It used to be that when real estate markets went south, they did so in a somewhat leisurely fashion. Buyers stopped buying and builders stopped building, but prices would stagnate or get a little soft -- not plummet overnight like the stock of some corporation that's been flown into the side of a mountain. Housing prices were "sticky" on the way down because homeowners would look at what their neighbor got for their house at the height of a boom, and decide to hold out for the same -- or at least something in the ballpark, even if that meant waiting a long, long time. That's especially true when the enthusiasm of would-be buyers is curtailed by rising interest rates, says Karl Case, the Wellesley College economics professor who is the co-creator with Yale economist Robert Shiller of the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller home-price indices. Housing prices in California nearly tripled during a five-year boom that ended in 1980, Case notes in a new paper posted ...
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