Matrix Blog

Housing Indices

My Bloomberg View Column: Housing Data Is Old and Moldy

July 31, 2014 | 11:32 am | BloombergViewlogoGray | Articles |

BVlogo

After being pummeled with confusing sound bits after the release of Monday’s Pending Home SalesIndex by the NAR and the S&P/Case Shiller Index, I thought it was time to set the record straight on the applicability of this research.

This is my second column for Bloomberg View: Housing Data Is Old and Moldy


My Bloomberg View RSS feed.

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Bloomberg Surveillance TV – Guest Host 6-25-14

June 25, 2014 | 8:30 am | bloomberg_news_logo | Videos |


UPDATE: above clip just added – expanded conversation.

Got to guest host an hour (6am to 7am) of Bloomberg Television’s Surveillance with Tom Keene, Scarlett Fu and Adam Johnson to talk housing. The above is just a couple of minutes of the hour (yes, you’re spared). We spoke about Case Shiller, New Home Sales, biting in World Cup Soccer, my fireman son using a GoPro in fires and LeBron/Carmelo’s real worth among other things. Like I said, we did talk housing.

Adam brought up a great point – while the economy is always characterized as 70% consumer driven, 16% of that is actually health care spending so the overall number is really 54%.

Very smart conversations (the topic of biting included). Always fun to join them.

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Time-Shifted Case Shiller: Dallas, Denver Crushing it, Polar Vortex a Non-Issue ‘Cause It’s Still December

June 24, 2014 | 5:29 pm | Charts |

matrixCSI-6-24-14 [click to expand]

The above chart is a generic trend line for the seasonally and non-seasonally adjusted 20-City Case Shiller Index released today using the data from the release.

And here’s the same index that I time-shifted backwards by 6 months to reflect the “meeting of the minds” of buyers and sellers. More specific methodology is embedded in the following charts. By moving the index back 6 months, the changes in the direction of the index are in sync with economic events (reality). In my view this index has a 6 month (5-7) month lag rendering it basically worthless to consumers but perhaps a useful tool for academic research where timing may not be as critical. I’m just grasping here.

matrixCSI-6-24-14INDEXshift

[click to expand]

And here’s a time-shifted trend line for the year-over-year change in the 20 city index. You can see that the pace of year-over-year price growth began to cool at the end of last year. Talk about the weather is still premature since the polar vortex occurred after the new year.

matrixCSI-6-24-14YOYshift

And here is the ranking by year-over-year changes for each city as well as the 10 and 20 city index. Dallas and Denver are no longer under water and Las Vegas, despite recent good news has a long way to go to get to the artificial credit induced high it reached in 2006.

matrixcsi6-2014ranking

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[Bloomberg TV] Guest Host of ‘Surveillance’ 5-28-14

May 28, 2014 | 6:00 pm | bloomberg_news_logo | Videos |

This morning, I got to join Tom Keene, Adam Johnson and Cristina Alesci on Bloomberg TV’s Surveillance to talk housing for the 6am to 7am hour. Definitely worth getting up at 4am to make into the studio. No, really!

Covered a lot of ground this morning on the show. Here’s another clip.

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Pulling the Case-Shiller Index Back by 6 Months to Reflect Actual Buyer/Seller Behavior

May 27, 2014 | 10:45 pm | Charts |

matrixCSIshift-5-27-14
[click to expand]

The Case Shiller Index was released today and it continued to confuse consumers, pundits, economists etc…and for good reason. It’s 6 months late.

I wondered what would happen if their index result was pulled back by 6 months to see how it lined up with a couple of significant housing milestones (purple vertical lines). The most recent housing milestone was last year’s Bernanke speech that resulted in the spike in mortgage rates in May-June of 2013.

In the modified trend line (dotted blue) housing prices surge up until mortgage rates spike. This is clearly more logical than the actual index showing housing prices surging for six months after the mortgage rate spike.

In the earlier milestone in April 2010, the adjusted index (dotted blue line) immediately begins to slide after the April 2010 signed contract deadline passed to qualify for the federal homeowner tax credit as part of the stimulus plan. Yes, that’s exactly what happened on the front lines.

I’m going to call this new methodology “time-shifting a housing index.” From an historical perspective, this is a much more useful and reliable trend line. For the near term, it places the CS HP 6 months behind the market without any relevance to current conditions. Then again, the S&P/Case Shiller Home Price Index was never meant to be a monthly housing indicator for consumers as it is currently used by the media. It was originally created to enable Wall Street to hedge housing but never caught on because of the long time lag and therefore the eventual ability of investors to accurately predict the results.


The top chart is fairly self-explanatory but here’s the math again:

  • May 2014 Report Publication Date
  • March 2014 Data (Jan, Feb, March Closings – February is midpoint)
  • January 2014 Contracts (Nov, Dec, Jan Contracts – December is midpoint)

Contracts Assumes 90 days between closing date and “meeting of minds” between buyer and seller i.e. 75 days from contract to close +15 days to signed contract from “meeting of minds.”

“Meeting of Minds” Moment when buyer and seller agree on basic price and terms, usually a few weeks before contract is actually signed i.e. May 2014 Case Shiller Report = December 2013. The optimal moment to measure housing.

Here’s a regular chart that has a longer timeline, with and without seasonal adjustments (you can see that seasonal adjustments are essentially meaningless.)

matrixCSI-5-27-14

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PBS Newshour – Making Sense of Weak US Housing Reports

April 28, 2014 | 5:10 pm |

Michelle Conlin of Reuters gives a nice overview of the state of the US housing on PBS, talking through the national reports that hit us recently. Check it out. This month’s weak NAR Existing Home Sales report has unleashed a surge of housing self-loathing (although today’s PHSI seems to take some of the drama/edge off).

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NAR Pending Home Sales Had Biggest “February to March” Jump in 4 Years

April 28, 2014 | 4:52 pm | irslogo |

4-28-14PHSI
[click to expand]

After all the housing news drama of the past month, I thought it was interesting to see the negative streak broken. Still, sales are below year ago levels after what I described as a “release of pent-up demand” that was caused by the expiration of the “fiscal cliff” and the looming rise in mortgage rates last year.

Although home sales are expected to trend up over the course of the year and into 2015, this year began on a weak note and total sales are unlikely to match the 2013 level.

All the indices NAR publishes bother me because they include seasonal adjustments and those adjustments can be very severe. The chart above has no seasonal adjustments so you can see how much adjusting has to take place to smooth out the line. I thought I’d take a look at the month-over-month data that wasn’t seasonally adjusted to see if the same pattern occurred.

4-28-14PHSIfebtomarch

Yes, month-over-month pending sales rose the most since 2010 when the market was wildly skewed (higher) as a result of the First-Time Homebuyer Credit (federal first time buyer and homeowner tax credit).

February to March 2014 had the largest increase in contracts than the same period in each year since 2010.

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[Leverage] Calculating Your Home Investment Return Realistically

March 16, 2014 | 9:00 am | Infographics |

leverageinfographic
[click to expand]

I think many, if not most people calculate the return on their home as an investment as this CNN/Money calculator does. After seeing this, I whipped up a theoretical infographic illustrating how the use of leverage in a home purchase factors in to your return. It’s super simplistic, not factoring in opportunity cost, use and enjoyment, tax deductions, improvements and other factors because I wanted to show the power of leverage.

Forget about price indices like Case Shiller or similar. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen a home price index paired up against a stock price index as a way to determine which investment is better. Apples and oranges.

Measure your ROI using what you invested (down payment) and what your home equity expanded (or contracted) to.

The CNN/Money rate of return calculator is really only a measurement of home price appreciation compared to the same period for stocks and bonds as an opportunity cost – comparing different asset types side by side – yet that’s not how the majority of homebuyers interact with their home as an investment.

It’s most often about leverage.

UPDATE
An appraisal colleague and friend of mine pointed out that in my original version, I incorrectly used the word “profit” within the infographic rather than what I was actually talking about: “equity” ie return on investment (ROI) – how much the original down payment gained over time. The numbers all remained unchanged.

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Housing Starts Drop: Whether the Weather or New Trend?

February 20, 2014 | 12:21 pm | Videos |

Yesterday I did a quick interview for CNBC at 30 Rock (right next to the new Tonight Show/Jimmy Fallon set which was all abuzz). We were talking about housing starts before they were released. While predicting this stuff is a fool’s errand, I think the bigger question was whether the recent weakening of housing metrics was a new trend or a pause caused by the harsh weather creating havoc across the US.

NAHBconf2-14

The NAHB homebuilder sentiment index (1 family) posted its largest one month drop in history – severe weather, cost of labor, materials and land with given as reasons but those really aren’t new issues other than the severe weather.

While weather played a role and probably amounts to more of a short term blip, I think the larger concern is the outlook over the next 6 months with reduced affordability (higher rates but still historically low) and the bottoming of existing home inventory in 2013 providing additional listing competition in some markets.

December housing starts
• 999k annualized and seasonally adjusted rate in December, declining 9.8% but exceeding forecasts. More weakness in multi-family starts than 1-family • +18.3% 2013 over 2012

Why I thought January Housing Starts would fall (luckily I was right with the announcement of a record 16% drop) • Same factors in place as last month: Weather, Labor and Material Costs and Land Costs. • Record m-o-m drop in NAFB confidence – looking out over the coming months – suggests a larger impact by weather. • Mortgage rates slipped from last month but still nearly a point higher than a year ago, expectation of flat or edging higher in 2014. • Implementation of Dodd-Frank Qualified Mortgage (QM) may also drag viewing traffic. • Permits already fell over last 2 months which suggests lower starts (contracts versus closed sales analogy).

Actual January housing starts release after my interview
880K annualized rate in January, dropping 16% from December 2013. • January 2014 y-o-y dropped 2%. • Permits fell for 3rd consecutive month, down 5.4% from prior month (seasonally adjusted).

STILL – the question REALLY is whether the recent construction slowdown is the beginning of a trend or a temporary set back that will clear over the next few months as the weather improves and the economy shows some improvement. Right now it feels more like the market is losing momentum and the weather is only making it worse.

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[Video] Talking Housing on CNBC TV’s Street Signs 9-25-13

September 25, 2013 | 7:29 pm | trdlogo | Videos |

I’m not quite ready to use the word “haunted” in my housing language, but I had a nice chat with Brian Sullivan and Mandy Drury of CNBC TV’s ‘Street Signs’ – 30 Rock is always quick walk from my office to do the remote. Although my firm’s name was announced backwards on air (It’s really “Miller Samuel” I swear), I think my logic was forward (sorry).

Fun. Plus Mandy gives The Real Deal Magazine a shout out.

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