The lower-than-expected reading for the consumer price index in October has raised hopes that inflation will slow down even more in the months to come.
However, because of a lag effect related to renting and home prices, housing may stifle improvement.
Budgets for housing make up the majority of consumer spending and account for one-third of the CPI.
The housing market threatens to mute any improvement, despite signs that inflation may decline further in the months ahead.
An important indicator of inflation, the consumer price index, increased by 7.7% from a year ago in October. That annual reading was the lowest since January, though it was still quite high by historical standards.
The monthly increase was also less than anticipated, which raises the possibility that persistently high inflation and the harm it has done to consumers’ wallets may be subsiding.
But in October, the price of housing increased by 0.8%, the highest monthly increase in 32 years. At a time when many observers claim the United States is experiencing a “housing recession,” that might seem counterintuitive.
However, given its significance in household budgets and the inherent dynamics of the rental and housing markets, economists predicted that shelter inflation — as measured by the CPI, at least — is likely to remain high for several months to a year.
According to Jeffrey Roach, chief economist at LPL Financial, as the housing market cools, “this category will also ease, but we may have to wait until next year before it meaningfully dampens headline inflation.”
The largest portion of household spending is on housing.
The “shelter” category is broken down into four parts by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which compiles the CPI report: rent, lodging away from home (such as hotels), tenants’ and household insurance, and owners’ equivalent rent of residences.
The most important are rent and “owners’ equivalent rent.”
The latter aims to equalize homeowners and renters. According to Cristian deities, deputy chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, it essentially reflects the rent that homeowners would charge themselves.
The average consumer’s biggest expense is typically their home. The shelter has the highest weighting in the CPI overall, accounting for 33% of the total. So, from month to month, housing has a significant impact on overall inflation.
In the past year, the shelter category has increased by 6.9%.
Prices for homes and rentals have decreased or stabilized in many U.S. cities due to waning demand.
According to a real estate brokerage called Redfin, new home listings in the United States for the month of October through November 6 were down 17.5% from the same time last year. Redfin reported that the average sales price was $359,000, a decrease of over 8% from its peak of $392,000 in June.
Mortgage demand has decreased as interest rates have steadily increased to a recent high of over 7%, although rates sharply dropped last week.
Zillow data indicates that rental inflation has slowed from its frenzied pace in 2021.
The seasonally adjusted Zillow Observed Rent Index as of October 31 shows that Americans paid an average market rent of $2,040.
On September 30, the rent had increased by 0.31% from the previous month. But for four straight months, the rate of that growth has slowed. In contrast, between the end of May and the end of June, rents increased by about 1%. According to Zillow data, rental inflation reached 2% per month in July and August 2021.
Why home prices are falling
According to deities, “shelter will continue to put upward pressure on overall inflation through the first half of 2023” because the CPI for “shelter” has historically lagged home price changes by four quarters.
The length of time it takes for leases to transition into new contracts is a major factor in the lag effect. Since landlords typically renew leases every 12 months, new contracts won’t take into account the current price dynamics for another 12 months.
In comparison to other CPI categories, housing is somewhat of an outlier in this regard. For instance, consumers do not consent to pay the same price for chicken or eggs for an entire year.
According to densities, housing has some particular characteristics.
Economists also claim that rent is “sticky,” meaning that the total dollar amount of a person’s monthly rent typically doesn’t decrease but instead tends to either stay the same or go up with each new lease.