More about the housing numbers...

I sift through statistics from several different sources, and as I have mentioned before, I try to make a distinction between national and regional stats, and local stats. The latter are the most difficult to track, because while there are plenty of sources tracking the real estate market nationally and regionally, there is next to nothing when it comes to smaller local areas. The Georgetown real estate market is very different from the national one...and, even within what qualifies as "Georgetown", the market varies a fair amount.

I look at statistics from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors (GCAAR), the regional multiple listing system (MRIS), and various independent housing reports. I'm happy to tell you how to reach these reports. Just send me an email if interested.

The value of the NAR and GCAAR statistics, with regard to Georgetown, is that it gives us the big picture of price and sales trends. These trends reflect the Georgetown market in a general sense, and these trends have an impact on our market because this is the info nearly everyone reads and hears about in the news. However when our averages are lumped in with Las Vegas, for instance, it isn't an accurate reflection of Georgetown. In this case, our market never tanked the way it did in Las Vegas...in numbers of sales, price drops, foreclosure rates, etc. While we have suffered, we have been fortunate compared to almost every other city in the US.

Here is a long article from the NAR which, if you like this sort of thing, you will find interesting.

Using Housing and Economic Data
by Jed Smith, Managing Director, Quantitative Research

Disjointed factoids from the evening news frequently substitute for economic information. When making important decisions, such as buying a home, consumers may not always have all the facts; after all, economics is not first on everybody’s list. In last month’s Real Estate Insights, we looked at key economic variables that can shed light on where the housing market is headed: employment, interest rates, consumer mood, and Gross Domestic Product (GDP). A brief discussion of the actual data for the state of the economy can provide the facts—in contrast to the opinions available on talk shows.

In our monthly data (tracking sales and prices for Existing Home Sales - EHS), the monthly data fluctuate a bit from month-to-month and show where the housing market is based on the annualization of the current month’s sales. The monthly data can also be summed over a 12 month period to obtain a “12 month roll,” as discussed below.

Given the current media focus on housing – especially as it relates to the economy in general – it is not surprising that the news has been filled with information on home sales and trends. An examination of the national data indicates the market is recovering. Sales fluctuate from month to month, but total sales measured on a 12 month rolling basis show a housing market in recovery mode. A “12 month roll” is the summation of total sales over the previous month; each month there is a new “12 month roll” as an additional month is added to the calculation and a month a year ago is dropped. Looking at these rolls over a time period shows the overall trend of the market. This information can be used in conjunction with NAR’s monthly annualized figures to get a feeling for where the market has been, where the market currently is, and where the market is trending. Home sales data at the national level can be used in conjunction with local data to discuss comparisons of national and local trends.

Home prices are also a matter of concern to potential home buyers and home sellers, as well as their real estate agents., investors and policy makers. The current data on home price trends appear to indicate that housing prices are leveling out. This information is consistent with what we have been hearing from a variety of experts around the country. While we hear a lot about home prices on the news, a comparison of the national trends and those in local markets could provide potential home purchasers with useful information.

Finally, whether a household can actually afford to purchase a home is certainly a crucial factor in the home buying decision. NAR’s measure of affordability – the NAR Housing Affordability Index (HAI) is based on interest rates and prices. The HAI shows that affordability is at a ten-year historical high in terms of affordability. Again, the comparison of national trends and local experience can provide a benchmark of the current market and serve as the basis for the discussion of the outlook. What may be most helpful to home buyers and their REALTORS® is to look at the trends relating to percent of household income spent on principal and interest payments.

In conclusion, a few readily available pieces of economic and housing market data – rather than sometimes wild assertions found in blogs -- can provide some insight both about the course of the economy as well as housing. A few charts of data can portray housing trends. The information at the national level can be combined with local data for specific markets and should give an improved overview of the housing markets.

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