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Sep 20, 2009

Housing heads up

This week and next are heavy with residential housing reports, so if you haven’t done a home-price story lately, it’s a good time fire one up.

The key to avoid confounding yourself and readers is to use the data consistently, because a number of home price indices are released in rapid succession toward the end of each month.

On Tuesday, the Federal Housing Finance Agency monthly house price index is expected; this one is based on transactions underwritten by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and will reflect July prices. The FHFA site also offers downloadable data and a home-value calculator you may wish to offer as a link to readers.

And on Friday the U.S. Census Bureau’s new home sales report, which also includes price information, will be released to reflect August Data. That follows the existing home sales report by the National Association of Realtors, which comes out Thursday.

The Standard & Poor’s/ Case-Schiller Home Price Index
, a somewhat broader measure, will be issued on Sept. 29.

Confused? You’re not alone. A caveat to working with this type of data is to look at the overall trends, not obsess over the absolute percentage gains and losses. Use the numbers to portray a general sense of where you local market is heading, but dig for anecdotes, specific dollar figures from actual home buyers, and other up-to-the-minute detail for your narrative.

This article, meanwhile, is a helpful primer on the methodology behind the various home price indices along with caveats and tips.

And this piece from last week is a succinct roundup of the challenges some analysts think will depress home prices for years to come. Note the color-coded map depicting how long each state is expected to languish before a rebound; according to it, my territory won’t recover until 2023.

Break down a similar graphic for the cities, counties and neighborhoods in your region and readers will stampede to read it, clip it and clamp it to their refrigerators. In fact, you’ll just about be guaranteed “most e-mailed” status in the newsroom the day it runs.

If Moody’s can’t provide to you the same level of detail it gave Marketwatch, perhaps your local Federal Reserve bank, a real estate economist at a local bank or an expert at the regional multi-listing service would give it a shot.

Come back to Your Daily Tipsheet each morning for advice on where to find sources, background and creative ways to make financial news and trends relevant to your audience.

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