Robert Shiller: ‘Neither Farmland Nor Housing Has Been A Great Place To Invest Money Over The Long Term’

Yale University Economics Professor Robert Shiller just torpedoed long-held notions about farmland and residential real estate in this country. The Nobel Prize winner, who correctly-called the dot-com and housing busts of the last decade, penned the following on The New York Times website on July 15:

Despite solid price increases over the last few years, land and homes have actually been disappointing investments. It’s worth considering why.

Let’s start by looking at the numbers. The best long-term data on land in the United States is for farmland, which is valuable in its own right and can also be considered a great reservoir that can be converted to housing and other purposes at opportune times.

Over the century from 1915 to 2015, though, the real value of American farmland (deflated by the Consumer Price Index) increased only 3.1 times, according to the Department of Agriculture. That comes to an average increase of only 1.1 percent a year– and with a growing population, that’s barely enough to keep per capita real land value unchanged.

According to my own data (relying on the S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index, which I helped create), real home prices rose even more slowly over the same period — a total increase of 1.8 times, which comes to an average of only 0.6 percent a year.

What all that amounts to is that neither farmland nor housing has been a great place to invest money over the long term…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

“Neither farmland nor housing has been a great place to invest money over the long term”

Obviously, this goes contrary to what many Americans have believed all along.

However, the fact that farmland can produce income from crops should not be ignored.

Residential real estate may also offer benefits beyond property value. In my case, the single-family dwelling in the Chicago suburbs which my girlfriend and I own is a significant improvement in such areas as security and food production, for example, compared to our previous rental unit in a multi-family building on the city’s Northwest Side.

An interesting piece from Dr. Shiller, which you can read on the Times’ website here.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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