FHFA House Price Index: Up 2.5% In March

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) has released its U.S. House Price Index (HPI) for February. Here is the opening of the press release:

Washington, D.C. – U.S. house prices rose 12.6 percent from the first quarter of 2020 to the first quarter of 2021 according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency House Price Index (FHFA HPI®). House prices were up 3.5 percent compared to the fourth quarter of 2020. FHFA's seasonally adjusted monthly index for March was up 1.4 percent from February.

“House price growth over the prior year clocked in at more than twice the rate of growth observed in the first quarter of 2020, just before the effects of the pandemic were felt in housing markets," said Dr. Lynn Fisher, Deputy Director of FHFA's Division of Research and Statistics. “In March, rates of appreciation continued to climb, exceeding 15 percent over the year in the Pacific, Mountain and New England census divisions."

The chart below illustrates the monthly HPI series, which is not adjusted for inflation, along with a real (inflation-adjusted) series using the Consumer Price Index: All Items Less Shelter.

House Price Index

In the chart above we see that the nominal HPI index has exceeded its pre-recession peak of what's generally regarded to have been a housing bubble. Adjusted for inflation, the index is now at 178.6, also at its all-time high.

The next chart shows the growth of the nominal and real index since the turn of the century.

HPI Growth since 2000

For an interesting comparison, let's overlay the HPI and the most closely matching subcomponent of the Consumer Price Index, Owners' Equivalent Rent of Residences (OER). Note: For an explanation of OER, see this PDF commentary from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

HPI versus OER

HPI and OER moved in close parallel from the 1991 inception date of the former until early 1999 when the two parted company and HPI began accelerating into the housing bubble. HPI then fell 20.7% over the next 48 months to its March 2007 trough. Confirmation of the "bubble" designation for house prices is the 39.5% spread between HPI and OER in January 2006.

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