By Broderick Perkins
Consumers grappling with changes in today's housing market need information that is as current and as relevant as possible.
That's especially true when it comes to home prices.
In a rising or falling market, data that is more than a month or two old is too stale to satisfy the appetites of buyers and sellers hungry for the most current prices.
The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO) is beginning to get the message.
It recently added a more current monthly report to its existing quarterly Home Price Index and the difference is quickly apparent.
OFHEO's last quarterly report, the fourth quarter of 2007, revealed home prices nationwide dropped 1.3 percent during the previous year.
OFHEO's first new monthly Home Price Index reveals home prices were down 2.4 percent in February, compared to 12 months earlier.
The new monthly report still lags by about two months, but it's available more frequently. The OFHEO's quarterly report, on the other hand, contains some data that's nearly five months old.
Prices should also reflect the local market, where you actually buy and sell homes.
OFHEO's new monthly report zeros in only on a regional level. The quarterly report gives some city level data, but it lags far too much to be home buying- or home selling-friendly.
The S&P/Case-Shiller 10-City Composite offers a closer look. It reveals home prices have dropped 13.6 percent in the past year ending in February. It's broader 20-City composite reveals a 12.7 percent annual decline.
For the most accurate, current home prices, whenever possible, make sure your home price data is as frequent as possible and focused as much as possible on your city or neighborhood. That means checking with your local real estate agent appraiser for the numbers.