An Insider Bets on More Boom
(MONEY Magazine) – Most real estate execs pooh-pooh fears of a housing bubble. But Century 21 CEO Thomas Kunz puts his money where his mouth is. Last year he moved from California to New Jersey to take the top job at Century 21. Rather than sell his home--which had appreciated from $335,000 to more than $1 million since 1998--Kunz and his wife chose to rent it out, betting that California prices will continue rising. Kunz recently spoke with MONEY senior writer Jon Birger.
Q Haven't these double-digit annual gains in home prices become unhealthy?
A It's easy to sit back and speculate on what's unhealthy. Generally speaking, the economy is still good. Jobs are still very plentiful. Also, incomes have gone up, though not at the same rate that home prices have. So it's still a great time to buy a home to live in.
Q But what about places like Las Vegas or Miami, where more and more buyers are investors? Doesn't that increase the risk of a sell-off if prices stop going up?
A Sure, there are investors who get into real estate to buy and flip. But the majority of people are still buying because they need a place to live.
Q Vacation homes are especially hot, with homes in some areas appreciating 20% to 30% a year. Can this continue?
A Appreciation is determined by demand. In desirable areas, I expect you'll see demand remain fairly high. You've got baby boomers who are saying "Geez, I'd like to have a place on the beach or in the mountains." At the same time, over the next 10 years or so, an estimated $7 trillion to $10 trillion will be coming into their hands from their parents--people who saved every damn dime they could, paid off their homes, paid off their cars and didn't spend extravagantly.
Q Speaking of extravagances, what home features fetch big premiums these days?
A Walk-in closets. There's also demand for big family rooms--the newer homes don't have much in the way of formal dining rooms or living rooms.
NOTES: As of June 24.  $359,650 or less.  More than $359,650. SOURCE: HSH Associates (hsh.com).
NOTES: As of June 23. Largest funds by assets.  Annualized. SOURCE: Morningstar.