Case-Shiller Home Prices Strong Growth in December 2012

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The non-seasonally adjusted Case-Shiller home price index (20 cities) for December 2012 (released today) showed the seventh year-over-year gain in housing prices since the end of the housing stimulus in 2010.

  • Non-seasonally adjusted home prices rose 0.2% month-to-month – which any rise between between November to December is unusually good.
  • Home prices increased year-over-year 6.8% (versus 5.5% in November).
  • The market had expected a year-over-year increase between 6.0% and 6.5% (versus the 6.8% reported)

Case-Shiller home price index has shown year-over-year price improvement for the last seven months. The National Association of Realtors and CoreLogic have reported year-over-year home price gains since April 2012. 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 (green line, left axis) and National Association of Realtors (red line, right axis)

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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)

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There are some differences between the indices on the rate of “recovery” of home prices. However, the trend for the last 8 to 12 months have been an improving home market

A synopsis of Authors of the Leading Indices:

Case Shiller’s David M. Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Indices, sees a strengthening housing market.

“Home prices ended 2012 with solid gains,” says David M. Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. “Housing and residential construction led the economy in the 2012 fourth quarter. In December’s report all three headline composites and 19 of the 20 cities gained over their levels of a year ago. Month-over-month, 9 cities and both Composites posted positive monthly gains. Seasonally adjusted, there were no monthly declines across all 20 cities.

“The National Composite increased 7.3% over the four quarters of 2012. From its low in the first quarter, it surged in the second and third quarter and slipped slightly in the 2012 fourth period. The 10- and 20-City Composites, which bottomed out in March 2012 continued to show both year-over-year and monthly gains in December. These movements, combined with other housing data, suggest that while housing is on the upswing some of the strongest numbers may have already been seen.

“Atlanta and Detroit posted their biggest year-over-year increases of 9.9% and 13.6% since the start of their indices in January 1991. Dallas, Denver, and Minneapolis recorded their largest annual increases since 2001. Phoenix continued its climb, posting an impressive year-over-year return of 23.0%; it posted eight consecutive months of double-digit annual growth.”

CoreLogic suggests home prices will continue to recover (December Data):

“December marked 10 consecutive months of year-over-year home price improvements, and the strongest growth since the height of the last housing boom more than six years ago,” said Mark Fleming, chief economist for CoreLogic. “We expect price growth to continue in January as our Pending HPI shows strong year-over-year appreciation.”

“We are heading into 2013 with home prices on the rebound,” said Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic. “The upward trend in home prices in 2012 was broad based with 46 of 50 states registering gains for the year. All signals point to a continued improvement in the fundamentals underpinning the U.S. housing market recovery.”

Excluding distressed sales, home prices increased on a year-over-year basis by 7.5 percent in December 2012 compared to December 2011. On a month-over-month basis, excluding distressed sales, home prices increased 0.9 percent in December 2012 compared to November 2012. Distressed sales include short sales and real estate owned (REO) transactions.

The CoreLogic Home Price Index (HPI) showed that home prices nationwide, including distressed sales, increased on a year-over-year basis by 8.3 percent in December 2012 compared to December 2011. This change represents the biggest increase since May 2006 and the 10th consecutive monthly increase in home prices nationally. On a month-over-month basis, including distressed sales, home prices increased by 0.4 percent in December 2012 compared to November 2012*. The HPI analysis shows that all but four states are experiencing year-over-year price gains.

The National Association of Realtors believes the market could be better if there was more homes for sale (January 2012 data):

Lawrence Yun , NAR chief economist, said tight inventory is a major factor in the market. “Buyer traffic is continuing to pick up, while seller traffic is holding steady,” he said. “In fact, buyer traffic is 40 percent above a year ago, so there is plenty of demand but insufficient inventory to improve sales more strongly. We’ve transitioned into a seller’s market in much of the country.”

NAR President Gary Thomas, broker-owner of Evergreen Realty in Villa Park, Calif., said homes are selling faster. “The typical home is selling nearly four weeks faster than it did a year ago,” he said. “In this environment, Realtors® can help buyers strike a balance between moving quickly and protecting their interests, such as making offers contingent upon a satisfactory home inspection and obtaining a loan; of course, a loan pre-qualification may help too.”Distressed homes – foreclosures and short sales – accounted for 23 percent of January sales, down from 24 percent in December and 35 percent in January 2012. Fourteen percent of January sales were foreclosures and 9 percent were short sales. Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 20 percent below market value in January, while short sales were discounted 12 percent.

Lender Processing Services (LPS) December 2012 home price index rose 0.1% month-over-month and 5.8% 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)

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

Related Articles

All Analysis Blog Articles on Housing Sales and Prices

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