Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Arlington Artifice: November 2007

This recurring monthly post tracks the latest results of the housing market seen in Arlington Massachusetts.

I choose Arlington as a result of the Boston Globe’s recently published and absurdly anecdotal and ludicrous farce about the town’s “hot” housing market.

The ridiculous tone and outright mishandling of the housing data by the Boston Globe “reporter” would almost be comical if it weren’t for the fact that the Globe’s editor, Martin Baron, ALSO blundered seriously when he responded to my email about the discrepancies.

Baron attempted to justify the articles contents and in so doing, he disclosed his poor and obviously unsophisticated abilities with even the most basic economic data.

November’s results again confirm that Arlington is by no means a “stand out” amongst its neighboring towns as Baron suggested in his email and, in fact, is following along on a path wholly consistent with the trend seen in the county, state, region and nation.

Why would an editor of a nationally recognized newspaper think that a single town would continue to function as an isolated bubble amongst a backdrop of the most significant nationwide housing recession since the Great Depression?

Again I was reminded this month, in a truly grotesque turn, that Realtors in Arlington have been handing out copies of this article during open houses in yet another shameless attempt to bamboozle buyers into confidence and activity.

November’s raw results (as reported by The Warren Group) show us the following for Arlington:

  • Monthly median home sales price of $465,750.
  • Year-to-Date median home sales price of $465,000, the lowest value since 2003.
  • Monthly home sales count of 18.
  • Year-to-Date home sales count of 309.
As I had shown in my prior post, this data when charted and compared to other towns in the region proves there are absolutely no grounds to call Arlington’s market exceptional.

The following chart (click for much larger version) shows how Arlington’s median sales price has changed since 1988, the first year the data was tracked by the Warren Group. Notice that while the current monthly result is clearly the most jagged and volatile measure, all three (monthly, year-to-date, and annual) measures are essentially saying the same thing, namely median prices are going down.

The next chart (click for much larger version) shows that home sales in Arlington have been essentially flat during the last 15 years, a result that is generally to be expected when looking only at the sales of one town in isolation.

The final chart shows how the year-to-date median sales price for Arlington, Bedford, Belmont, Cambridge and Lexington has changed since 1988. Notice that each town is essentially staying on the same track having made great strides during the boom and now firmly headed lower.

In review, the data shows that there is nothing exceptional about Arlington’s housing market proving clearly that the claims made in the Boston Globe article and later endorsed by its editor Martin Baron were entirely erroneous.

Please let editor Baron know what you think of this misstep.