Vermont is the only state in the nation with housing prices today less than they were 12 months ago. That’s according to data from the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the federal agency that regulates Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
We should always take these types of data with several grains of salt. Nonetheless, it is worthwhile to use the FHFA data to see the general course of housing prices in Vermont. And the FHFA numbers show some interesting patterns.
For those old enough to remember, Vermont experienced a housing boom in the mid-and-late 1980s when house prices rose by 75 percent in just six years. By today’s standards, the actual prices people paid for houses look absurd. According to the 1980s Census, Vermonters who owned their own homes told the Census Bureau that their median house price in 1980 was $42,000. In the 1990 Census they reported a median price of $96,000 in 1990. (Today the median price is $216,000.)
Since 1980, the overall price level in the U.S. has nearly tripled, and it’s nearly doubled since 1990, so we need to look at housing prices in inflation-adjusted dollars. Even adjusting for inflation, housing prices rose by 44 percent during the 1983 to 1989 boom, meaning they increased that much faster than the average price of everything in the economy.
The 1980s housing boom was not too different from the more recent Vermont housing boom of the early 2000s. And Vermont did not escape the national housing boom. It did not experience the worst of it, which was in states such as California, Arizona, Florida, and Nevada. But prices in Vermont actually rose faster than the national average between 2000 and 2007.