Case-Shiller: Nationwide Markets Simultaneously Bouncing Up

It’s time for our monthly check-in of the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices (HPI). For the full source data behind this post, plus seasonally adjusted and tiered price data, hit the S&P/Case-Shiller website. For an explanation of how the Case-Shiller data 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. – June data is released in August).

Here are the basic Case-Shiller stats for the DC area* as of June:

June 2009
Month to Month: Up 2.8% (raw)
Month to Month Up 2.3% (seasonally adjusted)
Year to Year: Down 11.8%
Change from Peak: Down 30.6% in 37 months

Sixteen of the twenty metro areas tracked by Case-Shiller saw an increase in their respective seasonally-adjusted HPIs between May and June. Only Las Vegas, Detroit, Seattle, and Charlotte still saw seasonally-adjusted drops month-to-month.

Of the eight markets where Case-Shiller data and Redfin service overlaps, only the San Francisco Bay Area has experienced a larger spike in prices than the DC area over the last few months.

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.


It’s quite noticeable in both of the above charts that almost every city we’re tracking seems to have taken a sudden upward turn with the most recent few months of data. Despite the fact that there was a nearly two year spread in when the various markets hit their peak (Boston in September 2005, Seattle in July 2007), nearly every market appears to have turned a sharp corner to the positive after “bottoming” in March or April.


A commenter on my Seattle site made an astute observation about this phenomenon this morning:

Since it is still essentially true that “real estate is local”, what could cause every city to suddenly and simultaneously reach an equilibrium point where prices reversed course?

Answer: it just so happens that the home buyers’ tax credit was enacted with the American Reinvestment act (stimulus package) effective February 17, 2009. March 2009 was the first full month that American home buyers had the tax credit as an incentive. It changed their behavior and made them buy homes. It also expires on December 1, 2009 unless it is extended.

Once again, government policy is impacting asset valuations. Either we’re seeing a lasting nationwide housing bottom marked by an extraordinarily well-timed tax incentive, or a new “bubblet.” Case Shiller won’t tell us which until 2010.

It remains to be seen whether the NAR’s lobbying efforts to get the $8,000 tax credit extended beyond November will be successful. And even if they do convince Congress to extend it, the effect may be largely diminished. The program may have already pulled forward as many sales as it can during its spring and summer run.

*[Case-Shiller defines Washington DC as the entire Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all of the District of Columbia and all or part of the following counties: Calvert MD, Charles MD, Frederick MD, Montgomery MD, Prince Georges MD, Alexandria City VA, Arlington VA, Clarke VA, Fairfax VA, Fairfax City VA, Falls Church City VA, Fauquier VA, Fredericksburg City VA, Loudoun VA, Manassas City VA, Manassas Park City VA, Prince William VA, Spotsylvania VA, Stafford VA, Warren VA, and Jefferson WV.]