Editor’s note: Apartment bubble? What apartment bubble?

March 24, 2013

I’m no real estate expert, but I’m having a hard time seeing a bubble in the recent burst of apartment construction.

The hand-wringing over the state of the market seems to stem from the fact that lots of developers have broken ground at the very time the federal government appears committed to pull back on spending.

Some neighborhoods may indeed be overrun by new projects, and the rents themselves might be a bit frothy. But it seems likely demand overall will stay strong, if for no other reason than we find ourselves in a period when the economics favor rentals. If a big stable employer like the federal government can no longer be relied upon for long careers, then almost by definition the region will become more transient.

We are already seeing the effects in the private sector, where once secure middle management jobs are now targeted for buyouts and whole I.T. departments can be chopped because of a shift in the technology winds.

Who wants to be locked into a 30-year mortgage when that job can be taken away as quickly as it is offered?

Even if you wanted to buy a house and settle down, passing the necessary credit checks and coming up with the down payment is no easy feat.

There’s a reason why construction of new housing is only beginning to stir.

The region’s economy may be slowing, but it’s population is still growing. This is at a time when the inventory of existing homes for sale remains low. Plenty of people who might want to sell are staying put because they still owe more than their houses are worth.

If buying a house is hard now, wait until interest rates start to climb again.

I could be wrong about this bubble. Maybe people will just go elsewhere, or the economy will improve enough that the housing market returns to its former glory.

Until then, people have got to live somewhere.

Dan Beyers is the founding editor of Capital Business, The Washington Post’s go-to source for news about the region’s business community.
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