The February 22, 2007 issue of Time has a sort of, well, lame, article about the use of the word “housing bubble” in online searches and there is a graph charting how the use of the term is waning. Honestly, this is the sort of analysis done in the blogoshere about 18 months ago (self included) that is really not worthy of a national news publication, no offense intended to Time Magazine.

June 13, 2005
As the story goes, if a new trend is on the cover of Time Magazine, its already happened (or something along those lines). In the June 13, 2005 issue, Home $weet Home: why we are going gaga over real estate was released, yet the housing boom was ending right about then.

I was curious what it was like to read about a housing boom in a national publication during a prior cycle and I looked back in the Time archive online.

September 17, 1977
I was a senior in high school when this issue came out, not thinking even remotely about the housing market. The issue was called (close your eyes and think back 2 years ago): Sky-high Housing: Building Up, Prices Up

The Time article Housing: It’s Outasight sounded a lot like recent coverage but with a few less zeroes. Especially loved the up to their eaves in debt humor.

But the boom is accompanied by a virulent inflation that is upsetting the American way of housing and pricing many people out of the market. Those who are still in it find that they have to pay more money than they had ever thought they would, and then go up to their eaves in debt. In some pleasant but by no means luxurious residential areas of the Northeast, Midwest and West, even $50,000 to $60,000 houses are almost nonexistent, while dwellings of $75,000 to $85,000—and up—are standard. The prices for new houses in June averaged $62,100 around Chicago, $67,700 in the Washington, D.C., area, and $72,100 around Los Angeles.

Also, there was the same wrestling with the old formulas for affordability:

Using the rule that a family’s gross income should be at least five times its mortgage payments (the one that has held up best over the years), FORTUNE calculates that in 1950 seven out of ten American families could afford the median-priced* new house; in 1975, after a quarter of a century of rising incomes, only four out of ten could do so. Going by a different formula that in practice parallels another standard rule—the purchase price of a house should be no more than double the buyer’s annual income—the M.I.T.-Harvard Joint Center for Urban Studies estimates that last year fewer than three out of ten American families could afford a median-priced new house, and one in three a median-priced used house. That measures the cost of moving; many families are living in houses that they statistically could not “afford” if they had to purchase the same homes today.

Friday, Oct. 31, 1969
I went back a little further. I could have been standing in line for milk in my 4th grade elementary school cafeteria when this issue hit the news stands.

One of the articles (not the cover story) WHY HOUSING COSTS ARE GOING THROUGH THE ROOF told the story of the nation’s housing. In three years, the average sales price of a house had risen by $5,800 or 28.9%.

Finding a place to live today is a trauma for millions of Americans. During the past two years, the price of houses has risen almost twice as fast as the over all cost of living. The average new house in the U.S. now sells for about $26,000; the same one would have cost $20,200 in 1966. In many suburbs, prices have jumped a good deal faster than that. At the same time, the overwhelming demand for apartments has pushed up rents, and vacancy rates have fallen to the lowest level in twelve years.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.


4 Responses to “[Time] Housing Story Redux”

  1. john harper says:

    Thanks for helping to keep it all in perspective. Is it despearation that leads to trying to wring the last bit of juice out of a has been story? I was Time’s Man of the Year last year. It’s ironic – I rarely read Time anymore – there is more relevance and Timeliness on the net.

  2. Anon says:

    Time Magazine must also have articles from the early 90s that talk about the last real estate bubble bursting. Condo prices in New England dropped between 20% to 40% depending on the locale. For a few years, my local paper use to have 20 pages of foreclosure auctions each week in the Sunday paper. One of the largest banks in Boston went out of business because it had too many bad real estate loans. All the major banks in New Hampshire also went out of business because of loose real estate lending practices.

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