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Home Prices Up Slightly in November

Paul Solman: Case and Shiller, the economists of the fabled Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller Housing Index, appear together for the first time on the NewsHour Tuesday night, taking us all on a tour of Atlanta, Georgia, and its housing woes.

Regular viewers of ours have of course met these economists separately before over the years, starting in 1991, when Karl Case took me to a spanking new, marvelously marbled office building in downtown Boston to explain that his and my pension fund, TIAACREF – and therefore Case and I ourselves – now owned it. The developer had defaulted on its loan, provided by TIAACREF.

(A similar thing happened yesterday in Manhattan with the Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village housing development, where several pension funds are left with what may be near-worthless claims, given how steeply the property has declined in value. The Boston building by contrast, recovered its value, as did the developer his property.)

As you’ll see tonight, things are Peter Cooper-bad in parts of Atlanta. As for the current Case-Shiller report (for November), just out this morning, the raw data show a continued decline in average prices across the country, with Charlotte, Tampa, Seattle, and manic-depressive Las Vegas all hitting four-year lows. (Las Vegas prices are down 55 percent from their peak and have returned to about where they were at the turn of the millennium.)

Markets showing slight price rises include San Francisco (8th month in a row), San Diego (7th), and both Denver and Phoenix (6 months of rising prices). But when you seasonally adjust the numbers (winter obviously being a lousy time to sell a house), the picture looks brighter. Maybe the best summary is the headline of the press release accompanying the latest Case-Shiller report: “Mixed Messages in the Data.”

Meanwhile, Case and Shiller themselves, as you can see tonight, are pretty much as chipper as ever. And indeed when, to check the data, we reached Shiller by phone today in Davos at the World Economic Forum, he was eating Swiss chocolate.

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