At first glance of this graph, it looks like real estate always goes up. Except for the blip in 2008, real estate is a great investment over the long term, right?
But those prices are in nominal terms and do not account for inflation. Here is how inflation adjusted house prices look like since 1980 using 1980 dollars.
If a house was bought at the peak in 1980, house price gains when adjusting for inflation do not come back for air for over 20 years.
Here are a few other cities and the national average since 1980 in inflation adjusted terms.
If one were to have bought a house in Saskatoon in 1981, house prices made less than inflation all the way until about 1992. So in over a decade, house prices did not go up. But if one were to have bought in the mid 90's, yeah, house prices have gone up. So answering the question "does real estate always go up"? is tricky because it really is time and location specific.