Following up on a conversation in the previous post, I thought it would be interesting to look at the correlation between consumer price inflation and house prices. This chart shows YOY BC CPI and the YOY change in Nominal Benchmarked house prices for Greater Vancouver. Click on the chart to make it bigger.
The correlation between the two series is 0.18 - not strong, but positive. I think we need more data than 15 years to prove conclusively that there is a link between inflation and house prices. The fact of the matter is that inflation has been relatively low for a very long period of time and interest rates have fallen dramatically during this low inflation period. We don't really know what much higher inflation will do to real estate values of the short / medium term but we do know that real estate is a very interest rate sensitive asset since most people use borrowed money to buy real estate. If I look back at high inflation periods in the past (the 70s), house prices were a much smaller multiple of personal incomes than they are today and rates were also much higher than they are today which would indicate that affordability is a combination of the interest rate and the price - duh!
If we expect inflation then we should also expect much higher interest rates eventually to bring the inflation down and this would deflate house prices as current house prices with a 10% or 15% mortgage rate would be out of reach for all but the super rich. As we know, the housing market is fundamentally a supply / demand based market and if there is no demand at a given price the price will fall until the price meets someone's ability to pay.