Sign outside of a house under foreclosure
Sign outside of a house under foreclosure - 
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ALISA ROTH: I'm Alisa Roth in New York.

There's another reason the foreclosure numbers we just heard about don't tell the whole story. Counting foreclosures is a tricky business. In fact -- unlike other economic data like jobs or inflation -- there's no official government body whose job it is to keep track of them. So we rely on private stats.

With Realty Trac, the biggest question is the way it counts foreclosures: if a homeowner gets one notice in October, another in November and a third in December, say -- each of those notices will show up in the tally for the corresponding month.

Foreclosure experts-analysts and academics and the like-say the best way to get an accurate view of foreclosures is to use as many sources of data, as possible. So by all means, pay attention to today's numbers. But consider them just one source.

In New York, I'm Alisa Roth for Marketplace.