Anyone looking for a bright spot in the economy need look no further -- literally -- than their own backyards. Houses are one of the hottest commodities available, thanks to a hot market nationwide and in the Cape Girardeau area specifically.
There's considerable talk these days about a housing "bubble" and what economic impact it could have if it bursts. But local real estate pros say the strong gains in home values are occurring in a "stable" local market, and those values aren't likely to plummet any time soon.
Even Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve, said last week that he's not overly concerned about increases in national housing values, although he said prices in some cities might be near a tumble -- but the economy overall is strong enough to weather some slides.
There are several reasons for the strong gains in housing prices. The obvious ones are supply-demand and creative financing such as interest-only mortgages and attractive adjustable-rate mortgages.
And, despite regular increases in Fed rates aimed at keeping inflation in check, 30-year mortgage rates (the standard for the lending industry) are still quite attractive, dropping to 14-month lows near 5.5 percent last week.
The United States has the highest rate of home ownership in the world, which contributes to economic security as well as high living standards. From all indicators, it looks like the housing market will continue to be an economic pillar for quite some time.