Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

November 28, 2017

Investing in Homes

By David Reiss

photo by Pictures of Money quoted me in Investing In Your Home Remains a Sound Financial Decision for 2018. It reads, in part,

Homeowners are still pouring money into their homes as renovations and upkeep are generating a large portion of sales for Home Depot as demand for purchasing homes rose in September and the three massive hurricanes in the U.S. boosted revenue.

Home Depot’s third-quarter sales surged in the aftermath of a robust hurricane season that spanned from Texas to Puerto Rico, increasing demand from homeowners who faced immense rebuilding as homes were destroyed by relentless floodwaters.

The Atlanta-based home improvement retailer reported an impressive 7.9% increase in comparable-store sales in the third quarter, which exceeded the Wall Street estimate of 5.8%. Home Depot also beat on earnings, reporting $1.84 a share, 2 cents ahead of forecasts. The company’s total revenue was $25.03 billion, up 8% from the same period last year.

 Home Depot’s third-quarter earnings rose 15% from a year ago and its comparable sales in the U.S. increased at a 7.7% clip.

“Though this quarter was marked by an unprecedented number of natural disasters,” said CEO Craig Menear in a statement, “the underlying health of our core business remains solid.

The company was able to raise its fiscal 2017 guidance due to its stellar earnings and now estimates comp sales growth of 6.5% and earnings per share of $7.36, which reflects its $8 billion buyback program this year.

Home Depot shares rose 2.7% to $168.06 on Nov. 14.

 Interest from first-time home buyers remains strong and home sales rose in September — new home sales increased to a seasonally adjusted rate of 667,000, which is up 18.9% month over month and 17% year over year.

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“When an individual buys a share of stock they can monitor the value of the investment on a minute-to-minute basis,” Johnson said. “People can see the fluctuation in value. With real estate, however, no one is quoting you a price instantaneously on your real estate purchase. Absent a market price, people tend not to worry about the value of their real estate purchase and assume that it is very stable in the short run.”

Millennials tend to be conservative with their investment choices and are “drawn to this seeming stability in the value of residential real estate,” he said.

Nevertheless, purchasing a home can often be a very poor financial decision and potential home buyers need to be aware of the additional costs and potential pitfalls.

“People fall prey to the stories of individuals realizing substantial gains by buying a home and selling it at a much higher price years down the road,” Johnson said.

Noble laureate economist and Yale University professor Robert Shiller had made a compelling case that real estate, especially residential homes, are a much inferior investment when compared to stocks. He found that on an inflation-adjusted basis, the average home price has increased only 0.6% annually over the past 100 years.

The stock market’s average return on a large stock index such as the S&P 500 has been about 10% while inflation has averaged around 3% from 1926 through 2016 while the inflation adjusted return of the stock market over the past 90 years has been approximately 7%.

The rate of homeownership still remains much lower than the 1998 rate of 9.5% and the rate has remained stable since the commencement of the financial crisis — hovering around 5% since 2008.

So should you own or rent?

Renting can be a better deal for many consumers, depending on the city and region, said David Reiss, a law professor at Brooklyn Law School in N.Y.

“This is a better question to ask yourself than whether owning is a sound investment choice because you are going to need to live somewhere no matter what,” he said. “It is not too helpful to look at national numbers to answer this question – you should look at the figures in the communities you are considering living in.”

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