The National Association of Realtors (NAR) will release its latest Existing Home Sales Report tomorrow. The information it contains on home prices may cause some confusion and could even generate some troubling headlines. This all stems from the fact that NAR will report the median sales price, while other home price indices report repeat sales prices. The vast majority of the repeat sales indices show prices are starting to appreciate again. But the median price reported on Thursday may tell a different story.
Here’s why using the median home price as a gauge of what’s happening with home values isn’t ideal right now. According to the Center for Real Estate Studies at Wichita State University:
“The median sale price measures the ‘middle’ price of homes that sold, meaning that half of the homes sold for a higher price and half sold for less. While this is a good measure of the typical sale price, it is not very useful for measuring home price appreciation because it is affected by the ‘composition’ of homes that have sold.
For example, if more lower-priced homes have sold recently, the median sale price would decline (because the “middle” home is now a lower-priced home), even if the value of each individual home is rising.”
People buy homes based on their monthly mortgage payment, not the price of the house. When mortgage rates go up, they have to buy a less expensive home to keep the monthly expense affordable. More ‘less-expensive’ houses are selling right now, and that’s causing the median price to decline. But that doesn’t mean any single house lost value.
Even NAR, an organization that reports on median prices, acknowledges there are limitations to what this type of data can show you. NAR explains:
“Changes in the composition of sales can distort median price data.”
For clarification, here’s a simple explanation of median value:
- You have three coins in your pocket. Line them up in ascending value (lowest to highest).
- If you have one nickel and two dimes, the median value of the coins (the middle one) in your pocket is ten cents.
- If you have two nickels and one dime, the median value of the coins in your pocket is now five cents.
- In both cases, a nickel is still worth five cents and a dime is still worth ten cents. The value of each coin didn’t change.
The same thing applies to today’s real estate market.
The Worst Home Price Declines Are Behind Us
If you’re following the news today, you may feel a bit unsure about what’s happening with home prices and fear whether or not the worst is yet to come. That’s because today’s headlines are painting an unnecessarily negative picture. Contrary to those headlines, home prices aren’t in a freefall. The latest data tells a very different and much more positive story. Local home price trends still vary by market, but here’s what the national data tells us.
If we take a year-over-year view, home prices stayed positive – they just appreciated more slowly than they did at the peak of the pandemic. To get a more detailed picture of some of the trends in the market, we need to look at monthly data.
The story this more detailed monthly view tells us is that the last year has been a tale of two halves in the housing market. In the first half of 2022, home prices were climbing, and they peaked in June. Then, in July, home prices started to decline (shown in red in the graphs above). And by roughly August or September, the trend began to stabilize. As we look at the most recent data for the early part of 2023, these graphs also show a recent rebound in momentum with prices ticking back up. Monthly changes in home prices are gaining steam as we move into the busier spring season.
While one to two months doesn’t make a trend, the fact that all three reports show prices have stabilized is an encouraging sign for the housing market. The month-over-month data conveys a clear, but early, consensus that a national shift is taking place today. In essence, home prices are starting to tick back up.
Andy Walden, Vice President of Enterprise Research at Black Knight, says this about home price trends:
“Just five months ago, prices were declining on a seasonally adjusted month-over-month basis in 92% of all major U.S. markets. Fast forward to March, and the situation has done a literal 180, with prices now rising in 92% of markets from February.”
Selma Hepp, Chief Economist at CoreLogic, explains the limited supply of homes available for sale is contributing to this positive turn:
“ . . . prices in many large metros appeared to have turned the corner, with the U.S. recording a second month of consecutive monthly gains. . . . The monthly rebound in home prices underscores the lack of inventory in this housing cycle.”
Here’s What This Means for You
- Sellers: If you’ve been holding off on selling because you’re worried about what was happening with home prices and how it would impact the value of your home, it may be time to jump back in and partner with an agent to list your house. You don’t have to put your needs on hold any longer because the latest data shows a turn in your favor.
- Buyers: If you’ve been waiting to buy because you didn’t want to purchase something that would decrease in value, you now have the peace of mind things are looking up. Buying now lets you make your move before home prices climb more and gives you the chance to own an asset that typically grows in value over time.
If you put off your plans to move because you were worried about home prices falling, data shows the worst is already behind us and prices are actually rising nationally. Let’s connect so you have an expert on the local market to explain what we’re seeing with home prices in our area. Actual home values are going up in most markets. The median value reported tomorrow might tell a different story. For a more in-depth understanding of home price movements, let’s connect.