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U.S. Home Prices, Sung As Opera

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U.S. Home Prices, Sung As Opera


U.S. Home Prices, Sung As Opera

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.


And I'm Melissa Block with a musical twist now on the nation's faltering housing market. The monthly Case-Shiller Home Price Index came out today, tracking home prices across the country. And our Planet Money team turned those numbers into opera.

Here are David Kestenbaum and Jacob Goldstein.

DAVID KESTENBAUM: The Case-Shiller Home Price Index is a powerful way to look at the story of home prices in America. You can see the boom and bust all in this one simple graph.

JACOB GOLDSTEIN: It's an amazing graph to look at, but we cannot show it to you because this is radio.

KESTENBAUM: So we converted the Case-Shiller graph into musical notes. And we gave the sheet music to this guy.

Mr. TIMOTHY MCDEVITT (Opera Student): (Singing)

Hello, I'm Timothy McDevitt. I am a second-year master's student at the Juilliard School. And I am a baritone.

KESTENBAUM: So, here it is. First, let's listen to Miami, a decade of home prices in the city with the biggest boom.

Mr. MCDEVITT: (Singing)

KESTENBAUM: That last note there...

Mr. MCDEVITT: (Singing)

KESTENBAUM: That was the news.

GOLDSTEIN: In other words, Miami home prices fell to a new post-bubble low in February. They're now down 50 percent from the peak.

Have you heard, Professor Shiller, have you heard your index set to opera before?

Professor ROBERT SHILLER (Economics, Yale University): No, never.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GOLDSTEIN: We played our opera for the two toughest critics we could find: Robert Shiller and Karl Case.

Professor KARL CASE (Economics, Wellesley): I absolutely love it.

GOLDSTEIN: They're the two economists who created the index that inspired the opera.

KESTENBAUM: After Miami, we played them a very different graph, a decade of Dallas home prices.

Mr. MCDEVITT: (Singing)

GOLDSTEIN: No boom, no bust. Here's Karl Case.

Prof. CASE: It really depends on where you were. It's incredibly different for people who live in Texas than it is for people who live in Florida and for people who live in, say, Boston.

KESTENBAUM: The Case-Shiller data also paints a national picture of the housing market. It's a composite of 20 cities from around the country. Here's what that graph sounds like.

Mr. MCDEVITT: (Singing)

GOLDSTEIN: You can hear the boom and the bust, but there's also something subtle in there that's worth pointing out. Here's the first note where housing prices were 10 years ago.

Mr. MCDEVITT: (Singing)

GOLDSTEIN: And here's the last note where prices are now.

Mr. MCDEVITT: (Singing)

GOLDSTEIN: That last note, it's higher than the first note.

KESTENBAUM: On average, housing prices have gone up over the past decade. They basically kept pace with inflation, despite this ugly, painful detour.

I'm David Kestenbaum.

GOLDSTEIN: And I'm Jacob Goldstein, NPR News.

Mr. MCDEVITT: (Singing) The sub-prime lending industry combined with mortgage-backed securities to create a massive housing bubble in the United States. When the bubble pops, home prices fell 30 percent.

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