Earlier this week, Standard & Poors released its February Case-Shiller Index, a home price tracker for select metropolitan areas.
Overwhelmingly, home values fell in the 20 markets tracked by the Case-Shiller. Only San Diego showed a modest increase. The other 19 markets averaged a 1.23 percent decline between January and February.
However, that’s not the story you read in the most papers. Instead, headlines read that home values were up in the United States, citing annualized data.
Unfortunately for active home buyers and sellers, year-over-year data isn’t all that helpful when making a real estate decisions. It’s the month-to-month data that matters. Month-to-month changes in home prices are what defines a housing market. Month-to-month is what sets the tone for contracts and negotiations on a purchase.
The rosier, annualized data published this past week just doesn’t capture the reality of what was the February 2010 market. And even then, the data is somewhat useless because it’s from February and May will be upon us next week.
Case-Shiller is on a 2-month lag — hardly reflective of the “right now” of real estate.
When you’re looking for real estate data that actionable, consider using sources that are more “real-time”. A real estate agent may be the right place to start. Because for all the data that Case-Shiller and the other housing indices collect, it can never be as relevant to your individual needs as a well-executed, timely market analysis.