Posted: 26 Feb 2010 06:45 AM PST
Earlier this week, the private-sector Case-Shiller Index showed home prices slightly lower between November and December. Thursday, the public-sector Home Price Index showed the same.
Publishing on a 2-month lag, the Federal Home Finance Agency said home prices fell by 1.6 percent nationally in December. And that's an average, of course. Some regions performed well in December as compared to November, others didn't.
These aren't just footnotes. They're an important piece toward understanding what national real estate statistics really mean. In short, "national statistics" are just a compilation of a bunch of local statistics.
For example, if we dig deeper into the FHFA Home Price Index 70-page report, we find that cities like Terre Haute, IN, Buffalo, NY, Amarillo, TX all posted year-over-year home price gains even though the national data just state it. The gains in these cities were offset by losses in other cities nationwide.
Furthermore, it's a sure bet that those same cities, you could find neighborhoods that are thriving, and others that are not. Just because the city shows higher home values overall, it won't necessarily be the case for every home in the city.
Every street in every neighborhood of every town in America has its own "local real estate market" and, in the end, that's what should be most important to today's buyers and sellers. National data helps identify trends and shape government policy but, to the layperson, it's somewhat irrelevant.
So, when you need to know whether your home is gaining or losing value, you can't look at the national data. You have to look at your block -- what's selling and not selling -- and start your valuations from there.
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