Written by Steven Hansen
The non-seasonally adjusted Case-Shiller home price index (20 cities) for May 2012 (released today) showed the third month-over-month housing gain in a row.
- Home prices increased 2.2% month-over-month
- However, home prices declined year-over-year 0.7% (versus -1.9% in April).
- The market had expected a year-over-year decline of 1.8% (versus the -0.7% reported)
Case-Shiller home price index was the only index showing a significant year-over-year home price decline. The National Association of Realtors and CoreLogic have reported year-over-year home price gains. Note the caveats section at the end of this post.
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 (yellow line, left axis) and National Association of Realtors (red line, right axis)
The way to understand the dynamics of home prices is to watch the direction of the rate of change – and not necessarily whether the prices are getting better or worse. Here almost universally – home prices are either improving or becoming less bad – with the National Association of Realtors home prices currently showing the largest price gains.
Year-over-Year Price Change Home Price Indices – Case-Shiller 3 Month Average (blue bar), CoreLogic (yellow bar) and National Association of Realtors (red bar)
There is significant differences between the indices on the rate of “recovery” of home prices. The real question is whether this is a seasonal effect, or is the home price decline ending.
A synopsis of Authors of the Leading Indices:
Case Shiller’s David M. Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Indices, sees broad gains.
“With May’s data, we saw a continuing trend of rising home prices for the spring. On a monthly basis, all 20 cities and both Composites posted positive returns and 17 of those cities saw those rates of change increase compared to what was observed for April. Seventeen of the 20 cities and both Composites also saw improved annual rates of return. We have observed two consecutive months of increasing home prices and overall improvements in monthly and annual returns; however, we need to remember that spring and early summer are seasonally strong buying months so this trend must continue throughout the summer and into the fall.
“The 10- and 20-City Composites were each up 2.2% for the month and recorded respective annual rates of decline of 1.0% and 0.7%, compared to May 2011. While still negative, these annual changes are the best we’ve since in at least 18 months.
“Taking a closer look at the cities, Phoenix again posted the best annual return. Average home prices in that region were up 11.5% versus May 2011. It was one of the hardest hit cities in the collapse, and prices are still more than 50% below their June 2006 peak, but the past five months have been positive for that market. Miami and Tampa are two other Sunbelt cities that were hard-hit in the downturn, but are now showing positive annual rates of change. Boston, Charlotte and Detroit, on the other hand, saw their annual rates of return deteriorate compared to April, even though prices rose over the month of May. Las Vegas posted both a positive monthly change in May and saw an improvement in its annual return; that said, the market is still more than 60% below it August 2006 peak.
“June data for existing home sales, new home sales, housing starts and mortgage default rates were a bit mixed, but all are better than their year-ago levels. The housing market seems to be stabilizing, but we are definitely in a wait-and-see mode for the next few months.”
CoreLogic’s Anand Nallathambi, president and chief executive officer commenting on its April data, suggests home prices are unevenly improving:
“The recent upward trend in U.S. home prices is an encouraging signal that we may be seeing a bottoming of the housing down cycle. Tighter inventory is contributing to broad, but modest, price gains nationwide and more significant gains in the harder-hit markets, like Phoenix.”
“Home price appreciation in the lower-priced segment of the market is rebounding more quickly than in the upper end. Home prices below 75 percent of the national median increased 5.7 percent from a year ago, compared to only a 1.8 percent increase for prices 125 percent or more of the median.”
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist commenting on June 2012 data said the market is constrained by not having enough houses to sell:
Despite the frictions related to obtaining mortgages, buyer interest remains solid. But inventory continues to shrink and that is limiting buying opportunities. This, in turn, is pushing up home prices in many markets. The price improvement also results from fewer distressed homes in the sales mix.
The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $189,400 in June, up 7.9 percent from a year ago. This marks four back-to-back monthly price increases from a year earlier, which last occurred in February to May of 2006. June’s gain was the strongest since February 2006 when the median price rose 8.7 percent from a year prior.
Distressed homes – foreclosures and short sales sold at deep discounts – accounted for 25 percent of June sales (13 percent were foreclosures and 12 percent were short sales), unchanged from May but down from 30 percent in June 2011. Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 18 percent below market value in June, while short sales were discounted 15 percent. The distressed portion of the market will further diminish because the number of seriously delinquent mortgages has been falling.
Lender Processing Services (LPS) April 2012 home price index rose 1.1% month-over-month, but still remains down 0.1% 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. 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 have 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)
Recent review of the Fed 2011 stress tests for banks has a new recession scenario that would see home prices decline another 20% from here. It is unlikely that the attempts to complete a bottom here could hold under those conditions.
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