A decade has passed since the real estate bubble exploded and set off a real estate crash that fueled the Great Recession, leaving many brokers and agents wondering if their industry and way of life had come to an end.

The industry rallied. It got smarter through education and today we are working in a new reality.

Where are we at today?

According to Realtor.com, buyers today are starting to clamor to get into homes and prices are on the rise in many markets. If it sounds familiar, don’t get alarmed. There are several differences between today’s market and the one that caused the crash, according to a Realtor.com review of key data, noted Danielle Hale, the organization’s chief economist.

“As we compare today’s market dynamics to those of a decade ago, it’s important to remember rising prices didn’t cause the housing crash. It was rising prices stoked by subprime and low-documentation mortgages, as well as people looking for short-term gains—versus today’s truer market vitality—that created the environment for the crash.”

Things are different today, with a market characterized by a significant mismatch between significant job and household growth (the factors that spur people to buy homes) and much tighter lending standards and historically low for-sale inventory (the factors that make it difficult for people to buy new homes).  The end result is high home prices and frustrated buyers.

According to the report, the U.S. median home sales price in 2016 was $236,000, 2 percent higher than in 2006. In fact, 31 of the 50 largest U.S. metros are back to pre-recession price levels. The highest growth was in Austin, Texas, at 63 percent. Denver and Dallas were at 54 percent and 52 percent respectively.

Increased regulations in the mortgage industry also have ensured an increased level of scrutiny. The bottom 10 percent of borrowers have an average FICO of 649 in 2017, up from 602 in 2006.Hale noted the Dodd-Frank Act, which was passed to tamp down the risky lending that led to the bubble and its collapse, requires loan originators to show proof that a borrower can repay the loan.

“Lending standards are critical to the health of the market. Unlike today, the boom’s under-regulated lending environment allowed borrowing beyond repayable amounts and atypical mortgage products, which pushed up home prices without the backing of income and equity.”

Real estate agent Jason Bernknopf has been in the business for about 15 years, currently with AustinRealEstate.com. Working in the Austin market, he saw little of the carnage of the collapse because home prices were already low. Plus, Austin has a diverse economy with plenty of stable jobs in government and tech companies.  He has witnessed a lot of development over the years, drawing people from more expensive areas, including California.

“We didn’t have a downtown living area in the early 2000s. Now there’s huge apartment high-rises as well as condo high-rises, and more areas for people to shop and eat in the heart of town.”

Denver also was a sleepy market before the crash and the market has transformed in the decade since, according to Jeff Plous, an associate real estate broker at One Realty in Denver. He noted that bidding wars became the norm and anything on the market was usually gone in 24 to 48 hours. In August, he sold a $400,000 home for $40,000 over asking. The four-bed home in a good neighborhood had netted 12 offers.

“I don’t necessarily believe we’re in a bubble. We just have so many people who want to move here. Our inventory is so far below where it needs to be.”

The rebound has been a little slower in markets where the bubble was the greatest.

Three major housing markets—Las Vegas; Tucson, Ariz; and Riverside, Calif. —remained more than 20 percent below 2006 price levels at the end of 2016, at 25 percent, 22 percent and 22 percent, respectively. Stephen Miller, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said this was a factor in Las Vegas, where 70 percent of the state’s home mortgages were underwater.

“The recession here in Las Vegas was deeper and longer than nationally. If you’re hit harder, it takes you longer to get back up in the ring.”

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