by Bill McBride on 12/01/2012
I expect the Case-Shiller Composite 20 Not Seasonally Adjusted (NSA) index to decline month-to-month in October. This will not be a sign of impending doom – or another collapse in house prices – it is just the normal seasonal pattern. I expect smaller month-to-month declines this winter than for the same months last year.
Even in normal times house prices tend to be stronger in the spring and early summer, than in the fall and winter. Currently there is a stronger than normal seasonal pattern because conventional sales are following the normal pattern (more sales in the spring and summer), but distressed sales (foreclosures and short sales) happen all year. So distressed sales have a larger negative impact on prices in the fall and winter.
In the coming months, the key will be to watch the year-over-year change in house prices and to compare to the NSA lows in early 2012. I think the house price indexes have already bottomed, and will be up about 5% year-over-year when prices reach the usual seasonal bottom in early 2013.
This graph shows the month-to-month change in the CoreLogic and NSA Case-Shiller Composite 20 index over the last several years (both through September). The CoreLogic index turned negative month-to-month in the September report (CoreLogic is a 3 month weighted average, with the most recent month weighted the most). Case-Shiller NSA will probably turn negative month-to-month in the October report (also a three month average, but not weighted).
Note: I was one of several people to question this change in the seasonal factor – and this led to S&P Case-Shiller reporting the NSA numbers.
It appears the seasonal factor has stopped increasing, and I expect that over the next several years – as the percent of distressed sales decline – the seasonal factors will slowly move back towards the previous levels.