ANYONE WITH AN ANSWER TO TODAY'S UBIQUITOUS questions—Is there a housing bubble, and where will it pop first?—is in high demand. Housing analysts, industry think tanks, mortgage companies, and even the government have presented their best guesses in recent reports.
They end up with some radically different answers, however, thanks to different formulas, and there's no consensus as to which approach is best.
In its report, “U.S. Home Prices: Does Bust Always Follow Boom?” the FDIC relied on home price data from the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight—a frequently cited index—to find its 55 booming markets. Analyst Michael Youngblood of Friedman, Billings, Ramsey and Co. used a ratio comparing median house price to per capita personal income. National City's “House Prices in America: Valuation Methodology and Findings” tweaked that a bit to study single-family house price to income ratios. Finally, PMI Mortgage Insurance Co. says it relies on a combination of home prices, employment conditions, and affordability to derive its quarterly risk index.
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