Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Real House Prices and Price-to-Rent Ratio

by Bill McBride on 2/26/2013 02:41:00 PM

For December, Case-Shiller reported the seventh consecutive year-over-year (YoY) gain in their house price indexes since 2010 - and the increase back in 2010 was related to the housing tax credit. Excluding the tax credit, the previous YoY increase was back in 2006. The YoY increase in December suggests that house prices probably bottomed earlier in 2012 (the YoY change lags the turning point for prices).

The following table shows the year-over-year increase for each month in 2012.

Case-Shiller Composite 20 Index
MonthYoY Change

I expect the year-over-year change will slow going forward, but the lack of inventory might push prices up more than I expect in 2013. That is why I'm watching inventory closely.

Here are some updates to a few graphs ... Case-Shiller, CoreLogic and others report nominal house prices, and it is also useful to look at house prices in real terms (adjusted for inflation) and as a price-to-rent ratio.

As an example, if a house price was $200,000 in January 2000, the price would be close to $275,000 today adjusted for inflation.

Nominal House Prices

Nominal House PricesThe first graph shows the quarterly Case-Shiller National Index SA (through Q4 2012), and the monthly Case-Shiller Composite 20 SA and CoreLogic House Price Indexes (through December) in nominal terms as reported.

In nominal terms, the Case-Shiller National index (SA) is back to Q2 2003 levels (and also back up to Q3 2010), and the Case-Shiller Composite 20 Index (SA) is back to October 2003 levels, and the CoreLogic index (NSA) is back to January 2004.

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 October 1999 levels, the Composite 20 index is back to October 2000, and the CoreLogic index back to February 2001.

In real terms, most of the appreciation in the last decade is gone.


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 National, Composite 20 and CoreLogic House Price Indexes.

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

On a price-to-rent basis, the Case-Shiller National index is back to Q4 1999 levels, the Composite 20 index is back to October 2000 levels, and the CoreLogic index is back to February 2001.

In real terms - and as a price-to-rent ratio - prices are mostly back to early 2000 levels.

All Current House Price Graphs

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