Introducing the Housing Cycle GPA - A Leading Indicator for Housing | John Burns Real Estate Consulting

Introducing the Housing Cycle GPA – A Leading Indicator for Housing


In our quest to be the first to properly call a bottom in this housing cycle, we have developed a tool called the Housing Cycle GPA. Our analysis has shown that the health of the market fundamentals (demand, supply and affordability) – which we measure with our Housing Cycle GPA – has proven to be a very good 1-2 year leading indicator for home price appreciation / depreciation. By monitoring the early signs of recovery or decline in market fundamentals, our clients will be better able to prepare for the future.

When the GPA increases from a D to a B, it is time to invest. When the GPA falls from a B to a D, it is time to divest. The GPA for San Diego, for example, indicates that 1984-86, and 1996-1997 were the times to invest, while 1989 and 2004-2005 were the times to divest. Right now, San Diego has improved from an F to a D, so it is too early to invest in San Diego

After significant testing of our assumptions, we have learned that:

  • Demand is the most important indicator, but demand deserves more weighting in markets that have traditionally not been oversupplied or experienced significant shifts in price, such as in the Midwest;
  • Supply is a more significant leading indicator in markets that have few barriers to entry and have experienced wild fluctuations in supply, such as in Texas; and
  • Affordability is a more significant leading indicator in markets with high barriers to entry where wild price fluctuations typically occur, such as the coastal markets in California.

While most markets are faring well with regards to affordability due to significant price declines and historically low interest rates, extreme weakness in demand and relative weakness in supply mean that no metro area is currently earning a grade higher than a “C,” (where a 4.0 represents an “A” and a 0.0 represents an “F”).

While the overall Housing Cycle GPA is very important, the recent history and the trend are just as important. Our analysis below shows how the changes in the direction of the fundamental have played out historically, and what that means for the future of your business.

Rising Fundamentals

When the fundamentals improve after an economic collapse, it is a time to consider taking more risk and planning on a recovery. Rising fundamentals usually means price appreciation is likely to occur. In some markets, the improvement has been almost immediate. In other markets, the improvement has taken several years.

The timing and extent of the recovery are primarily due to the level of the demand / supply imbalance that is created, as well as sudden changes in affordability, which is driven by changes in prices, incomes and mortgage rates. Markets that have been hit hard for a number of years also tend to come back more slowly than others, probably due to consumer sentiment.

Nationally, rising fundamentals generally occurred:

  • in the mid-1980s and mid-1990s in the Demand-driven markets
  • in the late-1980s and late-1990s in the Supply-driven markets
  • in the early-1980s and late-1990s in the Affordability-driven markets

Declining Fundamentals

When the fundamentals erode near the end of an expansion, it is a time to consider taking less risk. Interestingly, the greatest price appreciation often occurs after the fundamentals begin eroding. Therefore, declining fundamentals does not mean that you should sell all your holdings immediately. It just means that you should be forewarned that the risks are very high.

Declining fundamentals generally occurred:

  • in the late-1980s and 1999-2001 in the Demand-driven markets
  • in the early-1980s and mid-2000s in the Supply-driven markets
  • in the early- and late-1980s, 1999-2001 and 2004-2008 in the Affordability-driven markets

Managing risk during both the upside and downside of a housing cycle is crucial to the success of your business, and arming yourself with the best information and tools like the Housing Cycle GPA will allow you to seize the opportunities in each stage of the cycle.

Complimentary GPA

If you’d like a complimentary GPA chart of one of the 40 markets we have completed, contact us at (949) 870-1200 or fill out this form.


If you have any questions, please contact us at (949) 870-1200 or fill out this form.