Trulia’s Housing Barometer shows that 4 of the 5 key housing indicators improved over the past year: prices, the delinquency+foreclosure rate, non-distressed home sales, and young-adult employment are all in better shape than one year ago. However, despite improvement, young-adult employment still isn’t halfway back to normal; neither is the fifth indicator, construction starts.
How We Track This Uneven Recovery
Since February 2012, Trulia’s Housing Barometer has charted how quickly the housing market is moving back to “normal” based on multiple indicators. Because the recovery is uneven, with some housing activities improving faster than others, our Barometer highlights five measures:
The first four measures are reported monthly; to reduce volatility, we use three-month moving averages for these measures. The fifth, prices from our Bubble Watch, is a quarterly report. For each indicator, we compare the latest available data to (1) its worst reading for that indicator during the housing bust and (2) its pre-bubble “normal” level.0 comments
Trulia’s revised Housing Barometer shows that 3 of the 5 key housing indicators are on track towards a full recovery. Home sales and prices are approaching normal levels, but construction and young-adult employment are badly lagging. At the metro level, some housing markets are fully recovered, while others are far from normal.
Tracking This Uneven Recovery
Since February 2012, Trulia’s Housing Barometer has charted how quickly the housing market is moving back to “normal” based on three indicators: construction starts (Census), existing home sales (NAR), and the delinquency + foreclosure rate (LPS). Today, we’re re-launching our Housing Barometer, which better tracks the uneven recovery with some recalibrations and two additional housing market indicators:
In addition to adding two new measures, we’re excluding distressed sales from existing-home sales because non-distressed sales are a better measure of healthy market activity than overall sales. We’re also using three-month moving averages for the indicators that are reported monthly (sales, delinquency + foreclosure rate, starts, and employment) to smooth out volatility.
For each indicator, we compare the latest available data to (1) the worst reading for that indicator during the housing bust and (2) its pre-bubble “normal” level. We’re also no longer averaging together the “back to normal” levels across different indicators because the average masks huge differences among these indicators. Instead, we are taking a closer look at the recovery of each indicator: three are most of the way back to normal and closing the gap quickly, while two others are stagnating near troublesome lows.
Back to Normal Or Left Behind: 3 in 5 Key Market Indicators Recovering
Of the Housing Barometer’s five indicators, prices and sales are getting close to normal. Delinquencies + foreclosures, while not as close to normal as prices and sales, have improved significantly in the past year. The other two measures – new home starts and jobs for young adults – still have a long way to go:
Which Local Markets are Back to Normal?
Not only are different housing market activities recovering at different rates, the housing recovery is uneven across local markets, too. To track local recoveries, we examine two of the above indicators at the metro level: prices relative to local norms, from Trulia’s Bubble Watch, and construction permits relative to local norms, from the Census. These two measures are strongly correlated: as the scatterplot below shows, in metros where prices are near or above normal, construction permits are also near or above normal.
Of the 100 largest metros, 10 are back to normal or nearly there for both prices and permits. (By “nearly there,” we mean that prices are undervalued by less than 2% and permits are less than 10% below normal.) These include Austin, Dallas, and Houston in Texas; Orange County, San Francisco, and San Jose in California; and Denver, Seattle, Nashville, and the Bethesda, MD, metro areas.
These 10 metros share a couple things in common: they weren’t among the worst-hit markets in the housing bust, and they’ve had relatively strong job growth in the recovery. However, these recovered metros are NOT the markets with the biggest price increases. Among the 10 recovered metros, only one – Orange County – is also in the top 10 for year-over-year price gains, according to the November Trulia Price Monitor. In contrast, some of the markets with the largest price increases, like Las Vegas and Detroit, are still far from fully recovered. Local price increases, by themselves, are a poor guide to whether local markets have recovered: instead, the markets with the biggest price increases in 2013 are those that suffered the biggest price declines after the housing bubble burst.
To sum it up: Trulia’s Housing Barometer shows that the recovery has progressed on most fronts. Non-distressed sales and home prices are approaching normal levels and could reach them in 2014. Delinquencies + foreclosures are also improving, though “normal” is still more than one year away. The red flags are construction starts and young-adult employment, both of which remain closer to recession levels than to normal. The recovery has gone a lot farther for homeowners, who benefit from rising home values, and real estate agents, whose commissions rise with both prices and sales, than for construction workers or young adults looking for jobs. The recovery also looks much better in the San Francisco Bay Area, Texas, and other markets that are back to normal than in wide swathes of the country where normal isn’t yet within reach. Even as the recovery progresses overall, it remains stubbornly uneven.
NOTE: Trulia’s Housing Barometer tracks five measures: existing home sales excluding distressed (NAR), home prices (Trulia Bubble Watch), delinquency + foreclosure rate (LPS), new home starts (Census), and the employment rate for 25-34 year-olds (BLS). Also, our estimate of the “normal” share of sales that are distressed is 5%; LPS reports that the share was in the 3-5% range during the bubble. For each measure, we compare the latest available data to (1) the worst reading for that indicator during the housing bust and (2) its pre-bubble “normal” level. We use a three-month average to smooth volatility for the four indicators that are reported monthly (all but home prices). The latest published data are November for the employment rate; October for existing home sales and delinquency + foreclosure rate; August for new home starts (September and October were delayed due to government shutdown); and Q4 for home prices.
Trulia’s Housing Barometer shows the recovery is now two-thirds of the way back to normal. Existing home sales have returned to their long-term normal level, while construction lags significantly. The recovery is not a straight line: it moves through different phases.
Since February 2012, Trulia’s Housing Barometer has charted how quickly the housing market is moving back to “normal.” We summarize three key housing market indicators: construction starts (Census), existing home sales (NAR), and the delinquency-plus-foreclosure rate (LPS First Look). For each indicator, we compare this month’s data to (1) how bad the numbers got at their worst and (2) their pre-bubble “normal” levels.
In August 2013, all three measures improved: construction starts and existing home sales rose slightly, while the delinquency + foreclosure rate moved strongly downward:
Trulia’s Housing Barometer shows the recovery has entered a new phase as mortgage rates rise and inventory expands. While prices and existing-home sales are near normal, construction and new-home sales have a long way to go.
Each month, Trulia’s Housing Barometer charts how quickly the housing market is moving back to “normal.” We summarize three key housing market indicators: construction starts (Census), existing home sales (NAR), and the delinquency-plus-foreclosure rate (LPS First Look). For each indicator, we compare this month’s data to (1) how bad the numbers got at their worst and (2) their pre-bubble “normal” levels.
In July 2013, all three measures improved: construction starts and existing home sales rose, while the delinquency + foreclosure rate notched downward:
In June, the housing market was 54% back to normal, down from 60% in May. But looking back at the first half of 2013 reveals a housing recovery that’s moving ahead with few red flags.
Instead of our usual monthly Housing Barometer, we’re taking a mid-year temperature check of the housing market while looking ahead at what to expect throughout the rest of this year. All three of our regular Housing Barometer measures – new construction starts, existing home sales, and the delinquency + foreclosure rate – stumbled in June, pushing the recovery down from 60% “back to normal” in May to 54% in June. But June’s numbers mask favorable underlying trends for all three metrics:
Overall, the housing recovery is in healthy shape. Here’s a round-up of the top three changes in the housing market so far in 2013: