TIME Venezuela

Armed Forces Push Residents Out of ‘World’s Tallest Slum’

As part of a governmental initiative, squatters are being removed from their residences by armed forces.

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On Tuesday, Venezuelan armed forces began the process of forcing out residents at the Tower of David, the nation’s tallest slum, the government’s “Great Housing Mission.”

The 45-story building, originally built to be a high-rise bank, was never completed and abandoned, then taken over by people in need of shelter.

Prior to the start of the evacuation, the slum acted as home to over 3,000 squatters, many of whom have resisted their removal. The building is also home to businesses including a beauty salon, multiple bodegas, and an unlicensed dentist.

TIME housing

4 Charts That Will Totally Ruin Your Saturday

Housing development under construction on farmland, aerial view.
Housing development under construction on farmland, aerial view. Ryan McVay—Getty Images

If you’re waiting to sell your house because you think prices will continue to rise, don’t

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This post is in partnership with Fortune, which offers the latest business and finance news. Read the article below originally published atFortune.com.

The housing recovery that began in 2012 came on almost as quickly and forcefully as the real estate crash that preceded it.

The combination of low interest rates, investor interest, and good, old-fashioned confidence conspired to cause a rapid and vigorous turnaround in home prices after years of tumbling or stagnant home values. But a number of key metrics suggest that the party is over, and any future home price appreciation will be slow and steady from here on out. Here are four charts showing why the housing recovery has ended:

1. Price-to-rent ratios are near their long-term average. Price-to-rent ratios are an important housing indicator that can tell you whether the housing market is overvalued. During the housing bubble, this metric skyrocketed, as speculative fever led people to believe that housing prices would always rise. But the fact that rent rates didn’t rise with purchase prices should have been a warning that the underlying demand for shelter hadn’t increased as much as the demand for owning property as an asset. As you can see, price-to-rent ratios have snuck up above their historical averages, meaning that home values are already a little pricey relative to rents in many markets.

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2. Homeownership rates are also near their long-term average.In the decades leading up to the housing bubble, politicians pushed policies that would increase the homeownership rate. The theory was that homeownership gave people a vested interest in the economy and in their neighborhoods, and that would lead to greater prosperity. But giving out credit to those who didn’t have the wherewithal to afford a home was one factor that led to the failure of the subprime mortgage market. It’s likely, now that policy makers are more aware of the dangers of pushing homeownership, that those rates will remain in the 64% or 65% historical average.

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For the rest of the story, go to Fortune.com.

MONEY The Economy

Think the Fed Should Raise Rates Quickly? Ask Sweden How That Worked Out

Raising interest rates brought the Swedish economy toward deflation Ewa Ahlin—Corbis

Some investors are impatient for the Fed to raise interest rates. They may want to be a little more patient after hearing what happened to Sweden.

If you’re a saver, or if bonds make up a sizable portion of your portfolio, chances are you’re not the biggest fan of the Federal Reserve these days.

That’s because ever since the financial crisis, the nation’s central bank has kept short-term interest rates at practically zero, meaning your savings accounts and bonds are yielding next to nothing. The Fed has also added trillions of dollars to its balance sheet by buying up longer-term bonds and other assets in an effort to lower long-term interest rates.

Thanks to some positive economic news — like the recent jobs report — lots of people (investors, not workers) think the Fed has done enough to get the economy on its feet and worry inflation could spike if monetary policy stays “loose,” as Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher recently put it.

If you want to know why the argument Fisher and other inflation hawks are pushing hasn’t carried the day, you may want to look to Sweden.

Like most developed nations, Sweden fell into a recession in the global financial crisis. But unlike its counterparts, it rebounded rather quickly. Or at least, that’s how it looked.

As Neil Irwin wrote in the Washington Post back in 2011, “unlike other countries, (Sweden) is bouncing back. Its 5.5 percent growth rate last year trounces the 2.8 percent expansion in the United States and was stronger than any other developed nation in Europe.”

Even though the Swedish economy showed few signs of inflation and still suffered from relatively high unemployment, central bankers in Stockholm worried that low interest rates over time would lead to a real estate bubble. So board members of the Riksbank, Sweden’s central bank, decided to raise interest rates (from 0.25% to eventually 2%) believing that the threat posed by asset bubbles (housing) inflated by easy money outweighed the negative side effects caused by tightening the spigot in a depressed economy.

What happened? Well…

Per Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman in the New York Times:

“Swedish unemployment stopped falling soon after the rate hikes began. Deflation took a little longer, but it eventually arrived. The rock star of the recovery has turned itself into Japan.”

And deflation is a particularly nasty sort of business. When deflation hits, the real amount of money that you owe increases since the value of that debt is now larger than it was when you incurred it.

It also takes time to wring deflation out of the economy. Indeed, Swedish prices have floated around 0% for a while now, despite the Riksbank’s inflation goal of 2%. Plus, as former Riksbank board member Lars E. O. Svensson notes, “Lower inflation than anticipated in wage negotiations leads to higher real wages than anticipated. This in turns leads to many people without safe jobs losing their jobs and becoming unemployed.” Svensson, it should be noted, opposed the rate hike.

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Sweden

Moreover, economic growth has stagnated. After growing so strongly in 2010, Sweden’s gross domestic product began expanding more slowly in recent years and contracted in the first quarter of 2014 by 0.1% thanks in large part to falling exports.

As a result, Sweden reversed policy at the end of 2011 and started to pare its interest rate. The central bank recently cut the so-called “repo” rate by half a percentage point to 0.25%, more than analysts estimated. The hope is that out-and-out deflation will be avoided.

So the next time you’re inclined to ask the heavens why rates in America are still so low, remember Sweden and the scourge of deflation. Ask yourself if you want to take the risk that your debts (think mortgage) will become even more onerous.

MONEY Aging

Americans Want to Age in Place, and Your Town Isn’t Ready

Households headed by 70-year-olds will surge 42% by 2025. Who will drive them to the store?

The graying of the American homeowner is upon us. The question is: Will communities be ready for the challenges that come with that?

The number of households headed by someone age 70 or older will surge by 42% from 2015 to 2025, according to a report on the state of housing released last month by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, or JCHS.

The Harvard researchers note that a majority of those households will be aging in place, not downsizing or moving to retirement communities. That will have implications for an array of support services people will need as they age.

But the housing age wave comes at a time when federal programs that provide those supports are treading water in Washington. Consider the signature federal legislation that helps fund community planning and service programs for independent aging, the Older Americans Act. The OAA supports everything from home-delivered meals to transportation and caregiver support programs—and importantly, helps communities plan for future needs as their populations get older.

States and municipalities use the federal dollars they receive via the OAA to leverage local funding. The law requires reauthorization every five years, a step that has been on hold in Congress since 2011. Funding has continued during that time, with one exception: During sequestration in March 2013, OAA programs were cut by 5%; many have since been reversed, but other cuts now appear to be permanent.

A survey last year by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (NAAAA), which represents local government aging service providers, found that some states had reduced nutrition programs, transportation services and caregiver support programs.

Recovery since then has been uneven, according to Sandy Markwood, chief executive officer of the NAAAA. “In some cases, states made up the differences, but many programs still are not back to pre-sequestration levels.”

But here’s the more critical point: Even if all the cuts had been restored, treading water wouldn’t be good enough in light of the challenges communities will soon face.

“From a planning perspective, putting in place things like infrastructure and transportation services takes time,” Markwood says. “We don’t have the luxury of time here.”

Indeed, aging of communities is shaping up as a signature trend as the housing industry continues its slow recovery after the crash of 2008-2009.

Young people typically drive household formation, but the Harvard study notes that millennials haven’t shown up in big numbers because of the economic headwinds they face. Real median incomes fell 8% from 2007 to 2012 among 35- to 44-year-olds, JCHS notes, and the share of 25- to 34-year-old households carrying student loan debt soared from 26% to 39%. Meanwhile, home prices have been jumping, and qualifying for mortgage loans remains difficult.

Millennials eventually will account for a bigger share of households as more marry and start having families, according to the study. But for now, boomers are the story.

The oldest boomers start turning 70 after 2015, and the number of these households will jump by 8.3 million from 2014 to 2025. Most will be staying right where they are. Mobility rates (the share of people who move each year) typically fall with age: Less than 4% of people over age 65 moved in 2013, compared with 21% of 18- to 34-year-olds and 12% for those 35 to 45.

Mobility has been on a downward trend since the 1990s, and the housing crisis accelerated the trend, according to Daniel McCue, research manager at JCHS.

Aging in place could create problems in suburbs, which are designed around driving, McCue says. “People are going to need a more distributed network of services for transportation, healthcare and shopping in the suburbs. They’ll need some way to get to services or for the services to get to them.”

There is one possible silver lining in this story: The needs of aging-in-place seniors could spur better community planning. If so, the elderly won’t be the only group that benefits.

“When you do things to make roads safer or increase public transportation, or add volunteer driver programs, that’s good for everyone in the community,” Markwood says. “It’s not a zero-sum game.”

Related story: Why Most Seniors Can’t Afford to Pay More for Medicare

Related story: The State of Senior Health Depends on Your State

TIME

Housing Prices Are Rising Like Crazy Across the Country

First the forest: The S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index, with data just released for April, continues to climb at a double-digit rate. Prices for the index, which aggregates 20 metro areas around the country, rose 10.8% year-over-year. That’s a slight slowdown from last month’s 11.5% year-over-year increase, but it’s still quite a strong showing. On a monthly basis, prices rose 0.2% on a seasonally adjusted basis. Keep in mind that it’s important to tweak this data for seasonality, since home sales typically peak in the spring and summer. The quality of those sales seems to be improving too—a recent report from the National Association of Realtors noted that foreclosures and short sales accounted for 11 percent of all home sales in May, compared with 18 percent of all home sales for the same month a year ago.

Now the trees: It’s possible to think of the housing market as three separate layers of activity: highly speculative cities, cities that were never really prey to the housing bubble in the first place, and cities in-between, that have seen a boom and bust, but at a relatively moderate pace. The highly speculative cities (think Las Vegas, Phoenix, Miami) continue to show blazing recovery, though at a more moderate pace than formerly. David M. Blitzer, the chairman of the committee that issues the Case-Shiller Indexes, stated in a release that “last year some Sunbelt cities were seeing year-over-year numbers close to 30%.” Arguably, the current data is still quite good—year-over-year, Vegas is up 18.8%, Miami up 14.7%, and Phoenix up 9.8%.

In another tier, a city that never really seemed to have had its bubble burst in the first place, Dallas, set a new housing price record as prices climbed 9.3% year-over-year. To quote Trey Garrison of Housing Wire, “as locales go, it doesn’t get better than Dallas.” Homes there are also selling quickly, Garrison noted, as the average number of days on market dropped 12% from the prior year to a current 54 days (yes, less than two months) on market. Similarly, Denver home prices, up 8.9% year-over-year, hit an all-time high. Metrolist, the company that runs the Multiple Listing Service in the Denver area, reported earlier this month that days on market had dropped to 29, from 44 a year ago.

But it’s the performance of the in-between cities that seems most interesting this month. Boston showed an increase in the pace of its rising prices, from 8.3% year-over-year to 9.0%. Atlanta, Chicago, and Seattle all clocked monthly gains of at least 2.0% (2.0%, 2.0%, and 2.3% respectively) with strong yearly numbers as well (13.7%, 10.7%, and 11.2%, respectively).

Given the way the three tiers of the index are performing, it looks like the next few Case-Shiller data points (May and summer) may come in looking worse at first glance, as activity in the most speculative markets cools off. But an examination of those in-between cities — I’m hesitant to call them middle tier — shows that the housing recovery is broad-based, and it seems that it will continue to be for some time.

TIME housing

WATCH: House Teetering Over 75-foot Cliff Burned Down on Purpose

The roof is on fire

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A $700,000 house perched atop a 75-foot cliff over Lake Whitney in central Texas has been reduced to ashes — intentionally.

Portions of the 4,000 square-foot building began to crumble into the lake when parts of the cliff were destroyed in a landslide. Authorities ruled out options such as pulling the house back with a net and letting it fall into the lake by itself because of safety and cost issues. They deemed setting the house ablaze the cheapest and safest option.

The house began to burn down at 10:00 AM local time.

TIME housing

10 Best Markets to Flip a Home Right Now

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Martin Barraud—Getty Images/OJO Images RF

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This post is in partnership with 24/7Wall Street. The article below was originally published on 247wallst.com.

While home flipping activity in the U.S. has declined over the past year, in many markets the practice is still quite popular and provides high returns. Home flippers generally buy a home, renovate and sell it within six months. In some of the areas where home flippers had the most profits, the housing market and economic fundamentals support this type of investment, according to a recent report from home data site RealtyTrac.

What makes a good home flipping market? According to Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac, a good home flipping market depends on the availability of distressed inventory, generally rising housing prices, and a growing economy. High numbers of distressed homes allow flippers to buy at a discount, while a strong market and economic growth allow flippers to sell at a premium. Based on recently released data from RealtyTrac, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the best counties for home flipping.

The best markets for home flipping had to have had a relatively strong year in terms of generating returns for investors. Some of these markets were especially lucrative in the 12 months between April 2014 and March 2014. Notably, five of the best counties for home-flipping had gross returns on investment of more than 50% in that time.

Foreclosure rates in each of the best counties for home flipping increased measurably between the first quarters of 2013 and 2014, even as foreclosures declined nationwide. This means that home flippers could rely on a relatively sizeable inventory of distressed properties in these counties. Prince George County, Maryland and Campbell County, Kentucky had particularly dramatic increases, with the number of foreclosures jumping 136.8% and 238.5%, respectively.

MORE: The States With the Strongest and Weakest Unions

Economically depressed areas, which tend to have low housing prices, often draw home-flippers. But these are not necessarily the best home-flipping markets. As Blomquist noted, the balance between low prices and a flipper’s ability to successfully sell a property is both crucial and delicate. “Investors in [the best] markets may have to go against the grain a bit by diving into a market where there are still a lot of foreclosures,” Blomquist added. But “going against the grain, when done with careful research, is often the best way to beat out the competition and maximize profits on flips.”

Residents of many of the best counties for home flipping also earned considerably less than the typical price of an area property. Buyers in nine of the 10 counties best for home flipping had to shell out at least two times the county’s estimated annual median income to buy a home. In Bergen and Montgomery counties buyers paid 4.5 and 3.8 times the estimated median household income for 2014, respectively, both among the highest ratios nationwide. This primarily reflects recent gains in home prices in these areas. Blomquist explained that higher-priced markets allow flippers to sell their refurbished properties at attractive prices relative to the rest of the market.

Notably, half of the best counties for home flipping were located in Maryland, where a majority of key home flipping components seem to converge. Not only is Maryland a market where foreclosures have been increasing in recent years alongside rising home prices, but also the state’s economy is also relatively strong. According to Blomquist, this is likely due in part to the strong presence of government and government-related jobs in the state.

MORE: 10 Companies Paying Americans the Least

In order to be considered as one of the nation’s best housing markets for home flipping by RealtyTrac, counties had to have 100 or more single-family home flips between April 2013 and March 2014. Additionally, average gross returns on flips in these counties had to exceed 30% during this period. Gross returns do not include the costs associate with renovating a home. Counties also had to have below average unemployment rates as of March, a major indicator of economic strength. Finally, counties also had to have had a year-over-year rise in foreclosure activity in the first quarter of 2014, indicating ample inventory of potential properties for home flipping. Data on median home prices by county, as well as flips as a percentage of sales, by metropolitan area, are also from RealtyTrac. Data on median household income represent RealtyTrac estimates for 2014.

These are the 10 best markets for home flipping:

1. Prince George’s County, Md.
> Return on investment: 83.4%
> Increase in foreclosures: 136.8%
> Unemployment rate: 6.0%
> Number of flips: 347

Flippers in Prince George’s County earned more than 83 cents on the dollar, among the best gross returns on real estate investment nationwide. Further contributing to the quality of the overall flipping market, foreclosures rose by 137% between the first quarter of 2013 and the first quarter of 2014, providing new inventory for flippers. Additionally, the unemployment rate was just 6%, offering signs of a reasonably good economy for potential buyers. Unsurprisingly, Prince George County is located in Maryland, where incomes are relatively high. Median household income in the county is estimated at $71,931 for 2014, more than in the vast majority of counties nationwide.

2. York County, Pa.
> Return on investment: 72.5%
> Increase in foreclosures: 10.2%
> Unemployment rate: 5.9%
> Number of flips: 179

Home flipping activity has declined dramatically in York County since its peak at the end of 2012, when 37% of all metro area home sales were flips. Despite the decline, flipping homes in the county remains quite profitable. Real estate investors purchased potential flips for around $88,000 on average, considerably less than the majority of strong home-flipping markets. Over the last 12 months or so, flippers were able to sell these homes for an average of close to $152,000 — a gross return on investment of nearly 73%.

3. Baltimore County, Md.
> Return on investment: 70.8%
> Increase in foreclosures: 32.3%
> Unemployment rate: 6.1%
> Number of flips: 546

With a nearly 71% gross return on flipped homes in Baltimore County, it may not be surprising that there were 546 home flips between April 2013 and this past March, among the higher volumes of home flips nationwide over that period. Unlike many other counties located in Maryland, Baltimore County residents were not exceptionally wealthy, with an estimated median household income of just $64,393 in the county for 2014. Total foreclosures rose by 32% between the first quarter of 2013 and the first quarter of 2014, among the larger increases nationwide. This could continue to attract house flippers to the area.

MORE: The Most Polluted Cities in America

4. Campbell County, Ky.
> Return on investment: 69.9%
> Increase in foreclosures: 238.5%
> Unemployment rate: 6.3%
> Number of flips: 163

The median home price in Campbell County was $90,800 in the 12 months through March 2014, among the lower median prices nationwide. The area’s estimated median income for 2014 was comparably low as well, at slightly less than $60,000. This suggests homebuyers did not commit to mortgages well in excess of their income. And yet, foreclosures in Campbell County increased dramatically in recent months, jumping by 238% between the first quarter of 2013 and the first quarter of 2014, boosting the potential inventory for home flips. More distressed homes may help flipping activity return to 2013 levels, when more than 10% of all home sales were flips. Flipped homes accounted for just 3.4% of sales as of the beginning of 2014.

5. New Castle County, Del.
> Return on investment: 52.8%
> Increase in foreclosures: 28.6%
> Unemployment rate: 5.9%
> Number of flips: 117

Home flippers in New Castle County were able to turn a 52.8% gross profit on homes they purchased for an average price of $127,795 between April 2013 and March 2014. The median home price in the area of $174,800 in the same 12 months far exceeded the estimated median household income of $63,022 for 2014. The relatively high risk home buyers are taking may in part explain the recent rise in foreclosures, which increased by nearly 29% between the first quarter of last year and the first quarter of 2014. While the higher foreclosure rate indicates area homeowners may be struggling, the increased number of distressed properties is good news for home flippers.

Click here to get the rest of the list.

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TIME housing

Here Are the 3 Least Expensive Places to Buy a House in America

2013 Getty Images

And the 5 most expensive places, too

Getting restless in your current state? Check your bank balance before you move. We compiled data on over 100 million homes to find the three priciest (and least pricey) states for buying a house.

Note that we used final sales prices—not list prices—and that all numbers are from February, 2014.

Least Expensive

48. West Virginia – $95,000

While West Virginia’s Jefferson County includes several high-priced properties, Nicholas and Wood County are home to some of the most affordable houses in the nation, with median selling prices of $55,000 and $60,000, respectively. As a general rule, houses in West Virginia tend to get more expensive to the north and east (nearer to Washington DC) and less expensive to the south and west.

49. Ohio – $91,450

West Virginia’s northern neighbor, Ohio, earns the second-to-last spot on the list, with a median home selling price of just $91,450. The two counties most responsible for Ohio’s depressed market include Adams ($25,750), which lies just north of the Kentucky border, and Paulding ($33,675), which sits just south of #50 on this list.

50. Michigan – $82,000

Despite the auto industry’s resurgence, Michigan houses remain the cheapest in America, particularly near Flint and Detroit. During the 2007/2008 downturn, homes in Michigan’s largest county, Wayne, dropped from over $100,000 to under $15,000 in a matter of months. Recovery has been slow. Today, those same houses sell for a median price of only ~$25,000. (Note that Michigan home selling prices are particularly volatile from month to month—depending on sales, median values can jump up and down $50,000 every 30 days.)

Most Expensive

1. Hawaii – $412,400

The country’s youngest state is also the most expensive, with a median home selling price of $412,400. The biggest offender is Honolulu County, which includes the state’s capital and many of the priciest oceanfront properties—most houses in Honolulu sell for over $450,000. Popular tourist destination Maui is Hawaii’s next most-expensive county, with the median house going for $426,000.

2. California – $355,000

California is home to some of the priciest individual counties in America, including San Francisco ($960,000), Marin ($760,000), and San Mateo ($762,000). Silicon Valley might house some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world, but for the rest of us, it’s quickly becoming impossible to afford. Those determined to live in The Golden State at a reasonable price should prospect north and east of the Bay Area in countries like Modoc, Lassen, and Del Norte, each of which offer houses at prices well under $100,000.

3. New York – $314,000

An international business center and perennial tourist favorite, New York City and its surrounding counties make New York state a particularly pricey region. Manhattan ($830,000) features New York’s most expensive properties, while Westchester County ($550,000) and Brooklyn ($525,000) also clock in far higher than national averages. Even with more affordable houses along the outskirts of the state, the median home selling price remains $314,000, good enough for third in the nation.

TIME housing

Tiny Houses With Big Ambitions

Is the tiny-houses movement a viable solution for American homeowners?

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Anyone who’s been to the suburbs in the past half-century knows that American homes have been getting larger and more elaborate year after year. The average size of new homes has swelled by 50 percent since 1970, despite that the average family size decreased during the same period. And it’s not just here; similar trends have held sway in other prosperous, mostly Western countries.

As with most things, a countertrend, focused on homes that are smaller and simpler than the norm, emerged in recent decades. Sometimes referred to as the “tiny house movement,” the concept describes efforts by architects, activists and frugal home owners to craft beautiful, highly functional houses of 1,000 square feet or less (some as small as 80 square feet). It’s both a practical response to soaring housing costs and shrinking incomes, and an idealistic expression of good design and sensible resource use.

The most ardent advocates and early adopters of the concept were often looking to downsize and simplify their lives, create an affordable second home or find innovative ways to live outside the mainstream. Some small homes are on wheels and therefore resemble RVs, but they are built to last as long as traditional homes. Others represent clever architectural solutions to odd building lots or special design challenges. Aging baby-boomers see them as an efficient way to adapt to their changing needs. Most tiny houses are tailored for middle-class and wealthy families who made a conscious decision to “build better, not bigger.”

But natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and economic catastrophes like the Great Recession inspired many people to wonder if the movement might offer solutions to pressing housing crises, whether temporary or long-term. Cheaper to build and maintain, built mostly of ecologically friendly materials, requiring no building permits and taking up far less real estate than traditional houses, the appeal of “living small” is obvious to many people. Some imagine entire villages built of tiny homes as solutions to homelessness.

The movement itself remains small, however promising. Only about one percent of home buyers today go for houses of 1,000 square feet or less. That may be changing as more people become familiar with the ideas that animate the movement and as middle-class finances remain precarious.

Watch the video above and make up your own mind: Would you opt to live small if you could?

TIME housing

Huge Jump in Housing Recovery

It’s finally fair to call a real estate bull market.

This month’s S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index was up 0.9% month-over-month (comparing data for March, just released today, to February). That’s a good data point, but Case-Shiller — an index of housing prices in 20 metropolitan areas around the country — is notoriously tough to read from any one data point.

The algorithm that generates the data is proprietary, and the index seems to be more volatile than many other measures of housing prices, particularly in terms of reporting higher highs and lower lows. The government number, for instance, the Federal Housing Finance Agency House Price Index, shows price up 6.6% in the first quarter of 2014 from a year ago; Case-Shiller’s analogous number is up 10.3%.

The extreme sensitivity is great for journalists, because the Case-Shiller index is always “crashing” or “plummeting” or “leaping” or “surging.” It’s much tougher for consumers, who are generally trying to get an idea of what’s happening to the prices of the asset class into which they’ve sunk much, if not all, of their hard-earned money.

In an attempt to read those tea leaves last month, and separate the caffeinated from the decaf, I had written that Chicago might well be a bellwether for how real estate was behaving “throughout the nation.” From the current Case-Shiller data, we learn that it’s both leaping and surging, up 0.7% in March over the previous month, and up 11.5% year-over-year. To put that in perspective, Chicago Real Estate Daily notes that the jump is “the biggest increase in 25 years.”

To be fair, Chicago (like many cities in the U.S.) is in a very low-inventory situation, so prices are being pushed upwards by eager shoppers fighting over the last properties on the shelves. For an even better read on that market, we’ll need to see if these high prices induce sellers to list their homes, and watch the subsequent behavior of prices.

But for now, all looks sunny, with each and every one of the twenty cities in Case-Shiller reporting higher prices than a year ago. The leaders were out West, with Las Vegas up 21.2% over a year ago, San Francisco up 20.9%, and San Diego up 18.9%. The smallest gains were registered by New York (up 6.6% year-over-year), Charlotte (up 4.9%), and Cleveland (up 3.9%). Month-over-month, only New York declined, down 0.3% from February to March. Anyone watching the reports of record Manhattan condo prices might question why New York dropped at all, and why the annual gain isn’t in the double-digits — but the answer is that apartment sales aren’t included in Case-Shiller calculations.

Taking a glance at the finer-grained FHFA numbers, 71 of the 100 metro areas tracked showed price appreciation from the last quarter of 2013, even after seasonal adjustments. FHFA noted in a release that the index has increase for “23 of the last 24 months.” Seems like the bulls are running.

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