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December 01, 2005
Real-time indicator of local housing prices?
Props to "Wes" on our active "Washington DC bubble" thread for pointing out a neat web site, HousingTracker, that attempts to provide a real-time indicator of housing price trends in 49 leading markets, including Miami, San Francisco and Atlanta. Not content to wait for the quarterly housing reports from the local chapters of the National Association of Realtors, the founder of HousingTracker, 27-year-old New Yorker Ben Engebreth, decided to produce an index for each of these 49 markets using asking prices on the Multiple Listing Service as an early proxy for eventual sale prices (the idea being that asking prices serves as an indicator of how bullish or bearish sellers are). HousingTracker also provides the 25th percentile, 50th percentile, and 75th percentile asking price for the metro areas covered, so you can see whether there's particular pressure on the high-end and low-end corners of the market. The site also tracks inventory levels, though I'm undecided on whether that indicator is as reliable.
So what does HousingTracker tell us at the moment? ...
The median asking price for homes in Washington DC has declined 3.3% in the past three months, while inventories have risen 34%. In San Diego, asking prices are down 7% over past three months, while inventories have risen 357%. And here in my hometown Atlanta (which never really participated in the bubble) prices are up 2.6% in past three months, with inventories down 1.8%.
Admittedly, I can't vouch for the accuracy of the data on a hobby site like this, but the statistics do seem to be consistent with the anecdotal evidence in these markets. Worth a look...
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great idea - pull the mls data and report it. because we all know the NAR cannot be trusted to not cook the books
another good site is http://housingpanic.blogspot.com for commentary, and also http://bubbletracking.blogspot.com/ for inventory data
Posted by: keith at December 2, 2005 04:04 AM
Thanks for the write-up Dean! It's true the motivation for the site was the lack of timely data made available by NAR. So, what I do is -- as you said -- pull the data from the online MLS site. While the data is exactly representative of what the listed home prices are, there are still a couple of caveats. For one, the definition of 'metro areas' is kinda hazy with MLS. For Atlanta, for instance, I pull data for the city of Atlanta and 'nearby areas.' This is a rough approximation of the metro area, but certainly different from what defines the actual MSA (which NAR uses). The other issue is that a lot of MLS updating seems to happen near the end of the month. Data that I retreive +/- 1 week of the first of the month can sometimes be a little noisy. Sometimes it can be really noisy, so I usually give the most weight (in my mind) to the numbers taken on the 14th and th 21st. And finally, of course, we are talking about asking prices instead of sale prices, so that's just plain different than what the NAR reports.
If you want to look at an interesting trend, check out LA's 75th percentile price change in the last three months (http://www.benengebreth.org/housingtracker/location/California/LosAngeles/). They went from 999K to 899K (10%) over a pretty short time span. That city and Phoenix (http://www.benengebreth.org/housingtracker/location/Arizona/Phoenix/) are the two that I watch closely.
Posted by: Ben Engebreth at December 2, 2005 12:58 PM
Great site Ben...however, I noticed that New York is not represented. As a transplant currently living in North Carolina, I try to stay in touch with the New York market in hopes that one day I can afford to return. Either way, your site will serve as a valuable tool in monitoring the industry as a whole. Do you have plans to add New York- or are you sticking with the regions currently represented?
Posted by: Dan Connell at December 15, 2005 11:25 AM