From housing starts to home prices, renowned economist Robert Shiller acknowledged “there are a lot of positive signs” for the U.S. housing market right now, but told CNBC Wednesday it’s still unclear if a recovery is actually in place.
After all, Shiller noted the housing futures market for single-family homes was only “mildly optimistic” before superstorm Sandy struck the U.S.’s East Coast with expectations for just 3 percent growth per year over the next four years.
“If it goes up 3 percent a year that means that, in real terms, housing is just about flat,” Shiller said. “It’s not a recovery to write home about.”
Shiller is probably best known for helping create the Standard & Poor’s/Case Shiller index, a widely-followed measure of housing prices, which recently revealed that U.S. home prices rose 2 percent in August compared to one year ago. Meanwhile, the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index — a survey of homebuilders — recently climbed sharply higher.
Despite the onslaught of positive indicators for the housing market, Shiller told CNBC’s “Futures Now” it’s possible for the housing market to return to full strength, but it will take a while.
“It can get big as it was again maybe in 50 years. This housing bubble was a once-in-a-lifetime thing, I imagine,” Shiller said. “Although, you know, the market might be more volatile, so the future is always unknown.”
To make his case, Shiller noted how the investing culture has changed over the years, thereby greatly affecting the housing market.
“50 years ago, hardly anyone thought of houses as investments, but now, people are focused on it like never before,” Shiller said, adding that homebuilding was so rampant in markets like Phoenix and Miami, it quickly drove up home prices to where one could see the bubble forming very early on. “The funny thing about this recent experience is it became so nationwide. Housing markets aren’t supposed to be correlated all over the country like that. It was a rare phenomenon.”
Going forward, though, Shiller doesn’t expect history to repeat itself anytime soon, if ever.
“My general idea is that we’re not going into a nationwide boom and not many places will show booms in the next few years,” he said.