Real estate and (head) spinning statistics

lies, damn lies and real estate statistics
lies, damn lies and real estate statistics

I write about real estate for a living and have for about a decade. If I have one take-away lesson from my time in the trenches, it's this: Numbers can be spun to prove any point you are trying to make, and on some days, the warring factions (Housing Bubblers, Doom and Gloomers, No Better Time to Buy or Sell-ers) beat their respective drums so loud that the only thing really spinning is my head.

Yesterday was such a day. The following three stories appeared in the news yesterday, Thursday, April 15. And each one presents a different view of the same set of numbers. Let's take a look, shall we?

** Foreclosure rates surge; biggest jump in 5 years.

This is a scary story, to think that a record number of U.S. homes were lost to foreclosure in the first three months of this year. The RealtyTrac report interpreted it as a sign that banks are starting to wade through the backlog of troubled home loans at a faster pace. Of all the homes in the country facing foreclosure, 23% of them are in California, where I live; one in every 62 California properties received a foreclosure filing in the first quarter. Are they coming for me next? Will this recession ever end? Why has the government's $75 billion foreclosure prevention program only been able to help a small fraction of troubled homeowners? Pure downer, this one.