~Welcome to the Econo-Almanac~

I started this website in mid-2004 to chronicle San Diego’s spectacular housing bubble.  The purpose of the site remains, as ever, to provide objective and evidence-based analysis of the San Diego housing market. A quick guide to the site follows:

  • New visitors are advised to begin with the Bubble Primer or (if wondering about the site name) the FAQ list.
  • Housing articles I’ve written are found in the main section below.
  • Discussion topics posted by site users are found in the “Active Forum Topics” box to the lower right.
  • This website is an avocation; by day I help people with their investments as a financial advisor*.  Market commentary, an overview of our investment approach, and more can be found on my firm's website.

Thanks for stopping by…

Monthly Payment Ratios, May 2013: Homes May Not Be Cheap, But Mortgages Sure Are

Submitted by Rich Toscano on May 24, 2013 - 9:48am

I recently updated the price-to-income and price-to rent-ratios for San Diego single family homes.  I think these are the best metrics to determine whether homes are overpriced or underpriced based on their fundamental economic underpinnings.

It's also interesting to look at the ratio of monthly payments to incomes rents, but for a different reason.  I'll get into this in a moment, but first let's check out the graphs:

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Shambling Towards Affordability: May 2013

Submitted by Rich Toscano on May 22, 2013 - 5:24pm

With recent robust price increases has come a resurgence of talk about a bubble.  Whether a given investment is in a bubble or not may depend on many factors, but in my mind, the most important of these is valuations.  If valuations (properly measured) do not show the asset to be extremely overvalued, then you probably aren't dealing with a bubble.  This is not to say the asset can't go down in price -- not at all.  It's just to say that it's not a proper "bubble."

So what are valuations telling us about the state of the San Diego housing market right now?  Let's have a look at the two most important ratios that have guided us through this boom and bust: the home price to income ratio, and the home price to rent ratio.  These ratios compare home prices with two real-world fundamental underpinnings: how much potential home buyers earn, and how much it costs to rent (put another way, how much it costs to not buy).  Over time they have tended to "mean revert" around a middle of the road value which we can roughly say represents the fair value for San Diego housing.

Let's start with the price-to-income ratio:

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April 2013 Data Rodeo: Rock-Bottom Inventory and Rising Prices, Again

Submitted by Rich Toscano on May 16, 2013 - 4:38pm

April saw a continuation of what we saw in March: fairly strong demand, ridiculously constrained supply, and rising prices.

Starting with the latter, the median price per square foot for single family homes rose 2.6% last month.  That makes for a year-over-year increase of 19.5%!  The condo price/sqft was actually down for the month, but that doesn't mean much considering last month's moonshot.  I tend to ignore the condo series due to its volatility, but for what it's worth, the median condo price/sqft is up 26.9% since last year, and the detached/condo aggregate figure is up 21.3%.

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March Data Rodeo -- Housing Market Smoking Hot

Submitted by Rich Toscano on April 21, 2013 - 7:06pm

Sorry if the title sounds hyperbolic, but... wow, it's true.  As of March, the market was blazing (to continue with the heat-related metaphors).

Let's start with this graph of the median price per square foot since the 2009 trough:

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February 2013 Resale Data Rodeo (Graphs Only)

Submitted by Rich Toscano on March 23, 2013 - 5:19pm

The Year in Home Prices, According to Case-Shiller

Submitted by Rich Toscano on March 5, 2013 - 5:47pm
Let's have a look at how the year 2012 treated house prices, as measured by the Case-Shiller index.

This home price indicator lags by a couple months, but it offers a couple advantages. First, it uses repeat sales of the same homes, so it is more accurate than simply looking at a median price, which could be distorted by a change in the quality of homes sold.

Second, it breaks the sold homes into three price tiers, which allows us to separately analyze price changes for low-, medium- and high-priced homes. (The tier cutoffs are determined by simply splitting the sold homes into three equal-sized groups — the most expensive one-third of homes sold goes into the high-priced tier, etc.).

Here is the Case-Shiller index, for the three tiers as well as the combined index in black, starting at the early-2009 price trough:

continue reading at voiceofsandiego.org

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January 2013 Housing Data Rodeo

Submitted by Rich Toscano on February 18, 2013 - 5:18pm
Home prices pulled back in January, despite increasingly tight inventory and robust sales.  Supply and demand will be discussed later; first, some graphs on prices. 

The median price per square foot fell on a month-to-month basis by .9% for detached homes, 6.4% for condos, and 2.3% in aggregate.  The graph below shows that such huge moves occur somewhat routinely for condos, so as always, it makes more sense to pay attention to the detached home line in blue.

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December 2012 Resale Data Rodeo

Submitted by Rich Toscano on January 21, 2013 - 7:06pm
The median price per square foot rose again last month.  Here are the stats...

Month to month:
  • 1.9% for detached homes
  • 1.4% for attached homes
  • 1.8% in aggregate
For the Year 2012:
  • 12.6% for detached homes
  • 18.0% for attached homes
  • 14.0% in aggregate
Here's a look at this price measure since the March 2009 trough:

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November 2012 Housing Data Rodeo

Submitted by Rich Toscano on December 16, 2012 - 6:03pm
Alright, let's take a look at the resale data for November...

Our old friend the median condo price per square foot continued its volatile ways, up 7.4% for the month!  Though that's after getting spanked the prior month.  That would be the volatility, which is why I prefer the much more reliable detached home median price per square foot, which was actually flat for the month.

Here's a look since the March 2009 trough.  Note that both series are now very close to their prior post-crash highs during the 2010 stimulus-fest.

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October 2012 Resale Housing Data Rodeo

Submitted by Rich Toscano on November 19, 2012 - 7:29pm
Prices flattened out or maybe declined last month, depending on how you want to look at it... while the much less volatile detached home median price per square foot actually rose by .3%, the condo median ppsf declined by 3.3%, leading to an aggregate decline of .5%.

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September 2012 Resale Housing Data Rodeo

Submitted by Rich Toscano on October 8, 2012 - 12:38pm
Inventory dropped again, prices rose again, and "The Chart" continues to do a bang-up job in indicating home price directionality...

Here's inventory, lest people thought last month's rise was the start of a new trend:

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Case-Shiller: Prices Up But Still Near Bottom

Submitted by Rich Toscano on October 7, 2012 - 2:39pm
The Case-Shiller home price index is the most accurate measure of aggregate prices, and as such it is great for long-term comparisons.  It also provides a useful distinction by breaking the price data into three tiers of expensiveness.

The downside is that numbers are very "stale." The recent September release, for example, only has price data through July, and that figure actually is calculated from sales that took place as early as May.

Because I haven't done much in the way of long-term comparisons, and because there was little of interest in the tiered data (all three price tiers have been acting very similar to one another), I haven't done a CS update in a while.  Let's check in on the most recent numbers.

The recent increase in prices that I've been occasionally documenting is clear in this chart of prices since the post-crash (aggregate) bottom in 2009.  For the year-to-date throguh July, the aggregate index is up a bit over 5 percent, and the low, mid, and high price tiers are all up similar amounts:

continue reading at voiceofsandiego.org
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August 2012 Resale Data Rodeo

Submitted by Rich Toscano on September 9, 2012 - 4:09pm
After taking a breather in July, the median price per square foot rose again in August:

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Piggington going down for maintenance Fri afternoon

Submitted by Rich Toscano on August 30, 2012 - 5:48pm

Dear Piggs --

The site will be down for a while tomorrow afternoon so that I can move it to a new server. I'm not sure exactly when or for how long, so this warning is slightly useless, but better than nothing I guess.

Apologies for any unintended boost in productivity this may cause.



OK, the move is all complete. If anyone has any troubles with the site, please email me at rich @ pigg or PM me.

I wish to thank user afx114 for all the help on this. In addition to being a longtime loyal pigg, afx owns a hosting company called bit-box, which I am very happy to have as the new host for piggington and my other sites too. The guys at bit-box run a tight ship, their customer service is amazing, and the prices are very reasonable. If you are looking for a hosting provider, check them out.

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July 2012 Resale Data Rodeo

Submitted by Rich Toscano on August 21, 2012 - 11:03am
After a pretty steady rise for the year to this point, home prices (as measured by the median price per square foot) largely flattened out in July:

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