• Credit: palmcoastrealestate.net

Housing is "a market with momentum," economist Robert Shiller remarked after the closely watched Case-Shiller index of home prices rose again last month. But the price increases appear to be moderating. Forbes has this report: ("Home Price Growth Beginning To Slow Down, Says S&P/Case-Shiller," by Morgan Brennan. "The gain puts home prices 12.1% higher than they were a year ago, as all 20 metro areas welcomed price increases on both a monthly and annual basis, led by Las Vegas (24.9%) and San Francisco (24.5%)," Forbes reports. "S&P/ Case-Shiller's 20-city composite index also posted a 7.1% increase in the second quarter and a 10.1% increase over the past four quarters. Yet the biggest takeaway from the new report is the fact that the pace of home price growth is showing signs of slowing down, as rising mortgage rates begin to weigh on home sales. Thirteen of the 20 cities saw their returns weaken on a monthly basis."

Two big winners in the latest numbers: Dallas, Texas, and Denver, Colorado. Prices in both cities have now returned to pre-collapse levels last seen in 2006. Slate's "Money Box" blog takes note: ("House Prices in Dallas and Denver Reached an All-Time High in May," by Matthew Yglesias). "Denver shows the same 1995–05 pattern of rapid price increases that were typical of the nation as a whole. But instead of the bubble popping, Denver area prices really just stagnated. They fell a little during the recession years and then went on a modest uptick. Now it's a new high," reports Slate. "In Dallas, by contrast, it's like there just never was a boom and bust. Prices have just been bouncing around with an ever-so-slight upward bias for a decade."

The Case-Shiller index should be taken with a grain of salt, argues mortgage banker and blogger Dan Green, because its data are restricted to single-family homes in selected markets, and are also slightly backwards-looking ("Flawed Case-Shiller Index Shows Home Values Rising Nationwide, Up 12.1% Annually"). "Because Standard & Poor's publishes on a 60-day delay, the Case-Shiller Index is reporting on a housing market that no longer exists. And, it's not a 60-day delay, even -- it's more like 6 months," Green writes. "Consider that home sales tracked by the Case-Shiller Index are closed in June and based on purchase contracts which were written as many as 90 days prior. This means that the index is reporting upon sales 'made' in March -- half a year ago! In March, the housing market looked different. Mortgage rates were lower, consumer sentiment was different, and the spring selling season was entering its peak. Historical data like this helps economists and policy-makers understand the long-term trends of U.S. housing, but it does little to help today's buyers and sellers who want accurate, real-time information. The Case-Shiller Index cannot provide that."