It may not be the most widespread measure of housing prices, but if you want to follow a powerful driver, look at rents.
Specifically, it’s the rents Americans pay on condos, apartments or houses that are about the same size, and share the same neighborhood as your ranch or colonial, that in the end determine what your house is worth.
"If you look at the trend in rents to see where housing prices are headed, you’re looking at the right measure," says Yale economist Robert Shiller.
In recent reports, Deutsche Bank demonstrates how steady or even falling rents have pulled down housing prices, to the point where in many markets it costs about the same amount to own as to lease. That’s a golden mean that America hasn’t seen in almost a decade. The DB research also offers convincing evidence that the wrenching adjustment in housing prices is finished for much of the nation, with a bit more pain to come in selected areas.
Before we get to the numbers, let’s examine why rents exercise a kind of gravitational pull over home prices.