Monday, February 6, 2012

What's with the new MLS Index in Canada?

Interestingly, just as prices in Vancouver and Toronto and Montreal are turning downward, we get, tada! a new index for house prices in Vancouver and Toronto and Montreal (and some other places that are along for the ride).

Up at the REBGV site there is a handy pop-up window that promises to explain everything. There is little in there but pablum about how great it will be for everyone. Here's a selection:

Combined with the knowledge, experience and skills of your REALTOR®, the MLS® HPI allows you to better understand these trends — and how they can affect the market value of your home.
Anything that supports our cartel is good.

More importantly, though, it helps you approach one of life’s most important decisions — buying or selling a home — with greater confidence.
We can't have you getting scared now, can we? Record debt, Bank of Canada wetting their pants about systemic risks, employment numbers degrading, heck, China slamming on the brakes . . . Not to mention Europe floundering. No, no, we want you confident. That makes you such a better customer when considering highly leveraged speculative investments with high transaction costs. Oh, please write that transaction cost check to us, thanks.

The MLS® HPI tracks changes in home prices by comparing price levels at a point in time with price levels in a base (reference) period. The base period value is always 100.

For example, if the base period for single-family homes is 2005, and the MLS® HPI value for single-family homes in December 2011 is 149.1, you know that the value of single-family homes is up 49.1%, compared with 2005 (149.1 − 100 = 49.1%).
It's all about the gains. It's not a house. We're not even pretending it's a house. It's like a stock, but one that only ever goes up. In fact, look at this example, it went up a boat load. Don't you want to get in on that?

This means that price changes calculated using the MLS® HPI are less volatile than those derived using common measures like average and median, which can swing dramatically in response to changes with high-end or low-end sales volumes over time.
That IS what the median is for, avoiding the dramatic swings. Unless your dataset is very small, average and median are still highly meaningful numbers to report. They are no longer even going to report those. Because why? Let me take a stab: Buyers are children who can't handle getting confused by all these numbers.

And you can't cry housing mix issues if you are throwing away anything older than 2005. Seriously. That's a decades problem.

However, the MLS® HPI is new, in that it is the first Home Price Index to use MLS® data to track trends in home prices in markets across Canada.
Everyone knows that the MLS is absolutely accurate when it comes to reporting house features.

So, we start over in sussing out where these markets are. Maybe with the advent of redpin and hopefully more competitors someone will have real raw data. It's not like Averages and Medians are hard to compute, but you need access to the data, and you can't get that from the outside.

Cartel 1 Homebuyers 0

And it looks like REBGV recoded all the old HPI reports to the new system, because they don't match my spreadsheet. Nice. You know who else was fond of re-writing history?

On the upside TREB has nary a word about this on their site. Good for them, they publish gorgeous reports (recently anyway).

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