Case-Shiller: Get Ready for a Long Winter for Home Prices

It’s time for our monthly check-in of the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices (HPI). The Case-Shiller data is generally considered to be the most reliable measure of overall home price changes for a region, since they only consider repeat sales of homes when calculating their index, instead of looking at all the homes that sold in a given month.

For the full source data behind this post, hit the S&P/Case-Shiller website. For a more detailed explanation of how the Case-Shiller Home Price Index is calculated, check out their methodology pdf. Also remember that the data released on the last Tuesday of a given month is for the period two months prior (i.e. – September data is released in November).

Here are the basic Case-Shiller stats for the Chicago area* as of September:

September 2011
Month to Month: Down 0.8%
Year to Year: Down 5.0%
Prices at this level in: March 2002
Peak month: September 2006
Change from Peak: Down 29.7% in 60 months
Low Tier: Under $165,240
Mid Tier: $165,240 to $285,435
Hi Tier: Over $285,435

Seventeen of the twenty metro areas tracked by Case-Shiller saw a decrease in their HPI between August and September (vs. eleven from July to August): Only Washington DC, New York, and Portland rose. Atlanta fell the most in September, falling a whopping 5.9% in a single month.

Here’s a look at the latest local tiered data, back through 2000:


And here’s a closer look at the recent changes, with the vertical and horizontal axes zoomed in to show just the last year:


Chicago’s middle and high tiers fell in September, but the low tier actually gained a little ground. Month to month, the low tier was up 0.5%, the middle tier fell 0.9%, and the high tier decreased 0.5%.

In this next chart, I’ve visualized the month to month trends of all twenty Case-Shiller-tracked cities. Green and above the horizontal axis if they were increasing in the month charted, red and below the axis if they were decreasing. I’ve excluded 2000 through 2004 since they looked largely the same as 2005 (mostly green).


Just three months ago, all twenty cities saw month to month gains. Now only three have avoided falling into the red.

Here’s a chart of Case-Shiller HPIs for all the markets that Redfin serves:


Here’s our peak decline chart, in which we line up the peak Case-Shiller HPI value for each of Redfin’s markets, so we can see how long each market has been declining, and how much it has dropped from the peak.


Three cities hit new post-peak lows in September: Phoenix at 55.9% off peak, Atlanta at 29.7% off peak, and Las Vegas at a mind-blowing 60.0% off peak.

Methodology: The Case-Shiller index tracks price changes in sets of homes of similar size and style to better determine changes in what people are willing to pay for the same home over time. If data is available from an earlier transaction for the same home, the two sales are paired and treated as a “repeat sale.” Repeat sales that are too far apart, sales between family members, lot splits, remodels, and property type changes (e.g. from single-family to condos) are excluded from the calculations. All remaining repeat sales are totaled together and weighted based on the time between each sale, then the data for the most recent three months is averaged together to create a given month’s index value (i.e. – September’s index represents the average of the data from July through September).

The three price tiers plotted in the charts below simply represent the top, middle, and bottom third of all sales, based on the initial sale price. In other words, if there were 3,000 sales in the three-month period, 1,000 of them would be in the low tier, 1,000 in the middle tier, and 1,000 in the high tier, by definition.

*[Case-Shiller defines Chicago as the entire Chicago-Naperville-Joliet, IL Metropolitan Division, which includes all of the following counties: Cook IL, DeKalb IL, Du Page IL, Grundy IL, Kane IL, Kendal IL, McHenry IL, and Will IL.]

  • Jo_caspers

    Buy now or Wait?  Are prices expected to drop, say in the next 60-90 days?