Can sentiment surveys pre-empt real estate market activities?
We evaluate a number of real estate sentiment indices to ascertain current and forward-looking information content that may be useful for forecasting the demand and supply activities. Our focus lies on sector-specific surveys targeting the players from the supply-side of both residential and non-residential real estate markets. Analyzing the dynamic relationships within a Vector Auto-Regression (VAR) framework, we test the efficacy of these indices by comparing them with other coincident indicators in predicting real estate returns. Overall, our analysis suggests that sentiment indicators convey important information which should be embedded in the modeling exercise to predict real estate market returns. Generally, sentiment indices show better information content than broad economic indicators. The goodness of fit of our models is higher for the residential market than for the non-residential real estate sector. The impulse responses, in general, conform to our theoretical expectations. Variance decompositions and out-of-sample predictions generally show desired contribution and reasonable improvement respectively, thus upholding our hypothesis. Quite remarkably, consistent with the theory, the predictability swings when we look through different phases of the cycle. This perhaps suggests that, e.g. during recessions, market players’ expectations may be more accurate predictor of the future performances, conceivably indicating a ‘negative’ information processing bias and thus conforming to the precautionary motive of consumer behaviour.