Home sales data: Housing GIGO times 2?

Existing-home and new-home sales data is out -- but what's it mean?
  • Using annualized sales data is a great deal like describing a Super Bowl based on events in five minutes in the first quarter.
  • Look for confirming data from different sources and see if they crossfoot. Is a year-over-year 11.0 percent gain in existing sales a true picture of growing strength?
  • The change in loan applications in the last half-dozen years does support data showing a stronger overall market, but it’s closely correlated with rates.

Every month, the National Association of Realtors gives the count of existing homes sold (closed), and the U.S. Census Bureau designates the number of new home sales (contracts written — fallout inevitable). This week’s figures were for January. Existing sales up 0.4 percent to an annual rate of 5.47 million. Cool. Good news.