Monday, April 23, 2007

Crashachusetts Existing Home Sales: March 2007

Today, the Massachusetts Association of Realtors (MAR) released their 1st quarter 2007 and March 2007 results for existing home sales, median prices and inventory along with a fresh dose of spin from President Doug Azarian and MAR President-Elect, Susan Renfrew.

Before we delve into the numbers, let me point out the truly awful quality of data reported by MAR, particularly on Azarian’s watch.

For a few months now I have noticed some strange “revisions” to the single family sales numbers for past months and after considering all the possible rational reasons for these irregularities, I can only conclude that it is sloppy reporting on the part of MAR.

I should mention, that I don’t necessarily think that there is any foul play in MAR’s reporting, instead it appears that MAR has simply fumbled and, unfortunately for us, has tainted the sales and median price results.

There are several many that exhibit questionable revisions but Ill highlight February and March of 2006 as examples.

It February 2006, MAR’s Existing Home Sales Report (EHS) reported that single family sales were 2254 units with a media sale price of $339,450.

MAR than revised this number in their March 2006 EHS report to show February 2006 single family home sales of 2265 units with a median sale price of $339,000.

Then in the February 2007 EHS, MAR reports that in February 2006 single family home sales were 2380 units with a median sale price of $339,000 while ALSO citing the 2265 unit sales number at the bottom of the very same report (first and second pages versus very last page).

Which is it … 2380 or 2254? Both numbers are used in the same report.

Furthermore, in the March 2006 EHS report, MAR reported that single family home sales were 3440 units with a median sale price of $344,000.

MAR then reaffirmed both their single family sales and median price numbers in their April 2006 EHS report.

Then in the March 2007 EHS, MAR reports that in March 2006 single family sales were 3550 units with a median selling price of $343,500.

That’s a 3.2% upward revision to single family sales yet there seems to be no evidence that the number is accurate.

Keep in mind, I looked back over MAR’s past releases to see any patterns to revisions and there are some but there are many examples where months are simply randomly altered showing totally different numbers in-between months that have numbers consistent to what was past reported.

Also, these revisions have all been made WITHOUT the customary press release providing any explanation for the changes as well as for the procedure used for revisions.

Wouldn’t it be great if “crack” reporter Kimberly Blanton of the Boston Globe could focus some attention on issues like MAR’s unusual numbers revisions rather than reporting puff pieces on the strength of the bottoming housing market?

Well good numbers or bad we are stuck with what we have and with that lets take a look at March 2007’s findings.

With the today’s release of the existing home sales, MAR president Doug Azarian suggests, “The housing market in Massachusetts is gaining momentum and we can continue to feel good about where it is headed. With prices remaining stable and supplies decreasing, we can expect the spring home buying season to be active.”

As in months past, be on the lookout for the inflation adjusted charts produced by for an even more accurate "real" view of the current market trend.

March’s Key Statistics:

  • Single family sales increased 43.2% from February and declined 2.8% as compared to March 2006
  • Single family median price increased 5.8% from February and declined 0.1% as compared to March 2006
  • Condo sales increased 39.6% from February and declined 1.4% as compared to March 2006
  • Condo Median Price increased 3.3% from February and declined 3.0% as compared to March 2006
  • The number of months supply of residential properties stands at 9.0 months.
  • The “days on market” for single family homes stands at 158 days.