Rental Price Growth Continues to Exceed Overall Inflation

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that its measure of consumer prices declined in April. According to the Consumer Price Index – Urban Consumer (CPI), prices faced by consumers declined by 0.4% on a month-over-month seasonally adjusted basis. This is the second consecutive monthly decline for the index. In March, consumer prices fell by 0.2%. Consumer prices have experienced three episodes of month-over-month declines in the past 6 months and 5 instances of monthly declines over the past twelve months. Over the past year, consumer prices have risen by 1.1% on a not seasonally adjusted basis.

As Chart 1 illustrates, the decline in consumer prices largely reflects falling energy prices. In April, energy prices declined by 4.3% on a month-over-month seasonally adjusted basis after falling by 2.6% in March. Gasoline prices were largely responsible for the decline in energy prices, falling by 8.1% in April. Over the past twelve months energy prices have declined by 4.3%. Meanwhile, food prices, which also display higher than average volatility, rose by 0.2% in April after remaining flat in March. Core CPI, which excludes both food and energy prices, rose by 0.1% in April, mimicking its growth rate in March. Over the past twelve months, core prices have risen by 1.7% on a not seasonally adjusted basis.


NAHB constructs a real rental price index by deflating the price index for rent by the index for overall inflation. This measure indicates whether inflation in rents is faster or slower than general inflation, excluding more volatile food and energy prices, and provides some insight into the supply and demand conditions for rental housing. When rents are rising faster (slower) than general inflation the real rent index rises (declines). Alternatively, the real rental price index also conveys information about the importance of the rental prices faced by consumers relative to their other expenditures and sheds some light on the relative importance of household expenditure items. In this way, an increase (decrease) in the real rent index also indicates that rental prices are a growing (shrinking) share of the overall expenditures made by consumers.

Computationally, the real rental price index and the relative weight calculation are closely related. As Chart 2 illustrates, the real rental price index and the relative weight of rental prices within core CPI follow a very similar trend. The relative weight measure is first calculated using not seasonally adjusted data and overall CPI in order to ensure proper measurement. Then core CPI is substituted for overall CPI and finally the not seasonally adjusted data is converted to its seasonally adjusted counterpart. In April, rental price inflation, 0.2%, exceeded core inflation, 0.1%. As a result, real rental prices faced by consumers increased. This is the third consecutive month that real rental prices have increased. Similarly, seasonally adjusted rental prices as a share of consumers’ overall expenditures also rose for the third consecutive month.


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3 replies

  1. It should hardly come as a surprise to anyone that rents are going up faster than inflation. Government housing policy since 2008, which has enjoyed the support of the NAHB, NAR and MBA, has been to make it much harder to buy a first home, thereby giving millions no choice but to rent and expanding demand . At the same time, the GSEs have sold tens of thousands of its REO to investors and speculators, turning many single family units into rental property. The only way rents will get back in line with inflation is to adopt a reasonable housing policy and stop catering to investors, flippers and speculators.


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