Another valuation report

Dean Foust

There's yet another report out trying to assess which local housing markets are overvalued, this one by the economists at National City Corp., a Cleveland-based bank. The author of the report, National City chief economist Richard DeKaser, considers a market to be overvalued when prices exceed the statistical norms by 30% (he notes that this was the threshold that preceed the 63 price declines actually observed over the past 20 years.)

His finding: As of the first quarter of 2005, 53 metro areas representing 31% of the total U.S. housing market were "extremely overvalued" and faced "a high risk of future price correction..."

DeKaser's list of overvalued markets contain many of the usual suspects: California, Florida, as well as parts of New York and Boston. Most overvalued is Santa Barbara at +69%, while most undervalued is College Station, Tex. at -19%.

DeKaser's report is worth a look because he went to a lot of effort to determine fair valuations, not only examining "price to income" levels for each market, but also examining houehold density to try to explain some of the rapid increases in prices. He even produces line graphs comparing the actual price experience to his best estimate of what "fair value" was for a particular market. For instance, he shows my city, Atlanta, to be overvalued in the mid-1980s, fair valued around 1990, undervalued in the late 1990s and currently overvalued by just 4%. He provides similar graphs for most major markets in the U.S.

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