August 2006

A Trend and Variance Decomposition of the Rent-Price Ratio in Housing Markets

Sean D. Campbell, Morris A. Davis, Joshua Gallin, and Robert F. Martin


We use the dynamic Gordon-growth model to decompose the rent-price ratio for owner-occupied housing in the U.S., four Census regions, and twenty-three metropolitan areas into three components: The expected present value of real rental growth, real interest rates, and future housing premia. We use these components to decompose the trend and variance in rent-price ratios for 1975-2005, for an early sub-sample (1975-1996), and for the recent housing boom (1997-2005). We have three main findings. First, variation in expected future real rents accounts for a small share of variation in our sample rent-price ratios; variation in real interest rates and housing premia account for most of the variability. Second, expected future real rates and housing premia were so strongly negatively correlated prior to 1997 that changes to real interest rates did not affect the rent-price ratio. After 1997, rates and premia have been positively correlated, and the decline in the rent-price ratio that has occurred in almost every geographic area in our sample since 1997 reflects both declining real rates and declining premia. Third, we show that in the recent housing boom, 65 percent of the decline in the aggregate rent-price ratio is due to a declining housing premium.

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Keywords: Rent-price ratio, house price, housing rents, interest rate

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