Because I couldn’t possibly say it better myself, or make such nice graphs, or pore over the data, I present Paragon Real Estate’s argument against the oh-so revered Case-Shiller Index (I personally can’t stand the index, but I love Paragon and their agents for doing the work for us.)
Word for word copy:
The news media regularly reports that the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index has indicated large and continuing price declines in San Francisco, not only since the market meltdown in late 2008, but since the period commencing thereafter in early-mid 2009. This is based upon the C-S analysis of home sales in the 5-county San Francisco Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), comprising SF, Marin, Contra Costa, Alameda and San Mateo counties. The statistics (and price declines) quoted by the media are almost always for the overall SF MSA price trend.
Unfortunately, the Case-Shiller overall Index is the wrong Case-Shiller Index to use when assessing market trends in the city and county of San Francisco itself (as opposed to the 5-county San Francisco MSA):
· First of all, it should be noted that the C-S Index measures price trends for houses only (single family dwellings or SFDs) — condos, co-ops, TICs and multi-unit buildings are not included.
· Secondly, Case-Shiller tracks not only overall house price trends, but house price trends broken into 3 price tiers: low, middle and high.
· The “upper tier” price range is defined as those homes selling for over $601,000. In the city of San Francisco, over the past 17 months, 67% of all our house (SFD) sales were over $601,000. If we exclude the two least affluent, southern Realtor districts running from Bayview to Oceanview (hit hardest by foreclosures and distress sales), and look only at the 8 central and northern Realtor districts, then 89% of our house sales were over $601,000 and thus in the “high tier.” (Just for the record, the majority of our condo sales is also above $601,000.)
· The 5-county, SF Metro Area SFD housing stock — in all price tiers — in year 2000 was approximately 948,000 SFD units. The city of San Francisco contains about 114,000 SFD units — or only 12% of the metro area total. Thus the overall Index is heavily skewed toward the markets of the other 4 counties. However, the city’s percentage of total metro area SFD units in the high price tier would be significantly greater.
It’s obvious that the Case-Shiller High-Tier Price Index for the San Francisco MSA
is the one most applicable to the real estate market of the city and county of San Francisco.
Which brings us to the chart below:
Looking at the chart of C-S Index “high tier” price points in January of each year since the year 2000, we see the massive appreciation from year 2000 to peak values in 2006 – 2008 (different neighborhoods of the Bay Area and the city peaked at different times within that time period); then an 18% – 22% decline to early 2009, with the September 2008 market meltdown occurring in between. That seems correct as an overall average for the price adjustment that generally occurred in San Francisco’s 8 central and northern districts. (The 2 southern districts, dominated by sales in the lower price tiers and hard hit by distress sales, saw declines typically running from 25% to 40%.)
Post market meltdown, since January 2009 to March 2011 (the latest C-S data published), over a period of 26 months, the C-S Index for “high tier” priced homes shows a further 1.8% decline in value. Even if one refuses to consider a reasonable margin of error in the C-S calculation, a price adjustment of less than 2% comes pretty close to what we’ve concluded for quite some time, i.e. generally speaking, San Francisco has experienced a basically stable home price situation in the city over the past 2 years, especially in our 8 more affluent districts where the median house sales price is typically above $850,000.
Indeed, though not shown on the chart, the Case-Shiller Index recorded a small uptick in high tier home values in March 2011 for the San Francisco Metro Area. And based upon what we’re seeing in the city market, both statistically and in the hurly burly of deal-making — i.e. a significant tightening in the supply and demand dynamic within SF — we believe there is a good chance the Index will indicate further upticks in high tier home prices in April and May.
As always, time will tell.
–Paragon Real Estate Deciphers Case-Shiller [Paragon Real Estate]