Transcript: Ali Wolf on Just How Wild the U.S. Housing Market Might Get

The U.S. housing market is absolutely booming  but there’s one big problem: there just aren’t many homes available to buy. Whether it’s existing inventory or new home sales, there simply isn’t enough to meet the demand, even as real estate prices surge. On this episode, we speak with housing economist Ali Wolf, chief economist at the data and research firm Zonda, about what’s going on. You can find the episode here. Transcripts have been lightly edited for clarity.

Joe Weisenthal:
Hello and welcome to another episode of the Odd Lots podcast. I’m Joe Weisenthal.

Tracy  Alloway: 
And I’m Tracy Alloway.

So, Tracy, it’s been a long time since I visited you in Hong Kong. But one of the things I remember, I know it’s too long and as soon as I can, whether like after the virus or whatever, I got to make that happen.

Yeah, I totally agree. I just, I’m thinking that I haven’t left this relatively small area for a year and a half now and I am…

You’re getting stir crazy. But one thing that I remember about Hong Kong is people there are just obsessed with real estate, right? Like, I just remember it just sort of real estate buying, home buying speculation. It just seemed to be in the air in Hong Kong.

Absolutely. It’s sort of almost a way of life here. I guess it’s the thing everyone aspires to is eventually owning a house. And house prices are absolutely insane. There’s a perpetual shortage of housing, although there’s a big debate about whether that’s in fact true or whether it’s because of ill-considered government policy and things like that. But yes, if you walk down the street, almost every other building probably has some sort of real estate office in it. And everyone just loves to talk about home buying, home prices, speculation.

So I think in the U.S. it more like goes in waves. Like obviously 2005, 2006. That was crazy. And then it sort of crashed for a while, but right now I don’t think there’s any doubt that sort of home buying mania — the desire to own a home — is absolutely in full swing in the United States.

Yeah. So even me over here in Hong Kong, I have seen some of these crazy news stories about house prices. I saw that one about someone put in an offer for a house and then said they would name their child after the seller, if they got the house — crazy things like that. Like these are things that you would normally, maybe not normally, but you would find in the Hong Kong market, they seem to have been transferred over to the U.S. where everyone is clamoring for, it seems like, limited supply.

Yeah, very much so. Every day there’s stories about someone putting up a home for sale. And within five minutes they get like five offers that are half a million dollars over their ask. We are in housing mania here, but we are also, you know, basically running out of homes and you know, in theory you…

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