When I started
writing about real estate full time, the experts cautioned me not to
chase month-to-month data, and to focus instead on quarterly and
Iíve tried to
toe that line. As agents, builders and economists would be quick to
tell you, real estate is cyclical ó "a roller-coaster
ride," as someone once told me ó and itís best to look at the
market over time to determine long-term trends.
These days, few
will argue that the housing market is still seeing low
mortgage-application rates, housing starts and home sales, and that
many potential homeowners remain cautious.
numbers are likely to be especially bumpy, said Don Frommeyer, of the
National Association of Mortgage Brokers.
estate, itís important to focus on the year-to-year outlook,"
Frommeyer said. "A lot of outside factors can have an impact on
monthly numbers, including harsh weather or emergencies."
Last winter in
Mount Airy, Pa., was a good illustration of the effect of weather on
Ruth Feldman, of
Weichert Realtors McCarthy Associates, said days on market there
increased this year to 119 days, from 75.
Pending and sold
units also were down in the first couple months of the year, and
Feldman blamed the weather for both.
Township, said Mike Lentz of Keller Williams Realty, the reluctance of
sellers to put their houses on the market in cold and snowy weather
contributed to the number of multiple bids in his and other markets.
inventory makes what is on the market a valuable commodity, though the
perceived value may bring offers only at or near asking price.
One of the
silliest monthly measures we follow is "consumer
This index is
about as valuable as any other measure, including one done each month
for home builders. Follow them for a few months, and youíll see what
One month, weíre
happy and upbeat; the next month, we behave as if weíd lost our last
Joel Naroff said in response to the June consumer confidence index,
"in the May report, people felt reasonably good about the
economy." They are, however, "becoming more and more
depressed about their incomes, as they donít expect to see any gains
rain, sometime sunshine," as my Uncle Carl observed when we asked
him how the weather was in Benevento, Italy, where he visited his
cousins every few years.
Naroff didnít settle for such a short-term approach. He said there
was a "real disconnect" in the business community, which is
doing everything possible to keep wages from rising "but then
they complain that consumers are not buying."
said this many times, and now we see that the hard cap on wage gains
is affecting confidence," he said.
Itís hard to
buy more goods when your income is stagnating, Naroff said. I say that
applies also to houses ó especially for the first-time buyers, we
need to keep the market humming in all ranges.
So look at the
overall picture first, as Frommeyer recommends.
year-to-year numbers have been positive in the last year, with
mortgage interest rates decreasing and housing prices and sales
increasing," he said.
He noted, too,
that not all the markets have the same experience.
Uncle Carl knew
that if it was raining in Apice, it might be sunny in Reino. Thatís
just the way it is.