Tuesday, November 25, 2014

House Prices: Real Prices and Price-to-Rent Ratio in September

by Bill McBride on 11/25/2014 01:11:00 PM

The expected slowdown in year-over-year price increases is ongoing. In November 2013, the Comp 20 index was up 13.8% year-over-year (YoY). Now the index is only up 4.9% YoY. This is the smallest YoY increase since October 2012 (the National index was up 10.9% YoY in October 2013, is now up 4.8% - also the slowest YoY increase since October 2012.

Looking forward, I expect the indexes to slow further on a YoY basis, however: 1) I don't expect the indexes to turn negative YoY (in 2015) , and 2) I think most of the slowdown on a YoY basis is now behind us.

This slowdown was expected by several key analysts, and I think it is good news.  As Zillow chief economist Stan Humphries said today:

The days of double-digit home value appreciation continue to rapidly fade away as more inventory comes on line, and the market is becoming more balanced between buyers and sellers,” said Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Stan Humphries. “Like a perfectly prepared Thanksgiving turkey, it’s important for things to cool off a bit in the housing market, because too-fast appreciation risks burning both buyers and sellers. In this more sedate environment, buyers can take more time to find the right deal for them, and sellers can rest assured they won’t be left without a seat at the table when they turn around and become buyers. This slowdown is a critical step on the road back to a normal housing market, and as we approach the end of 2014, the housing market has plenty to be thankful for.”
emphasis added
In the earlier post, I graphed nominal house prices, but it is also important to look at prices in real terms (inflation adjusted).  Case-Shiller, CoreLogic and others report nominal house prices.  As an example, if a house price was $200,000 in January 2000, the price would be close to $278,600 today adjusted for inflation (39%).  That is why the second graph below is important - this shows "real" prices (adjusted for inflation).

Another point on real prices: In the Case-Shiller release this morning, the National Index was reported as being 10.4% below the bubble peak.   However, in real terms, the National index is still about 25% below the bubble peak.

Nominal House Prices

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

In nominal terms, the Case-Shiller National index (SA) is back to March 2005 levels, and the Case-Shiller Composite 20 Index (SA) is back to October 2004 levels, and the CoreLogic index (NSA) is back to February 2005.

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 September 2002 levels, the Composite 20 index is back to June 2002, and the CoreLogic index back to March 2003.

In real terms, house prices are back to early '00s levels.


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 February 2003 levels, the Composite 20 index is back to September 2002 levels, and the CoreLogic index is back to May 2003.

In real terms, and as a price-to-rent ratio, prices are mostly back to early 2000 levels - and maybe moving a little sideways now.