The IMF Working Papers series is designed to make IMF staff research available to a wide audience. Almost 300 Working Papers are released each year, covering a wide range of theoretical and analytical topics, including balance of payments, monetary and fiscal issues, global liquidity, and national and international economic developments.
This paper estimates the evolution of equilibrium real home prices in the United States and finds that despite recent declines, single-family homes remained 8 to 20 percent overvalued as of the first quarter of 2008. In the short run, the gap between actual and equilibrium prices does not exert powerful influence over price dynamics. Instead, that dynamics is driven by the inventory-to-sales ratio and by foreclosure starts in a highly inertial relationship. Taken together, this implies that price declines are likely to continue, including past the point where overvaluation is eliminated. The paper also finds that from the early 1990s onwards changes in regional home prices have been more synchronized than before, and that the recent movements in the average price index have reflected a nationwide housing boom, followed by a nationwide housing bust.