File this under too good to pass up: it turns out the National Association of Realtors got their quarterly sales numbers wrong in New Jersey, and not just by a little bit. On May 13, the NAR's first quarter sales summary was released with the requisite highlighting of those few remaining "pockets of strength" in key metropolitan areas. One such area was New Jersey, which apparently had seen sales jump 4 percent on a year-over-year basis. Except for one problem: they didn't. James Bednar, a realtor in New Jersey who maintains the well-read New Jersey Real Estate Report blog, was immediately uncomfortable with the numbers; as much as he hated being painted a conspiracy theorist, he asked the NAR to provide him with their stats so he could calculate the numbers himself. Because he simply didn't think sales went up 4 percent, as was being claimed. What'd he get? Dead air. A realtor, a dues-paying NAR member, was ignored for weeks on end by the organization he pays to be a part of. Classic. He writes:
On May 14th, 15th, 16th, 18th, and 19th, I sent a data request to the NAR for the underlying survey data that is the basis for the quarterly result. They did not acknowledge my requests, nor did they acknowledge my phone calls, despite the fact I’m a Realtor.
And then, this past weekend, what appears in the New Jersey Star-Ledger? You get one guess:
When the National Association of Realtors issued its first-quarter report on the health of the housing market last month, New Jersey was singled out as one of only three states that saw the volume of home sales increase during the first three months of the year. On Friday, the Realtors' group issued a huge correction, saying that instead of a slight increase, New Jersey's housing market actually saw a 30 percent drop in home sales during the first quarter compared with the same period last year. "It happened in the crunching of the numbers," said NAR spokesman Lucien Salvant. "It was just a mistake and we owned up to it."
If by "owning up to it," Salvant means not issuing a retraction or press correction on the incorrect data, relegating it to a local paper and hoping the issue doesn't bubble up further, then I suppose the NAR has "owned up." A review of the press statements on the NAR Web site found that none make mention of the correction or the existence of the bad data, which is at the very least problematic for any media outlets that still rely on the NAR for market data. (HW is not one of them, as we've long had issues with how the NAR calculates its data.) The thing is, the NAR wasn't just a little off, they were WAY off. This goes beyond simple crunching of the numbers, and I ought to know, as someone who crunched numbers for a living only a few years back. Mistakes like this suggest either bad data, which apparently wasn't the issue, or a failure to do any basic checks on the analysis. Which, I suppose, means that the NAR is actually drinking its own Kool-Aid -- when the numbers show an upward trend, they're not questioned. Even if the common sense of a realtor actually selling in the state might suggest otherwise.