We’ve been noting that the data flow surrounding housing has been generally positive. Last week, for example, McMansion builder Toll Brothers reported impressive earnings. “We are enjoying the most sustained demand we’ve experienced in over five years,” said CEO Douglas Yearley. And the National Association of Realtors reported that existing-home sales rose 10.4 percent in July from July 2011 year, while the price of a typical home climbed 9.4 percent. And through the first seven months of this year, housing starts are up sharply from 2011.
On Tuesday, we received further confirmation of this trend, with S&P’s publication of the Case-Shiller Index of home values rose for the second quarter of 2012.
S&P/Case-Shiller produce three home index—a 10-city composite index, a 20-city composite index, and a national index. All of them are now flashing green. “All three headline composites ended the second quarter of 2012 with positive annual growth rates for the first time since the summer of 2010.” Nationwide, home prices were up 1.2 percent in the second quarter of 2012 compared with the second quarter of 2011. The positive momentum is clear. In the second quarter, the national composite index rose 6.9 percent from the first quarter. And on a monthly basis, prices in every one of the large cities in the 20-city index were up in June compared with May.
It’s important not to make too much of this number. It has been something of a lost decade for homeowners. “As of the second quarter of 2012, average home prices across the United states are back at their early 2003 levels,” as S&P notes. But before prices start to rise, they have to stop falling. The data suggests that the housing recovery may finally be leaving the stabilization stage and returning to growth.