Case-Shiller Home Prices December 2013: Strongest Part of Recovery May Be Over

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The non-seasonally adjusted Case-Shiller home price index (20 cities) for December 2013 (released today) declined slightly but showed the 19th consecutive monthly year-over-year gain in housing prices since the end of the housing stimulus in 2010.

  • Home price rate of growth decelerated 0.1% month-over-month.
  • Home prices increased 13.4% year-over-year.
  • The market had expected a year-over-year increase of 13.3% (versus the 13.4% reported).
  • Case-Shiller continues to show the highest year-over-year home price gains of any home price index.

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)

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The way to understand the dynamics of home prices is to watch the direction of the rate of change. Here almost universally – home price growth is now decelerating.

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)

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There are some differences between the indices on the rate of “recovery” of home prices. However, the trend for over a year has 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, believes the strongest part of the home price recovery may be over.

The S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index ended its best year since 2005. However, gains are slowing from month-to-month and the strongest part of the recovery in home values may be over. Year-over-year values for the two monthly Composites weakened and the quarterly National Index barely improved. The seasonally adjusted data also exhibit some softness and loss of momentum.

After 26 months of consecutive gains, Phoenix posted -0.3% for the month of December, its largest decline since March 2011. Phoenix once led the recovery from the bottom in 2012, but Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Francisco were the top three performing cities of 2013 with gains of over 20%. The Sun Belt, with the exception of Dallas, Miami and Tampa, saw lower annual rates in December when compared to their November numbers. The six cities with the highest year-over-year figures saw their rates decline (Las Vegas, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Atlanta, San Diego and Detroit) and most cities ranked at the bottom improved (Denver, Washington and New York) – Charlotte and Cleveland were the two exceptions.

Recent economic reports suggest a bleaker picture for housing. Existing home sales fell 5.1% in January from December to the slowest pace in over a year. Permits for new residential construction and housing starts were both down and below expectations. Some of the weakness reflects the cold weather in much of the country. However, higher home prices and mortgage rates are taking a toll on affordability. Mortgage default rates, as shown by the S&P/Experian Consumer Credit Default Index, are back to their pre-crisis levels but bank lending standards remain strict.

CoreLogic is also upbeat because of the price growth (December Data). Per Mark Fleming, chief economist for CoreLogic and Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic:

Last year, home prices rose 11 percent, the highest rate of annual increase since 2005, and ten states and the District of Columbia reached new all-time price peaks. We expect the rising prices to attract more sellers, unlocking this pent-up supply, which will have a moderating effect on prices in 2014.

The healthy and broad-based gains in home prices in 2013 help set the stage for a continued recovery in the housing sector in 2014. After six years of fits and starts, we can now see a clear path to a durable recovery in single-family residential housing across most of the United States.

The National Association of Realtors are blaming everything for the deteriorating home sales data (January 2014 data). Per Lawrence Yun , NAR chief economist:

Disruptive and prolonged winter weather patterns across the country are impacting a wide range of economic activity, and housing is no exception. Some housing activity will be delayed until spring. At the same time, we can’t ignore the ongoing headwinds of tight credit, limited inventory, higher prices and higher mortgage interest rates. These issues will hinder home sales activity until the positive factors of job growth and new supply from higher housing starts begin to make an impact.

NAR President Steve Brown said that in addition to disruptive weather, higher flood insurance rates are impacting the market in areas designated as flood zones, which account for roughly 8 to 9 percent of sales. “Thirty percent of transactions in flood zones were cancelled or delayed in January as a result of sharply higher flood insurance rates,” he said. “Since going into effect on October 1, 2013, about 40,000 home sales were either delayed or canceled because of increases and confusion over significantly higher flood insurance rates. The volume could accelerate as the market picks up this spring.

Lender Processing Services (LPS) November 2013 home price index up 0.3% for the Month; Up 8.5% 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)

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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