Deaths and House Prices
The peak-to-trough fall in house prices in the 1930s Depression was 31 per cent – and prices took 19 years to recover after that downturn.
The current Global Financial Crisis has surpassed that decline, with a record 33%. But ultimately, whichever way you look at it, humans have collectively brought this upon themselves. Imagine what would happen to house prices if a global disaster meant there were suddenly many fewer people?
There are many theories for what caused the Great Depression, but I found this interesting:
There is evidence lack of demand for housing, and housing loans, started in 1926 and dropping precipitously in the U.S. in early 1929. Lack of demand was partly due to due to a decrease in population growth. This was the result of fewer families being formed, a declining birth rate after 1910, reduced immigration and deaths during WWI, the 1918 flu, and growing secularism in the 1920s which preceded the October stock market crash.
The pandemic lasted from January 1918 to December 1920, spreading even to the Arctic and remote Pacific islands. Between 50 and 100 million died, making it one of the deadliest natural disasters in human history. Even using the lower estimate of 50 million people, 3% of the world’s population (which was 1.86 billion at the time) died of the disease. Some 500 million, or 27%, were infected.
There’s every possibility that the trigger for the Great Depression was the death of 50 million people – and the butterfly effect that followed. Suddenly you have 3% more houses that you need, 3% less staff than you had, and a whole lot of debts going unpaid.
Fast forward to 2012 and the possibility of a new flu pandemic that, due to the massive increase in human intermingling, could kill 10% or even 20% of the population. In the space of three months property values could drop by 20% (on top of the 33% decline the USA has just had) – because less people means less demand.
(I’m well aware that a decline in property prices would be nothing compared to the disaster of nobody wanting to go to work from fear of catching a killer flu…)