Experts weigh in on ‘why’ of numbers, but how?

Jonathan Miller of the Miller-Samuel appraisal firm released the latest statistics in his report for Prudential Douglas Elliman on Friday.

So did Greg Heym from Halstead.  And Pamela Liebman from Corcoran.

Housing price and sales statistics are regularly released by a number of others, including Case-Shiller, Radar Logic, the National Association of Realtors, and CoreLogic.

Invariably, the experts also explain the numbers.  My advice is not to put an excessive amount of stock in what they say, however much we may respect their qualifications and achievements.  (And I do.)

Here are some of their observations last week:

Hall F. Willkie, president of Brown Harris Stevens, opined that more affluent buyers “in the higher price point” were driving up the average price.  He continued:

You are definitely seeing people feeling confident as long as they were getting good values.

Dottie Herman, CEO of Prudential Douglas Elliman, referred to the anxiety she sees in the market.  She remarked:

I’m in a place where there’s a lot of uncertainty.  Capital gains tax, estate tax, healthcare–with the elections coming up, people don’t really know what’s going on with those.

And Corcoran’s Liebman provided this observation:

People are willing to spend large amounts of money for real estate because they feel they are getting more for their money.

To my knowledge, they have as their evidence only the housing numbers.  They haven’t taken any consumer surveys, consulted any polls or otherwise collected empirical evidence for their assertions.

When it comes to analyzing buyer and seller motivations, they rely on exactly what you and I do: What they read, the gossip of colleagues and conversations at social gatherings.

Their evidence is based on a tiny skewed sample that reveals just a few crystals at the tip of the iceberg of consumer behavior.  Anecdote piled on anecdote. Not a poll, not a survey, not a shred of scientific research.  And I’m sure they appreciate that.

So why do they do it?

Well, because they are asked.  You can count on journalists to press them for explanations of what the statistics mean.  Understandably, they answer, as just about anyone would.  (Nor are many journalists immune from pontifications derived from the ether.)

But I don’t necessarily believe them.

To put a finer point on my stance, I actually do consider them to be pretty much in touch, paying a lot of attention to what is happening–or has happened–in the housing market.  That puts them a league ahead of most of us.

But don’t for a minute think that their assessments are based on scientific fact.  They are merely opinions.  At least they are educated opinions.

So, I don’t take what they say with a mound of salt when just a few grains do the job quite nicely.

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Malcolm Carter
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Senior Vice President
Charles Rutenberg Realty
127 E. 56th Street
New York, NY 10022

M: 347-886-0248
F: 347-438-3201
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