Betting On the House

A new book by Ed Harris ’85 challenges experts’ negative forecasts for the US housing market.
Amanda Chalifoux |  January 15, 2013
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While Ed Harris ’85 is the first to admit he’s no real estate expert, the former investment banker has plenty of opinions about the future of the US housing market. His new self-published book, Put It on the House: Why Home Prices Will Soar, challenges current ideas on what’s thought to be a slow—and somewhat unpromising—real estate recovery.

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“I think the gloom and doom is overdone,” says Harris, a vice president of business development for Apex Learning. “I wanted to question the consensus wisdom of the moment. Everyone said there was overbuilding during the bubble, so I started my research there.”

When Harris compared construction rates of new housing units to demographics, he found that construction was relatively steady over the last 50 years, including the period 2000-2007 — precisely when many say there was overbuilding. US new housing construction has plunged since the downturn, and net growth in housing units is now about 20 percent of what it has been historically. “Since 2008, 3 million housing units haven’t been built that should have been built based on simple demographics,” Harris says.

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Relative to incomes, Harris adds, homes have never been more affordable in the post-WWII period. “I think the market has nowhere to go but up,” he says. “Since I published the book, it seems like with each passing month, the data just gets more positive. Housing is so fundamental. This is not like a decline in the production of watering cans; it’s a basic human need.”