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‘Muscular’ housing market may have Achilles’ heel

Job growth, interest rates key to continued real estate boom

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Wal-Mart may lend some clues to the downside of the U.S. housing market. The booming housing sector, which weathered an otherwise sagging economy and saw explosive growth in home sales from 2002-03, is poised for continued growth, according to an annual study conducted by Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies. But other trends that nip at the heels of this seemingly unsinkable market include overcrowding, possibly overheated prices in some markets, and a growing percentage of income spent on housing by homeowners and renters alike. What will make the boom go bust? Click here to take an Inman Pulse Survey. Nicolas P. Retsinas, director at the center, said this year's study, "2004 State of the Nation's Housing," paid closer attention to an increasing disparity of wages in the housing market. "The growing sectors of this economy pay lower wages. The largest single private employer in the United States is Wal-Mart," he noted. The giant retailer has about 1.1 million employ...