Monday, December 2, 2013

Monday Post #2: "Beware those housing statistics," says Fraser Valley journalist

Anyone who follows the real estate blogs in Canada knows the bear blogs have long questioned the statistics churned out by the real estate boards.

The industry's HPI is dubbed a 'franken' number and blogosphere champions like Garth Turner have long questioned the reliability of those stats.

The latest to cast aspersions is Win Wachsmann. Author, journalist, syndicated columnist, filmmaker, publisher and businessman, Wachsmann makes his home in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia.

And in a column today in the Huffington Post he asks, "What's Happening to Housing Statistics in Canada?"
In recent months the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) and its various provincial boards have come under increasing criticism for manipulating sales and price figures.

Their favorite word? Average. They even have a page called the National Average Price Map.
Wachsmann wonders aloud about this 'average':
Does "average" refer to median (half the numbers are higher and half are lower? (3,4,5,6,7; i.e. 2 numbers are lower and 2 are higher.)

Or does "average" refer to arithmetic mean - where the sum of the values is divided by the number of values.? (In other words the average of 2,2,1,4 & 16 is 5; i.e. 25/5)
Indeed. Win continues…
While studying mathematics and science in University, I was introduced to a marvelous book called How to Lie With Statistics by Darrell Huff.
Huff details how to spot data (statistical) manipulation and how to read data analysis properly so that you will not be misled.

It seems that the folks in the Real Estate Associations and Boards have been buying this book by the case lot as their data manipulation has been elevated to a new art form.

Not only are their numbers suspect, but the language used on their website and in their press releases also easily exceeds the Statistical Hyperbolic Indicative Terminology index.

Here's an example:

"While the Finance Minister will no doubt continue to keep a close eye on Canadian housing markets for signs of overheating as interest rates remain low, October sales results may provide him with reassurance that tightened mortgage regulations and lending guidelines are working as intended." said Gregory Klump, CREA's Chief Economist.

Love those rose-colored glasses Gregory.

So what is happening with housing statistics in Canada?

For those looking for easy answers, check out the mainstream media, who seem to be in the press release rewriting mode. In some cases they don't even disguise their laziness. It's Press Release Verbatim!

That probably works for your maiden aunt and those Low Information Readers.

For the rest, you will have to do some digging to come up with the real Real Estate Data.

Don't go making huge real estate buying decisions based on data released by realtors and Real Estate Associations whose main goal is to separate you from your hard-earned money. By buying/upgrading/enhancing your lifestyle.

Is now a good time to buy? Will prices ever go down? Can I afford to wait?

If you are an affluent and successful boomer, perhaps now is the time to sell. Before all the other boomers get wise to a declining market?

Evaluate all those housing statistics carefully.

Who is promoting that data? What's in it for them? Are they looking out for you? Or for themselves?

Do they have a vested interest?
For Win (and many in the blogosphere) the answer is obvious.


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1 comment:

  1. You raise some interesting issues about the reliability of the real estate boards' numbers. I wish the mainstream media would question their stats more.