Beware first quarter housing market reports

Another one for the “Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics” file. (And I hope another reason to read my blog regularly to avoid being mislead.)

You may well see a report saying that the median price in Marblehead increased 19% from last year, which is the MLS figure including all sales. My numbers, which always exclude distressed sales, show a 17% increase. But it is important to know that quarterly numbers vary greatly.

Look at these numbers for Marblehead since 2010. They clearly show that Q1 2013 was well below the rest of the year. I am not saying that the Q1 number is not significant (see Buyers moving up the price chain). Just beware that Q1 a year ago was generally a low quarter.

Source: MLS, Oliver Reports

Source: MLS, Oliver Reports

Here is the full table. I have shown sales as we ll as median prices, so making it clear that Nahant, for example, is not meaningful. The larger the number the more reliable it is, so the numbers for the North Shore, Essex County and Massachusetts are a good guide. Note that only the North Shore had a higher price in Q1 2014 than for the whole of 2013, again because Q1 2013 was seasonally low.

Source: MLS, Oliver Reports

Source: MLS, Oliver Reports

Here are the same numbers for condos. These show a different picture, with in all cases the median price in Q1 2014 higher than the median for the whole of 2013. For a number of years prices of SFHs at the lower end of the market were under the greatest pressure, making them in some cases an alternative for condos. Now that the lower end has recovered, so the demand for condos seems to be coming back.

Source: MILS, Oliver Reports

Source: MILS, Oliver Reports

If you  - or somebody you know – are considering buying or selling a home and have questions about the market and/or current home prices, feel free to contact me on 781.631.1223 or andrew@HarborsideRealty.com.

Andrew Oliver is a Realtor with Harborside Realty in Marblehead