The government confirms what the private-sector Case-Shiller Index reported yesterday. Nationwide, average home values slipped in October.
The Federal Home Finance Agency's Home Price Index shows home values down 0.2% on a monthly, seasonally-adjusted basis. October marks just the second time since April that home values fell month-over-month.
The Case-Shiller Index 20-City Composite showed values down 0.7 percent from September to October.
As a home buyer in Atlanta , it's easy to look at these numbers and think housing markets are down. Ultimately, that may prove true. However, before we take the FHFA's October Home Price Index at face value, we have to consider the report's flaws.
There are three of them -- and they're glaring. As we address them, it becomes clear that the Home Price Index -- like the Case-Shiller Index -- is of little use to everyday buyers and sellers in places like Vinings.
First, the FHFA Home Price Index only tracks home values for homes backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac mortgages. This means that homes backed by the FHA, for example, are specifically not computed in the monthly Home Price Index.
In 2007, this was not as big of an issue as it is today. in 2007, the FHA insured just 4 percent of the housing market. Today, the FHA is estimated to have more than one-third of the overall housing market.
This means that one-third of all home sales are excluded from the HPI -- a huge exclusion.
Second, the FHFA Home Price Index excludes new home sales and cash purchases, accounting for home resales backed by mortgages only. New home sales is a growing part of the market, and cash sales topped 29 percent in October 2011.
Third, the Home Price Index is on a 60-day delay. The above report is for homes that closed in October. It's nearly January now. Market momentum is different now. Existing Home Sales and New Home Sales have been rising; homebuilder confidence is up; Housing Starts are showing strength. In addition, the Pending Home Sales Index points to a strong year-end.
The Home Price Index doesn't capture this news. It's reporting on expired market conditions instead.
For local, up-to-the-minute housing market data, skip past the national data. You'll get better, more relevant facts from a local real estate agent.
Since peaking in April 2007, the FHFA's Home Price Index is off 18.3 percent.