What investment asset class grabs the most attention of the average American? My guess is that it isn’t the stock market, but a category many people don’t even think of as an investment—the local real estate market. While I don’t have data to back up this assumption, I find that people tend to be more interested in what’s happening in their local real estate markets than on national stock exchanges.
I think the reason is simple. Houses are tangible, understandable assets that we can see and touch. Most of us live in them, and some of us are in love with our homes. You likely know the ballpark value of your house from the annual assessed value you receive from the county. Chances are you know what repairs your home needs and have an idea of the rent you could charge for it. You probably have an idea of the price trends in your neighborhood or city. You know the best areas in which to live and the neighborhoods to avoid. You know these things because all real estate is local. There is no “national” real estate market.
Not so with common stocks. Because most of us own our stocks in mutual funds and exchange traded funds, we often don’t really know what companies we own, what town their headquarters are in, the price of the stock, the current yield, the trend of the company or sector, and any weaknesses or strengths of the company. Unlike real estate, publicly traded stocks are priced based on national rather than local influences. Further, we don’t work for or live in the companies in our portfolio. And few of us are in love with our portfolio of stocks.
It’s no wonder that most of us are far more interested in the economics of our homes than our stocks. This is even less of a surprise when we consider the average American has more invested in their home than they do the stock market.
According to CoreLogic, the average annual price increase of real estate has slowed down in 2019. “During the first two months of the year, home price growth continued to decelerate,” said Dr. Frank Nothaft, chief economist for CoreLogic in an April 2, 2019 press release.
But that is just the average. Annual price changes range from an increase of 10.2% in Idaho to a decrease of -1.7% in North Dakota. South Dakota showed a 1.6% increase over the past 12 months.
Also according to CoreLogic, of the country’s top 100 housing markets, 35 percent are overvalued, 38 percent were at value, and 27 percent were undervalued. An under- or overvalued market is one in which home prices are at least 10 percent above or below the long-term sustainable level.
While my hometown of Rapid City, SD, is not among the top 100 markets, home prices are booming, according to Jeremy Kahler, a Realtor with Keller Williams of the Black Hills. He indicates that through April, the 12-month price increase in Rapid City is over 7%, which puts our local market into the top quartile for price increases on a national level. Zillow shows our average sales price as $204,100 compared with the national sales price of $226,800, so my hunch is that the Rapid City market might be at value to undervalued.
However, I think it’s a reasonable generalization that most homes in flyover country are priced lower than their coastal cousins. Some of the reasons are what I call the snowflake discount, seasonal weather patterns, and the distance from major metropolitan areas. Those that can cope with those challenges are rewarded with lower housing costs.