Additional Insight from Robert Shiller

For our beloved Facebook fans, here are a couple of bonus questions and answers from this respected economist.

Home prices have been on a worrisome downturn, recently retreating to mid-2002 levels. In the latest read of the S&P/Case-Shiller home price index, home prices in the nation's 20 largest cities fell 4% in April from a year ago, when the home buyer's tax credit was boosting sales. On the other hand, the nation's most closely watched housing barometer shows that prices on a month-to-month basis rose in April for the first time in eight months.

What should homebuyers expect now? Is this the beginning of a turning point for the housing market? We checked in with the co-creator of the index, Yale professor Robert Shiller, for his outlook on the housing market. Shiller earned credibility as a pundit when, among other things, he called the housing bubble in 2006, just before prices started to tumble. Here are the bonus edited excerpts from his conversation with Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, exclusively available to our Facebook fans.

KIPLINGER: Alan Greenspan said last year that if home prices double dip, which they have now, that could bring on a double dip in the economy. What do the latest housing numbers forebode for the economy?

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SHILLER: A lot of people have been staking their hopes on home prices going up. We’re at a tipping point. I want to know what happens in a couple of months. If the unemployment rate continues to move higher and if home prices don’t respond to the summer season, then it will look like a recession. Right now most forecasters are predicting something like 2% growth. That seems to me a respectable forecast. But I’m worried that it will deteriorate.

Is there a farmland bubble brewing now? Yes. Farmland is already expensive because it went up with home prices. But whereas home prices collapsed, farmland prices fell only a little bit because they don’t make any more farmland. But I think you could see a big bubble in farmland prices because the global demand for food is growing as the global population increases, weather patterns change and as consumers in emerging markets grow wealthier and demand higher-quality food.

For the rest of the interview, see PRACTICAL ECONOMICS: Robert Shiller Predicts Home Prices Will Fall Some More.

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Jennifer Schonberger
Staff Writer, Kiplinger's Personal Finance