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The Home Traffic Report: This One's Ours

Anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis knows that one of my biggest frustrations in covering the housing market is the never-ending, always constant stream of reports.

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Price reports, price cut reports, sales reports, home equity reports, foreclosure reports, government bailout reports, confidence reports, shadow inventory reports. They are often conflicting, usually based on different time frames and almost always nationalized and "normalized" in order to facilitate screaming headlines that yours truly then has to parse.

So here's another report.

I'll be honest; we wanted to figure out a way to gauge the direction and health of the housing recovery, which is a lot more difficult than it sounds given that all the data from the industry and government are calculated using any number of different formula. We wanted to get a very basic, granular, highly-local look at what buyers and sellers are doing market to market, so we decided to take a very basic tack.

We are teaming up with Trulia.com, one of the nation's top real estate sale/search/data sites, to look at what you're doing online. We're watching click counts. Now before you all get nuts on me about the numbers, you should know we're not watching direct click counts. That would be too simple and too inaccurate, given that Trulia's overall counts are always changing, and there's a lot of seasonality to real-estate searching in general.

Instead we are looking at the share of traffic in local markets, relative to the top 100 cities searched across the country in the given month. We compare that traffic year over year to understand where consumer interest is really firing up or slowing down. We will call the markets with the biggest moves up and down "winners and losers." By doing it this way, instead of straight clicks, we take out population and seasonal issues, as well as issues with Trulia's own growth. Our hope is that traffic will be a predictor of recovery, to the upside and the downside.

"Most real estate data that is reported in the media tends to be backwards-looking at transactions or events in the market," Trulia's Heather Fernandez explained. "Analyzing consumer search behavior online is a little bit like sitting in people’s dining rooms, overhearing a conversation about where they want to live and how much they want to pay. It gives you a sense of what is going to happen in the future."

We're launching with some big general numbers, but as this monthly index evolves, we will go deeper into search behavior to price point, home size, distressed properties, and really anything else we can think of and Trulia can do.

Here are the Home Traffic Report August winners and losers:

Winners

Rank
City
Percentage of Share Change
1 Fort Lauderdale, Fla. 65%
2 Beverly Hills, Calif. 49%
3 West Palm Beach, Fla. 45%
4 Bradenton, Fla. 41%
5 Detroit, Mich. 39%
6 Saint Augustine, Fla. 34%
7 Houston, Texas 31%
8 Mesa, Ariz. 30%
9 Albuquerque, N.M. 29%
10 Palm Springs, Calif. 29%
Source: Trulia

Losers

Rank
City
Percentage of Share Change
1 Corona, Calif. -37%
2 Bethesda, Md. -36%
3 Saint Petersburg, Fla. -32%
4 Round Rock, Texas -28%
5 Silver Spring, Md. -27%
6 Irvine, Calif. -27%
7 Washington, D.C. -26%
8 Arlington, Va. -23%
9 Harrisburg, Pa. -21%
10 Murrieta, Calif. -21%
Source: Trulia


Questions? Comments? RealtyCheck@cnbc.com