Friday, April 29, 2011

Pending home sales up

Pending home sales, a leading indicator, are up even as prices are expected to continue falling:
Here’s a bit of good news for the existing-home market: The National Association of Realtors’ monthly index for pending sales climbed 5.1% to 94.1 in March. That is (drumroll) the highest reading since November.

It was the second-straight monthly increase for the index, which tracks a to purchase homes. The results beat expectations: Economists were looking for a 1.5% increase.

But, before you break out the bubbly, know that the reading is 26% below its April 2005 peak. Plus, prices, already down 30% from the peak, continue their downward spiral. The median sales price for an existing home is forecast to fall to $169,800 this year, down from $172,900 in 2010.
Here's the spin from the National Association of Realtors:

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

U.S. home prices still falling

S&P/Case-Shiller shows U.S. home prices are still falling.
Home prices in February sank 3.3% to just above the post-crisis lows reached in April 2009. It was the seventh straight month of declines.

Home values are down 32% from their peak set in May of 2006, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller index of home prices in 20 cities.

"There is very little, if any, good news about housing," said David Blitzer, spokesman for S&P. "Prices continue to weaken, trends in sales and construction are disappointing."

The drop has come in two stages. First, the index recorded 36 months of nearly uninterrupted declines after reaching the spring 2006 peak. Then came a 13-month upswing during which the index recorded a 5% gain. That rebound ended last June.

Since then, the index has recorded losses every month and it has now edged closer to a new low — the dreaded double-dip. ...

Economists say the initial rebound after the financial crisis was artificially inflated by government initiatives.

Lawmakers implemented a tax credit for homebuyers. And the Federal Reserve helped keep mortgage rates low.

Also artificially supporting prices at the time was a decrease in the supply of foreclosed properties. That was the result of government loan modification programs, but many foreclosed properties have again come back to market.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Los Angeles housing prices

Click on the graph to see the full-size version. The blue line shows nominal housing prices. The red line shows inflation-adjusted housing prices.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Is too much debt a bad reason for denying someone a mortgage?

A new CNN Money article titled, "Mortgage denied: Sometimes, for no good reason" claims people are being denied mortgages for bad reasons, but their list of reasons looks pretty good:
  • Too few of the condos in your association have been sold
  • Your debt is too high
  • The wait after foreclosure is extended to seven years from five
  • Missed payments on credit card debt
A condo association with lots of unsold units is on shaky financial ground. A person with high debt is on shaky financial ground. Not paying your mortgage or credit card bills are signs that you have a tendency to be irresponsible with your money.

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve has proposed an "ability to repay" requirement for mortgage loans:
The proposal under Regulation Z would require creditors to determine a consumer’s ability to repay a mortgage before making the loan and establish minimum mortgage underwriting standards. filed for an IPO

Want to buy a stake in an unprofitable internet company?
Real estate site filed for a $51.75 million initial public offering Monday. ...

Zillow, founded in 2004, provides a database of more than 100 million U.S. homes for sale or rent, as well as homes not currently on the market.

In March, the site and mobile app together attracted 19.4 million unique users — a year-over-year gain of more than 90%.

Zillow's revenue has grown significantly over the past three years, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission filing. In 2010, Zillow's revenue jumped 74% to $30.5 million.

But the company has also booked net losses during that time, though those losses have been steadily narrowing. Zillow only lost $6.8 million last year, compared with $12.9 million in 2009 and $21.1 million in 2008.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Housing bubble graph FAIL! (Don't trust Barry Ritholtz)

I noticed Mark Thoma posting this graph from Barry Ritholtz's blog. Barry Ritholtz attributes it to reader Steve Barry. This graph supposedly shows Robert Shiller's famous 2006 inflation-adjusted housing graph updated through 2010. Notice that as of December 31, 2010, housing prices are at roughly index value 140, way above the 1989 bubblette peak.

(Click the image to see the full-sized version.)

There's just one problem. The graph is bogus. At least it isn't updated with Robert Shiller's national home price data. You see, Robert Shiller updates his own graph (it's in his housing data Excel file) which you can see below. According to Shiller, as of December 31, 2010, housing prices were at index value 124, not 140.

(Click the image to see Robert Shiller's spreadsheet and graph.)

It's possible Steve Barry used the FHFA House Price Index [***See updates below.***] to update the graph, but the S&P/Case-Shiller National Home Price Index is considered way more reliable, and it's the data Robert Shiller uses for home prices from 1987 onward. (Why use one data set for the up side of the bubble and a different data set for the down side?)

I also question how Steve Barry came up with his "projection". It looks like he just drew a dashed line where he wants home prices to go, but that's not valid forecasting.

Update: It appears that Steve Barry is making two errors. First, he is using the S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city index rather than the national index that Robert Shiller used. Second, Robert Shiller's portion of the graph is adjusted for inflation, but Steve Barry's (after 2006) is not.

Update #2: I contacted Barry Ritholtz about the issues with the graph. He then contacted Steve Barry. It has been confirmed straight from the horse's mouth, from 2006 onward the disputed graph uses the S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city index, rather than the national index that Robert Shiller used, and it does not adjust for inflation. This graph is really making its way around the web, which is unfortunate because it is worthless.

Update #3: Despite being informed of the error, Barry Ritholtz never issued a correction on his blog.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Las Vegas housing prices

Click on the graph to see the full-size version. The blue line shows nominal housing prices. The red line shows inflation-adjusted housing prices.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Boston, Massachusetts real housing prices

Click on the graph to see the full-size version. The blue line shows nominal housing prices. The red line shows inflation-adjusted housing prices.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Washington, DC real housing prices

Click the image to see the full-size version. The blue line shows nominal housing prices. The red line shows inflation-adjusted housing prices.