Despite noise about a housing bubble, there’s plenty of evidence that we’re not even close.

That was the message of some panelists at ABS East, sponsored by Information Management Network.

“We’re clearly not in a housing bubble,” said Laurie Goodman, director at the Housing Finance Policy Center of Urban Institute.

A crucial reason cited by the participants is that the affordability of housing is at relatively high levels. The price-to-income ratio, for instance, remains below the long-term average, said Vishwanath Tirupattur, a managing director at Morgan Stanley.

And that’s within a context of wages that have been stagnant in real terms for the past 15 years.

With prices going up 12% nationwide, some pundits have argued the housing market’s looking frothy.

But as Oliver Chang, co-founder and managing director of Sylvan Road Capital, pointed out, home prices are not actually rising quite as fast as the major indices are indicating. This echoed comments made by FNC CEO Bill Rayburn on a panel yesterday.

Chang said that in Atlanta, the leading data is showing a 20% increase in housing prices, but his firm’s more meticulous research revealed a figure closer to 7%.

Of course, the spike in interest rates earlier this year, and concern that tapering from the Federal Reserve will push them up further, could hurt affordability. But panelists felt that even on this front, there was plenty of wriggle room.

Goodman said she didn’t see mortgage rates hitting 6% “anytime soon.”

And Corelogic Chief Economist Mark Fleming said that even if mortgage rates crept up 2%, homes would still be affordable. He was expecting official housing price grown to hover closer to 6% next year.

He agreed with his co-panelist that comparisons to the bubble of a few years ago are not justified.

“This time it’s different,” he said, then joked about how many times we’ve heard that phrase.

“But,” he added, “it really is.” 

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