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The most shockingly underplayed real estate story of 2011

Posted by Scott Van Voorhis December 29, 2011 06:48 AM

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Let's not beat around the bush. The honors go to the massive screw up by the National Association of Realtors, which has been dramatically overstating the number of homes sold for years now.

In a recent release, NAR states that its estimates of homes sold across the country were off by more than 14 percent between 2007 and 2010. Nearly 3 million fewer homes were sold over the past three years, when the bottom fell out of the real estate market.

It's clear now the housing downturn has been even worse than we all assumed.

Still, it's hard not to get a kick at how the trade group reported this piece of embarrassing news.

The revision is tucked into a cheery press release headlined, "Existing-Home Sales Continue to Climb in November."

And as excuses go, the statement put out by Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist, is a classic.

"From a consumer's perspective, only the local market information matters and there are no changes to local multiple listing service (MLS) data or local supply-and-demand balance, or to local home prices," Yun stated.

Humor aside, there are a couple very big problems here.

The first is that the Realtors group is sticking by its flawed methodology, which relies heavily on estimates, when there are more accurate alternatives available in the marketplace.

As this Wall Street Journal blog points out, some housing analysts are calling upon NAR to base its numbers on local property records, which is possible now by tapping into data provided by firms like CoreLogic.

NAR says it may consider using such data in the future, but has made no commitment to dramatically revamping methodology.

The second is the lack of any real probing by the media or, for that matter, federal regulators and Congress, over what should be a major issue given how central the state of the housing market is to our larger economic fortunes

There's a lot to dig into here and the lack of outrage is shocking.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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