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Puzzling Divergence of U.S. Rents and User Costs, 1980-2004: Summary and Extensions

  • Thesia I. Garner

    ()

    (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

  • Randal Verbrugge

    ()

    (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

This paper constructs, for the five largest cities in the United States, user costs and rents for the same structure, in levels (i.e., measured in dollars). The levels formulation is a major advantage over indexes since one can answer questions like "Is it cheaper to rent or to own?" or "Are houses overvalued?" because such questions are essentially about the levels of rents and house prices and their fundamentals. These new measures are constructed using Consumer Expenditure Survey (CE) Interview data from 1982 to 2002, along with house price appreciation forecasts from Verbrugge (2007a). Characteristics, current market value, and rental equivalence of owner-occupied housing are used in a regression framework to predict the rent associated with a structure with median characteristics in each city. The property value of this median house is used to construct a user cost estimate for this structure. We find that, for the median structure in each city, estimated user costs and rents diverge to a surprising degree, in keeping with the previously noted findings of Verbrugge (2007a). It is not always cheaper to own: user costs sometimes lie well above rents. Finally, the dynamics of the estimated price-to-rent ratio are generally similar to those found in conventional estimates based upon indexes, suggesting that the present study might be useful for scaling or normalizing other estimates.

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File URL: http://www.bls.gov/ore/pdf/ec070080.pdf
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Paper provided by U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in its series Working Papers with number 409.

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Length: 23 pages
Date of creation: Oct 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:bls:wpaper:ec070080
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  1. Matthew Chambers & Carlos Garriga & Don Schlagenhauf, 2007. "Accounting for changes in the homeownership rate," Working Papers 2007-034, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
  2. Clemen, Robert T., 1989. "Combining forecasts: A review and annotated bibliography," International Journal of Forecasting, Elsevier, vol. 5(4), pages 559-583.
  3. Theodore M. Crone & Leonard I. Nakamura & Richard Voith, 2006. "The CPI for rents: a case of understated inflation," Working Papers 06-7, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  4. Richard A. Ashley. & Randall J. Verbrugge, 2006. "Frequency Dependence in Regression Model Coefficients: An Alternative Approach for Modeling Nonlinear Dynamic Relationships in Time Series," Working Papers e06-7, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Department of Economics.
  5. Antonia Díaz & Maria J. Luengo-Prado, 2006. "On The User Cost and Homeownership," Working Papers 2006-14, FEDEA.
  6. Case, Karl E. & Quigley, John M. & Shiller, Robert J., 2003. "Home-buyers, Housing and the Macroeconomy," Berkeley Program on Housing and Urban Policy, Working Paper Series qt0v59r392, Berkeley Program on Housing and Urban Policy.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Blackley, Dixie M. & Follain, James R., 1996. "In search of empirical evidence that links rent and user cost," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(3-4), pages 409-431, June.
  11. Theodore M. Crone & Leonard I. Nakamura & Richard Voith, 1999. "Measuring housing services inflation," Working Papers 99-9, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  12. Richard A. Ashley & Randal J. Verbrugge, 2009. "To difference or not to difference: a Monte Carlo investigation of inference in vector autoregression models," International Journal of Data Analysis Techniques and Strategies, Inderscience Enterprises Ltd, vol. 1(3), pages 242-274.
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