Buyers and sellers often find residential real estate statistics confusing. In this blog we will shed some light on these numbers. We’ll take a look at the most widely used statistics and we’ll review each one to better understand them.
What are the some of the more important statistics?
“Existing-Home Sales” is one of the commonly used statistics. This number represents completed resale transactions of single-family, townhomes, and condominiums. New homes are not included. This statistic is prepared and reported monthly by the National Association of REALTORS (NAR) and is considered to be a good indication of trends in residential real estate. NAR’s “Housing Affordability Index” is also an important statistic. NAR develops this index by expressing the typical monthly mortgage principal and interest payment as a fraction of gross household income. A low index indicates very good housing affordability. The “Median Existing Home Price” (reported by NAR) is reported both nationally and by region, and represents the sale price at which half of all homes sold at a higher price and half of all homes sold at a lower price. NAR also reports its “Total Housing Inventory” which is an accounting of existing homes that are available for sale. This number is then divided by the current sales pace (homes being sold per month) to establish the current number of months of supply of homes for sale.
The U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) jointly release their monthly estimate of “Sales of New Single-Family Houses” and the “Median Sales Price of New Homes Sold” and “New Houses for Sale.” All of these numbers arseasonally adjusted, and the “New Houses for Sale” statistic is used to develop an estimate of the number of months of supply of new houses in inventory on the market and available for sale.
San Diego-based DataQuick monitors real estate activity nationwide and each month reports “New and Resale Houses and Condos Sold” nationally, statewide, and by metropolitan area. Another important statistic prepared by DataQuick is its monthly-reported “Median Price Paid for a Home.” DataQuick also provides statistics on distressed property sales (foreclosures, short sales) and “Typical Mortgage Payments” by home buyers.
Zillow Inc prepares and reports quarterly its “Home Value Index.” This number is widely used to demonstrate possible trends in improving or deteriorating home prices.
“Inventories of Unsold Homes” is shown in the Wall Street Journal’s quarterly survey of housing market conditions in 28 major metropolitan areas. Inventories are expressed as the number of months of supply of homes listed for sale in each market at the current sales pace.
What should I look for when reading these statistics?
“Existing Home Sales” is a good number to follow to get a good broad sense of the direction and strength of the market. If the month-to-month number is generally rising, this would indicate an improving sales pattern, and if the number is falling it would indicate a deteriorating sales pattern. The same is true for DataQuick’s “New and Resale Houses and Condos Sold.” The rate at which it rises or falls will indicate the relative strength or weakness in the market.
Also watch the “Total Housing Inventory” and the “Inventories of Unsold Homes.” A large inventory would typically indicate a weak real estate market and a small inventory would indicate a strong market. A balanced market typically has a six-month supply. And, for an understanding of price appreciation or depreciation, watch the “Median Existing Home Price” and the “Median Price Paid for a Home” and the “Home Value Index.”
With all of these numbers, always be attentive to local statistics, not to national or even state-wide figures. This is because real estate markets can vary substantially across the nation, across your state, and even across metropolitan areas.