The Problem with National Real Estate Reports

From our friends at Coldwell Banker, by David Marine (see original post here:

This weekend I enjoyed some time down the Shore.  Not the Snooki or Situation Shore, but the real Jersey Shore.  Yup in New Jersey that’s what we call going to a beach at the ocean.  With three young boys, my wife and I enoyed a long weekend at my parents home in Wildwood Crest which is near Cape May, the most southern point of the state.  While my mom and dad are enjoying their grandchildren, I got caught up on relaxing and some reading.  I grabbed USA Today the other morning and saw that AARP came out with a list of their most affordable places to retire.

In this case, AARP The Magazine decided to do a list based on a myriad of factors including home prices, property and sales taxes, recreational activities and health care. They  eliminated towns that had high unemployment and foreclosures.   I give them credit because they did include a mix of communities from different parts of the country so that the warm weather states didn’t dominate the list.

My parents were disappointed that no town on the Jersey Shore made the list.  But it did lead us into a discussion on where we all might want to retire.  And during that discussion, we realized there was a bit of a flaw in AARP’s numbers.  They, like so many other reports like this, used median price as a key indicator.  For those needing a math refresher, median means the middle of a list.  So median home price means that there are an equal number of homes being sold above and below the published number.

But here is the rub.  No one knows what a median home looks like.  How do you compare them?  You can’t.

So I jumped on curious to see how the recent Coldwell Banker Home Listing Report (HLR) rated some of these towns.

Why is that important?  Because we compared average listing prices of 4 bed/2 bath homes in more than 2300 communities in North America.  It gives a greater insight to what you would expect to pay for this type of home.

So let’s take a look. AARP showed Tulsa’s median price to be $125,600.   But the Coldwell Banker HLR showed the average listing price of a 4 bed/2 bath home to be $171,613.  Still a great deal!

Gainesville, Florida, an amazing college town, had an even greater disparity.  The median price, which likely includes a lot of smaller homes available to recent U of F grads, was $141,800.  For 4 beds/2 baths, you might pay around $235,000.  The disparity between median price and 4 beds/2 baths was even greater in Winchester, Virginia ($151,500/$254,171).

So the point of my comments today is that we should all take these types of reports with a grain of salt.  Use them as a guide and a thought starter.  But obviously do your homework and work with a reputable real estate agent.

And for those working on a new real estate list, don’t ignore the real Jersey Shore! There some truly great places down here.

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