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There Is No National Housing Market

The use of national housing statistics has been a key source of confusion for consumers, real estate brokers, lenders, media, financial markets and government agencies among others. The statistics are often applied to local markets and properties. The reliance on these numbers for ground level use has a pet peeve of mine for many years.

When Radar Logic rolled out its first RPX Monthly Housing Report [1] on October 2, 2007, we made sure that the focus was geographical housing patterns.

The report effort was based on the premise that there is no national housing market; rather, each of the MSAs, while having some economic influences in common like mortgage rates, is influenced primarily by local conditions.

I was encouraged by the release of the latest batch of market reports this week that have begun to make this point more clear in their press releases. When the market was rising, press release jargon tended to be much more focused on national numbers. I suspect we will see a shift in orientation since this is really a false premise.

Office Of Housing Enterprise Oversight [OFHEO] [2] – November 29, 2007

The figures were released today by OFHEO Director James B. Lockhart, as part of the quarterly report analyzing housing price appreciation trends.

“While select markets still maintain robust rates of appreciation, our newest data show price weakening in a very significant portion of the country,” said Lockhart. “Indeed, in the third quarter, more than 20 states experienced price declines and, in some cases, those declines are substantial.

National Association of Realtors [3] – November 28, 2007

NAR President Richard Gaylord, a broker with RE/MAX Real Estate Specialists in Long Beach, Calif., emphasized that all real estate is local. “Keep in mind that home prices are up in 93 out of 150 metro areas, and there is a lot of confusion in the market from reports about national data. Broadly speaking, home prices in most areas are up modestly or fairly stable,” he said. “Areas with population or job growth are seeing the strongest home price gains.”

National Association of Home Builders [NAHB] [4] – November 27, 2007

Their comments on the release of the S&P/Case-Shiller numbers this month…

“We need to put these numbers in proper historical context by analyzing them over the long term, rather than in one-year increments,” said Brian Catalde, president of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder from El Segundo, Calif. “The statistics released today also reaffirm that all housing markets are local, and conditions in them are dictated by the local economy and job market.




UPDATE: Economist Humor: A friend of mine, who happens to be a well respected economist, mentioned to me last week:

…there are 3 kinds of economists: the kind that can count and the kind that can’t.