Florida’s Housing Price Boom: Was Last Time Different?

The latest release of the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Indices showed that cities in Florida reported the highest annual house price gains among the 20 cities covered by the indices. Miami led the way with a 18 ½ % increase, closely followed by Tampa with a 17% percent increase.

A new NBER Working Paper “Florida (Un)Chained” by Charles W. Calomiris and Matthew S. Jaremski, available here, looks at Florida’s land boom and crisis of mid–1920s, which can be helpful in drawing parallels to the present. Below we present the figure 2 from their paper that depicts East Cost Railroad and Monthly Building permits by city.

The authors reach the following conclusions –

·         Florida’s unique land markets and banking system explains why developers and not just depositors suffered great losses.

·         The crisis can be explained using bounded rationality as people behaved reasonably given the information available to them. Individual agents did not invest in obtaining further information that may have led to different decisions and behavior.

·         National advertisements for Florida land led to many of these properties being purchased from a distance. Buyers did not have information regarding the extent of supply – or the quality of land. Given the lack of information on aggregate activity, supply began to exceed the potential demand. Advertisements often mentioned recent price rises to entice buyers with prospects of future returns.

·         From a banking perspective, regulators and bank examiners did not prevent hidden risks from insider lending to be built into the system. These hidden risks ended up toppling many of these banks. Some banks indulged in fraudulent activities by hiding high levels of loan risks. Figure 7 from their paper provides the ratio of real estate loans to total loans in state bank by county.

·         Will there be a crisis again and will it be different? The authors say that all crises are not alike, and they must be studied as distinct historical phenomena.

Posted by at 11:27 PM

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