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The Puzzling Divergence Of Rents And User Costs, 1980-2004

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  • Randal Verbrugge

Abstract

This paper demonstrates that, in the context of U.S. housing data, rents and ex ante user costs diverge markedly-in both growth rates and levels-for extended periods of time, a seeming failure of arbitrage and a puzzle from the perspective of standard capital theory. The tremendous volatility of even appropriately-smoothed ex ante annual user cost measures implies that such measures are unsuitable for inclusion in official price statistics. The divergence holds not only at the aggregate level, but at the metropolitan-market level as well, and is robust across different house price and rent measures. But transactions costs matter: the large persistent divergences did not imply the presence of unexploited profit opportunities. In particular, even though detached housing is readily moved between owner and renter markets, and the detached-unit rental market is surprisingly thick, transactions costs would have prevented risk-neutral investors from earning expected profits by buying a property to rent out for a year, and would have prevented risk-neutral homeowners from earning expected profits by selling their homes and becoming renters for a year. Finally, computing implied appreciation as a residual yields a house price forecast with huge errors; but either longer-horizon or no-real-capital-gains forecasts-which turn out to have similar forecast errors-imply a far less divergent user cost measure which might ultimately be useful for official price statistics. Some conjectures are offered. Copyright 2008 The Author Journal compilation 2008 International Association for Research in Income and Wealth Published by Blackwell Publishing.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by International Association for Research in Income and Wealth in its journal Review of Income and Wealth.

Volume (Year): 54 (2008)
Issue (Month): 4 (December)
Pages: 671-699

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Handle: RePEc:bla:revinw:v:54:y:2008:i:4:p:671-699

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  1. Theodore Crone & Leonard I. Nakamura & Richard Voith, 2008. "Rents have been rising, not falling, in the postwar period," Working Papers 08-28, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  2. Davis, Morris & Heathcote, Jonathan, 2005. "The Price and Quantity of Residential Land in the United States," CEPR Discussion Papers 5333, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Karl E Case & John M Quigley & Robert J Shiller, 2003. "Home-buyers, Housing and the Macroeconomy," RBA Annual Conference Volume, in: Anthony Richards & Tim Robinson (ed.), Asset Prices and Monetary Policy Reserve Bank of Australia.
  4. Case, Karl E & Shiller, Robert J, 1989. "The Efficiency of the Market for Single-Family Homes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(1), pages 125-37, March.
  5. Gatzlaff, Dean H & Haurin, Donald R, 1997. "Sample Selection Bias and Repeat-Sales Index Estimates," The Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics, Springer, vol. 14(1-2), pages 33-50, Jan.-Marc.
  6. Donald R. Haurin & Patric H. Hendershott & Dongwook Kim, 1991. "Local House Price Indexes: 1982-1991," Real Estate Economics, American Real Estate and Urban Economics Association, vol. 19(3), pages 451-472.
  7. Michelle H. Dreiman & Anthony Pennington-Cross, 2004. "Alternative Methods of Increasing the Precision of Weighted Repeat Sales House Prices Indices," The Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics, Springer, vol. 28(4), pages 299-317, 05.
  8. Jonathan McCarthy & Richard W. Peach, 2004. "Are home prices the next "bubble"?," Economic Policy Review, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, issue Dec, pages 1-17.
  9. Edward L. Glaeser & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2002. "The Benefits of the Home Mortgage Interest Deduction," NBER Working Papers 9284, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Case, Bradford & Pollakowski, Henry O & Wachter, Susan M, 1997. "Frequency of Transaction and House Price Modeling," The Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics, Springer, vol. 14(1-2), pages 173-87, Jan.-Marc.
  11. Theodore M. Crone & Leonard I. Nakamura & Richard Voith, 1999. "Measuring housing services inflation," Working Papers 99-9, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  12. John S. Greenlees, 1982. "An Empirical Evaluation of the CPI Home Purchase Index, 1973-1978," Real Estate Economics, American Real Estate and Urban Economics Association, vol. 10(1), pages 1-24.
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As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
  1. Rents differ markedly from user costs in the US
    by Economic Logician in Economic Logic on 2009-10-07 14:26:00
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Cited by:
  1. W. Erwin Diewert & Alice O. Nakamura, 2009. "Accounting for housing in a CPI," Working Papers 09-4, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  2. Frick, Joachim R. & Grabka, Markus M. & Smeeding, Timothy M. & Tsakloglou, Panos, 2010. "Distributional Effects of Imputed Rents in Five European Countries," EconStor Open Access Articles, ZBW - German National Library of Economics, pages 167-179.
  3. Philippe Bracke, 2013. "House Prices and Rents: Micro Evidence from a Matched Dataset in Central London," SERC Discussion Papers 0127, Spatial Economics Research Centre, LSE.
  4. Robert J. Hill & Iqbal A. Syed, 2012. "Hedonic Price-Rent Ratios, User Cost, and Departures from Equilibrium in the Housing Market," Graz Economics Papers 2012-08, University of Graz, Department of Economics.
  5. Winters, John V., 2012. "Differences in Quality of Life Estimates Using Rents and Home Values," IZA Discussion Papers 6703, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  6. Diewert, Erwin, 2007. "The Paris OECD-IMF Workshop on Real Estate Price Indexes: Conclusions and Future Directions," Economics working papers diewert-07-01-03-08-12-12, Vancouver School of Economics, revised 31 Jan 2007.
  7. Matti Viren, 2013. "Is the housing allowance shifted to rental prices?," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 44(3), pages 1497-1518, June.
  8. Jonathan Halket & Michael Amior, 2012. "Do Households Use Homeownership To Insure Themselves? Evidence Across U.S. Cities," Economics Discussion Papers 718, University of Essex, Department of Economics.
  9. Jordan Rappaport, 2010. "The effectiveness of homeownership in building household wealth," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, issue Q IV, pages 35-65.
  10. Bettina Aten & Eric Figueroa & Troy Martin, 2012. "How can the American Community Survey (ACS) be used to improve the imputation of Owner-Occupied Rent Expenditures?," BEA Working Papers 0080, Bureau of Economic Analysis.
  11. Bert M. Balk & W. Erwin Diewert & Alice O. Nakamura, 2009. "Introduction to price and productivity measurement for housing," Working Papers 09-5, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  12. Aysoy, Cem & Aysoy, Cevriye & Tumen, Semih, 2014. "Quantifying and Explaining Stickiness in Housing Rents: A Turkish Case Study with Micro-Level Data," MPRA Paper 55292, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  13. W. Erwin Diewert, 2009. "Durables and Owner-Occupied Housing in a Consumer Price Index," NBER Chapters, in: Price Index Concepts and Measurement, pages 445-500 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Erwin Diewert, 2010. "Understanding PPPs and PPP-Based National Accounts: Comment," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(4), pages 36-45, October.

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