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posted on 26 May 2015

Case-Shiller Home Price Index March 2015 Shows Continuing Improvement In Home Prices

Written by Steven Hansen

The non-seasonally adjusted Case-Shiller home price index (20 cities) for February 2015 (released today) year-over-year rate of home price growth was unchanged at 5.0%. The authors of the index say: "Given the long stretch of strong reports, it is no surprise that people are asking if we're in a new home price bubble".

  • 20 city unadjusted home price rate of growth accelerated 0.0% month-over-month. [Econintersect uses the change in year-over-year growth from month-to-month to calculate the change in rate of growth]
  • CoreLogic currently shows the highest year-over-year growth of 5.6%.
  • The market expected:
Consensus Range Consensus Actual
20-city, SA - M/M 0.5 % to 1.6 % 0.9 % +1.0 %
20-city, NSA - M/M 0.5 % to 0.9 % 0.9 % +0.9%
20-city, NSA - Yr/Yr 4.5 % to 5.4 % 4.6 % +5.0%

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:

Home prices have enjoyed year-over-year gains for 35 consecutive months. The pattern of consistent gains is national and seen across all 20 cities covered by the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices. The longest run of gains is in Detroit at 45 months, the shortest is New York with 27 months. However, the pace has moderated in the last year; from August 2013 to February 2014, the national index gained more than 10% year-over-year, compared to 4.1% in this release.

Given the long stretch of strong reports, it is no surprise that people are asking if we're in a new home price bubble. The only way you can be sure of a bubble is looking back after it's over. The average 12 month rise in inflation adjusted home prices since 1975 is about 1.0% per year compared to the current 4.1% pace, arguing for a bubble. However, the annual rate of increase halved in the last year, as shown in the first chart. Home prices are currently rising more quickly than either per capita personal income (3.1%) or wages (2.2%), narrowing the pool of future home-buyers. All of this suggests that some future moderation in home prices gains is likely. Moreover, consumer debt levels seem to be manageable. I would describe this as a rebound in home prices, not bubble and not a reason to be fearful.

CoreLogic believes home price growth will be 5% over the next 12 months (March Data). Per Dr. Frank Nothaft, chief economist at CoreLogic and Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic:

The homes for sale inventory continues to be limited while buyer demand has picked up with low mortgage rates and improving consumer confidence. As a result, there has been continued upward pressure on prices in most markets, with our national monthly index up 2 percent for March 2015 and up 6 percent from a year ago.

All signs are pointing toward continued price appreciate throughout 2015. In fact, the strong month-over-month gain in March may be a harbinger of accelerating price appreciation as we enter the spring selling season. Tight inventories, job growth and the inexorable impact of demographics and household formation are pushing price levels in many states and especially large metropolitan areas like Dallas, Denver, Houston, Seattle and San Francisco Bay toward record levels.

The National Association of Realtors says home sales growth for Spring is much improved (April 2015 data):

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says sales in April failed to keep pace with the robust gain seen in March. "April's setback is the result of lagging supply relative to demand and the upward pressure it's putting on prices," he said. "However, the overall data and feedback we're hearing from Realtors® continues to point to elevated levels of buying interest compared to a year ago. With low interest rates and job growth, more buyers will be encouraged to enter the market unless prices accelerate even higher in relation to incomes."

"Housing inventory declined from last year and supply in many markets is very tight, which in turn is leading to bidding wars, faster price growth and properties selling at a quicker pace," says Yun. "To put it in perspective, roughly 40 percent of properties sold last month went at or above asking price, the highest since NAR began tracking this monthly data in December 2012."

NAR President Chris Polychron says there needs to be additional choices for borrowers looking for safe and secure mortgage products to finance their home purchase. Realtors® urge the U.S. Senate to schedule a vote for the bipartisan Mortgage Choice Act, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives last week. This legislation levels the playing field for brokerages with affiliated business agreements by eliminating the 3 percent cap on the calculations of fees and points in the Dodd-Frank Ability-to-Repay/Qualified Mortgage rule.

Black Knight Financial Services (formerly known as Lender Processing Services) February 2015 home price index up 0.7% for the Month; Up 4.6% Year-over-Year (unchanged from the previous month).

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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