As a real estate broker my job often comes down to the numbers. How much will the home sell for? How many days will it take to sell? How much return will one get year over year should they decide to hold? What makes one home worth more/less then another, and by how much?
Real Estate portals try to take the guess work out using algorithms and archived data. News publications throw out numbers right and left about supply, value, days on market, and so on. While the past can surely help us understand the direction of the future, statistics can be downright confusing unless you can evaluate the complete picture.
For example, over the last week I have read three publications about the current state of the Chicago housing market. The first called it a super hot sellers market. Another national publication coined it a soft buyers market with slow moving inventory. The last brought it full circle and talked about the lack of supply driving buyer bidding wars.
Let us digress. Chicago is a big city. It has many large submarkets, and those submarkets have even more niche markets within. Something as simple as a perception about the good/bad side of a street can affect not only values but market time. Having data at your disposal is one thing, having the insight and experience to make sense of it is what counts. Without this you are just swimming in a sea of numbers and likely to make an uneducated decision; one that could cost you.
It's important to note that buyers are as unique as the inventory available. Sure, anyone can make generalizations about preferences of different buyer groups (millennials, baby boomers, gen x) but then we're back to making up statistics. Sometimes a stagnent unsightly listing sells for top dollar to an international buyer that happened to be in town for the day and saw the potential for a bed and breakfast pet project. Some call it luck, some call it being in the right place at the right time. The buyer may not have fit the anticipated demographical mold, but they still bought the house.
In summary, real estate is a fluid science. It is always changing, notably so during times of economic expansion and contraction. This year my clients have experienced a red-hot spring market, and a little more of a mellow summer market. At the same time other areas could have seen stagnation, or even a decline. The only way to know is by doing the homework and partnering with a trustworthy broker; one that is passionate about the market and investing, not someone trying to make a quick buck at your expense.