Entry 132: Home Prices Are Higher…and Lower

Hey, there’s great news if you’re thinking about selling your home. According to the Associated Press:

Home Prices Rise in Most Major U.S. Cities for First Time in 7 Months

Home prices rose in March from February in most major U.S. cities for the first time in seven months. The increase is the latest evidence of a slow recovery taking shape in the troubled housing market.

And, hey, there’s also bad news if you’re thinking of selling your home. According to Fox Business:

March Home Prices Down 2.6% From a Year Ago

Single-family home prices edged higher in March, the second month of gains in a row, adding on to signs the housing market is stabilizing, a closely watched survey said on Tuesday…Prices in the 20 cities were down 2.6 percent year over year, improving from the 3.5 percent yearly decline seen last month.

You may have noticed something interesting here: the good news and the bad news are the same news.

That’s right–both stories are covering the same report.

For Fox Business, which is desperate to report economic decline under the Obama administration, the fact that home prices rose was bad news, because they were still lower than last year, although they were less lower than last year than they were last month, even though it was the second month of gains in a row. Or something like that.

The Associated Press, on the other hand, naively reported the news at face value, without trying to contort it into some sort of statistical pretzel.

Real estate agents, on the third hand, will manage to turn any news into a reason to sell now and buy now.

  • To the seller: “Prices are on the rise. The market’s heating up. Sell now!”
  • To the buyer: “Prices are on the rise. They’ve bottomed out. Buy now!”
  • Then back to the seller: “I just told a buyer to buy now! Better sell now.”

When you think about it, though, the only people who should really care if home prices are rising or falling are those who plan on moving from, or moving to, a rental or, as is increasingly the case, their parents’ house. For everyone else, it’s more or less a wash. For instance, when we moved last year, we got less for our condo than we would have two or three years earlier, but we also paid less for the new house.

Fox, of course, would be quick to point out that we wouldn’t have received as much less for our old house if McCain had been elected president, and we’d be much better off even though we would have paid more for the new house, because it would have been less more than the more less, especially when looked at year-to-year and compared to the previous month.

Or something like that.

In any case, I’m happy to say that we are very much out of the real estate market now, so I don’t have to worry about month-to-month fluctuations. Which is good, because if I did, I’d be saying to both the AP and Fox Business: “Hey, it’s friggin’ May 31th–why are you telling me about March home prices now? What good does that do me? I want to know where this month’s prices are going, compared to anything else that makes them look bad. Or good.

See you soon.

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