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Second Leg in Home Price Declines Underway

It is also worth keeping in mind in the current debate over extending the Bush tax cuts for just 97% of the population as Obama has proposed, or for 100% of the population as the GOP insists on, that the $250,000 per couple threshold is for adjusted gross income, not the top-line income. Thus, a couple with income of $274,000 (in wages) but who pay $2000 a month in mortgage interest, would not see an increase in their taxes at all.

Housing Prices to Find a Lower Floor

The real problem though is that, now that the tax credit is over, prices will find their more natural level. Fortunately, relative to the level of incomes and to the level of rents, housing prices are now in line with their long-term historical averages, not way above them as they were last year.

In other words, houses are fairly priced -- not exactly cheap by historical standards, but not way overvalued, either. That will probably limit how much price fall over the next six months to a year to the 5 to 10% range, rather than the 30% decline we saw from the top of the bubble. That, however, is more than enough of a decline to do some serious damage.

The Case-Schiller report was weaker than the consensus expected. The second leg down in housing prices is underway, but fortunately will probably be a much shorter leg than the first one.

Still, that is bad news for the economy. Used homes make very good substitutes for new homes, and with a massive glut of used homes on the market, there is little or no reason to build any new ones.

Residential investment is normally the main locomotive that pulls the economy out of recessions. It is derailed this time around, and there seems to be little the government can do to get it back on track.

This commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet guest contributor program. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of TheStreet or its management.
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