Since that declaration, house prices have continued drifting lower in most parts of the country. The Case-Shiller index of national home prices is down about 4% year over year. Even so, we’re betting this professional investor was merely early…not wrong. US housing isn’t just cheap; it is the cheapest it has been in more than 40 years. And when one considers the possibility that inflation may rear its head soon, housing looks even cheaper still.
If you think we’re crazy, you’re not alone. The housing market is a complete bust right now. The following chart shows the median home price in terms of per capita disposable income. Based on this calculation, home prices are lower than they have been in 40 years!
And it isn’t just that home prices have fallen a long way. For most home buyers, the price of the home is only one part of the true cost of a home. Mortgage rates matter as much, or more, than the purchase price itself. In other words, buying a house is not just a bet on real estate; it is also a bet against interest rates. For the typical buyer of a home who takes out a 30-year mortgage, an increase in interest rates is just like an increase in the price of a home.
Today, because home prices and interest rates are both at extremely low levels, the cost of buying a home with a 30-year mortgage is at an all-time low. To illustrate this stunning fact, the chart below shows the average monthly mortgage payment on the median-priced home, expressed as a percentage of per capita disposable income.