The Housing Market and the Macroeconomy: Evidence From Ireland
This paper provides an empirical assessment of the important linkages which may exist between the housing sector and several key macroeconomic variables. The analysis focuses on (i) the effects of rising real incomes on house prices, (ii) the impact of monetary policy, i.e. interest rates, on developments in the housing market, (iii) the nature and speed of price adjustment in the housing market, (iv) the nature and speed of supply adjustment in the housing market and (v) potential impacts of rising real house prices on real consumption. The key empirical result in the paper is the identification of two long-run relationships which capture the fundamental economic behaviour on both the demand and supply sides of the housing market. In the long-run, the demand side of the market can be modelled using a stable relationship between house prices, the housing stock, income and mortgage interest rates. It was discovered that an increase in income results in a proportional rise in the long-run demand for housing. In addition, the demand for housing responds negatively and proportionately to increases in the price of housing. Mortgage interest rates were also shown to exert a significant negative effect on the demand for housing. To model the supply side of the market, the empirical section of the paper tested the data for the existence of a stable ratio of house prices to construction costs which is consistent with "normal profits" in the house building sector. The housing stock is shown to adjust positively in order to ensure the stability of this profit ratio. Based on this characterisation of housing demand and supply, it would seem possible to explain much of the recent rise in house prices as an efficient relative price change in the presence of very sluggish supply adjustment. In addition, the model suggests that, given the short-run fixity of supply, it is reasonable to expect that house prices will overshoot their equilibrium level and then subsequently decline somewhat.
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