Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Homes Sales Reporting Tragedy

In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality was tacitly denied by their philosophy  - George Orwell, 1984
The data reporting by the National Association of Realtors really blows my mind.  I'm not sure why any news source who expects to be treated with any kind of respect even bothers to report the data anymore.  I guess the explanation lies in between the lines of the quote above...
"Sales of existing homes jump more than 4% in January,"  "Home sales hit 2-year high in January" are just two of the headlines out there.  Let's look at the magic of simple arithmetic to see how this "gain" in existing home sales was calculated.  In December 2011, the existing homes sales number was reported to be 4.61 million annualized, up 5% from November.  The existing home sales number for January 2012 was just reported at 4.57 million.  Simple math would say home sales dropped, right?  The NAR conveniently revised down the December number from 4.61 million to 4.38 million, thereby enabling it to report a very headline-friendly 4% gain from December to January.  They pulled the same trick in December from November.  Of course, none of the headlines will ever reference this fact and everyone who just looks at the headline reports will come away with the impression that existing home sales are recovering in robust fashion.  The NAR has methodically shaped the perception of most people who actually follow the news (rather than watching Jersery Shore or The View).
And the fact of the matter is that I wouldn't have a problem with an occasional downward revision with data like this.  But with the NAR it has become systematic and methodical.  It enables them to deliberately control perception of the housing market for the masses who don't pay attention to the truth.
I'm sure everyone reading this is aware that the NAR recently revised lower all existing housing sales as reported from 2007 through October 2011 by 14%.  Think about that for a minute.  It means that over 14 of every 100 home sales reported over a nearly 5 year time span was total bullshit.  They didn't exist.  Poof.  Think about the implications of that.  Housing market finance businesses and realtors got rich off of that fraud because the NAR systematically created a perception of relative strength in the housing market that NEVER existed.  Hundreds of thousands of people likely bought homes during that period because they thought the housing market was healthy and a good investment based on this data. 
The NAR is a total fraud.  In fact, nearly all of the "official source" economic data that is reported in this country is fraudulent.  One good way to test the NAR numbers is to watch the mortgage application data from the Mortgage Bankers Association.   It's skewed by the fact that people often file more than one application to shop deals, but in general I believe the trend over several months is indicative of the real condition of the housing market.   That number just so happened to be reported earlier today (every Wednesday at 7 a.m. EST).   It showed a 2.9% decrease in mortgage purchase applications week to week, ending last week.  The four-week moving average is down 3.2% and the index is down about 12% from a year ago.  This paints a completely different picture of the housing market than the one presented by the National Association of Realtors and its prozac-addled Chief "Economist," Lawrence Yun.
Oh by the way, the headline as reported by the NAR is "Existing home sales rise again in January."  I think that headline, in the context of my analysis above speaks for itself.  George Orwell is smiling from his grave today...


  1. High-end loan owners strategically defaulting in large numbers

    Loan owners with big incomes believed house prices were going up forever. They bought houses they could barely afford because they believed the additional cost of ownership over renting would provide them with a return on their investment. Buying a house was part utility through providing shelter and part investment through capturing rapid appreciation. Of course, the actions of buyers willingly overpaying for houses drove prices higher in a self-fulfilling prophesy. Like all Ponzi schemes, it went on until the supply of greater fools was exhausted and lenders stopped enabling the insanity.

    Now that high-end loan owners are accepting the fact that their brilliant investment was folly, many of them are choosing to dump their investments.

  2. The housing bubble bloggers used to tear the NAR apart for their fraudulent data and often referred to the NAR's chief economist (called e-CON-omist) David Lereah by his blogger name of scorn, David LIE-reah. I have not been following the housing bubble blogs since 2009 when they were proven right, and I eagerly await the day that gold bugs are proven right when the gold and silver manipulation house of cards crashes like the real estate market.
    As always, thanks Dave for all your hard work keeping us informed.

  3. Florida Drivers Shelling Out Nearly $6 A Gallon At Some Gas Stations

    TAMPA (CBS Tampa) — Talk about pain at the pump! Some Florida drivers are spending nearly $6 a gallon to fill up their gas tanks.

    According to, motorists are shelling out $5.89 for a gallon of regular gas at a Shell station in Lake Buena Vista, topping out at $5.99 a gallon for premium. It doesn’t get better at a Suncoast Energy station in Orlando, where drivers are paying $5.79 for a gallon of regular.

    ....but they say you can use the restroom for free....the BLS calls it a gas exchange equivalent and therefore quite deflatulionary.

    1. That's a tourist trap area near Disney World.

  4. Can the NAR be prosecuted under the RICO Act?
    They seem to fit the definition.
    Just sayin'.

  5. Dave,
    It appears you may not be able or can't 'see the Trees for the Forest'. The National Association of REALTORS (NAR) reports on data generated on a NATIONAL basis; hence the challenges of reporting on "averages". Real estate has often been compared to weather; it may be sunny & hot in South Texas (upper 80s today) while NYC is 40; together the average temp is 64 degrees-which STILL doesn't provide enough information to know whether to wear shorts or a coat "NATIONALLY". Same with NAR reporting.

    Lack of real estate sales beginning in 2008 generated a 'domino affect' for passive related businesses & workforce (i.e. home improvement, landscaping, remodeling...& on & on)increasing the unemployment rate & creating foreclosures. The mere reporting of these events by the media exasperated an already volatile economy. Buyers have been in FEAR of purchasing, investors have been WAITING for prices to drop lower & those FORCED to sell have suffered losses. Don't you think we ALL deserve & could use a little GOOD news?

    Real estate sales in our marketplace were better in 2011 than 2010; however not anywhere NEAR the 'hay-day' of 2005 & 2006. Why compare 2011 sales to 2005-that's like comparing a 40 year old to a 20 year old...just doesn't work! Any marketeer with half a brain will FIND some 'hint' of positive noteworthy data to report to attempt to OVERCOME the media's negativity. Bad news may SELL papers...but, it doesn't SELL homes!

    Dave, your theory of "watching the mortgage application" data DOESN'T work for our market either. 51.1% of our 2011 real estate sales were CASH. Ahhh...there's that 'law of averaging' again PLUS the 'weather' theory. It's impossible to provide an EXACT reporting of sales transactions for the entire NATION without it being skewed, somewhat.

    If you can't SEE the Forest for the Trees LOOK for the TREES in the FOREST.

  6. Lynn, you are clearly a real estate broker. Ever hear of the term "correlation?" Whether or not a certain % of sales is cash or mortgage financed, there is going to be a very high correlation between mortgage apps and sales. Like I pointed out in the commentary, the mortgage apps are overstated by people filing multiple apps with different lenders to put them in comp etc. That means that "organic" mortgage apps are even lower. Mortgage apps have fallen off a cliff since 2005. I only cited the drop from 2010 to 2011. The drop from 2006 to 2011 is apocalyptic. That tells me the real home sales numbers are horrific. And today I'll post some data that show the hair-raising drop in median pricing. I said back in 2002 that eventually we would see a 75-90% drop in home prices. I was laughed at. Right now in most areas the drop is at least 40% and headed lower. In some extreme bubble areas the drop has been 70% or higher. At the high end (i.e. upper 7 figure and higher, the drop has been 50-80% depending on the area, other than NYC).

    I'm not sure what data you are looking to say that sales in 2011 were better than 2010, but your statement runs in direct contrast with all the various data sources that are out there. Census Bureau, NAR, Zillow, Gallup, etc. New home sales hit all time lows (as in all-time lows going back to when they started collecting the data, in the early 1960's I believe).

    I'd love to see the source of data you cite to show that 51% of all sales in 2011 were cash. The numbers with reflect cash sales do not support that (short sales, foreclosure sales). Those numbers are running the 30's percent-wise and not all short sale/foreclosure sales are 100% cash.

    The numbers are what they are and they are grim. The NAR uses the same kind of "seasonal" data manipulation that the Govt uses. I don't know of one person who has studied the data series over a long a period of time who does not agree that the "adjustments" are pure bullshit. Hell even the NAR admitted as much by knocking over 14% off of its reported sales over a 5 year period. That's astounding. And that number is still probably wrong. It's probably closer to 20%.

    1. Dave,
      Shocking as it may seem...OVERALL I agree with most of what you're saying. However...

      The points to ponder are:
      1. Each MARKET is different. Where did I get 51.1% from MY MARKET...which is different from other markets. It's impossible to "lump" market data to ascertain the 'true & real' picture of real estate sales. NAR attempted resulting in a complicated 'puzzle'; ya gotta be a doggone "bean counter" to figure it out & it's STILL skewed.
      2. Evaluating mortgage apps can also produce faulty or skewed results due to the fact not ALL buyers get mortgages. Plain & simple.
      3. Negativity creates ALARM & slows recovery.

      YES, data is GRIM, prices have DROPPED & values have REDUCED. What's the point of constantly dragging it thru the mud...just to claim "I told ya so"?

      The GOOD NEWS is, interest rates are low & there are DEALS, why not take advantage of them?

    2. Understood and be grateful you are in a market that is an extreme outlier. NYC is an outlier - there have been a couple of record setting condo sales there in the past year. My sister sells real estate in Grand County, Colo and she's been doing well. Those our extreme outliers. Aspen and Vail are getting annihilated.

      My analysis of the RE market encompasses the macro statistics for the entire country. Hell, Denver actually a brief price bounce during 2011. Not anymore though.
      We'll have to agree to disagree on whether or not this is a good time to buy value. Maybe in select markets. But for reasons I will outline in today's post, there is going to be at least one more big cliff dive in RE prices.

  7. Why Renters Rule U.S. Housing Market (Part 2): A. Gary Shilling

    In making my case for continued housing weakness, I’ve emphasized the negative effect of excess inventories on house sales, prices, new construction and just about every other aspect of residential real estate.

    In housing, as in every goods-producing sector, excess inventories are the mortal enemy of prices. Lower prices are needed to unload surplus inventory, yet they also lead to the creation of more inventory by anxious sellers. The plight of house sellers and the reluctance of buyers are made worse by the realization that house prices can fall, and are falling for the first time in 70 years.

    There are about 2 million excess housing units in the U.S., over and above normal inventory working levels. Before the housing collapse began in 2006, housing starts and completions were volatile but averaged about 1.5 million per year. So a 2 million excess is much more than the previous annual average build.
    Inventory Count

    Many people think that house inventories are coming under control. They point to the declines in inventories in relation to sales for new and existing homes, yet that calculus doesn’t include the 5 million or so housing units with delinquent mortgages or those in foreclosure, much less the additional troubled loans that are probable in years ahead.

    10 Things Your Real Estate Broker Will Not Tell You (

  8. Projected PIIGS Pillage: 3233.5 Tons Of Gold To Be Confiscated By Insolvent European Banks

    While hardly discussed broadly in the mainstream media, the top news of the past 24 hours without doubt is that in addition to losing its fiscal sovereignty, and numerous other things, the Greek population is about to lose its gold in a perfectly legitimate fashion, following amendments to the country’s constitution by unelected banker technocrats, who will make it legal for Greek creditors – read insolvent European banks – to plunder the Greek gold which at last check amounts to 111.6 tonnes according to the WGC. And so we come full circle to what the ultimate goal of banker intervention in the European periphery is – nothing short of full gold confiscation.

    goes with...

    What If Democracy Is Bunk?

    by Andrew P. Napolitano

    What if the purpose of democracy is to convince people that they could prosper not through the creation of wealth but through theft from others?

  9. Silencing The Critics
    February 20, 2012

    In 2010 the FBI invaded the homes of peace activists in several states and seized personal possessions in what the FBI–the lead orchestrator of fake “terrorist plots”–called an investigation of “activities concerning the material support of terrorism.”

    Subpoenas were issued to compel antiwar protestors to testify before grand juries as prosecutors set about building their case that opposing Washington’s wars of aggression constitutes giving aid and comfort to terrorists. The purpose of the raids and grand jury subpoenas was to chill the anti-war movement into inaction.

    The idea that the US is a democracy when it most definitely does not have a free watchdog press is laughable. But the media is not laughing. It is lying. Just like the government, every time the US mainstream media opens its mouth or writes one word, it is lying. Indeed, its corporate masters pay its employees to tell lies. That is their job. Tell the truth, and you are history like Buchanan and Napolitano and Helen Thomas.

    btw, ...the only anti i am is corruption.

  10. Starve the fascists, go local....

    'Cash Mobs' profit locally owned stores

    A new phenomenon, called “Cash Mobs,” is spreading across the country, changing the way people view local businesses. Similar to flash mobs, Cash Mobs organize customers to spend money at struggling locally owned businesses to support their community.

    Since starting last year, cash mobs have been organized in 32 states and Canada. But unlike flash mobs, which are generally entertaining and trivial, they come with a serious purpose.

    The idea is the brainchild of Buffalo blogger and engineer Chris Smith, who said that Cash Mobs are sort of a reverse Groupon. Instead of offering people bargain-basement deals, people pay the regular price to support retailers in their communities.

    In a time where many small, local businesses are struggling, victims of a fallen economy, the concept is a financial relief, serving to bring communities together.

    Smith said cash mobs are a chance for business owners to begin building a longer-term relationship with customers.

    He also wants consumers to rethink the value of locally owned stores.

    “[I want to] make them think once a month that you don’t have to go to Target for everything you need and everything you want,” Smith said.

  11. Too Big to Jail


    WASHINGTON, DC – Among the fundamental principles of any functioning justice system is the following: Don’t lie to a judge or falsify documents submitted to a court, or you will go to jail. Breaking an oath to tell the truth is perjury, and lying in official documents is both perjury and fraud. These are serious criminal offenses, but apparently not if you are at the heart of America’s financial system. On the contrary, key individuals there appear to be well compensated for their crimes.

    The Obama administration and its allies have worked hard to sell its roughly $20 billion settlement with the banks as one that will have a meaningful impact on the housing market. But nothing could be further from the truth. As Kelleher points out, the United States has “more than 10 million homes under water” (the outstanding mortgage exceeds the house’s value). “Twenty billion dollars doesn’t make a dent in that: one million homes at $20,000 loan forgiveness is it.”

  12. The Playbook

    In any event, they are not done with this playbook by any means. We need to look to Europe now to see what TPTB have in store for us. This is the consummate problem, reaction, solution game being played for all the marbles. First, you get the problem “spiking interest rates for the peripheral countries.” Then the “reaction,” financial panic and fear. Finally the “solution.” The placement of unelected technocrats as the leaders of Greece and Italy with ties to all the power structure’s institution such as the Trilateral Commission, the Bilderberg group and of course Goldman Sachs. It is like a coup that takes the shadow government from the shadows and puts them in your face. The reason that this is so key is because we are next. They don’t want to roll up everything at once. If they can get Europe safely consolidated then they will move here. That is when interest rates in the U.S. will spike (problem), and we get panic (reaction) and then the solution (bankster technocratic committees in charge and the IMF to the rescue, ie loss of sovereignty). This is the plan and I see it as clear as day.

  13. Jim Sinclair - 1980 Was a Warmup, Gold to Range $400 a Day

    “The younger generation has no concept of this. They look at inflation as ebullient business and they look at deflation as being a breadline. They don’t recognize that during a period of extremely difficult business conditions, (you see) some of the highest rates of inflation.

    It’s a question of whether our indicators will ever show inflation again. But the truth is if you go back to how the inflation was calculated in the 1970s, you get a good look at what’s going on right now....,_Gold_to_Range_$400_a_Day.html

    You like apples?

    ...he's got their #

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