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posted on 24 February 2015

Case-Shiller Home Price Index December 2014: "The Housing Recovery Is Faltering"

Written by Steven Hansen

The non-seasonally adjusted Case-Shiller home price index (20 cities) for December 2014 (released today) year-over-year rate of home price growth improved from 4.3% (reported as 4.3% last month) to 4.5%. Despite this gain, the authors of this index say "the housing recovery is faltering".

  • 20 city unadjusted home price rate of growth accelerated 0.2% month-over-month. [Econintersect uses the change in year-over-year growth from month-to-month to calculate the change in rate of growth]
  • Case-Shiller no longer shows the highest year-over-year home price gains of any home price index - this "honor" goes to CoreLogic.
  • The market expected:
Consensus Range Consensus Actual
20-city, SA - M/M 0.4 % to 0.8 % 0.5 % +0.9%
20-city, NSA - M/M -0.3 % to 0.0 % -0.1 % +0.1%
20-city, NSA - Yr/Yr 4.1 % to 4.5 % 4.2 % +4.5%

S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices Year-over-Year Change

Comparing all the home price indices, it needs to be understood each of the indices uses a unique methodology in compiling their index - and no index is perfect. The National Association of Realtors normally shows exaggerated movements which likely is due to inclusion of more higher value homes.

Comparison of Home Price Indices - Case-Shiller 3 Month Average (blue line, left axis), CoreLogic (green line, left axis) and National Association of Realtors 3 Month Average (red line, right axis)

z existing3.PNG

The way to understand the dynamics of home prices is to watch the direction of the rate of change. Here home price growth generally appears to be stabilizing (rate of growth not rising or falling).

Year-over-Year Price Change Home Price Indices - Case-Shiller 3 Month Average (blue bar), CoreLogic (yellow bar) and National Association of Realtors 3 Month Average (red bar)

z existing5.PNG

There are some differences between the indices on the rate of "recovery" of home prices.

A synopsis of Authors of the Leading Indices:

Case Shiller's David M. Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Indices:

The housing recovery is faltering. While prices and sales of existing homes are close to normal, construction and new home sales remain weak. Before the current business cycle, any time housing starts were at their current level of about one million at annual rates, the economy was in a recession. The softness in housing is despite favorable conditions elsewhere in the economy: strong job growth, a declining unemployment rate, continued low interest rates and positive consumer confidence.

Movements in home prices show clear regional patterns. The western half of the nation plus Miami and Atlanta enjoyed year-over-year increases of 5% or more. San Francisco and Miami were the strongest. Dallas, Denver, Las Vegas and Atlanta also experienced solid gains. Phoenix was an exception to the western strength with only a 2.4% increase; San Diego was a bit under 5% at 4.8%. The Midwest and Northeast lagged. Boston was the strongest among this weak group with prices up 3.8%. The regional patterns and the weakness in new construction and new sales may reflect decreasing mobility - fewer people moving to different parts of the country or seeking jobs in different regions.

CoreLogic believes home price growth has moderated (December Data). Per Sam Khater, deputy chief economist at CoreLogic and Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic:

For the full year of 2014, home prices increased 7.4 percent, down from an 11.1-percent increase in 2013. Nationally, home price growth moderated and stabilized at 5 percent the last four months of the year. The moderation can be clearly seen at the state level, with Colorado, Texas and New York at the high end of appreciation, ending the year with increases of about 8 percent. This contrasts with previous appreciation rates in the double digits-for instance, Nevada and California which experienced increases of more than 20 percent earlier in 2014.

Nationally, home price appreciation took a pause in November and December 2014 and we expect a slow start to 2015. As the year progresses, we expect upward pressure as low inventories and more first-time buyers drive up home prices.

The National Association of Realtors says home sales growth had a bad month (January 2015 data):

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says the housing market got off to a somewhat disappointing start to begin the year with January closings down throughout the country. "January housing data can be volatile because of seasonal influences, but low housing supply and the ongoing rise in homeprices above the pace of inflation appeared to slow sales despite interest rates remaining near historic lows," he said. "Realtors® are reporting that low rates are attracting potential buyers, but the lack of new and affordable listings is leading some to delay decisions."

"Although sales cooled in January, home prices continued solid year-over-year growth," adds Yun. "The labor market and economy are markedly improved compared to a year ago, which supports stronger buyer demand. The big test for housing will be the impact on affordability once rates rise."

NAR President Chris Polychron says that the Federal Housing Administration's overly restrictive approval process limits buyers' access to condos even though these properties are among the strongest in the agency's portfolio. "Condominiums offer an affordable option and are the first step to homeownership for many homebuyers. NAR has urged the FHA to develop policies that will give buyers access to more flexible and affordable financing opportunities and a wider choice of approved condo developments."

Black Knight Financial Services (formerly known as Lender Processing Services) December 2014 home price index down 0.1% for the Month; Up 4.5% Year-over-Year.

Econintersect publishes knowledgeable views of the housing market.

Caveats on the Use of Home Price Indices

The housing price decline seen since 2005 varies by zip code - and seems to have ended somewhere around the beginning of the 2Q2012. Every area of the country has differing characteristics. Since January 2006, the housing declines in Charlotte and Denver are well less than 10%, while Las Vegas home prices had declined almost 60%.

Each home price index uses a different methodology - and this creates slightly different answers. There is some evidence in various home price indices that home prices are beginning to stabilize - the evidence is also in this post. Please see the post Economic Headwinds from Real Estate Moderate.

The most broadly based index is the US Federal Housing Finance Agency's House Price Index (HPI) - a quarterly broad measure of the movement of single-family house prices. This index is a weighted, repeat-sales index on the same properties in 363 metro centers, compared to the 20 cities Case-Shiller.

The US Federal Housing Finance Agency also has an index (HPIPONM226S) based on 6,000,000 same home sales - a much broader index than Case-Shiller. Also, there is a big difference between home prices and owner's equity (OEHRENWBSHNO) which has been included on the graph below.

Comparing Various Home Price Indices to Owner's Equity (blue line)

With rents increasing and home prices declining - the affordability factor favoring rental vs owning is reversing. Rising rents are shifting the balance.

Price to Rent Ratio - Indexed on January 2000 - Based on Case-Shiller 20 cities index ratio to CPI Rent Index

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