Why India's Housing Bubble Similar to Japan's?
A housing bubble is in place when property rates start rising at double-digit rates, and people start taking loans to invest in property, with the idea that the loan can be paid back easily and the property sold at a profit.
Once the bubble is burst, the property is worth a fraction of its purchase price and people get left behind with a negative asset, where the EMI is higher than what the asset can earn in a month. In such a situation, the balance outstanding loan cannot be paid off even if the asset is sold.
Japan is an excellent example of a housing bubble that went horribly wrong, and it has a glaring similarity to what is happening in India. Read on and identify the similarities:
- The Japanese real estate market boomed from 1985 to its peak sometime in early 1991.
- During this time, Japan’s property prices rose much faster and more steeply as speculators used paper profits from a booming stock market to invest in property, insupportably leveraging the prices of both higher and higher.
- The biggest speculators in Japan's frenzy were deep-pocketed corporations, and they pumped up the commercial property market at the same time that home prices were inflating.
- Japan suffered one of the biggest property market collapses in modern history. At the market’s peak in 1991, all the land in Japan, a country the size of California, was worth about $18 trillion, or almost four times the value of all property in the United States at the time. A commonly-quoted claim was that the land beneath the Imperial Palace in Tokyo was worth more than the entire state of California.
Then came the crashes in both stocks and property, after the Japanese central bank moved too aggressively to raise interest rates. Both markets spiraled downward as investors sold stocks to cover losses in the land market, and vice versa, plunging prices into a 14-year trough. In 2005, the land in Japan was worth less than half its 1991 peak, while property in the United States has more than tripled in value, to about $17 trillion.
Homeowners were among the biggest victims of the Japanese real estate bubble. In Japan’s six largest cities, residential prices dropped 64 percent from 1991 to 2004. By most estimates, millions of homebuyers took substantial losses on the largest purchase of their lives.
By 2004, a prime “A” property in Tokyo's financial districts were less than 1/100th of their peak, and Tokyo’'s residential homes were 1/10th of their peak, and even at this time they were considered to be listed as the most expensive real estate in the world. At the end of the Japanese housing bubble, some $20 trillion (1999 dollars) was wiped out with the combined collapse of the real estate market and the Tokyo stock market.
Read next story in this series: Myth: Prices Will Keep Rising Forever
This article has been developed from the October 2005 issues of the New York Times. You can read it here