No, we're not in a national housing bubble. Period. End of story.
Yes, it is true that home prices, on average in 20 major metropolitan areas are above the 2007 peak. It is also true that specific, highly populated cities with limited supplies of new and existing homes are experiencing "surge pricing" amid strong demand.
In fact, pending home sales expanded in most of the country in July and reached their second highest reading in over a decade, according to the National Association of Realtors. Only the Midwest saw a dip in contract activity last month.
Still, if there are "bubbles," they are local in nature and, likely, do not pose the type of systemic financial risk that was created in the easy-money housing boom of the last decade.
Manhattan, Brooklyn, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and a handful of other cities, have sky-high housing prices driven, in large part, by high-paying jobs, a population influx, relatively limited supply and an influx of foreign money, especially in the super luxury category of homes and condos.
But this is not an "all in" moment on the housing front. While interest rates are low and housing affordability is generally quite high, there is no credit-fueled speculative excess in housing that allows even the least qualified buyers to get in on the game.
Real market bubbles are relatively rare, but share very common features that this run up in housing prices most obviously lacks.
Bubbles have been studied by a host of academic economists and students of financial history, from Ben Bernanke to John Kenneth Galbraith to Charles Kindleberger, and from Edward Chancellor to Jim Grant.