Rational Expectations, Market Fundamentals and Housing Price Volatility

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Abstract

This paper derives a forward-looking rational expectations house price model and empirically tests its ability to explain short-run fluctuations in real house prices. A novel approach to proxying the imputed rents of owner-occupied housing, as a function of observable housing market fundamentals, is combined with a housing market arbitrage relation to derive a present value model for real house prices. Tests of the rational expectations, nonlinear cross-equation restrictions reject the joint null hypothesis of rational expectations and the asset-based housing price model for quarterly, single-detached house prices in the city of Vancouver, British Columbia from 1979–1991. The model fails to fully capture observed house price dynamics in two real estate booms but tracks real house prices well in less volatile times, suggesting that prices may temporarily deviate from fundamental values in real estate price cycles.

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