As the new year begins, there are no shortage of stories telling us what to expect in 2012. Housing finished 2011 with momentum and mortgage rates closed at the lowest rates of all time.
Some expect those trends to continue through the first quarter and beyond. Others expect a rapid reversal.
Who’s right and who’s wrong? A quick look through the newspapers, websites and business television programs reveals “experts” with opposing, well-delivered arguments views. It’s tough to know who to believe.
For example, here are some “on-the-record” predictions for 2012 :
- Home prices will rise in 2012 (says Freddie Mac)
- Home prices will fall in 2012 (says CBS News)
- Mortgage rates will rise in 2012 (says American Banker)
- Mortgage rates will fall in 2012 (ays the LA Times)
The issue for buyers, seller, and would-be refinancers in Mason and nationwide is that it can be a challenge to separate a “prediction” from fact at times.
When an argument is made on the pages of a respected newspaper or website, or is presented on CNBC or Bloomberg by a well-dressed, well-spoken industry insider, we’re inclined to believe what we read and hear.
This is human nature.
However, we must force ourselves to remember that any analysis about the future — whether it’s housing-related, mortgage-related, or something else — are based on a combination of past events and personal opinion.
Predictions are guesses about what might come next — nothing more.
For example, at the start of 2009, few people expected the 30-year fixed rate mortgage to stay below 6 percent, but it did. Then, at the start of 2010, few people expected the 30-year fixed rate mortgage to stay below 5 percent, but it did.
All we can know for certain about today’s market is that both mortgage rates and home values are low, creating favorable home-buying conditions in and around Oakley and nationwide.
At that start of last year, few people expected mortgage rates to even reach 4 percent. Today, rates “with points” price in the 3s.
What 2012 has in store we just can’t know.
Standard & Poor’s released its September 2011 Case-Shiller Index this week. The index tracks home price changes in select cities between months, quarters, and years.
The Case-Shiller Index for September showed drastic devaluations nationwide.
As compared to August, home values fell throughout 17 of the index’s 20 tracked markets, led by Atlanta’s 5.9% drop. On an annual basis, home values have now returned to early-2003 levels.
That said, home buyers and sellers in the Hyde Park area should be cautious when referencing the Case-Shiller Index. The index is a flawed metric and, as such, can lead to improper conclusions about the housing market overall.
The Case-Shiller Index’s first flaw is its most obvious — its limited sample set.
According to Wikipedia, there are more than 3,100 municipalities nationwide. Yet, the Case-Shiller Index includes data from just 20 of them in its findings. These 20 cities account for fewer than 1% of all U.S. cities, and just a small percentage of the overall U.S. population.
The “national figures” aren’t really national, in other words.
Even on a city-by-city basis, the Case-Shiller Index gets it wrong.
By lumping disparate neighborhoods into a single, city-wide result, the index ignores the relative strength of one area at the expense of another. In the aforementioned Atlanta, there are areas that fared much better than September’s -5.9% as cited by Case-Shiller. Some areas fared much worse.
A second flaw in the Case-Shiller Index is it’s methodology for measuring changes in home value. The index only considers “repeat sales” of the same home in its findings, and those homes must be single-family, detached property. Condominiums, multi-family homes, and new construction are not included.
In some cities — Chicago, for example — “excluded” property types can account for a large percentage of total monthly sales.
And, third, the Case-Shiller Index is flawed by “age”.
Because Standard & Poor’s publishes on a 60-day delay, the Case-Shiller Index is reporting on a housing that no longer exists. Sales that closed in September are based on contracts written from June-August –a time-frame that’s 6 months aged.
The best use of the Case-Shiller Index is as an analysis tool for economists and policy-makers interested in the long-term trends of U.S. housing. The index does very little good for every day buyers and sellers, unfortunately.
For up-to-date, accurate market data, talk to a real estate professional instead.
The August 2011 Case-Shiller Index was released this week. On an monthly basis, 10 of 20 tracked markets worsened. On an annual basis, valuation degradation was worse.
Only Detroit and Washington, D.C. posted higher home values in August 2011 as compared to August 2010, rising 2.7% and 0.3%, respectively.
However, the index has been moving in the right direction. Since bottoming out in March of this year, the Case-Shiller Index is up nearly 4 percent.
As home buyers and sellers in Madeira , though, we have to remember that the Case-Shiller Index is a flawed product; its methodology too narrow to be the final word for housing markets.
The Case-Shiller Index has 3 main flaws.
The first Case-Shiller Index flaw is its relatively small sample size. Although it’s positioned as a national housing index, Case-Shiller data represents just 20 cities nationwide, and they’re not even the 20 most populous U.S. cities. For example, cities like Houston (#4), Philadelphia (#5), San Antonio (#7) and San Jose (#10) are excluded from the Case-Shiller Index findings.
By contrast, Minneapolis (#48) and Tampa (#55) make the list.
A second Case-Shiller Index flaw is the way in which it measures home price changes. The Case-Shiller Index formula ignores all home sales except for “repeat sales” of the same home. New homes don’t count for the Case-Shiller Index. Furthermore, the index ignores condominium and multi-family home sales, too.
In some cities, condos can account for a large percentage of sales.
And the third Case-Shiller Index flaw is that the data is reported on a 2-month lag. Next week marks the start of November, yet we’re still discussing data from August. A lot can change in two months (and it often does). Today’s market conditions are similar to — but not the same as — market conditions from before Labor Day.
The Case-Shiller Index is far from “real-time”.
As a monthly release, the Case-Shiller Index does more to help people with a long-term view of housing, including politicians and economists, than it does for everyday buyers and sellers of Oakley who negotiate prices based on current demand and supply.
A real estate agent can tell you which homes have sold in the last 7 days, and at what prices. The Case-Shiller Index cannot.
Standard & Poors released its monthly Case-Shiller Index this week. The Case-Shiller Index measures home price changes from month-to-month, and year-to-year, in 20 select U.S. cities. It also reports a “national” index; a composite of the values in said cities.
The most recent Case-Shiller Index shows a 0.9% rise in home values from June to July 2011. Home values were higher in 17 of the 20 tracked cities. Only Phoenix and Las Vegas fell. Denver was flat.
Also noteworthy is that, of all of the Case-Shiller cities, Detroit posted the strongest 1-year, home price improvement. As compared to July 2010, home values are higher by 1.2 percent in Detroit. This bests even Washington, D.C. — long-believed to be the nation’s healthiest housing market.
That said, we should be careful of the conclusions we draw from July’s Case-Shiller Index — both on a city-wide level, and on a national level. This is because, as with most “home price trackers”, the Case-Shiller Index has flaws in its methodology.
The first Case-Shiller Index flaw is its limited scope. Although it’s purported to be a “nationa”l housing index, the data that comprises the monthly Case-Schiller Index is sourced from just 20 U.S. cities. These 20 cities represent just 0.6% of the more than 3,100 municipalities nationwide.
The second Case Shiller Index flaw is that the sample sets include single-family, detached homes only. iCondominiums, multi-unit homes, and new construction are specifically excluded from the Case-Shiller Index.
In some markets, “excluded” home types outnumber included ones.
And, lastly, the Case-Shiller Index is flawed in that it takes 2 months to gather data and report it. It’s nearly October, yet we’re still discussing the real estate market as it existing in July. For buyers and sellers in Cincinnati , July in ancient history.
The Case-Shiller Index is useful for tracking long-term trends in housing, but does little to help individuals with their choices to buy or sell a home. For relevant, recent real estate data, talk to a real estate agent in your market. Real estate agents are often the best source for real-time, real estate data.
Has housing turned the corner for good?
The June 2011 Case-Shiller Index reading posted strong numbers across the board, with each of the index’s 20 tracked markets showing home price improvement from May.
Some markets — Chicago and Minneapolis — rose as much as 3.2 percent.
The rise in values is nothing about which to get overly excited, however. The Case-Shiller Index is just re-reporting what multiple data sets have already shown about the summer housing market; that it was stronger than the spring market, and that a recovery is underway, but occurring locally, at different rates.
For example, the June 2011 Case-Shiller Index shows the following :
- Denver, Dallas, Washington D.C., and the “California Cities” bottomed in 2009. Each has shown steady improvement since.
- None of the Case-Shiller cities showed negative growth between May and June 2011.
- 12 of Case-Shiller’s tracked cities have improved over 3 consecutive months.
In isolation, these statistics appear promising, but it’s important to remember that the Case-Shiller Index is a backward-looking data set, focusing on just a portion of the national housing economy.
As an illustration, the Case-Shiller Index’s “national report” only includes data from 20 cities nationwide. They’re not the 20 biggest cities, either. Smaller metropolitan areas such as Minneapolis (#48) and Tampa (#51) are included.
Larger ones including Houston (#4), Philadelphia (#5) and San Jose (#10) are not.
In addition, the Case-Shiller index fails to track sales of condominiums, multi-unit homes and new construction. In some markets, including Chicago, these excluded home type can represent a large share of the overall market.
The Case-Shiller Index is a fine data set for policy makers and economists. It describes the broader housing market and shows long-term trends. For the individual home buyer in Madeira , however, it’s much less useful. More than “broad data”, you want focused data that’s current and relevant.
The best place for data like that is a local real estate agent.