, paddle boats, tennis courts amd two garages. Source: <a href="http://www.monctonroyallepage.ca/">Royal LePage Moncton</a>

  • Nova Scotia: $6.7 Million

    This newly-built, 6,000-square-foot house in Ketch Harbour, N.S., sits on the granite shoreline of the Atlantic Ocean and features "a series of interlocking pavilions constructed of reinforced concrete and window walls of star fire glass to capture the amazing, endless ocean views," as the realtor describes it. Only three bedrooms in this house, but what a view. Source: <a href="http://www.tradewindsrealty.com/">Tradewinds Realty</a>

  • Nova Scotia: $6.7 Million

    This newly-built, 6,000-square-foot house in Ketch Harbour, N.S., sits on the granite shoreline of the Atlantic Ocean and features "a series of interlocking pavilions constructed of reinforced concrete and window walls of star fire glass to capture the amazing, endless ocean views," as the realtor describes it. Only three bedrooms in this house, but what a view. Source: <a href="http://www.tradewindsrealty.com/">Tradewinds Realty</a>

  • Nova Scotia: $6.7 Million

    This newly-built, 6,000-square-foot house in Ketch Harbour, N.S., sits on the granite shoreline of the Atlantic Ocean and features "a series of interlocking pavilions constructed of reinforced concrete and window walls of star fire glass to capture the amazing, endless ocean views," as the realtor describes it. Only three bedrooms in this house, but what a view. Source: <a href="http://www.tradewindsrealty.com/">Tradewinds Realty</a>

  • Quebec: $18.9 Million

    The realtor selling this property suggests you may want to build a heliport to get to this 200-acre estate located in a secluded corner of Quebec's eastern townships. There are several houses on this site, the main one being built in 1927. Another building is described as a "three-season chalet" and is located next to the 120-foot dock on Lake Mephramagog. The property features multiple garages, including a 40-foot-long one. The whole place is so ritzy that a barn on the property was declared a historical site. Source: <a href="http://passerelle.centris.ca/Redirect2.aspx?CodeDest=JMONTANARO&NoMls=MT10764029&Source=WWW.REALTOR.CA&Langue=E">Centris</a>

  • Quebec: $18.9 Million

    The realtor selling this property suggests you may want to build a heliport to get to this 200-acre estate located in a secluded corner of Quebec's eastern townships. There are several houses on this site, the main one being built in 1927. Another building is described as a "three-season chalet" and is located next to the 120-foot dock on Lake Mephramagog. The property features multiple garages, including a 40-foot-long one. The whole place is so ritzy that a barn on the property was declared a historical site. Source: <a href="http://passerelle.centris.ca/Redirect2.aspx?CodeDest=JMONTANARO&NoMls=MT10764029&Source=WWW.REALTOR.CA&Langue=E">Centris</a>

  • Quebec: $18.9 Million

    The realtor selling this property suggests you may want to build a heliport to get to this 200-acre estate located in a secluded corner of Quebec's eastern townships. There are several houses on this site, the main one being built in 1927. Another building is described as a "three-season chalet" and is located next to the 120-foot dock on Lake Mephramagog. The property features multiple garages, including a 40-foot-long one. The whole place is so ritzy that a barn on the property was declared a historical site. Source: <a href="http://passerelle.centris.ca/Redirect2.aspx?CodeDest=JMONTANARO&NoMls=MT10764029&Source=WWW.REALTOR.CA&Langue=E">Centris</a>

  • Ontario: $17.9 Million

    This six-bedroom house sits on the shores of Lake Ontario in Oakville, near Toronto. Situated on 3.2 acres, it has 185 feet of waterfront and a boat house. The property features a triple car garage, a foyer of Italian limestone and a two-story living room. Security cameras can be controlled by way of a security panel. And the view from the back-yard pool can't be beat. Source: <a href="http://www.remaxaboutowne.com/">Re/Max Aboutowne</a>

  • Ontario: $17.9 Million

    This six-bedroom house sits on the shores of Lake Ontario in Oakville, near Toronto. Situated on 3.2 acres, it has 185 feet of waterfront and a boat house. The property features a triple car garage, a foyer of Italian limestone and a two-story living room. Security cameras can be controlled by way of a security panel. And the view from the back-yard pool can't be beat. Source: <a href="http://www.remaxaboutowne.com/">Re/Max Aboutowne</a>

  • Ontario: $17.9 Million

    This six-bedroom house sits on the shores of Lake Ontario in Oakville, near Toronto. Situated on 3.2 acres, it has 185 feet of waterfront and a boat house. The property features a triple car garage, a foyer of Italian limestone and a two-story living room. Security cameras can be controlled by way of a security panel. And the view from the back-yard pool can't be beat. Source: <a href="http://www.remaxaboutowne.com/">Re/Max Aboutowne</a>

  • Manitoba: $2.9 Million

    That this 6,000-square-foot house is listed at $2.9 million is a testament to the (relative) affordability of Winnipeg real estate. "On entry you are greeted by an impressive foyer, soaring ceilings, curved staircase and grand principal rooms that are perfectly suited to entertaining," the realtor fawns. The four-bedroom house features an office and a media room, among many other amenities. Source: <a href="http://agents.royallepage.ca/winnipeg">Royal LePage Dynamic</a>

  • Manitoba: $2.9 Million

    That this 6,000-square-foot house is listed at $2.9 million is a testament to the (relative) affordability of Winnipeg real estate. "On entry you are greeted by an impressive foyer, soaring ceilings, curved staircase and grand principal rooms that are perfectly suited to entertaining," the realtor fawns. The four-bedroom house features an office and a media room, among many other amenities. Source: <a href="http://agents.royallepage.ca/winnipeg">Royal LePage Dynamic</a>

  • Manitoba: $2.9 Million

    That this 6,000-square-foot house is listed at $2.9 million is a testament to the (relative) affordability of Winnipeg real estate. "On entry you are greeted by an impressive foyer, soaring ceilings, curved staircase and grand principal rooms that are perfectly suited to entertaining," the realtor fawns. The four-bedroom house features an office and a media room, among many other amenities. Source: <a href="http://agents.royallepage.ca/winnipeg">Royal LePage Dynamic</a>

  • Manitoba: $2.9 Million

    That this 6,000-square-foot house is listed at $2.9 million is a testament to the (relative) affordability of Winnipeg real estate. "On entry you are greeted by an impressive foyer, soaring ceilings, curved staircase and grand principal rooms that are perfectly suited to entertaining," the realtor fawns. The four-bedroom house features an office and a media room, among many other amenities. Source: <a href="http://agents.royallepage.ca/winnipeg">Royal LePage Dynamic</a>

  • Saskatchewan: $2.7 Million

    Four bedrooms, seven bathrooms and three outdoor decks feature in this 4,600-square-foot home in Saskatoon. The coolest feature in this house may be the split staircase to second floor. The basement media room features an ornate bar and a huge projection screen. Source: <a href="http://www.suttonsaskatoon.com/">Sutton Group Saskatoon</a>

  • Saskatchewan: $2.7 Million

    Four bedrooms, seven bathrooms and three outdoor decks feature in this 4,600-square-foot home in Saskatoon. The coolest feature in this house may be the split staircase to second floor. The basement media room features an ornate bar and a huge projection screen. Source: <a href="http://www.suttonsaskatoon.com/">Sutton Group Saskatoon</a>

  • Saskatchewan: $2.7 Million

    Four bedrooms, seven bathrooms and three outdoor decks feature in this 4,600-square-foot home in Saskatoon. The coolest feature in this house may be the split staircase to second floor. The basement media room features an ornate bar and a huge projection screen. Source: <a href="http://www.suttonsaskatoon.com/">Sutton Group Saskatoon</a>

  • Saskatchewan: $2.7 Million

    Four bedrooms, seven bathrooms and three outdoor decks feature in this 4,600-square-foot home in Saskatoon. The coolest feature in this house may be the split staircase to second floor. The basement media room features an ornate bar and a huge projection screen. Source: <a href="http://www.suttonsaskatoon.com/">Sutton Group Saskatoon</a>

  • Alberta: $12.7 Million

    This house, featured in Architectural Digest, sits in beautiful Canmore, on the edge of the Rockies, and has six bedrooms and 10 baths. The property features multiple "outdoor living rooms" (think ornate decks) to enjoy the view. For those into medieval intrigue, there is a hidden staircase running to the underground wine cellar. Source: <a href="http://www.rlfoothills.com/">Royal LePage Foothills</a>

  • Alberta: $12.7 Million

    This house, featured in Architectural Digest, sits in beautiful Canmore, on the edge of the Rockies, and has six bedrooms and 10 baths. The property features multiple "outdoor living rooms" (think ornate decks) to enjoy the view. For those into medieval intrigue, there is a hidden staircase running to the underground wine cellar. Source: <a href="http://www.rlfoothills.com/">Royal LePage Foothills</a>

  • Alberta: $12.7 Million

    This house, featured in Architectural Digest, sits in beautiful Canmore, on the edge of the Rockies, and has six bedrooms and 10 baths. The property features multiple "outdoor living rooms" (think ornate decks) to enjoy the view. For those into medieval intrigue, there is a hidden staircase running to the underground wine cellar. Source: <a href="http://www.rlfoothills.com/">Royal LePage Foothills</a>

  • British Columbia: $34 Million

    The most expensive house in Canada's priciest (and fastest-falling) real estate market features four bedrooms and six baths on 8,500 square feet, as well as a very cool boat house. But in a sign of the weakening of Vancouver's housing market, this property in ritzy West Vancouver has been on the market for some time — it featured as the most expensive house for sale in all of Canada the last time we put together this survey, in June 2012. Source: <a href="http://www.angellhasman.ca/">Angell Hasman Realty</a>

  • British Columbia: $34 Million

    The most expensive house in Canada's priciest (and fastest-falling) real estate market features four bedrooms and six baths on 8,500 square feet, as well as a very cool boat house. But in a sign of the weakening of Vancouver's housing market, this property in ritzy West Vancouver has been on the market for some time — it featured as the most expensive house for sale in all of Canada the last time we put together this survey, in June 2012. Source: <a href="http://www.angellhasman.ca/">Angell Hasman Realty</a>

  • British Columbia: $34 Million

    The most expensive house in Canada's priciest (and fastest-falling) real estate market features four bedrooms and six baths on 8,500 square feet, as well as a very cool boat house. But in a sign of the weakening of Vancouver's housing market, this property in ritzy West Vancouver has been on the market for some time — it featured as the most expensive house for sale in all of Canada the last time we put together this survey, in June 2012. Source: <a href="http://www.angellhasman.ca/">Angell Hasman Realty</a>

 
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