No one can predict with certainty what the U.S. economy will do in 2019, but the days of the roaring bull market in stocks may be nearing its end. Many experts predict a global slowing in the year ahead, which would, of course, impact the U.S. Is there a safe haven for your money in the event of an economic slump or a recession? The answer could lie in real estate and housing.
“Home prices aren’t expected to drop any time soon,” Laurie Goodman, founder and co-director of the Housing Finance Policy Center at Urban Institute, told Bankrate.com. “In the past four recessions, they actually only dropped during one of them.”
Housing — and the mortgage crisis — were a critical part of the 2008 recession, but that’s more of an anomaly brought on by sloppy and dangerous mortgage practices. There are tighter lending restrictions in place now, and mortgage delinquencies were at 3.25 percent in the second quarter of 2018, vs. a peak of more than 11 percent in 2010. The old joke about real estate is: They ain’t making any more of it. And that’s true. It’s a hard, tangible asset that generally stays afloat even when the economy bobs uneasily through treacherous waters.
The Case-Shiller index makes the case. In 19 bear markets since 1952, with the exception of the 2007-2009 bust, the index showed increases in all but one. The 30-year fixed rate mortgage is 4.63 percent as of Dec. 12, and it has not risen in a month. It will rise as the Federal Reserve increases interest rates, one of which could occur this year. The Fed’s Open Market meets this week, and it will probably lay out some sort of road map for the future.
The short version of why you should own real estate in bad times: If the economy tanks and jobs are lost, mortgage delinquencies spike. That makes housing properties more available through both a lessening demand and short sales — when the bank will take less than is owed to move the home. But people still need a place to live, so the savvy investor can become an owner of a discounted house and a landlord — with rent becoming income.
There’s still demand for housing, and limited inventory, in many parts of the country. If stocks stop paying off in 2019, equity in housing may be your best answer.