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The Wall Street Journal continues to mislead as to the resilience of the home as an investment.

Posted by John Reed on

Another WSJ article on the “chilled” home market today. Reporter Nicole Friedman is back to her mantra—using her usual borderline irrelevant data points like until sales of homes, mortgage interest rates (the market automatically adjusts to them) and seizing on tiny downward movements of Realtor®’s median existing home prices as proof of a bad housing market. The corporation that owns Realtor®dotcom also owns the WSJ.

Realtor® home prices are the most misleading

The Realtor® median existing home price figure is the most misleading one for various reasons. (only sales generating commissions, hardly any new homes, leaves out condos and townhouses and forced sales, ignores changing mix of more newer and fewer older homes, etc. etc.)
The more accurate prices come from Case-Shiller, the St. Louis Fed, and the FHFA. Those use same-house resale prices. Here is the Fed graph of prices since the 1960s. You would be hard-pressed to realize that from Friedman’s stories.
That graph shows quarterly numbers. Since the average home holding period in the US is 13.2 years, arguably, the home-price graph should be decade-long averages. That would show an extremely smooth ever upward graph—a seemingly ideal investment compared to stocks and bonds. That graph would make one wonder what in the heck is wrong with Nicole Friedman who constantly depicts homes as a poorly-performing investment.

Homes better investments than securities

On many days, stock market investors would give their left arm for a fraction of a percent downturn rather than the 20% or whatever actual downturns there regularly. An investment—homes—that has been up or flat for 90 years beats the hell out of stocks or bonds during that period. The Subprime downturn in 2009 was a 30% fall after a maniacal 30% leap above the long-term trend—basically just a restoration of normalcy.

The Journal buries the lead—prices are holding on in spite of higher mortgage rtes

A slight vestige of journalistic integrity forces the Journal to admit the truth. “Sales are much lower, but prices are holding on” Friedman quotes NAR economist Lawrence Yun as saying. That is in paragraph 15 of the 18-paragraph story. This is a journalistic mistake known as “burying the lead.”

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