Tuesday, October 28, 2003

The housing market is hot! No, it's cold! The Wicked Good Conference has picked up something I missed completely. The Globe today reports that home sales last month soared through the roof; the Herald says they cratered through the floor.

"Shoddy reporting or what?" asks Beso at the WGC.

Actually not, at least by my quick read of the two stories. The problem is that the papers relied on different experts. The Globe led with Wayne Ayers, chief economist at FleetBoston Financial Corporation. The Herald leaned mainly on Karl Case, an economics professor at Wellesley College.

The Globe also bases its optimism on a comparison of September's sales figures with those of September 2002. The Herald's gloomy assessment comes from comparing September's sales to the August numbers.

The question is, don't economists agree on which is the more valid comparison? Why are Ayers and Case so far apart in their assessments? And whom is the reader to trust?

The Herald provides a clue at the bottom of its report, noting the improvement over September 2002 and quoting Massachusetts Association of Realtors president Peter Casey as saying, "It's a very, very positive market for both buyers and sellers."

That leads me to suspect that the optimistic view is the more valid.

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