Newmans Own

With God As My Realtor

This study has been getting a lot of attention . Christopher Crowe, an IMF economist, suggests that evangelical Christians may have helped soften the impact of the housing bubble and bust in some areas. Their “strict interpretation of Biblical injunctions with respect to money and greed might make them less prone to speculative excess,” he writes. While the rest of us pagans and heathens were buying or refinancing with five/one interest-only ARMs with prepayment penalties, evangelicals were making their payments on their 30-year-fixed mortgages, trimming their hedges, and waiting for the Rapture . (I simplify. But only slightly.)

One of the reasons evangelicals help smooth out the bumps in the economy, apparently, is that like movies or Manhattan psychiatrists evangelicals are countercyclical. To help illustrate this point, Crowe examined home sales in evangelical and nonevangelical areas just before and after 9/11, and found that prices rose in areas with relatively more evangelicals and fell in areas with relatively fewer. “This is consistent with the view that non-evangelicals viewed the attacks as bad economic news with negative implications for house prices,” he writes, “while evangelicals may have been prompted by their ‘end times’ beliefs to interpret 9/11 in a more positive light, boosting their overall sentiment and leading to an uptick in prices.”

Being neither an economist nor an evangelical, I don’t know what to make of all this. I get the part about rapturous evangelicals seeing 9/11 differently. What I don’t get is why this would cause home values to rise. If you think the world is about to end, you don’t buy a house. You don’t sell a house. You just sort of sit around and … actually, I don’t know. What do you do when you think the world is about to end? This is a question for another blog .

On the other hand, and from a purely selfish standpoint: If there are any evangelicals out there looking to quickly and cheaply unload a three-bedroom, two-bath house within walking distance to the subway in advance of the Rapture by all means, let us know.