Where Are The Speculative Bubbles in US House Prices?


June 2008

Authors: Allen C. Goodman and Thomas G. Thibodeau

In the first half of this decade, US house prices experienced significant real rates of appreciation. The dramatic increase in house prices led some economists to conclude that there was a speculative bubble in the US housing market. This paper explores how much of the recent appreciation in US house prices was attributable to the fundamental economic determinants of house prices. On the demand side, we note that the rate of homeownership in the US increased from 66.8% in 1999 to 69% in the fourth quarter of 2005 1 . Each percentage point increase in the homeownership rate increases the demand for owner-occupied housing by about one million units. On the supply side, land prices and housing construction costs increased substantially in real terms over this period. The national average increase in house prices conceals significant spatial variation in appreciation rates. According to OFHEO, house prices in California cities increased by more than fifteen percent per year during this period while house prices in Texas cities increased four percent per year. The increase in aggregate housing demand had different effects on metropolitan area house prices because housing market supply elasticities vary spatially. We estimate housing supply elasticities for 133 metropolitan areas and conclude that although areas on the East Coast and in California had large observed price increases, they owe much of their house price increases to inelastic supplies of owneroccupied housing.

Citation: Allen C. Goodman and Thomas G. Thibodeau. 2008. “Where Are the Speculative Buddles in Us Housing Prices?” Journal of Housing Economics. 17(2):117-137.