I think it is hard to make a generalization based on this graph. Over that past 5 years or so, housing prices have gone up a lot in SOME areas but they have stayed the SAME in other areas or had very little appreciation. Where I live, Dallas Texas is a great example. If we get 2-3% appreciation in a whole year we think we’ve done good.
In the Tipping Point, it talks about how one little thing can cause a chain reaction to completely change the course of YEARS of history. That can happen to real estate too. It can be a good thing or a bad thing. Example – military base closures – causes prices to go down. Or Toyota plant built in a town causes prices to go up.
I don’t think we’ve seen the bottom of the fall out from the subprime foreclosures in some areas. Other cities are barely affected by it.
So, to buy or not to buy all depends on where you are and what has been happening right in your own backyard more than what has happened on a historical graph based on national averages.
When you can get really good terms, it’s ALWAYS a good time to buy.
There are two observations based on Shiller’s data: 1) Historically since 1950 (creation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) real estate prices have fallen during the down cyles almost as much as they rose during the upswing (minus adjustments for inflation) and 2) the downswings in the 1980’s and 1990’s booms lasted approximately a year less than the corresponding booms.
Based on these two points, it seems like it would be prudent to wait a couple of years for the market to finish the downswing if your strategy is to buy and hold.