FHFA Home Price Index (From Peak To Present)

Maybe homes in San Jose are holding value better than we thought.

Between March and April of this year, home values rose 0.8 percent nationally, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s Home Price Index. It’s the index’s first month-to-month improvement since May of last year.

Values are down 19 percent since peaking 4 years ago.

Private-sector data affirms the government’s report. 

Tuesday, the S&P’s Case-Shiller Index also showed home values higher by 0.8 percent in April, on a monthly basis. Led by Washington, D.C. and San Francisco, 13 of the Case-Shiller’s 20 tracked markets showed improvement in April. 

In March, just 2 markets did.

As a home seller in or near Cambrian , it’s nice to see reports of rising home prices after multiple months of “bad news”. However, the data may not be as rosy as it appears to be. National real estate surveys including the Home Price Index and the Case-Shiller Index are flawed for everyday buyers and sellers.

The biggest flaw is “age”. Both the Home Price Index and the Case-Shiller Index report on a near 2-month delay.

This week, the calendar turns to July. Yet, we’re still discussing housing news from April. The housing market of 60 days ago was very different from the housing market of today. Mortgage rates are different, market drivers are different, and the pool of buyers is likely different, too.

We can’t discuss today’s housing market with “April” in mind. The data is irrelevant.

Another flaw is that both reports are national in scope. Real estate, by contrast, is local.

When we cite the Home Price Index or the Case-Shiller Index, for example, and say “home values rose 0.8% in April”, we’re just giving a national average. On the local level, some markets rose by more, some rose by less, and others actually fell.

People buy homes on a specific block of a specific street in a specific neighborhood. Data for homes like that can’t be captured in a national survey.

The group that gets the most value from the Home Price Index and Case-Shiller is Wall Street and policy-makers. The indices do a fair job of reporting how housing behaves as a whole, but for individuals concerned with buying and selling homes, the best place to find real-time, accurate data is from a real estate professional.

Home Price Index April 2007 to October 2009

More positive signals from housing — home values are still on the rise.

According to the Federal Housing Finance Agency, after posting its first quarterly increase since 2007 this past September, the Home Price Index rose by another 0.6 percent in October.

Prices are up in 4 of the last six months.

But before we take the stats to the proverbial bank, it’s important that we recognize the Home Price Index for its shortcomings.

  1. HPI only accounts for homes with mortgages backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac
  2. HPI only accounts for re-sold homes — newly-built homes are excluded
  3. HPI aggregates national data whereas real estate markets are local phenomena

On a broad scale, the Home Price Index can be useful, but it doesn’t specifically apply to Los Gatos or any specific U.S. market.  For that, analysts tend to turn to the Case-Shiller Index, a privately-produced report that assesses home values in 20 cities nationwide.

 

The good news for home sellers in Cambrian is that Case-Shiller’s most recent report corroborates the government’s conclusion — home values are creeping back.

Home buyers should pay attention. When public and private sector data is in accord, markets tend to go along and, looking back, housing likely bottomed in February 2009.  Since then, home sales are up, home supplies are down, and values have increased in most U.S. markets.  Furthermore, so long as mortgage rates remain low and government stimulus is in place, the trend should continue through at least the first quarter of 2010.

If you’re on the fence about buying a home right now, or wondering about timing, consider your options vis-a-vis today’s market.  Into the new year, homes won’t likely be as cheap to buy, nor to finance.