Meet the Buy Guy
By Sarah Max

(MONEY Magazine) – While some predict a housing bust, National Association of Realtors chief economist David Lereah thinks most markets will see at least five more years of growth. Author of Are You Missing the Real Estate Boom? (Currency/Doubleday, $19.95), he spoke with's Sarah Max.

Q. No gloom, just boom? A. I'm not talking double-digit appreciation. That's unhealthy. I define a boom as prices increasing 4% to 6% a year. Baby boomers are purchasing at a record pace; so are immigrants. Retirees are living longer, and the boomers' children are now first-time buyers. The supply of homes is so lean that you could have considerable increases in prices throughout this decade.

Q. Gee, 4% sounds puny. A. The average Joe reading about 52% appreciation in Las Vegas might be disappointed, but most buyers--especially those stretching to get into a house with interest-only loans--should downsize expectations.

Q. Might higher rates change your outlook? A. Not until 30-year mortgage rates get to about 8.5%. That's when the yellow flag appears in our economic models and home prices see a meaningful drop-off.

Q. You're not just saying this because you work for a realtors group, are you? A. No. If people had listened to the bubble naysayers and not invested in real estate the past few years, they'd have lost over $3 trillion in wealth--almost $45,000 per homeowner. I've invested in a lot of condo-type properties that I rent out. I'm now looking at two more, but I'm being more selective than ever, because everyone is investing in real estate.

NOTES: As of May 20. [1] $359,650 or less. [2] More than $359,650. SOURCE: HSH Associates (


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NOTES: As of May 20. Rates and terms subject to change. SOURCE: HSH Associates.

NOTES: As of May 23. Largest funds by assets. [1]Annualized. SOURCE: Morningstar.