US Home Prices

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This chart shows the Case Shiller home price index in US Dollars and in grams of gold. Both indices use the price of a home in January, 2000 as 100. Prices in gold and dollars tracked pretty well until 2001, when the dollar began to collapse, taking the true value of homes down with it.

At first, the drop in the dollar simply offset the apparent rise in home prices, and prices in gold worked sideways until 2006. But when home prices began to fall in dollar terms, and dollars were themselves falling in value, the double-whammy pushed true home prices down to levels not seen since the late 1980s. In fact, they set a new record, the lowest level since the index was first published. This means that most homes purchased in the last 20 years are now worth less than the original purchase price, even if they show gains of 100%, 200%, or more, in dollar terms.

You should also notice that the most recent uptick in dollar prices is more than offset by the decline in the value of the dollar, the unavoidable side-effect of government bailouts and interest rate price fixing by the Fed.

The last chart shows a synthetic index built from several different sets of home price data complied by Shiller for his book Irrational Exuberance. Looking back to 1890, we can see that home prices today are lower than they were during the Great Depression, and are approachng their all-time lows.

Case-Shiller Home Price Index, seasonally adjusted, in USD and gold:

Case-Shiller Home Price Index



click on the chart to download a pdf

Shiller's Long Term Home Price Index



click on the chart to download a pdf

Pings on US Home Prices

August 30, 2007
October 29, 2008
November 7, 2008
September 14, 2011

Comments on US Home Prices Leave a Comment

May 3, 2008

Michael Chmura @ 4:51 am #

Greetings,
The USPS seems to be raising prices frequently. We have another one cent postage increase coming 5/12/08. Can you post a chart for US Postage priced-in-gold?

December 9, 2010

bethv @ 5:02 am #

Ah homes. Everyone needs a place to live. Can you show rent vs. gold? And can you show a chart back to 1900? For those of us who still own our house, or portions of it, is it better to hold or sell at this point? How long until inflation catches up and effects house prices? A house is an asset and as such may be effected by the inevitable inflation. Also, population is not declining. The question is when real prices (priced in gold) will increase. Or, maybe someday houses will have a gold asking price? A historical chart, even including the 70s may be helpful.

thanks!

bethv @ 5:17 am #

Additional comment. i think I may have answered my own question by looking at your gold vs DJIA chart. I would say USD in gold would stop rising (achieving parity if USD still exists) round about 2030- rising steadily for the next 20 years (if you use 1930-1980 pattern as precedent). After which case the real value of the stock market increases, feeding real real estate values. Though very rough it seems that real estate in gold price would begin to recover 2030-2040. How depressing really. In the meantime, at least we have a place to live (or our children/grandchildren do.) A chart from 1900ish showing DJIA, gold and property prices would be most illuminating. Many thanks.

September 9, 2011

Michael Hendricks @ 6:31 am #

Could you update the US Home Prices chart using Case Shiller data all the way back to 1890? The data is available at http://www.multpl.com/case-shiller-home-price-index-inflation-adjusted/table I'd love to see the historic data in terms of gold. Thanks for the great site.

September 12, 2011

Thomas Yonker @ 4:21 pm #

This chart is a little skewed if you ask me. I live in Texas and granted we were in the oil boom but I bought my home for 73k in 1979. I can't remember but gold was around 500 at that time I guess. I believe i remember the price I paid was exactly the median for US home prices. If all those foggy memories are correct, the I paid in the neighborhood of 140 ounces for my home. That does not jive with the above chart very well. Now it's probably worth 75 ounces, so much for getting rich buying houses.

September 18, 2011

Tedd @ 7:34 am #

I guess this means gold is at an all-time high, when priced in US residential real estate.

September 20, 2011

EMB @ 7:42 am #

One long term chart is worth more than one hundred opinions. The chart showing housing prices in gold since 1890 is fantastic, great work. It seems to stop in early 2011, I bet the next update will show that housing in gold terms is already cheaper than it has been in the entire 121 year chart! For me the choice is clear, while I understand the reasons for the demand for gold, for safety and income, I prefer bricks, dirt and tenants.

February 23, 2012

Dallas @ 1:25 pm #

Great charts! I was wondering if something like this available for Canada? I would assume it would be very similar anyways, but I've been thinking about real estate investing and it could be helpful. Also, what is the average home price in gold ounces over the time frame of each chart? Thanks.

April 4, 2012

Brian Porter @ 8:56 am #

This is a fascinating article and concept. Housing prices are going to go up over time… no doubt about it. However, do they go up in value? When is it a good time to buy? Your graphs suggest to me that now is the best time to buy real estate since 1980, and I agree. Of course there will be some bumps in the road, but where will real estate values be in dollar terms and gold terms in 20 years?

April 19, 2012

Andy @ 11:52 am #

Hi im a newbie just getting my head around this priced in gold thing. Wow what an inspiring concept….well a truism rather. Ok so all my years of thinking that money (paper notes) is value, and now appearing out of my ignorant and uneducated mind I need someone to get me up to speed please. Im in the UK…so do these comparisons ring true in respect to oil, silver etc in the UK…..not comparisons like US wages and US type things as that is inherent in the US only. So is this the case or would i need to follow up on UK comparisons?? Trouble is I cant find a UK priced in gold site. I may set one up myself if i manage to get this ingrained in my mind. Cheers Guy's. Andy – UK.

May 30, 2012

Chad McWhorter @ 8:28 pm #

@Thomas Yonker: Agreed. Case-Shiller is an inflation-adjusted index — not actual USD. This chart is double-counting/double-adjusting. I still love this site though!

June 2, 2012

Chad McWhorter @ 9:39 am #

@editor: It may not be "inflation adjusted" but it is standardized in a constant year 2000 baseline. Your gold chart above shows that it takes 20 ounces of gold to buy a house today (same as 1980). Problem is, the DOLLAR median price of a new single family home in september 1980 was $63,000 and it was 213,000 last september (2011). So, if the price of gold in september of 1980 was $666/oz, and it was ~$1650 last september… then the respective prices in gold are: 102 ounces in 1980 versus 129 ounces today. While these median prices are for NEW homes sales, I highly doubt that existing homes (used in Shiller's data) are 80% cheaper than new homes. http://www.census.gov/const/uspricemon.pdf

June 5, 2012
June 18, 2012

Barry Suckski @ 9:06 pm #

Interesting data. So here is an observation I don't quite understand though. Does it matter if the home priced in gold is falling when 1) I have a loan in dollars not gold and 2) I also am paid in dollars not gold. In switching back and forth between this chart and the US wages chart it seems that when home prices go up wages go up and when home prices go down wages go down.

June 27, 2012

David @ 10:42 pm #

"I take this to mean that participants in the market are showing a preference for gold … over these other items." That statement might seem counter-intuitive since everybody needs a place to live, but not everybody needs a stash of gold. You have to remember that "participants in the market" includes central banks, which show a strong preference for gold over all other physical assets. In particular, central banks have no use for housing, but they do have a great need to store value in a fungible physical asset.

November 7, 2012

world view @ 6:08 pm #

@editor If everything has fallen relative to gold, then how does it matter what the price of gold is…Assuming wages/commodity prices and house prices all fall and rise at the same time then why should we measure everything in gold? I think a better measure is a percentage of median income itself, wouldnt you agree?

November 8, 2012

Tedd @ 4:17 am #

@worldview The problem is wages and prices (in dollars) don't rise and fall at the same time. For example, over the last four years wages in dollars haven't increased much at all, while food and energy prices have increased in dollar terms by about 50%. If everyone was paid in gold, and everyone paid for stuff in gold, then the world economic system would be in MUCH better condition than it is now – partially because of the accuracy of the pricing information, and partially because people and governments would have a MUCH harder time over-leveraging than they do under a fiat currency system.

world view @ 8:17 am #

@Tedd,

I think what I wanted to imply is that the denominator to measure everything should be income itself and not necessarily the value of gold…I do agree that gold is more stable than other commodities as a unit of measure of most things, but it is the wage that helps people buy stuff. So probably wages are a better denominator….

Chad @ 10:35 am #

@world view: Wages as a denominator would be as bad or worse than the USD as the denominator. The supply of labor is volatile. The supply of gold is essentially constant. Wages vary based on region, skill, and productivity. Pure Gold has an exact weight relative to the gravitational pull of Earth. The purpose of pricing goods and services in terms of a near-constant denominator should be obvious.

Michael Hendricks @ 10:47 am #

@world view: I agree that median wages as the denominator would make some interesting and useful graphs. One problem is that it's difficult to calculate median wages, so those data are updated infrequently.

Median wages are also subject to modeling and data collection errors from the BLS (just like unemployment and inflation numbers). That adds another complexity or point for manipulation/error. With gold, markets rapidly set an open, continuous price and bystanders can easily observe it.

January 8, 2013

Dave @ 5:33 am #

This is a great resource, glad I came across it.

Rather sobering to see the above chart, showing house prices in effect as cheap today as they were during the 30's Depression.

Would you have a similar graph for UK house prices? That would be very interesting indeed.

Also, a chart showing the changes in electricity prices (in gold) in UK would be good.

Dave @ 6:47 am #

This is an excellent resource.

I was wondering if you might produce a similar graph for UK house prices. Or would it be fair to say they are reasonably well correlated with US home price changes?

February 2, 2013

Clark @ 5:34 am #

Wow, I love this website. Thanks for all the hard work.

The home index is a little difficult to figure since it is not in ounces of gold as your other pages are. I imagine this is because when we look at historical data people always have the dollars inflation adjusted, which is what this website eliminates since an ounce of gold is an ounce of gold.

Since the graphs above are a percentage based on January 2000 = 100, would I be correct with the following assumptions.

Average price US home in January 2000 = $119,600 (http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/housing/census/historic/values.html)
January 2000 price of gold = $284.32 average price per ounce (http://www.kitco.com/scripts/hist_charts/yearly_graphs.plx)

That should mean that the reference point 100 = (119,600/284.32) or 420.7 ounces of gold for the average house.

Would that carry over to the other ratios you show on the graph?

For example, it appears from the graph that houses in 1890 were about 50% or 210.4 ounces?
Or that houses now are about 23% or 96.8 ounces, which at $1650 per ounce would mean that the average price for housing now is $159,720?

Please correct me if I'm misunderstanding as it's hard to get a read on the Case/Shiller index since it's inflation adjusted and value weighted.

If it is possible could I get my free initial chart showing the 1890 to current housing index using ounces of gold instead of ratios?

March 17, 2013

Peter Ewing @ 4:07 pm #

Actually this chart does not really tell the whole story. The average US home has increased in square footage from about 800 sq ft in 1900 to 2700 sq ft today. So the price of a US home in 2013 is a much better bargain ( or worse investment) than this chart would let on.
It would be even more instructive to see the sq ft price of us home in gold for the past century to get the true picture.

June 18, 2013

Clint @ 11:32 am #

why doesn't the house price chart get updated like the rest?

June 19, 2013
July 26, 2013

Nathan @ 9:32 pm #

I would like to see home prices from 1890 and earlier in ounces of gold, it's hard for my to understand what the Y axis means on these graphs.

I also like the idea of seeing home prices in grams/ sq foot, even if it has to be estimated.

September 29, 2013

James G @ 2:16 am #

This is so true that we can not simply go off RE prices. (USD) without accounting for $/sqft. Grams/sqft would be great to get a read on current trend.

January 1, 2014

Clint @ 10:17 am #

I think the chart is quite useful as is. I'd just like to see more updates.

September 11, 2014

FASCINATING @ 1:21 pm #

I would like to see the NY City Condo/Coop in $ vs. Gold and vs US mean House in $ price.
I know that my measly Street parking spot is worth $200000. and is self cleaning (city does it).

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