Thursday, June 18, 2009
The danger of "misleading medians" was demonstrated in the latest Dataquick report on May real estate sales for Southern California.
While DataQuick and most media outlets seem to have addressed this issue promptly in their reporting - how an increase in sales at the high end can push the median price up while home prices continue to fall - it's easy to imagine what surviving real estate sales agents might tell fence-sitting buyers in an effort to compel them to action.
"Oh no, home prices are rising again", said the realtor as they approached the first of their six stops during an afternoon of house hunting. "They just reported it this morning in the newspaper".
The Los Angeles Times described the situation well in this report:
Southern California home prices rise slightly in MayHopefully, prospective buyers will read more than just the headline.
Southern California's median home price rose slightly in May for the first time in nearly two years. But the increase was more reflective of a change in the types of homes sold than an end to falling values, a real estate research firm reported Wednesday.
There was a clear uptick in median home prices in Orange and Ventura Counties - the two most expensive areas in Southern California. It will be most interesting to see what the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index says about the Los Angeles area housing market when they release new data at the end of the month.Foreclosures accounted for just 50.2 percent of all sales in May, down from 53.6 percent in April, marking the eighth straight month where distressed sales made up more than half of all resales and sales volume continued to improve, particularly for higher prices homes.
On a year-over-year basis, there is clear improvement in all areas, but annual double-digit price declines were clearly unsustainable. Since Marshall "almost all if not all of those gains are here to stay" Prentice is now retired, new DataQuick President John Walsh provides the commentary:
We appear to be in the early stages of the market gradually tilting back toward a more normal balance of sales across the home price spectrum. As more sellers get realistic, more buyers get off the fence and more lenders offer reasonable terms for high-end purchase financing, we’ll see a more normal share of sales in the more established, higher-cost areas that have been nearly comatose.Don't be surprised if a further increase in sales of more expensive homes pushes the median sales price up significantly in the months ahead.
Let’s not forget we’re into the traditional home buying season right now meaning more people are purchasing for all of the normal reasons, such as a new job or to get settled before school starts. Many are concerned with finding the right home in the right area, not just the most deeply discounted home.