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Swedens central bank recently lowered their prime rate to -0.25% from -0.10% in an effort to avoid deflation.

At the same time, house and apartment prices are higher than ever, up 11% last 12 months, and up hundreds of percents the last 5-10 years. Measures are taken to avoid a housing bubble, like regulations on mortgage payments and so on, these are having an effect but the effects of a rapid rise in rate would be disastrous.

As I've understood, and I guess this might differ from country to country, the measure of inflation, CPI, includes prices for services and goods, but not for houses and apartments, why is that? In Sweden, rent for apartments and the bank rate are included in CPI, but the consumer isn't paying rate, they pay rate * house prices.

If house prices were included in CPI, we would definitely have inflation rather than deflation, so the right action would be to increase the prime rate, which would also lower house prices.

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  • $\begingroup$ Because including that in CPI would in a sense make the measure intertemporal, which would make it hard to compare relative CPI levels. I think. $\endgroup$ – 123 Mar 25 '15 at 2:55
  • $\begingroup$ seems to be related to: economics.stackexchange.com/questions/3379/… $\endgroup$ – x457812 Apr 27 '16 at 0:23
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    $\begingroup$ As an aside to everything said so far, they are included in the RPI. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Retail_price_index $\endgroup$ – Thev Sep 14 '17 at 1:47
  • $\begingroup$ This question is still very valid and still lacks an insightful answer. I've read all answers as of today and only Jeff's answer touches the main reason for not including house prices: the main reason is, simply put, flawed reasoning. @Mårten your gut feeling is correct, Swedish inflation is underestimated. Every single argument I've encountered arguing to not include house prices have flaws. This is really a topic that deserves discussion in forums and SO Q/A format can not do this topic any justice. $\endgroup$ – Joakim Thorén Nov 26 at 0:16
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The CPI stands for a Consumer Price Index. As in the price of things that are consumed (at a particular moment in time). Real estate prices are not the price of something consumed because they contain the value of current housing consumption but also the capitalized value of future housing consumption. As such, including house prices would make the CPI a mixture of consumption at different times, and therefore unsuitable for comparing the price of consumption bundles at distinct times. Instead, they use a purer measure of the price of housing consumption: rents.

Rents reflect the price of consuming a flow of real estate services at a moment in time. Of course, many homes are owned by the occupants and not rented. Therefore, the calculators of national accounts generate something called "owner occupied rents", which is an attempt to calculate what the rents would be on homes that are occupied by their owners. This measure has problems, but for many purposes is quite adequate (Crone, Nakamura, Voith (2004)).

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    $\begingroup$ "because they contain the value of current housing consumption but also the capitalized value of future housing consumption" could you explain what this means please? $\endgroup$ – Vinayak Pathak Dec 14 '15 at 3:15
  • $\begingroup$ @VinayakPathak: It's just a way of saying a house is both a real asset and an expense simultaneously. The house's market value could appear on your personal balance sheet. But the month's rent expense would be a cost-of-living item that would flow to your income statement. The former is not useful for measuring a price index. While the latter is. $\endgroup$ – FreeMarketUnicorn Jul 27 '16 at 6:42
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    $\begingroup$ @VinayakPathak They want to measure the price of (say) a month's worth of butter, a month's worth of lettuce, a month's worth of toilet paper, ... So they want to measure a month's worth of housing. But a house price is the price for a lifetime's worth of housing. The price for a month's worth of housing is called rent. $\endgroup$ – user253751 Sep 25 at 13:16
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Rents are included in the CPI, because they are expenditures that are "consumed" in current period of time.

But house prices are not, because they are expenditures on an asset to be consumed over many years. If you own a house, you will benefit from the rising prices--if and when you sell it. In a sense, houses are treated like capital goods--for consumers. That is, rising house prices are not a burden to home owners, whereas rising rents are a burden to renters.

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Experts argue that "raw" (i.e. the cost of actually purchasing a home) should never be included in CPI's because homes are not viewed as something people buy on a regular basis.

But that argument really becomes unstuck when you factor that reserve banks around the world use (WRONGLY in my opinion) CPI to determine interest rates.

The largest purchase for many people across the globe that relate directly to interest rates, is not shares, businesses, cars or any other similar investments, but homes. So it affects the prices of homes and their affordability directly through the setting of interest rates (remembering people need to borrow to buy a home in 99% of cases) and yet these same institutions and their simple minded economists refuse to take into account the growth of the same home prices when determining interest rates.

Inflation in real terms should be a measure of everything purchased in the economy whether it be a home, investment or bread.

Otherwise you have ridiculous situations globally as we have now where the indicators most economists use blindly are saying we have negative inflation, so interest rates are dropped and house borrowing and house prices go through the roof. If a housing market goes up 20% per year in some countries then should this not be included in the inflation rate? Because if house prices were included interest rates would be on the way up and not down.

We are currently being told by the "other" experts without vested interest in banking or housing sectors that the biggest problem in todays global economy is low interest rates fuelling asset bubbles (the biggest being residential housing in many countries). One way to fix this problem and easily is to start including house prices into CPI's and not burying our heads in the sand with ridiculous arguments as why not too. Yeh sure those in recent times who borrowed to much in a bubble asset class will take a massive hit. But it is a massive hit for the few that needs to happen for the better of the many in the medium to long term.

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    $\begingroup$ This reads much more like a rant than an actual factual answer, doesn't it? $\endgroup$ – clem steredenn Jul 27 '16 at 7:08
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I think house prices are not included in the CPI because in would harm one of the main drivers of the economy: real estate. Banking, law, insurance, construction, renovation, landscaping, engineers, appraisers, realtors, home decorators, civil servants, etc. The list is truly astounding, and this is not even accounting for the indirect impact of all these wages being spent to support other segments of the economy.

We live in a real estate economy.

If they were to increase interest rate to curtail inflation of house prices, they would kill the growth rate of the whole economy in a heart beat. Furthermore, low interest rates are highly destructive for pension funds, which adds onto the pressure of keeping the real estate going: this asset class is becoming the new retirement plan for many people (can't wait to see the impact of population aging on that: a real time bomb).

Lastly, the majority of the wealthiest people in a typical town or city made (or grew) their fortune through real estate investing. These people are also heavily involved with town/city politics as real estate investing is highly dependent on regulations (zoning, development planning, transit planning, etc.). Local politics constitute the backbone of regional and national politics. Interestingly, the typical government "stimulus" spending addresses local infrastructure needs that are also crucial for real estate performance.

I apologize for not bringing a whole lot of math here, but economy is a soft science; not including the house price in the CPI makes no mathematical sense to me anyway.

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  • $\begingroup$ Seems like what you describe is a bubble, not growth. $\endgroup$ – Giskard Oct 4 '16 at 14:56
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That's a good question. From my understanding in economics classes I have taken here in the U.S., home prices are not included because they are too volatile. The same goes for energy / oil prices. Home prices are very dependent on interest rates and their supply is relatively inelastic (because you can't quickly manufacture 10,000 new homes in a city when demand increases). This causes volatility. Hope that helps!

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House Prices were removed from inflationary measures in order to allow for personal debt to be driven upwards. The monies borrowed by people 'appearing' within the economy without triggering any inflationary triggers allowed (essentially) for people to save less and borrow more whilst continuing to drive down borrowing costs. In the UK Gordon Browns miracle economy was only personal debt. Just that. Smoke and Mirrors.

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    $\begingroup$ To me it seems rather far fetched that the government would manipulate the statistics in order to increase borrowing. If they wanted to do that they have more efficient ways of doing that. Also, statistics offices are supposed to be independent of the government. Do you have any evidence of this claim? $\endgroup$ – Maarten Punt Feb 15 '18 at 15:36

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