Case-Shiller Sounds a Cautiously Positive Note

Last week, Case-Shiller released January data for its closely watched national housing index.  Nationally, things are looking up – well, make that flat.  And that’s good news. In the wonderfully backward language of the report, the index’s year over year rate of decline “improved.”  Basically, we are back to where housing values were a year ago.

Since for most of us our homes represent our biggest asset, that’s pretty good news when you consider how bleak things looked back in March of 2009.  Just think of how you were feeling about your 401(k)s.

But before you break out the champagne, consider that national home prices have now “recovered” to levels last seen in Autumn 2003.  That’s over six years of appreciation wiped out.

The San Francisco Metropolitan Statistical Area (that’s 5 of the 9 Bay Area Counties, folks) is up 15.2% from its trough value. Case-Shiller does not break out San Francisco proper from the much larger MSA.  However, I calculate that median prices in January were up just 10% from the lows reached in March 2009.  (I use 3 month moving averages, which approximates the seasonal adjustments the CS Index uses.)  To see how SF did through 2009, check out my blog and charts here.

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Case Shiller Chimes in With Good News: US Down only 17%!

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Case-Shiller published its closely watched indices yesterday.  Hooray! The broadest CS index shows that the rate of decline in the nation’s largest housing markets has reversed in recent months.  Now we’re only going down 16% year over year instead of 20%.

They also point out that we are now back to 2003 values, which also holds true of San Francisco.  Here’s my chart from an April blog:

Core Area Medians vs All Districts

Before you go out and celebrate, Case-Shiller has “San Francisco” down a whopping 26.1% year over year.  Why the quotes?  Because it’s really the “San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area” and it includes ALL of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Mateo, and … San Francisco County. That’s 5 counties folks, a factoid often omitted even by such august publications as the New York Times (see today’s front page article).

Now here’s the “good” news.  My data says that the San Francisco we live in was down “just” 5.7% in June 09 year over year for homes.  Take a look under the Market Trends tab for annual and monthly data for the City and specific MLS Districts.  (By contrast, condos are down 15% year over year.  That also happens to be how much they’re down from their all-time highs, which occurred right about a year ago.  See my previous post.

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