Comparing housing booms and mortgage supply in the major OECD countries

Pub. Date
05 November, 2014


The house price and lending boom of the 2000s is widely considered to be the main cause of the financial crisis that began in 2007. However, looking to the past, we find a similar boom in the late 1980s which did not lead directly to a global systemic banking crisis – there were widespread banking difficulties in the early 1990s but these were linked mainly to commercial property exposures. This raises the question whether the received wisdom is incorrect, and other factors than the housing boom caused the crisis, while macroprudential policy is overly targeted at the control of house prices and lending per se.

Accordingly, in this paper we compare and contrast the cycles in house prices over 1985–94 with 2002–11. There are more similarities than contrasts between the booms. Stylised facts include a similar rise in real house prices where booms took place, and a marked rise in the real mortgage stock along with real incomes. The aftermath periods are also comparable in terms of house price changes. Econometrically, determinants of house prices are similar in size and sign from the 1980s to date.

There remain some contrasts. Leverage rose far more in the later episode and did not contract in the aftermath. Mean reversion of house prices is greater in the earlier period. The earlier boom period showed differences with average house price behaviour which was not mirrored in the most recent boom and inflation was higher. Despite the contrasts, on balance we reject the idea that the recent boom was in some way unique and hence the key cause of the crisis. There is a need for further research to capture distinctive structural and conjunctural factors underlying the recent crisis which differ from the earlier boom and some suggestions are made.