Home prices in the Boston area are only going one direction: up.
So says a new report Thursday from Standard & Poors, which estimates that home values here will climb 24 percent by 2020. The Wall Street rating agency looked at 48 markets around the United States to see if the strong growth in home prices of the last few years was likely to continue.
Much of that prediction rests on how well the economy performs.
That 24 percent jump assumes that things continue more or less apace. If the economy performs better than expected, home prices could increase even more — as much as 49 percent, S&P predicts. Bully for homeowners, though not so much for those looking to buy.
But the real strength of Boston's housing market shows up in the downside risk. There isn't much.
If another recession hits of the magnitude of the economic downturn in 2007, S&P predicts, home prices in the Boston area would dip less than 2 percent. Even under the worst-case scenario envisioned by S&P, values in greater Boston would slip 6 percent, compared to a 27 percent plunge nationally.
Turns out Boston is one of the three or four lowest-risk markets in the country, said Darrell Wheeler, a structure finance researcher at S&P who coauthored the report.
"Boston is one of the more stable markets in the country," Wheeler said. "It has a broad scope of industries that are able to withstand economic events much better than many other markets."
Mix in a growing population of young professionals — who are entering prime home-buying age — and a flock of universities and medical institutions that are large employers and aren't likely going anywhere, and Boston's housing market is set in a good direction.
Unless, that is, you're trying to afford a new home here.