Economists' Outlook

Housing stats and analysis from NAR's research experts.

U.S. Census Data: Smaller City Home Prices

Did You Know: Census data on smaller cities show that home prices were roughly stable in middle America post-recession in spite of declines in larger cities.

  • In line with prices reported by the NAR Median sales price, the 3-year data from the Census, released November 14, shows that 2010-2012 prices were $17,300 lower than the three year period from 2007 to 2009. This is because, as shown in the graph above, home prices did not reach a trough until after the recession ended, and recovery began only modestly in 2012. In fact, most of the home price recovery experienced by the market occurred in late 2012 and 2013 and is not yet pictured on the annual graph above.
  • The chart below shows that in spite of the notable gains in 2013, national housing prices are not yet back to peak levels.

  • In addition to the data release, Census released a review of homeownership rates and housing values based on data from the American Community Survey (ACS) 3-year estimates. These estimates are based on surveys of homeowners from a broad, 3-year period that enable researchers to examine trends in more localized areas, places with populations as small as 20,000. (The 1-year estimates from the ACS cover areas with populations of 65,000 or more.)
  • The period was a tumultuous one for the national economy and for many housing markets, but this recent data from the Census emphasizes the fact that real estate is local.
  • Take a look at the map below of changes in home values to see that while some areas matched the national trend of decline in this period, other areas saw rough stability or even gains in home prices. This map shows that the most price stability was seen in the central part of the country or in less populated areas of coastal states while coastal and larger inland cities saw the largest price declines. How did your market fare?
  • The ACS data is based on surveys of homeowners and is meant to approximate the value of all homes in an area while the NAR Median Existing Home Sales price measures only homes that have transacted in a given period. In spite of the methodological differences, the two measures show similar trends, likely because homeowners responding to the survey are informed about market transaction prices thanks to the marketing efforts of real estate agents and through public goods like the NAR Median Home Price that is widely reported in the national media.

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