FHFA House Price Index: The Rise Continues

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) has released its U.S. House Price Index (HPI) for Q1 and the most recent month. Here is the opening of the report:

U.S. house prices rose 1.4 percent in the first quarter of 2017 according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) House Price Index (HPI). House prices rose 6.0 percent from the first quarter of 2016 to the first quarter of 2017. FHFA's seasonally adjusted monthly index for March was up 0.6 percent from February [Link to report]

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 remains off its historic 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 40.1% spread between HPI and OER in January 2006. The spread had narrowed slightly to 47.2% at the index peak in March 2007.

Is another housing bubble forming? The current spread is 20.6%.