By Kaiji Chen and Yi Wen
This paper provides a theory to explain the paradoxical features of the great housing boom in China —the persistently faster-than-GDP housing price growth, exceptionally high capital returns, and excessive vacancy rates. The expectation that high capital returns driven mainly by resource reallocation are not sustainable in the long run can induce the very productive entrepreneurs to speculate in housing during economic transition. This creates a self-fulfilling growing housing bubble, which can create severe resource misallocation. A calibrated version of the theory accounts quantitatively for both the growth dynamics of house prices and other salient features of the recent Chinese experience.
My trip to China last year gave me a big puzzle. Why are housing prices skyrocketing when there is an unbelievable amount of construction going on and entire satellite cities that appear empty? This paper is showing this can indeed happen, and it does not look good for the future.