Real House Prices and Price-to-Rent Ratio in February

Here is the earlier post on Case-Shiller: Case-Shiller: National House Price Index increased 6.3% year-over-year in February

It has been eleven years since the bubble peak. In the Case-Shiller release this morning, the seasonally adjusted National Index (SA), was reported as being 8.2% above the previous bubble peak. However, in real terms, the National index (SA) is still about 10.8% below the bubble peak (and historically there has been an upward slope to real house prices).

The year-over-year increase in prices is mostly moving sideways now around 6%. In February, the index was up 6.3% YoY.

Usually people graph nominal house prices, but it is also important to look at prices in real terms (inflation adjusted).  Case-Shiller and others report nominal house prices.  As an example, if a house was $200,000 in January 2000, the price would be close to $284,000 today adjusted for inflation (42%).  That is why the second graph below is important – this shows “real” prices (adjusted for inflation).

Nominal House Prices

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

In nominal terms, the Case-Shiller National index (SA)and the Case-Shiller Composite 20 Index (SA) are both at new all times highs (above the bubble peak).

Real House Prices

Real House PricesThe second graph shows the same two 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 November 2004 levels, and the Composite 20 index is back to May 2004.

In real terms, house prices are back to 2004 levels.


In October 2004, Fed economist John Krainer and researcher Chishen Wei wrote a Fed letter on 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 and Composite 20 House Price Indexes.

This graph shows the price to rent ratio (January 2000 = 1.0).

On a price-to-rent basis, the Case-Shiller National index is back to February 2004 levels, and the Composite 20 index is back to November 2003 levels.

In real terms, prices are back to mid 2004 levels, and the price-to-rent ratio is back to late 2003, early 2004 – and the price-to-rent ratio has been increasing slowly.

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