Unfazed by recession, the housing market remains buoyant
房地产市场没有受经济衰退的影响,依然兴旺

【双语】房子赢了 The house wins-书迷号 shumihao.com

AMERICA’S HOUSING market is behaving oddly. Residential property—worth $35trn, slightly more than America’s stockmarket—seems strangely oblivious to the economic carnage around it. House prices in May were 4.3% higher than a year earlier. That rate of growth is only marginally below the average since the end of the housing crash a decade ago. Prices in even the costliest places, such as San Francisco, where the average pad sets you back $1.1m, continue to march upwards. Many economists still expect house prices to fall over the whole of 2020—but such forecasts are looking increasingly shaky.

美国房地产市场表现古怪。住宅物业——价值35万亿美元,略高于美国股市——似乎竟对周遭的经济惨状浑然不觉。5月份的房价比去年同期上涨了4.3%,这一增速仅略低于自十年前房市崩盘以来的平均水平。即使是最贵的地方房价也在继续涨,比如一套公寓均价110万美元的旧金山。许多经济学家仍预计2020年全年房价会下跌,但这样的预测看上去越来越站不住脚了。

At first glance this is surprising. House prices typically nosedive during recessions. A rising number of mortgage defaults leads to more properties being put up for sale. Falling household incomes reduce buyers’ purchasing power. In the recession of the early 1990s house prices dropped by 10% in real terms; they fell by three times that in the downturn that followed the financial crisis of 2007-09. The fall in GDP associated with the coronavirus pandemic, and the rise in unemployment, is unprecedented. Despite that, there is little sign so far that America’s housing market is about to subside.

乍一看这让人惊讶。经济衰退期房价通常会暴跌。房贷违约增加,导致更多房产被挂牌出售。家庭收入下降令买房者的购买力缩水。房价实值在上世纪90年代初的经济衰退中下跌了10%,在2007至2009年金融危机之后的衰退中下跌了30%。因新冠疫情导致的GDP下降和失业率上升前所未有。尽管如此,到目前为止看不到什么迹象显示美国房市即将下滑。

The rate of foreclosures looks unlikely to reach the heights hit during the last recession. Housing debt, relative to incomes, is lower. The share of mortgages lent to borrowers with very low credit scores is less than half what it was in 2007, in part a consequence of tighter financial regulation. Meanwhile, fiscal help has come a lot faster than it did a decade ago.

止赎拍卖房产的比率看起来不太可能达到上次经济衰退时的高点。房贷相对于收入的比例下降了。一定程度上由于金融监管变得更加严格,发放给信用评分很低的借款人的房贷比例不到2007年的一半。与此同时,财政援助比十年前来得快得多。

During the last crash, schemes to help homeowners did not arrive until millions of families had already seen loans foreclosed. This time the government’s stimulus package has made requesting up to a year’s pause in mortgage payments easier: homeowners can get this without having to do very much to prove they need it. All that casts a different light on the apparently alarming increase in the share of mortgages on payment holidays, from practically zero just before the pandemic to close to 10% in May. Analysts at Capital Economics, a consultancy, reckon that many requests for forbearance have been made by borrowers who are in fact able to keep up their mortgage payments, but are “requesting assistance…as an insurance policy”.

在上一次危机中,直到数百万家庭的房产被收回拍卖,救助房主的计划才开始实施。这一次,政府的经济刺激计划降低了申请暂缓偿还房贷(最长可暂缓一年)的难度:房主并不需要如何费力证明自己真有这样的需要就能获得批准。所有这些使得暂缓还贷比例那貌似惊人的增长——从疫情前的几乎为零增至5月份的近10%——具有很不一样的意义。咨询公司凯投宏观(Capital Economics)的分析师估计,许多要求延期还款的借款人其实有能力继续偿还房贷,但他们“把寻求援助……当作一份保险”。

Cash handouts from the government have also been generous—so much so that, in stark contrast to the usual declines seen during recessions, Americans’ aggregate household income is forecast to rise in 2020 by about as much as it did in 2019. That will help borrowers keep up with their mortgage payments. Indeed, a fifth of Americans receiving a stimulus cheque from the federal government have put it towards their mortgage. Looser monetary policy has also helped. Since the beginning of the year the interest rate on 30-year mortgages has fallen by about half a percentage point, to an all-time low of just over 3%. Mortgage companies are overrun with applications from people seeking to refinance. House-hunters, including those seeking to escape city centres after the pandemic, can now afford more expensive properties. As lockdowns were lifted, pent-up demand for housing led to a 20% year-on-year rise in mortgage applications in June.

政府提供的现金补贴也非常慷慨,力度之大使得美国2020年家庭总收入的增幅预计将与2019年相当,与以往衰退期通常出现的下降对比鲜明。这有助于借款人保持正常偿还房贷。事实上,五分之一收到联邦政府纾困支票的美国人已经用它来还贷了。更宽松的货币政策也有帮助。自今年年初以来,30年期房贷利率已经下降了大约0.5个百分点,至3%出头的历史最低水平。人们的再融资申请淹没了抵押贷款公司。想要买房的人,包括那些想在疫情后逃离市中心的人,现在可以买得起更贵的房子了。随着封锁放松,被压抑的需求推动6月的房贷申请同比增长了20%。

What happens to the housing market next depends on the evolution of the covid-19 outbreak and, in turn, that of the overall economy. Yet when the fog does eventually clear, a period of even stronger price growth might not be a surprise. A raft of academic evidence draws a strong link between loose monetary policy and bubbly housing markets. Other researchers noted before the pandemic that the supply of new housing in America was failing to keep up with demand—owing in part to increasingly complex land regulations and reduced competition in house-building. Social-distancing requirements are also likely to hold construction back in the coming months. With supply constrained and demand boosted, house prices seem to rest on solid foundations. ■

房地产市场接下来的发展取决于疫情的走势,以及由疫情决定的整体经济走势。不过,当迷雾最终消散,房价在一段时间内出现更强劲的增长可能并不让人意外。大量学术证据表明,宽松的货币政策与房地产市场泡沫之间存在密切关联。其他研究人员在疫情前就指出,美国的新房供应跟不上需求,一定程度上是因为日益复杂的土地法规和房屋建设竞争的减少。社交隔离的要求也有可能在未来几个月里阻碍施工。供应受限而需求增加,房价似乎有着坚实的基础。