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Understanding Price Data Differences

With so many organisations analysing the property market, it can be hard to determine just who has the right reading on what is happening with prices across Australia.

And there is the distinct possibility that none of them is correct.

I recently did an online search for the median house price for a particular suburb and came up with six different figures from six different data sources.

The difference between the highest and lowest figures was more than $100,000 – the lowest was $628,000 and the highest was $737,000.

You can search any suburb or town in the nation and you will find similar results – huge differences in the numbers which purport to describe the median house price in any of those locations.

You will find a source that says prices are rising in a particular location and some which say prices are falling there.

It’s no wonder people are confused about what is happening.

It’s important when reading data on property prices – or rents or vacancies – to be aware that each organisation has its own methodology and parameters.

Be aware that, fundamentally, all real estate data is dodgy data and it shouldn’t be taken as gospel truth, as media tends to do.

A recent example is the May property price data from CoreLogic and SQM Research which shows just how different the figures can be when firms are using different methodologies – and perhaps different motivations.

The media often quotes CoreLogic without ever questioning their methods or their figures, but when you dig down into it, you need to realise a lot of its analysis leaves much to be desired.

CoreLogic published its latest property price report early on June 1 and claimed that it described what happened to prices across Australian in May.

This is an 8-page report with graphs, charts and tables, plus analysis of what all the data means (allegedly).

They didn’t throw this report together overnight – it involves weeks of work by a team of people.

You can be sure that this 1 June report does not truly reflect anywhere near all of the transactions which occurred in May – many of which have not yet settled.

In reality, the 1 June report is probably more reflective of what happened to prices in April than in May.

That’s why you should consider anything claiming “up to date” median house price data with a grain of salt.

Even when opposing data companies agree about the same overall trend, their figures can be vastly different.

For example, SQM Research and CoreLogic agree that prices are continuing to grow in smaller capital cities and in regional markets.

But their numbers are very different.

SQM Research says nationwide house prices grew 1.6% in May, whereas CoreLogic says they fell.

SQM reports that Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra and Hobart all recorded increases above 2% during the month of May, but the CoreLogic figures are quite different.

SQM says Sydney house prices recorded no change in May but CoreLogic says Sydney prices fell 1.1%.

Meanwhile, CoreLogic says Adelaide had the highest monthly price growth of 1.9% – so none of the cities were over the 2% figure that SQM came up with.

SQM says that, in the 12 months to the end of May, house prices nationally have grown 19% nationally, while CoreLogic says it is around 15%.

I know from years of experience with property price data that if we looked at figures from four different analysts – say, Domain and the ABS, as well as SQM and CoreLogic – they’d all come up with different sets of figures and often quite conflicting results.

It’s important to highlight these differences – not to disparage these organisations, but to show real estate consumers that relying on just one source of information is not the way to gain a full understanding of what is happening in the various property markets across Australia.

It’s also important to get a copy of the actual figures published by the research companies, rather than rely on the media’s interpretation of the figures – because this, inevitably, will be negative, sensationalist and often very misleading.


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