What's Really Happening in Housing

Here’s a headline we can’t resist: “Home Prices Rose in May,” trumpets The New York Times this morning. We understand… they’ve got papers to sell and a hell of a mortgage. But in reality, the U.S. housing market is only decaying at a slower pace. Today’s S&P/Case-Shiller home price index reading is par for the course for the last quarter… home prices and sales are still falling, just no longer accelerating into the abyss.


May registered a 16.8% annual decline in S&P’s 10-City Composite, with its 20-City just a bit worse. Even though that’s still a far cry from home price appreciation, May marks the fourth month in a row in annual return improvement. So raise your glass for a toast… here’s to four months of, ummm, home prices not registering record annual declines. (Better make it a double.)

“To put it in perspective,” says David Blitzer, steward of the index, “this is the first time we have seen broad increases in home prices in 34 months. This could be an indication that home price declines are finally stabilizing.

“While many indicators are showing signs of life in the U.S. housing market, we should remember that on a year-over-year basis, home prices are still down about 17% on average across all metro areas, so we likely do have a way to go before we see sustained home price appreciation.”