Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Real House Prices and Price-to-Rent: Back to 1999

by Bill McBride on 5/31/2011 12:35:00 PM

Case-Shiller, CoreLogic and others report nominal house prices. However it is also useful to look at house prices in real terms (adjusted for inflation), as a price-to-rent ratio, and also price-to-income (not shown here).

Below are three graphs showing nominal prices (as reported), real prices and a price-to-rent ratio. Real prices are back to 1999/2000 levels, and the price-to-rent ratio is also back to 1999/2000 levels.

Nominal House Prices

The first graph shows the quarterly Case-Shiller National Index SA (through Q1 2011), and the monthly Case-Shiller Composite 20 SA (through March) and CoreLogic House Price Indexes (through March) in nominal terms (as reported).

Nominal House PricesClick on graph for larger image in graph gallery.

In nominal terms, the Case-Shiller National index is back to Q3 2002 levels, the Case-Shiller Composite 20 Index (SA) is slightly above the May 2009 lows (and close to June 2003 levels), and the CoreLogic index is back to January 2003.

Note: The not seasonally adjusted Case-Shiller Composite 20 Index (NSA) is back to April 2003 levels.

Real House Prices

Real House PricesThe second graph shows the same three indexes in real terms (adjusted for inflation using CPI less Shelter). Note: some people use other inflation measures to adjust for real prices.

In real terms, the National index is back to Q4 1999 levels, the Composite 20 index is back to October 2000, and the CoreLogic index back to November 1999.

A few key points:
• In real terms, all appreciation in the last decade is gone.

• Real prices are still too high, but they are much closer to the eventual bottom than the top in 2005. This isn't like in 2005 when prices were way out of the normal range. In many areas - with an increasing population and land constraints - there is an upward slope to real prices (see: The upward slope of Real House Prices)


In October 2004, Fed economist John Krainer and researcher Chishen Wei wrote a Fed letter on price to rent ratios: House Prices and Fundamental Value. Kainer and Wei presented a price-to-rent ratio using the OFHEO house price index and the Owners' Equivalent Rent (OER) from the BLS.

Price-to-Rent RatioHere is a similar graph using the Case-Shiller Composite 20 and CoreLogic House Price Index (through March).

This graph shows the price to rent ratio (January 1998 = 1.0).

Note: the measure of Owners' Equivalent Rent (OER) was mostly flat for two years - so the price-to-rent ratio mostly followed changes in nominal house prices. In recent months, OER has been increasing - lowering the price-to-rent ratio.

On a price-to-rent basis, the Composite 20 index is back to October 2000 levels, and the CoreLogic index is back to December 1999.

Earlier ...
Case Shiller: National Home Prices Hit New Low in 2011 Q1
The Excess Vacant Housing Supply