Thursday, December 22, 2011

National Association of Realtors overstated existing home sales by 16.7%

Last week I blogged about the National Association of Realtors overstating existing homes sales over the past five years. At the time we didn't know how much the Realtors overstated the numbers. Now we know they overstated them by 16.7%:
Existing home sales during the housing bust were actually 14.3% worse than previously reported, a revision to Realtors' group numbers shows.

On Wednesday, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) revised home sale counts back to 2007 due to flaws in their original data analysis.

In 2007, there were actually just 5.04 million existing home sales, 11% less than the 5.65 million originally reported. Even worse were 2008 and 2009, when there were 16% fewer sales than originally reported. Sales in 2010 were 15% lower.

"The errors started in 2007 and continued to accumulate over time," said Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist. ...

The data is "key to the economic outlook," said Mark Zandi of Moody's Analytics, "and the revisions help to explain the severity of the housing crash." ...

Some industry sources had been critical of the organization's data. In February, CoreLogic charged that NAR data was overestimating sales by 15% to 20%.

When NAR investigated, it found a "notable upward drift" in the numbers compared to other measurements such as courthouse deeds records, said Yun.
For anyone confused about where the 16.7% in the title comes from, the first sentence of the quoted article says sales were 14.3% worse than previously reported, and 100 / (100-14.3) = 16.7.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Updated housing graph

I have updated my national housing graph. My metropolitan area graphs are still nine months out of date.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Housing starts spiked in November

Housing starts are up 24.3% year-over-year:
Home building spiked up in November to the strongest level in almost two years, as record-low mortgage rates and a surge in apartment and condo construction lifted activity.

Housing starts shot up to an annual rate of 685,000 in the month, up 9.3% from October and 24.3% higher than a year earlier. Building activity easily topped predictions of 627,000 starts economists surveyed by were expecting.

Building permits, a closely-watched reading that is less affected by weather than actual starts, also shot up, rising 5.7% from October and 20.7% from the year before to 681,000 homes annually. ...

Both permits and starts were the strongest readings since the spring of 2010, the original deadline for a homebuyer tax credit that sparked a temporary rebound in building and home sales.
I'd like to post some graphs, but the St. Louis Federal Reserve website hasn't updated their data. When they get around to it, the new housing starts graph will be here and the new housing permits graph will be here. The official Commerce Department press release is here.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Mortgage lenders suspend evictions for the holidays

Merry Christmas, delinquents! You get a free pass for about two weeks:
Happy holidays struggling homeowners! Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and several large mortgage lenders have pledged not to foreclose on delinquent borrowers during the Christmas season.

For homeowners with loans through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the moratorium will run from Dec. 19 to Jan. 2. During this time, legal and administrative proceedings for evictions may continue, but families will be allowed to stay in their homes, Fannie said in a statement.

"No family should have to give up their home during this holiday season," said Terry Edwards, an executive vice president for Fannie Mae.

Among some of the major banks that offer mortgage loans, Chase Mortgage said it will not evict anyone between Dec. 22 and Jan. 2. Wells Fargo will also suspend evictions during that period, but will not shut down its eviction machinery entirely. ...

Bank of America said that it would "avoid foreclosure sales or displacement of homeowners or tenants around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays."
The caveat is that these temporary suspensions only apply to loans in a bank's own portfolio. For loans the banks service for others, evictions will still occur.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Realtors overstated home sales for 5 years

The National Association of Realtors has admitted that it overstated existing homes sales numbers for the past five years:
If you thought the U.S. housing market couldn't get much worse, think again.

Far fewer homes have been sold over the past five years than previously estimated, the National Association of Realtors said Tuesday.

NAR said it plans to downwardly revise sales of previously-owned homes going back to 2007 during the release of its next existing home sales report on Dec. 21.

NAR's existing home sales numbers, released monthly, are a closely followed gauge of the health of the housing market.

While NAR hasn't revealed exactly how big the revision to home sales will be, the agency's chief economist Lawrence Yun said the decrease will be "meaningful."

"For the real estate business, this means the housing market's downturn was deeper than what was initially thought," Yun said.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Senators propose easier visas for foreign home buyers

I am a strong supporter of immigration. There's no way America would have grown from a sparsely-populated wilderness to the world's sole superpower without it. However, this seems to me like yet another lame attempt by politicians to re-inflate the housing bubble they loved so much:
Two senators, Charles Schumer, a Democrat, and Mike Lee, a Republican, recently introduced legislation to fast-track visas for foreigners spending $500,000 on residential property. Their Visit USA Act would allow purchasers and their families to live in America for as long as they owned their houses, though not to work there or receive any federal benefits.

The senators envisage wealthy jet-setters and well-heeled retirees boosting America’s weak housing market. As buyers would have to live in their new homes for at least 180 days a year, they would also (very handily) be liable to pay American tax on any foreign earnings.

Occupy Wall Street comes to your neighborhood

The OWS movement is now protesting foreclosures:
In more than two dozen cities across the nation Tuesday, an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement took on the housing crisis by re-occupying foreclosed homes, disrupting bank auctions and blocking evictions.

Occupy Our Homes said it's embarking on a "national day of action" to protest the mistreatment of homeowners by big banks, who they say made billions of dollars off of the housing bubble by offering predatory loans and indulging in practices that took advantage of consumers.
Hopefully the OWS protesters used the occupation of homes as an opportunity to take a shower. I've heard from several sources that these people, unshowered for months, smell like rotten eggs.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

S&P/Case-Shiller National Home Price Index declines 3.9% year-over-year

For the third quarter of 2011, the S&P/Case-Shiller National Home Price Index was flat quarter-over-quarter, but fell 3.9% year-over-year:
Data through September 2011, released today by S&P Indices for its S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, the leading measure of U.S. home prices, show that nationally home prices did not register a significant change in the third quarter of 2011, with the U.S. National Home Price Index up by only 0.1% from its second quarter level. The national index posted an annual decline of 3.9%, an improvement over the 5.8% decline posted in the second quarter. Nationally, home prices are back to their first quarter of 2003 levels. ...

The chart [above] depicts the annual returns of the U.S. National, the 10-City Composite and the 20-City Composite Home Price Indices. The S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index, which covers all nine U.S. census divisions, recorded a 3.9% decline in the third quarter of 2011 over the third quarter of 2010. In September, the 10- and 20-City Composites posted annual rates of decline of 3.3% and 3.6%, respectively. Eighteen of the 20 MSAs and both monthly Composites had negative annual rates in September 2011, the only exceptions being Detroit and Washington DC.