Maybe It Can't Get Worse

Posted by Dave Fratello on Wednesday, May 7th, 2008 at 5:59am.

You may have seen some chatter recently about a new dataset MBC's working with.

Thanks to a loyal reader, we now have 20+ years' worth of data on MB home sales via DataQuick Information Systems, plus permission to publish the information in certain forms. ("Thanks" is an understatement, dear reader.)

There's a lot of work to be done to present this data in a useful fashion, and to offer some analysis. The price data is particularly valuable, but we're taking our time to get it right.

For now we present one of the simplest, and yet, most eye-opening facts gleaned from the DQ numbers: MB home sales in 2007 were the lowest in 20 years – the entire period for which DataQuick has collected figures.

Please note, DataQuick reports on sales of all kinds of homes – including SFRs, condos and townhomes. These data exclude only multi-family units. Also, DataQuick says they capture all sales, not just those reported on the MLS, by searching tax records. Therefore, this ought to be the most complete picture possible of home sales in MB.

Worth noting – the 2007 sales figure we published previously was 344. That covered only SFRs, no THs or condos, and was limited to MLS-reported transactions, although it did cover all areas of MB, not just our customary west-of-Sepulveda region. The new 2007 figure of 471 sales (+127/+37%) indicates how much we missed by using narrower data before.

The new data add better context to a fact MBC has reported previously. Using the MLS as the source, we showed that MB had the worst year of the decade in 2007. (See "Slower, Slower, Slower.") Now, with the DQ data, we add another decade and find 2007 was still the worst.

With this 2007 slowdown, MB is like LA and like SoCal and like most of the rest of the nation. Things are slow all over.

It's striking that we have already fallen below the sales rates seen in the 1990s housing slump.

The previous low was in 1995, with 513 sales. The 2006 sales barely topped that at 514, but 2007 fell a bit further.

It's almost enough to make you say "it can't get worse."

Past performance is no predictor of the future, however. Sales are anemic now compared to 2007 – 61 for Q1 2008 against 140 sales in Q1 2007, according to DataQuick. So this year certainly seems to be shaping up to be slower than last.

Maybe it can't get worse. Maybe it can.
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