It’s enough to make your head spin. The problem is that there are dozens of housing reports and each has its own methodology and time frame so the snapshot of one report can look entirely different from another.
That’s all well and good, but you just want to make sense of all the confusing numbers. Here is our U-T primer on some of the most prominent real estate reports and what they all mean.
The pros: By looking at how a home’s sale price has performed over time, Case-Shiller is considered to have better quality control than other indexes. It also divides the market into three different price tiers so you can see how different segments of the housing market — low, moderate and high — are faring.
The cons: By using only repeat sales, a large swath of the market is ignored, said Norm Miller, research professor at University of San Diego’s Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate. It doesn’t know if a home has had any sort of addition or improvement. Also, the information can be a bit stale as there is about a two-month lag between the data and the indexes release. For instance, the Case-Shiller report in August was talking about what happened way back in June.
The take-away: Case-Shiller can help reveal the trend in home prices, but it can’t predict what your home is worth or where home prices are headed, Miller said.
Latest stats: San Diego home prices increased by 11.2 percent in June from a year ago. Monthly prices ticked up 0.4 percent on non-seasonally adjusted basis. They dipped 0.3 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis.
How it works: The organization collects data from all Realtor associations across the country and releases information about the number of sales, median home prices and pending sales. IT takes some data, for example, from itsMLS listings, which are properties that Realtors have on the market.
The pros: The association has access to tons of data, and the number of home sales and pending sales can show if the housing market is heating up.
The cons: The information is self-reported. Also median price information on a national, or even county, level isn’t going to show what your house is worth or how your neighborhood is performing. NAR and its chief economist, Lawrence Yun, have lost credibility with many industry watchers because of overly optimistic takes on the market in recent years, said Mark Goldman, a real estate professor at San Diego State University.
The take-away: Most economists say median price — the price at the midpoint of all sales — isn’t helpful in determining home values because its mix of sales can be fairly erratic. For instance, if a bunch of higher-priced homes sell in a given month, the median price will increase but that doesn’t necessarily mean home values have jumped. Also, if mostly low-priced homes sell, then the median price will dip. Still, the number of pending sales and home sales can tell you a lot about the relative health of the housing market.
Last stats: In July, the number of sales in San Diego County dropped 15.2 percent from a year ago while prices increased by 4.6 percent to $389,400. Statewide the median for a single-family home was $314,850.
How it works: Zillow.com tries to come up with a home’s value — not its price — by looking at recent sales, pending sales and the values of homes not on the market. It uses a computer model to come up with its estimate.
The pros: It tries to deal with Case-Shiller’s limitation by estimating values on homes not being sold, said Alan Gin, an economist at the University of San Diego.
The cons: Many in the real estate business are dubious of Zillow’s methodology and wonder how the company can assign value to a home not currently on the market. Also, the estimates are just that — estimates.
The take-away: While you can’t take a Zillow estimate to the bank, it and other websites like it do have their place, said USD’s Norm Miller. He said if you check the website three to four times a year, you’ll see a trend line of how your home’s value is performing. Also, if the houses in your neighborhood are of a similar style and size and there are plenty of transactions, then Zillow’s estimates tend to be more accurate. Mark Goldman at San Diego State University recommends going to redfin.com and typing in your address as it lists different estimates from computer-generated sites like Zillow and eppraisal.com. If the estimates land in a narrow range, he said, then you know the computer models are working. For example, if the price range is $395,000 to $425,000, it’s a good bet the estimates are pretty solid. If the range is $200,000 to $1 million, then there’s a good chance something is off.
Latest stats: The median home value in San Diego County in the second quarter was $378,800, up 7.3 percent from a year ago
How it works: The company culls data from a wide range of publicly available documents, such as recorded sales, notices of defaults and trustee sales.
The pros: MDA DataQuick tracks everything from foreclosure activity to home sales and prices. It also provides price-per-square-foot data, which is considered a better way of tracking home values. Unlike the National Association of Realtors, which has a vested interest in the housing market’s performance, MDA DataQuick has no bias, said USD real estate professor Norm Miller.
The cons: MDA DataQuick is a private company and much of its data isn’t made public. It does provide reports on the local San Diego market to The San Diego Union-Tribune and often parses it by ZIP code, which gives a better sense of how different neighborhoods are performing.
The take-away: Miller said DataQuick’s numbers are useful, but he recommends looking at price-per-square footage to get the most accurate view of how your home may be faring.
Latest stats: Sales transaction in July were off 19.4 percent, and the median price rose to $338,000.