I chose these two providers as they both prepare indices on home values using the repeat sales method. That is to say, they use data on properties that have sold at least twice to capture the true appreciated value of each home.
What the data shows
As I studied these data sets, it became apparent to me that there are some markets that we need to watch. From a very simplistic standpoint, both Case-Shiller and the FHFA indicated a few cities that have already surpassed their peak index levels.
Using the Case-Shiller numbers, these were Dallas, Denver, Portland and Boston. The FHFA data showed Dallas, Atlanta, Charlotte, Portland, San Francisco and Seattle as having surpassed their previous peaks.
While this can certainly be an indicator that a market is getting overheated, it’s not the be-all and end-all because external influences, such as mortgage rates and recessions, can all affect index levels.
Because of this, I thought it was important to take a closer look and focus on those markets that might be tracking above their natural trend.
That’s to say, I looked at pre-bubble growth rates, forecasted that rate forward in time and then compared that number to the present index levels.
After having completed this analysis, San Francisco, Denver and Dallas appear to be appreciating at a faster rate than their historic averages.
Even two indicators that point toward a potential problem don’t guarantee an outcome. Because of this, I decided to round off my analysis by looking at the ratio of home prices to incomes in the market areas that were of interest.
This is another important indicator when determining the health of a housing market as it speaks to affordability.
For the past few years, home values have been rising at rates well above that of incomes, but thanks to low-interest rates, this hasn’t yet created a significant barrier for buyers.
However, mortgage rates are set to rise, and this could leave some markets with homes that are too expensive for buyers earning that area’s median income.
When we look at the world through this lens, the cities where I see a cause for concern are San Francisco, San Diego and San Jose.
So what does this all mean?
Well, for one thing, San Francisco stands out — and not necessarily in a good way. Additionally, several markets have recovered from the housing collapse, and they are getting a little ahead of the rest of the country; specifically Denver and Dallas.
I will be watching these markets closely and anticipate that we might see a relatively steep slowdown in home price growth in these three cities.
The U.S. housing market has spent the past three years in recovery mode with robust demand, tight supply and favorable interest rates, which created a perfect environment for prices to rise — and rise they did.
However, I believe that a select few markets, such as San Francisco, Denver and Dallas, are getting a little out of sync and should start to prepare for an almost certain slowdown in price growth.
Now, if there is any consolation, it’s that the slowdown is supply-driven. If we do not see a significant increase in inventory in these markets, any slowdown in home prices might be offset by persistently high demand. Only time will tell.