Bank Rate has risen by more than 5 percentage points in the UK over the past couple of years. This has led to much higher mortgage rates for many people. In this post we analyse another potential source of pressure on mortgagors: the potential for falls in house prices to push borrowers into higher – and therefore more expensive – loan to value (LTV) bands. In a scenario where house prices fall by 10% and high LTV spreads rise by 100 basis points, we estimate that an additional 350,000 mortgagors could be pushed above an LTV of 75%, which could increase their annual repayments by an extra £2,000 on average. This could have a material impact on the economy.
Many people expect the rise in interest rates over the past 18 months to lead house prices to fall. Average prices have already fallen by 1–2% in the UK and by more in the US. In this post I show that historically there have been large differences in how an interest rate shock affects prices in different areas of the country, even though interest rates are determined nationally. House prices respond more to interest rates in areas with more restrictive housing supply, like London and the South East of England. These are also the areas where price growth has been strongest in recent decades.
During recessions, and indeed pandemics, housing prices usually fall. Yet between March 2020 and December 2021 (‘the pandemic’), housing prices grew in the UK, reaching at the time their highest growth rate in a decade. During this pandemic, many more people could work from home, which potentially influenced their housing choices. In a recent Financial Stability paper, we analyse how changes in peoples’ preferences might have played into house price growth. We find that about half the growth in housing prices was linked to shifts in preferences. This was mostly due to an increased premium paid for houses over flats, with changes in location preferences only contributing marginally. But other interventions and macroeconomic factors also affected housing price growth.
Today’s financial system is global: credit and several financial asset classes show booms and busts across countries, sometimes with severe repercussions to the global economy. Yet it is debated to what extent common dynamics rather than domestic cycles lie behind financial fluctuations and whether the impact of global drivers is growing. In a recent Staff Working Paper, we observe various global financial cycles going as far back as the 19th century. We find that a volatile global equity price cycle is nowadays the main driver of stock prices across advanced economies. Global cycles in credit and house prices have become larger and longer over the last 30 years, having gained relevance in economies that are more financially open and developed.
Policymakers have put forward proposals to ensure that banks do not underestimate long-term risks from climate change. To examine how lenders account for extreme weather, we compare matched repeat mortgage and property transactions around a severe flood event in England in 2013-14. We find that lender valuations do not ‘mark-to-market’ against local price declines. As a result valuations are biased upwards. We also show that lenders do not offset this valuation bias by adjusting interest rates or loan amounts. Overall, these results suggest that lenders do not track closely the impact of extreme weather ex-post.
Bruno Albuquerque, Martin Iseringhausen and Frédéric Opitz
The fall in aggregate demand due to the COVID-19 shock has brought the eight-year long US housing market expansion to a halt. At the same time, the Federal Reserve and the US Government have deployed significant resources to support households and businesses. These actions should help weather the ongoing crisis and lay the seeds for the next recovery. It is, however, highly uncertain how the post-COVID-19 housing recovery will look. Using a time-varying parameter (TVP) model on US aggregate data, our results suggest that the next housing recovery may exhibit similar features to the 2012-19 expansion: a sluggish response of housebuilding to rising demand, but a strong response of house prices.
The average house in the UK is worth ten times what it was in 1980. Consumer prices are only three times higher. So house prices have more than trebled in real terms in just over a generation. In the 100 years leading up to 1980 they only doubled. Recent commentary on this blog and elsewhere argues that this unprecedented rise in house prices can be explained by one factor: lower interest rates. But this simple explanation might be too simple. In this blog post – which analyses the data available before Covid-19 hit the UK – we show that the interest rates story doesn’t seem to fit all of the facts. Other factors such as credit conditions or supply constraints could be important too.
Bruno Albuquerque, Knut Are Aastveit and André Anundsen
Housing supply elasticities – builders’ response to a change in house prices – help explain why house prices differ across location. As housing supply becomes more inelastic, the more rising demand translates to rising prices and the less to additional housebuilding. In a new paper, we use a rich US dataset and novel identification method to show that supply elasticities vary across cities and across time. We find that US housing supply has become less elastic since the crisis, with bigger declines in places where land-use regulation has tightened the most, and in areas that had larger price declines during the crisis. This new lower elasticity means US house prices should be more sensitive to changes in demand than before the crisis.
Since the mid-1980s, the average real (RPI-adjusted) UK house price has more than doubled, rising around one and a half times as fast as incomes. Economists’ diagnoses of the root cause varies – from anaemic supply, to the consequences of financial deregulation, or even a bubble. In our recent paper, we explore the role of the long-run decline in the real risk-free rate in driving up house prices. Low interest rates push up asset prices and reduce borrowing costs. We find the decline in the real risk-free rate can account for all of the rise in house prices relative to incomes.
In yesterday’s post we argued that housing is an asset, whose value should be determined by the expected future value of rents, rather than a textbook demand and supply for physical dwellings. In this post we develop a simple asset-pricing model, and combine it with data for England and Wales. We find that the rise in real house prices since 2000 can be explained almost entirely by lower interest rates. Increasing scarcity of housing, evidenced by real rental prices and their expected growth, has played a negligible role at the national level.