Thursday, June 12, 2008

MRIS May Housing Report: Price Bounce?

MRIS has released its data for signed sales contracts for existing home sales in May 2008. Compared to May 2007, fewer units sold, lower dollar volume, but higher average prices for condos and single family homes. The condo market is still challenged. High end homes are propping up average prices; as I noted in yesterday's post, approximately 10% of units sold were valued at more than $1MM.

Key YoY data points:

  • Dollar volume: Down 17.58%.
  • Units sold: 533, down 22..87%.
  • Average sales price: $ 564,310, up 6.85%.
  • Median sales price: $ 440,000, up 5.01%.

I'm really having a problem with the average prices MRIS is reporting. I'm trying to reconcile how prices can be going UP while dollar and sales volume is DOWN significantly YoY. The fact that the data are not granular makes it difficult to determine the impact higher end homes - those costing more than $1MM - have on skewing the pricing data.

Almost 10% of units [52] sold for more than $1MM and, of those, 7 went under contract for more than $2.5MM. Except for 2 bedroom detached homes, every housing category reported by MRIS had at least two units go under contract for more than $1MM. Assuming 45 sold for $1MM and 7 sold for $2.5MM, then those 52 homes/condos represent 20.78% of May's dollar volume. Subtracting them from the dollar and unit sales volume leaves us 481 homes/condos selling at an average price of $495,379, 12.21% less than reported by MRIS.

Ultimately, I'm beginning to place less value on MRIS' reported average and median price and putting more weight on total dollar volume and unit sales volume to get a sense of the market's pulse.

What I'm seeing in the data [without adjustments for the high end] is:

  • A huge increase in units going under contract in May compared to April - increases MoM of 63.25% for condos and 29.7% for homes.
  • However, for almost every category of housing reported by MRIS, unit sales and dollar volume has fallen dramatically YoY. Condos are down 25% on dollar volume and 27% on unit volume. Homes down 12.14% on dollar volume and 18.13% on unit volume.
  • [Updated 6/14] In aggregate, the average price in the District has risen 1.4% in 2008 [May compared to January]. Average prices for condos are essentially flat for the year [+0.07%] while those for homes have risen 5.05%, compared to January 2008.
  • [Update 6/14] Based on May's sales volume, there's now 6.24 months of inventory for condos and 7.25 months for homes, decreases of 39.67% and 22.94% from April 2008. But, compared to May 2007, the number of condos listed has risen 4.8% and for homes, 22.7%.

Given the huge increase in unit sales MoM despite the lower unit sales and dollar volume YoY, I'm coming to the conclusion that most units are selling for lower prices. Unfortunately, MRIS' data makes it difficult to categorically prove it.

I'd appreciate insights others might offer to resolve this conundrum.

2008 Trends

Average Sales Price


Change in Sales Price

Unit Sales Volume


Detailed Data

Average Sales Price

Dollar Volume

Transaction Volume

1 comment:

Michael J Roberts said...

I'd guess there are two answers to your conundrum:

1) prices are not falling that much in the District

2) better quality houses sell in down markets with huge inventories (only the best sell, the worst just sit).

Number 2 is a big deal when tracking how home prices change over time. The opposite is true in a boom: the average quality of homes sold is lower. This is why it is important to look at indices like Case-Shiller, which do a great job of controlling for the quality of homes being sold. Note that the Case-Shiller index saw a much bigger boom and is now seeing a much bigger bust than median price data suggest.

The problem with Case Shiller is that they need a big region to get good index measures. The C-S index for DC includes the whole DC MSA. Things are surely worse in the burbs and better closer in, and what C-S is reports the average of those areas.

Things probably are not as bad here in DC as many other places...