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In World’s Best-Run Economy, House Prices Keep Falling — Because That’s What House Prices Are Supposed To Do

July 28, 2017

Eamonn Fingleton : forbes – excerpt

When Americans travel abroad, the culture shocks tend to be unpleasant. Robert Locke’s experience was different. In buying a charming if rundown house in the picturesque German town of Goerlitz, he was surprised – very pleasantly – to find city officials second-guessing the deal. The price he had agreed was too high, they said, and in short order they forced the seller to reduce it by nearly one-third. The officials had the seller’s number because he had previously promised to renovate the property and had failed to follow through.

As Locke, a retired historian, points out, the Goerlitz authorities’ attitude is a striking illustration of how differently the German economy works. Rather than keep their noses out of the economy, German officials glory in influencing market outcomes. While the Goerlitz authorities are probably exceptional in the degree to which they micromanage house prices, a fundamental principle of German economics is to keep housing costs stable and affordable.

It is hard to quarrel with the results. On figures cited in 2012 by the British housing consultant Colin Wiles, one-bedroom apartments in Berlin were then selling for as little as $55,000, and four-bedroom detached houses in the Rhineland for just $80,000. Broadly equivalent properties in New York City and Silicon Valley were selling for as much as ten times higher…

On Wiles’s figures, German house prices in 2012 represented a 10 percent decrease in real terms compared to thirty years ago. That is a particularly astounding performance compared to the UK, where real prices rose by more than 230 percent in the same period… (more)

This is an excellent point. Houses should depreciate in costs as the age the same as cars and most other products. The artificially high valuation of real estate is driving much of the inflation in this country, without any return to society or flow into the economy. That is where the term land-banking came from.

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