Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Denver Continues to Outpace the Nation in Latest Case-Shiller Home Price Index Data

Case-Shiller released new home price index data for July this week. As has been the case since 2012, the data shows continued increases in home prices. The first graph shows the index value for both the nationwide 20-city composite index, and the metro Denver index:

While the trend has clearly been upward in recent years, we are now seeing that a plateau has been hit in both the Denver metro area and in the composite index. Of course, the metro Denver plateau around ten percent points to continued strong gains in prices, and is a reason for current homowners and landlords to be happy. first time homebuyers, on the other hand, have less reason to be happy. 

At the national level, though, the composite index suggests more of a cooling in the market. Growth rates are clearly down from where they were back in 2013, and outside of Denver and San Francisco, price growth has moderated throughout many of the cities covered in the index.  Index growth is now flat around 5 percent, and has been so since last September. With interest rates at historic lows, this further suggests an inflexibility in the market that refuses to take off in spite of high accomodative monetary policy. 

In Denver, however, in-migration continues to drive strong price increases, though. The second graph compares the rate growth of the composite index and the Denver index.  Denver is clearly outpacing the nation overall.

Note also that the 2-city composite index is still below its former peak level. July 2015's index number was still 11.9 percent below the peak level, reached during July 2006. Metro Denver's July value, however, was well above its former peak and is at an all-time high. During July, the metro Denver index was 22.1 percent above the 2006 peak achieved during August 2006.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Comparing Whole Countries on Murder Rates Is Often Misleading

We often see the United States compared to a variety of other countries in terms of life expectancy, murder rates, and more. But, it's a bit dishonest to compare a country the size of Portugal, for example, with the United States.Portugal has ten million people and is not geographically diverse. The United States has more than 300 million people, and is extremely diverse in its geography.

So, it makes much more sense to compare the particular states within the US with foreign countries, and most people tend to underestimate the diversity in factors such as life expectancy and murder rates among states.

For example, the murder rate in Oregon (2.0 per 100,000) places it about 160th among 218 countries measured. That's quite low, and well below the US overall rate of  4.7 (per 100,000), which places it at 91st in the world. In other words, there are many places in the US that are well below the national murder rate, including Iowa, Wisconsin, and Colorado. If we were use this more detailed analysis, we would find that, in spite of claims that the US is a relatively high-crime country, much of the US is actually quite moderate, or even low, in this regard.

Were we to do this, we would then be asking ourselves not why the US murder rate is what it is. We would be asking ourselves what it is about Maryland, Louisiana, and South Carolina that are driving up the US murder rate.

Indeed, this should be done for other large countries as well. Mexico is a large country, so it's of little value to simply speak of the murder rate in Mexico as high. The question is this: where is the murder rate high in Mexico?

If we look at this analysis from The Economist, we find that the murder rate in much of Mexico is on a par with Costa Rica and the Bahamas.  And almost no one ever says "don't go to the Bahamas, or you'll be beheaded!" The perception of Mexico is as a high-crime area, and the Bahamas are seen as a serene place to vacation. But the answer is really more complicated than that.

The murder rates in Mexican states vary so widely that Yucatan state has a murder rate equivalent to the very low-crime country of Finland, while Chihuahua state has a rate equivalent to El Salvador, one of the alleged murder capitals of the world.

And if you want to take a vacation soaking up some sun in Cabo? No problem, amigo, because the murder rate in Baja California Sur is lower than the murder rate in Texas.

The overall murder rate is 18, but note the diversity:

 Source: The Economist.

And here are two wonderful maps I came across, which appear to be from an earlier version of the UNODC Global Study on Homicide.  Russia is another case where it's obviously useless to talk about the country-wide murder rate.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Colorado Foreclosures Down 19 Percent During Second Quarter

Foreclosure totals in Colorado during the second quarter of 2015 remained well down from the 2009 peak totals. There were 2,282 foreclosure filings during the second quarter of this year, which was a drop of 19 percent from the second quarter of 2014. There were 1,063 foreclosure sales at auction during the second quarter of this year, dropping 34 percent from the second quarter of last year.

Back in 2009, filings had peaked at 12,135 during the second quarter, and sales peaked at 6,686 during the first quarter of 2010:

Foreclosures are on schedule to end the year way down from 2014. So far, this year, there have been 4,154 filings and 2,208 sales at auction, which means at mid-year, filings and sales are both down 33 percent from where they were at mid-year last year. 

For more, see the state of Colorado full report: