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posted on 26 April 2016

Case-Shiller Home Price Index February 2016 Rate of Growth Slows

Written by Steven Hansen

The non-seasonally adjusted Case-Shiller home price index (20 cities) year-over-year rate of home price growth was down from last month's 5.7% to 5.3%. The authors of the index say "Home prices continue to rise twice as fast as inflation, but the pace is easing off in the most recent number".

  • 20 city unadjusted home price rate of growth decelerated 0.4 % month-over-month. [Econintersect uses the change in year-over-year growth from month-to-month to calculate the change in rate of growth]
  • Note that Case-Shiller index is an average of the last three months of data.
  • The market expected:
Consensus Range Consensus Actual
20-city, SA - M/M 0.6 % to 1.0 % 0.7 % +0.7 %
20-city, NSA - M/M +0.2 %
20-city, NSA - Yr/Yr 5.3 % to 5.9 % 5.5 % +5.3 %

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 continue to rise twice as fast as inflation, but the pace is easing off in the most recent number. The year-over-year figures for the 10-City and 20-City Composites both slowed and 13 of the 20 cities saw slower year-overyear numbers compared to last month. The slower growth rate is evident in the monthly seasonally adjusted numbers: six cities experienced smaller monthly gains in February compared to January, when no city saw growth. Among the six were Seattle, Portland OR, and San Diego, all of which were very strong last time.

Mortgage defaults are an important measure of the health of the housing market. Memories of the financial crisis are dominated by rising defaults as much as by falling home prices (see first chart). Today as well, the mortgage default rate continues to mirror the path of home prices. Currently, the default rate on first mortgages is about three-quarters of one percent, a touch lower than in 2004. Moreover, the figure has drifted down in the last two years. While financing is not an issue for home buyers, rising prices are a concern in many parts of the country. The visible supply of homes on the market is low at 4.8 months in the last report. Homeowners looking to sell their house and trade up to a larger house or a more desirable location are concerned with finding that new house. Additionally, the pace of new single family home construction and sales has not completely recovered from the recession.

CoreLogic believes low inventories are spurring rising home prices (February 2016 Data). Per Dr Frank Nothaft, chief economist for CoreLogic and Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic stated:

Fixed-rate mortgage rates dropped more than one-quarter of a percentage point in the first three months of 2016, and job creation averaged 209,000 over the same period. These economic forces will sustain home purchases during the spring and support the 5.2 percent home price appreciation CoreLogic has projected for the next year.

Home prices continue to rise across the U.S. with every state posting year-over-year gains during the last 12 months. Improved economic conditions and tight inventories continue to drive exceptionally strong gains in many markets, especially for homes priced below $500,000.

The National Association of Realtors says home sales prices have moderated (March 2016 data):

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says home sales had a nice rebound in March following February's uncharacteristically large decline. "Closings came back in force last month as a greater number of buyers - mostly in the Northeast and Midwest - overcame depressed inventory levels and steady price growth to close on a home," he said. "Buyer demand remains sturdy in most areas this spring and the mid-priced market is doing quite well. However, sales are softer both at the very low and very high ends of the market because of supply limitations and affordability pressures."

"The choppiness in sales activity so far this year is directly related to the unevenness in the rate of new listings coming onto the market to replace what is, for the most part, being sold rather quickly," adds Yun. "Additionally, a segment of would-be buyers at the upper end of the market appear to have been spooked by January's stock market correction."

"With rents steadily rising and average fixed rates well below 4 percent, qualified first-time buyers should be more active participants than what they are right now," adds Yun. "Unfortunately, the same underlying deterrents impacting their ability to buy haven't subsided so far in 2016. Affordability and the low availability of starter homes is still a major barrier for them in most markets."

NAR President Tom Salomone, says despite modest improvements, mortgage credit is still difficult to come by for many first-time buyers and middle-income households. "Reducing the Federal Housing Administration's annual mortgage insurance premium rate and repealing its life-of-loan policy requirement would certainly expand options for more of these buyers," he said. "These changes would save consumers money and further strengthen the FHA's program by enticing more creditworthy borrowers to seek out FHA-insured loans."

Black Knight Financial Services (formerly known as Lender Processing Services) January 2016 home price index Up 0.1 Percent for the Month; Up 5.5 Percent 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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