Many economists and other real estate professionals are having a difficult time understanding the residential housing markets because interest rates are relatively low, prices have fallen sharply in many markets, and a tax credit is available for first time homebuyers. On a macro level, the overall trends on a national basis can be monitored by using several websites that offer free information. It is important to realize that local markets may be trending in different directions than the national residential housing market. But, it is also important to understand the national trends and to see how they relate to the local residential market. Some of the following websites with hyperlinks can be utilized to monitor long-term trends.
The Joint Center for Housing Studies is Harvard University’s center for information and research on housing in the United States. Each year the Center publishes a report on the state of the nation’s housing that includes a discussion of the housing markets, demographic drivers, homeownership information, rental housing and housing challenges in the future. This study indicates where the housing market has been, where it may go and what difficulties it may face.
The S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices measure the residential housing market, tracking changes in the value of the residential real estate market in 20 metropolitan regions across the United States. The index family includes 23 headline indices – indices for 20 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) and three composite indices (National; 10-City and 20-City). Additionally, the index family includes price tier indices for 17 of the 20 MSAs, five condominium indices, and seasonally-adjusted versions of the headline and condominium indices.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency has an excellent website that includes research and analysis of the housing market along with research papers and working papers. This site includes mortgage market information as well as housing market indicators that include links to housing affordability and prices, home sale volumes and inventory, housing stock, starts, construction and remodeling, as well as housing vacancies and homeownership rates.
The U.S. Census Bureau measures the dollar value of new residential construction activity. It includes the number of building permits issued, building starts and completions. This information is available on a national and regional basis quarterly, and annually, the characteristics of new housing are provided. Annual permit information is available on a statewide basis.
The National Association of Realtors Existing Home Sales Series is published monthly for the nation and four regions. This information includes statistics on the sales of condominiums, cooperatives and single-family homes. Metropolitan area information is also available. Many state and local real estate boards also make this information available on their websites. This information may include the average and median sale price, the number of sales, contracts and listings. The average number of days between listing, contract, and closing may also be included.
The National Association of Realtors publishes a pending home sales index which may represent a leading indicator of housing market activity. This index summarizes the information on a national and regional basis and measures housing contract activity for single-family homes, condominiums and cooperatives.
The National Association of Realtors also publishes statistics on a state-by-state and metropolitan area basis each quarter. These reports reflect sale prices of existing single-family homes, condominiums and cooperative units. The metropolitan areas are defined by the US Office of Management and Budget. Many of these reports are available in a PDF format, Word file, or an Excel file which permits additional analysis of trends over time.
This quarterly database, published by the US Census Bureau, provides statistics on the sales of new, privately owned, single-family residential, as well as the number of new single-family homes sold and for sale on a National and regional basis. The database only includes new single-family residential structures; sales of multifamily units are excluded from the database. The website notes that not all new houses are included in the sales estimates, only homes that are sold prior to being built or built for sale.
The National Association of Home Builders publishes many economic studies which analyze the home building industry. These studies are based upon government statistics indicated above and private resources. In addition, in association with Wells Fargo, the Association publishes a monthly housing market index as well as historical data. This index tries to determine the builders’ sentiment with regard to the demand side of the housing market in the United States. For additional information concerning this index, visit HousingEconomics.com.
The Mortgage Bankers Association has a subscription-based database that reports mortgage application activity for fixed rate, adjustable rate conventional, and government loans for acquisitions and refinancing. This weekly report also includes the number and dollar volume for a week, month and year with an average loan size, average contract interest rate and corresponding points for the typical mortgage products that are available.
PMI’s quarterly Economic and Real Estate Trends (ERET) report includes commentary on the national economy and regional housing price trends. A popular feature of every issue is the U.S. Market Risk Index, a tabular presentation of 381 of the most populated Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs). The index is based on a statistical model utilizing economic data, real estate variables and market expertise.
If you know of any web sites that analyze residential markets on a macro level, please feel free to leave a comment and we will review the site as soon as possible.