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New Housing Price Index Takes Bottom-Up Approach

It may seem strange to some that anyone would want to enter the home price index business now, what with the national prominence now being enjoyed by Standard & Poor's, the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, and First American CoreLogic for their respective housing price index data. For many who follow the residential mortgage market closely, such indexes have likely become household names. It might seem stranger still that a firm now jumping into the fray would come out of the REO management and collateral valuation business. But if the housing crisis has taught market participants anything thus far, it's that sometimes the best insight can come from those in the trenches. And for David McCarthy, CEO at at Denver-based Integrated Asset Services LLC, that sort of perspective led to a realization more than three years ago: the data wasn't drilling down far enough. National price trends weren't being based on a granular understanding of the natural ebb and flow within key local markets, and his clients -- investors, national servicing shops, banks -- were paying the price in how they ultimately valued and sold their real estate assets. "When the housing markets are rosy, a 50,000 foot view may be acceptable," McCarthy said. "But when we are facing tumultuous markets, we need to go deeper to understand what is truly going on to make smart decisions." This week, IAS rolled out its own version of a Housing Price Index, called the IAS360 HPI; it's the first housing price index in the nation to capture housing trends down to a neighborhood level. The index tracks monthly changes in the median sales price of detached single-family residences in more than 15,000 defined "neighborhoods" across the U.S. -- data that is then rolled up to report on the changes in 360 counties, nine census divisions, four regions, and the nation overall. Finding pockets of opportunity "The key is that the generalized view of the market being reported in the news today doesn’t paint the full picture for consumers and investors," McCarthy said. "The residential real estate market is a local phenomenon and it is important to analyze it as such. Looking at the more granular data provided by the IAS360 actually demonstrates pockets of opportunity." The IAS360 found that housing prices nationwide fell 9.72 year-over-year in April, with prices dropping 1.82 percent between March and April alone. But it's the granularity of the data that IAS' McCarthy said really sets it apart. According to recently released data from the well-known S&P/Case-Shiller index, for example, Las Vegas continues to share the distinction of being one of the weakest markets over the past 12 months through February on a macro level. The IAS360, however, shows two months of consecutive improvement in Las Vegas’ Clark County, one of the largest counties in Nevada -- trends that may be missed even by MSA-level statistics. Additionally, Arapahoe County in Colorado posted a 1.38 percent price increase for the month of April, despite a year-over-year decline of -9.30 percent. During the same time period, Riverside County, California and Maricopa County, Arizona have all begun to show signs of leveling off after experiencing double-digit declines in year-over-year housing prices. Riverside County, for example, still recorded a yearly drop of 28.81 percent in April; the county actually saw prices increase 1.59 percent from March to April, according to IAS' data. The new IAS360 index will be reported monthly going foward, the company said. For more information, visit http://www.iasreo.com.

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