Is "not as bad" the new good?
Prices in August -- the numbers released Tuesday -- were down about 11 percent from a year ago among the 20 large metro areas Case-Shiller tracks (Washington among them, but not Baltimore). Compare that with a 19 percent year-over-year drop in January. And August prices were up slightly compared with the previous month.
Sean Hannon at the Seeking Alpha blog is not impressed. "If artificially low interest rates, home buyer tax credits, and foreclosure moratoriums could not drive prices higher and lead to a boom in home sales, what hope is there for a stimulus-free recovery?" he asks.
David M. Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P, also had words of caution in a statement released with the numbers. He noted the planned expiration of the first-time buyer tax credit after Nov. 30 and "anticipated higher unemployment rates through year-end."
"Both may have a dampening effect on home prices," Blitzer said.
Forget the analyst-speak and macroeconomics for a moment. What do you want to see to convince you -- as a homeowner or renter -- that the housing market has recovered? Prices no longer dropping? Prices increasing a certain amount? Prices back to their 2006-or-so peaks? Or something else altogether?
And are you holding off on doing something -- buying, selling, renovating, job-hunting -- until you see it?