Housing Values May Be Viewed as Golden

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The New York Sun

The gold value of residential real estate in New York State is rising for the first time in nearly two years, indicating that the prolonged housing slump may be coming to an end.

Beginning in March, the gold value of homes began to rise and it has held to its upward trajectory through June, according to calculations by The New York Sun.

Using the latest numbers from the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices for June, released yesterday, and adjusting for the changes in the dollar-gold price, the Sun estimates the gold value of homes has increased 7.6% since March.

If the dollar is worth more in gold, as it has been in recent weeks, the price of an apartment in gold could be rising even as the price in dollars is falling. It is worthwhile to look at home values in terms of gold because of the commodity’s intrinsic value — unlike the greenback, gold is inflation resistant.

In June, the Case-Shiller index, which measures single-family homes in metropolitan areas, was 194.22 for New York State. The index measured in terms of gold — determined by dividing the index number by the price of gold for that month — was 0.218. In March, the index was 196.47, and in terms of gold it was 0.203.

This is the first time the index has measured an increase in home values since October 2006. Then, the Case-Shiller index for New York State home prices was 214.28, while the value in gold was 0.366.

“It’s probably indicative of a bottoming out in this mess,” a senior analyst at Kitco Bullion Dealers Montreal, Jon Nadler, said. “It would appear that the worst is over in terms of nonstop declines in value.”

The Case-Shiller index does not include condominium or co-op sales, and so its usefulness in Manhattan is limited. Still, the index is widely considered to be a leading measure of American home prices.

The latest figures released yesterday, in dollar terms, showed a record 15.4% drop in home values across the country in the second quarter of 2008 compared with the year-earlier period. In terms of the largest 20 metro areas, the index showed a 15.9% decline year-over-year.

In New York, the index posted a 7.3% decline this quarter compared with the second quarter of 2007, although it had a slight, 0.2% uptick in June compared to May.

“While there is no national turnaround in residential real estate prices, it is possible that we are seeing some regions struggling to come back, which has resulted in some moderation in price declines at the national level,” the chairman of the index committee at Standard & Poor’s, David Blitzer, said in a statement yesterday.

In a separate report released yesterday, the Commerce Department said that more Americans bought newly built homes in July, with sales increasing 2.4%; the numbers followed another study conducted by the National Association of Realtors that found sales of previously owned homes rose 3.1% in July.

Mr. Nadler said the uptick in sales is largely a result of falling oil prices, which has also helped improve consumer sentiment. The Conference Board Consumer Research Center said yesterday its Consumer Confidence Index rose to 56.9, up from 51.9 in July.

“The improvement in sentiment is largely based on the abatement in shock at the gas pump,” he said. He added that the rise is also seasonal: “People want to get in new homes before school starts.”

The New York Sun

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