Home Price Index from peak to presentTuesday, the Federal Home Finance Agency’s Home Price Index (HPI) showed home values rising 0.2% on a seasonally-adjusted basis between June and July 2012, and moving +3.7% on an annual basis.

Home values have not dropped month-to-month since January of this year — a span of 6 months.

For today’s home buyers and sellers throughout Henrico , though, it’s important to recognize on what the HPI is actually reporting.

Or, stated differently, on what the HPI is not reporting. The Home Price Index is based on home price changes of some homes, of certain “types”, with specific mortgage financing only.

As such, it excludes a lot of home sales from its results which skews the final product. We don’t know if home values are really up 0.2% this month — we only know that’s true for the home that the HPI chooses to track.

As an example of how certain homes are excluded, because the HPI is published by the Federal Housing Finance Agency and because the FHFA gets its access to home price data from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, it’s upon data these two entities upon which the Home Price Index is built.

Home price data from the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), from local credit unions, and from all-cash sales, for example, are excluded from the HPI because the FHFA has no awareness that the transaction ever happened.

In 2006, this may not have been a big deal; the FHA insured just 4 percent of the housing market at the time. Today, however, the FHA is estimated to insure more than 20% of new home purchases. Furthermore, in August, more than 1 in 4 sales were made with cash.

None of these home sales were included in the HPI.

Furthermore, the Home Price Index excludes certain home types from its findings.

Home sales of condominiums, cooperatives, multi-unit homes and planned unit developments (PUD) are not used in the calculation of the HPI. In some cities, including Chicago and New York City, these property types represent a large percentage of the overall market. The HPI ignores them.

Like other home-value trackers, the Home Price Index can well highlight the housing market’s broader, national trends but for specific home price data about a specific home or a ZIP code, it’s better to talk with a real estate agent with local market knowledge.

Since peaking in April 2007, the Home Price Index is off 16.4 percent.

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Home Price Index, monthly since April 2007

The housing market recovery appears to be sustainable.

According to the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s Home Price Index, home prices rose by a seasonally-adjusted 0.7 percent between May and June 2012. The index is now up 3.0% over the past 12 months, and made its biggest quarterly gain since 2005 last quarter.

The FHFA’s Home Price Index measures home price changes through successive home sales for homes whose mortgages are backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, and for which the property type is categorized as a “single-family residence”. 

Condominiums, multi-unit homes and homes with jumbo mortgages, for example, are excluded from the Home Price Index, as are all-cash home sales.

June’s HPI gives buyers and seller in Richmond reason to cheer, but it’s important to remember that the Home Price Index — like so many other home valuation trackers — has a severe, built-in flaw. The HPI uses aged data. It’s nearly September, yet we’re talking numbers from June.

Data that’s two months old has limited meaning in today’s housing market. It’s reflective of the housing market as it looked in the past.

And, even then, to categorize the HPI as “two months old” may be a stretch. Because it often takes 45-60 days to close on a home sale, the home sale prices as reported by the July Home Price Index are the result of purchase contracts written from as far back as February 2012.

Buyers and sellers in search of real-time home price data, in other words, won’t get it from the FHFA.

The Home Price Index is a useful housing market gauge for law-makers and economists. It highlights long-term trends in housing which can assist in allocating resources to a particular policy or project. For home buyers and sellers throughout Virginia , however, it’s decidedly less useful. Real-time data is what’s most important.

For that, talk to a real estate professional.

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Home Price Index from peakThe housing market’s bottom is 9 months behind us. Home values continue to climb nationwide.

According to the Federal Home Finance Agency’s Home Price Index, home values rose 0.8% in May on a monthly, seasonally-adjusted basis. May’s reading marks the sixth time in seven months that home values rose.

Values are now higher by 4 percent since the market’s October 2011 bottom.

As a Richmond home buyer or seller, though, it’s important to understand what the Home Price Index measures. Or, more specifically, what the Home Price Index doesn’t measure.

Although widely-cited, the HPI remains widely-flawed, too. It should not be your sole source for real estate data.

As one example of how the Home Price Index is flawed, consider that the HPI only tracks the values of homes with an associated Fannie Mae- or Freddie Mac-backed mortgages. Homes with mortgages insured by the FHA are excluded, as are homes paid for with cash.

5 years ago, this wasn’t a big deal; the FHA insured just 4 percent of the housing market and cash sales were relatively small. Today, though, the FHA is estimated to insure more than 30% of new purchases and cash sales topped 17 percent in May 2012.

That’s a sizable subset of the U.S. housing market.

A second flaw in the Home Price Index is that it tracks home resales only and ignores new home sales. New home sales represent roughly 10% of the today’s housing market, so that’s a second sizable subset excluded from the HPI.

And, lastly, we can’t forget that the Home Price Index is on a 60-day publishing delay.

It’s nearly August, yet we’re only now receiving home valuation data from May. A lot can change in the housing market in 60 days, and it often does. The HPI is not reporting on today’s market conditions, in other words — it’s reporting on conditions as they existed two months ago. Information like that is of little use to today’s buyers and sellers.

For local, up-to-the-minute housing market data, skip the national data. Talk with a local real estate agent instead.

Since peaking in April 2007, the FHFA’s Home Price Index is off 16.0 percent.

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HPI from April 2007 peak

The Federal Home Finance Agency’s Home Price Index shows home values up 0.8% in April on a monthly, seasonally-adjusted basis.

April marks the third consecutive month during which home values increased and the index is now up 3 percent from last year at this time.

As a home buyer in Richmond , it’s easy to look at the Home Price Index and believe that its recent, sustained climb is proof of a broader housing market recovery. Ultimately, that may prove true. However, we cannot base our buy-or-sell decisions on the HPI because, like the private-sector Case-Shiller Index, the Home Price Index is flawed.

There are three main flaws in the FHFA’s Home Price Index. They cannot be ignored.

First, the FHFA Home Price Index’s sample set is limited to homes with mortgages backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. By definition, therefore, the index excludes homes with mortgages insured by the FHA.

5 years ago, this wasn’t such an issue because the FHA insured just 4 percent of mortgage. Today, however, the FHA’s market share is estimated to exceed 30 percent.  This means this the HPI excludes more than 30% of U.S. homes from its calculations right from the start.

The index also excludes homes backed by the VA; jumbo mortgages not securitized through the government; and, portfolio loans held by individual banks.

Second, the FHFA Home Price Index is based on the change in price of a home on consecutive home sales. Therefore, it’s sample set cannot include sales of new home sales, nor can it account for purchases made with cash because cash purchases require no mortgage.

Cash purchases were 29% of the home resale market in April.

Third, the Home Price Index is on a 60-day delay.

The report that home values are up 0.8% accounts for homes that closed two months ago, and with contracts from 30-75 days prior to that. In other words, the Home Price Index is measuring housing market activity from as far back as January. 

Reports such as the Home Price Index are helpful in spotting long-term trends in housing but data from January is of little help to today’s Virginia home buyers and sellers. It’s real-time data that matters most and the best place to get real-time housing market data isn’t from a national home valuation report — it’s from a local real estate agent.

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HPI 2007-2012

Home prices started the year on an upswing. 

According to the Federal Home Finance Agency’s Home Price Index, home prices rose by a seasonally-adjusted 0.3 percent between January and February 2012. The index is up 0.4% over the past year, offering a counter-story to the Case-Shiller Index’s assertion that home values are sinking.

Last week, Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller Index said home values had dropped more than 3 percent in the prior 12 months. 

As a home buyer or seller in Richmond , data showing “rising home values” or “falling home values” may be of interest to you, but we can’t forget that most home valuation trackers — including both the government’s Home Price Index and the private sector Case-Shiller Index — have a severe, built-in flaw.

Both used “aged” data. Today, the calendar reads May. Yet, we’re still discussing February’s housing data.

Data that is two-plus months old is of little value to everyday buyers and sellers wanting to know the “right now” of housing. And, even then, characterizing the data as “two-plus months old” may be a stretch. This is because the home values used in the Home Price index and the Case-Shiller Index are collected from actual transactions, but at the time of closing.

Considering that most purchases require 45-60 days to close, we can know that when we look at the Home Price Index and Case-Shiller Index reports for February, what we’re really seeing is a snapshot of the housing market as it existed two-plus month plus 60 days ago.

Data that’s 5 months old is of little relevance to today’s buyers and sellers. Today’s market is driven by today’s economics.

The Home Price Index is a useful gauge for economists and law-makers. It highlights long-term trends in housing which can be helpful in allocating resources to a particular project or policy. For home buyers and seller throughout Virginia , though, it’s much less useful. Real-time data is what matters to you.

For that, talk to a real estate professional.

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Home Price Index from April 2007 peak

The government is confirming what the private sector has already shown —  home values are on the rise.

The Federal Home Finance Agency’s Home Price Index shows home values rose 0.8% in July.

July marks the fourth straight month that home values climbed and the FHFA’s Home Price Index is the latest in a series of “rising home values” reports — an encouraging trend for buyers and sellers in Henrico and nationwide.

Last week, the S&P Case-Shiller Index showed home value up nearly 1 percent in July. CoreLogic reached a similar conclusion.

Nationwide, values are back to their highest levels since November 2010. Clearly, the housing market in Virginia is moving in the right direction. Or is it?

Although the data from the government and from private firms such as CoreLogic is encouraging, it’s also flawed. As such, we have to be careful about the conclusions we draw from the data.

The flaws of Home Price Index are glaring :

  1. Only homes backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac are included in the index. In today’s market, because of the FHA’s popularity, that leaves 1 of 3 homes “uncounted”.
  2. Only home resales are counted. New home sales are omitted entirely.
  3. The data comes with a 60-day delay. The October market is different from July’s.

Despite these shortcomings, however, the Home Price Index remains relevant. It’s among the most through home valuation models and it’s often used by economists and policy-makers.

When the Home Price Index is rising, Wall Street and Capitol Hill take notice. For residents of “Main Street”, however, the data may not be as important. To get local, up-to-date market statistics , talk with a professional real estate agent.

Since peaking in April 2007, the FHFA’s Home Price Index is off 17.6 percent.

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HPI delta from peakHome values dropped for the sixth straight month in March 2011, according to the Federal Home Finance Agency’s Home Price Index. The Home Price Index is a government-sponsored home value tracker.

The HPI report is the latest in a string of “falling home values” stories — a trend that’s troubling home sellers across Midlothian and nationwide.

However, although the Home Price Index says home values are falling, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are. Like most statistics in the housing sector, the Home Price Index is plagued by poor methodologies and a lack of timeliness.

In short, the Home Price Index is flawed. In three ways.

The first big flaw in the Home Price Index is that it only measures the values of homes with mortgages backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Homes financed via FHA, or via other means are specifically excluded from the calculation. For today’s purchase market, that leaves more than 1 in 4 homes “uncounted” — a big percentage of the market.

Second, the Home Price Index determines home values by measuring price change from sale to subsequent sale. This eliminates new homes — a major market segment.

And, lastly, the Home Price Index reports on a 60-day delay; we’re only now seeing data from March. This two-month lag renders the HPI a trailing indicator for the housing market instead of a forward-looking one. If you’re a home buyer looking for market insight, the HPI can’t give it — it’s out-dated and out of season.

Despite its shortcomings, though, we can’t ignore the Home Price Index completely. It’s among the most thorough home valuation models available, and it’s used in public policy discussions. When the HPI says prices are down, Wall Street and Capitol Hill take notice, and that trickles down to everyday life on Main Street.

Since peaking in April 2007, the Home Price Index is off 19.1 percent.

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HPI Monthly Changes From April 2007 Peak

In an echo of February’s Case-Shiller Index report, the government’s own home price-tracker — the Home Price Index — showed home values slipping between January and February 2011.

The Federal Home Finance Agency data had home values down 1.6 percent nationwide in February, on average, marking the fourth straight month in which prices fell.

Furthermore, all 9 regions posted losses from the month prior:

  • Mountain Region : -3.7% from January
  • East South Central : -0.6% from January
  • South Atlantic : -0.9% from January
  • New England : -2.0% from January

Before you draw conclusions, however, note that the data at which we’re looking has several major flaws to it.

First, it’s old. We’re now in the first week of May and the FHFA’s most recent release only covers through February, a time period ending roughly 60 days ago. That’s a long delay and today’s purchase market in Richmond looks much different from the one of February.

Just ask a real estate agent and they’ll tell you — purchase activity is rising.

Second, the FHFA Home Price Index reports on home value changes between consecutive Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac-securitized transactions only. This might be creating an overweight of “distressed properties” in the index which, in turn, drags down valuations.

Distressed homes account for 40% of all home resales and typically sell at 20 percent discounts.

And, lastly, although the Home Price Index is a national report, real estate as a market is decidedly not national. To the contrary, it’s extremely local. As an individual, you don’t buy, sell or own homes in all 50 states. You buy them in a specific state, and a specific neighborhood.

The national data is useless to you in that respect.

We can’t discount the Home Price Index data entirely, but should remember that it paints a clearer picture of where housing has been versus where housing is going. As a home buyer or homeowner, it’s the future of home values that matters more.

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