Friday, March 23, 2012

Keeping The Statistics Straight

Another bothersome day in the struggle to gauge the real estate market. This morning's real estate "headlines" contained 2 separate stories. One about "home sales up" and another about "mortgage applications down". And both covering some of the same time period.

There are a couple of problems here. Home sales being "up" is only if compared to one year ago. Mortgage applications being "down" means that fewer people are applying for financing. That is not a reflection of how many (or how few) were turned down for a mortgage. The statistic is based on the number of applications and not the results. Hence, some will be turned down and the number of closings will be even lower.

This constant comparison of real estate sales statistics compared with one year ago or five years ago is not doing anyone any good. Well, except for those few who get paid to research these comparisons, since it keeps them employed. I have yet to learn of anyone who has attempted to purchase a home or a property based on what the market was like a year ago.

Now it appears that mortgage rates are headed back up, even though these are still rates much lower than they were a couple of years ago. Some people will panic over this, as if it spells doom. However, it reflects times of years ago when mortgage rates were at least 2% higher, yet more proerties were selling.

Meanwhile, I have been hearing the "It's becoming a sellers' market" crap coming from more and more realty agents within the past month. This is hard to swallow. If homeowners start to believe that, we'll have a flood of people looking to list their homes at much higher prices than they should be. And some agents who will go along with them in order to get the listing. If it doesn't sell, they (listing agent) don't lose out. Practically every home owner would sell if they got an outrageous enough offer.

What that does is harm the truly motivated sellers out there, already competing against the foreclosures and distressed properties dominating the market.

And what that does is keep things as stagnant as they have been for the past two years.

So help me, I had an agent in the Phoenix area tell me that the current inventory of available homes there "has dropped to 15,000" and how it signals a "sellers market" their. I have no idea how this could be, considering that if I were looking to buy in that area, there would likely be hundreds of homes to choose from in the price range I'd be looking at. Before the rest of the neighborhood decides to list their homes too. Frankly, there would need to be at least one less zero in that amount for me to even think of that being a "sellers market". I wonder how many different states one would have to research before finding 15,000 serious and qualified buyers for a home.

After all, if there were that many potential buyers in Phoenix, there wouldn't be time, or the need, for all of the meaningless statistics about home sales. Unfortunately, this isn't anybody's market at the moment.

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