Local home prices, according to the Intermountain Multiple Listing Service (and reported by the media), have increased by 15% over the past 12 months but the actual rate is much closer to 9%. So why the big difference? Are those dang real estate agents just trying to get more people to sign up for a ride on the gravy train? Nope -- the median price reported by the media includes both existing and new homes and, since new homes grow ever larger and more luxurious, their inclusion significantly overstates the appreciation that the typical homeowner will experience.
I recently heard a local television reporter solemnly announce that there are currently 11,000(!!) homes for sale in the Boise market. I knew that couldn't be right and, after a bit of research, found that the 11,000 is every home for sale in Southern Idaho from the Oregon border to Twin Falls, three Oregon and three central Idaho counties. I wonder how many unfortunate real estate decisions were made based on this monumental misinformation.
The final numerical knee slapper involves the seemingly simple task of determining the size of a home. Send an architect, an appraiser and an assessor out to measure a home and you'll often end up with three pretty different numbers. One may include an enclosed patio that isn't really living area, another may include a large open area overlooking the first floor while the third probably got the size from the building permit (who got it from the blueprints) and didn't measure it at all! So how do you determine how much house you're buying? Grab a tape measure with one hand and a knowledgeable real estate agent with the other and go out and measure it yourself.
My advice - be sure to ask for the source of any number that you're provided and which are important to your real estate transaction.