Housing represents the largest asset owned by most households and is a major means of wealth accumulation, particularly for the middle class. Yet there is limited understanding of how households view housing as an investment relative to financial assets, in part because of their differences beyond the usual risk and return trade-off. Housing offers households an accessible source of leverage and a commitment device for saving through an amortization schedule. For an owner-occupied residence, it also provides stability and hedges for rising housing costs. On the other hand, housing is much less liquid than financial assets and it also requires more time to manage. In this post, we use data from our just released SCE Housing Survey to answer several questions about how households view this choice: Do households view housing as a good investment choice in comparison to financial assets, such as stocks? Are there cross-sectional differences in preferences for housing as an investment? What are the factors households consider when making an investment choice between housing and financial assets?
“U.S. stocks are racing toward a second consecutive quarter of dramatic gains, continuing a historic stock-market recovery that few predicted in the depths of the March downturn,” said a September Wall Street Journal article. “The stock market is detached from economic reality. A reckoning is coming,” said the Washington Post. What is going on? In this post, I look not at what stocks have actually done or will do, but at what investors expected should have happened, and what they expect will happen going forward. It turns out that, at least by the particular measure of expectations I consider, investors expected stock returns to be high all along and continue to expect the same in the future.
Volatility, a measure of how much financial markets are fluctuating, has been near its record low in many asset classes.