IOWA House Price Prediction Kaggle Competition

Ali Uysal
Valentin Fera
and
Posted on Jun 10, 2019

Advanced Machine Learning Techniques

The Competition

Probably, one of the most popular competitions on Kaggle is the house price prediction in IOWA and it is a good starting point to apply creative feature engineering and advanced regression techniques. In this paper, we analyzed the training and test sets using univariate  and bivariate analysis techniques, handled missing values, dealt with outliers, applied machine learning models and tuned hyper parameters.

Datasets

Competitors are given two datasets: Training and test. Training set has 1460 rows and 81 columns and test has 1459 rows and 80 columns (test set has no target variable). We load the data to Pandas dataframes.

print("Train data shape:", train.shape)
print("Test data shape:", test.shape)

Train data shape: (1460, 81)
Test data shape: (1459, 80)

Explanatory Data Analysis

First, we begin with explaining the data by using univariate and bivariate analysis techniques. A histogram for all numerical variables can give us clue about the data.

Next, we would like to see how many numerical and categorical variables we have in the train dataset.

numerical_feats = train.dtypes[train.dtypes != "object"].index
print("Number of Numerical features: ", len(numerical_feats))

categorical_feats = train.dtypes[train.dtypes == "object"].index
print("Number of Categorical features: ", len(categorical_feats))

Number of Numerical features:  38
Number of Categorical features:  43

Regression plots are helpful to see the linear relationship between each predictor and the target.

Another important part of EDA is to check for the correlation. The best way to visualize correlation is to use the heatmap.

Outliers

Outlier detection and elimination is a very important before applying any machine learning model on a data set. Even one outlier can alter the model predictions dramatically. Outliers can be detected several ways but the most efficient is to visualize data using scatter plots.

Above scatter plot of GrLivArea to target variable SalePrice shows that there are 2 data points with huge living area but comparably lower SalePrice. We will remove those observations for our models not to be affected by the outliers and be more robust in estimating predictions when we input unseen test data. After removal of the outliers, we confirm whether the number of observations decreased by 2.

train = train[train['GrLivArea']<4600]
print(train.shape)
(1458, 81)

Drop Unnecessary Columns

Some columns in the data set are redundant because they are simply a part of another column. For example; below equations hold so that the added variables provide no value to the models. Dropping them will reduce multicollinearity, too.

BsmtFinSF1 + BsmtFinSF2 + BsmtUnfSF = TotalBsmtSF

1stFlrSF + 2ndFlrSF + LowQualFinSF = GrLivArea

OpenPorchSF + EnclosedPorch + 3SsnPorch + ScreenPorch + WoodDeckSF = TotalPorchSF


df_concat.drop(['BsmtFinSF1', 'BsmtFinSF2', 'BsmtUnfSF'], axis=1, inplace=True)
df_concat.drop(['1stFlrSF','2ndFlrSF','LowQualFinSF'], axis=1, inplace=True)
df_concat.drop(['OpenPorchSF','EnclosedPorch','3SsnPorch','ScreenPorch','WoodDeckSF'], axis=1, inplace=True)

Missing Values

Missing values must be handled very carefully because sometimes missing value imputation may cause problems. There are many ways to impute for missing values. In this project, we mainly used median, mode and random imputation methods. We avoided using mean because mean imputation forces observations to gather around the mean which may be result in  reduction of variability in the data, so the standard deviations and the variance estimates tend to be underestimated.

We concatenated the train and test data sets to allow for easy manipulation. All imputations and transformations are applied to the concatenated Pandas data frame.

df_concat = pd.concat([train, test], ignore_index=True)

Impute Missing Values (NONE)

Some columns have nulls because null has a special meaning of lack of a feature. We imputed those columns with a string like 'NoSmth', indicating absence of that feature. These columns are:

df_concat['Alley'].fillna('NoAlley', inplace = True)
df_concat['BsmtQual'].fillna('NoBsmt', inplace = True)
df_concat['BsmtCond'].fillna('NoBsmt', inplace = True)
df_concat['BsmtExposure'].fillna('NoBsmt', inplace = True)
df_concat['BsmtFinType1'].fillna('NoBsmt', inplace = True)
df_concat['BsmtFinType2'].fillna('NoBsmt', inplace = True)
df_concat['FireplaceQu'].fillna('NoFirePl', inplace = True)
df_concat['GarageType'].fillna('NoGarage', inplace = True)
df_concat['GarageFinish'].fillna('NoGarage', inplace = True)
df_concat['GarageQual'].fillna('NoGarage', inplace = True)
df_concat['GarageCond'].fillna('NoGarage', inplace = True)
df_concat['PoolQC'].fillna('NoPool', inplace = True)
df_concat['Fence'].fillna('NoFence', inplace = True)
df_concat['MiscFeature'].fillna('NoMiscFeature', inplace = True)
df_concat['MasVnrType'].fillna('NoVeneer', inplace = True)
df_concat['MasVnrType'].replace('None','NoVeneer', inplace=True)

Impute with Median

We impute GarageCars, BsmtFullBath, BsmtHalfBath columns with their median values because they have very few nulls. We believe this is a better way of imputation compared to imputation with median due to the reasons explained earlier.

Impute with Mode

For categorical columns below, we impute the nulls with the most common class in that column. 

KitchenQual, Utilities, Functional, SaleType, Exterior1st, Exterior2nd, MSZoning, Electrical

Impute Randomly

For continuous variables, we fill missing values randomly selecting the non-missing values of that specific column. For this purpose, we defined a function:

def fill_with_random(df2, column):
    df = df2.copy()
    df[column] = df[column].apply(lambda x:np.random.choice(df[column].dropna().values) if np.isnan(x) else x)
    return df

fill_with_random function takes a Pandas data frame and a column name as parameters and returns a data frame with nulls filled randomly.

df_concat = fill_with_random(df_concat, 'GarageArea')
df_concat = fill_with_random(df_concat, 'TotalBsmtSF')
df_concat = fill_with_random(df_concat, 'MasVnrArea')
df_concat = fill_with_random(df_concat, 'LotFrontage')

Data Transformations

Log Transform

Taking logarithm of a continuous variable is often used to solve for the skewness. Below figure reveals that target variable SalePrice is highly skewed.

sns.distplot(train['SalePrice']);

# skewness and kurtosis
print("Skewness: %f" % train['SalePrice'].skew())
print("Kurtosis: %f" % train['SalePrice'].kurt())
Skewness: 1.881296
Kurtosis: 6.523067

Observe the skewness and the histogram after we apply log transformation on the target variable.

Skewness: 0.121568
Kurtosis: 0.804764

Binning

Binning is widely used to create a better linear relationship between the predictors and the target. We choose to use binning for the below predictors. Note that, original (unbinned) predictors must be dropped after binning.

Dummification

Note that some numerical variables are not continuous. They must be regarded as categorical variables.

  • MSSubClass
  • OverallQual
  • OverallCond
  • BsmtFullBath
  • BsmtHalfBath
  • FullBath
  • HalfBath
  • BedroomAbvGr
  • KitchenAbvGr
  • TotRmsAbvGrd
  • Fireplaces
  • GarageCars
  • YrSold

We cast them to category type together with the newly created binned variables and then dummify them with all other categorical variables. 

from_num_to_cat = ['MSSubClass','OverallQual','OverallCond','BsmtFullBath','BsmtHalfBath','FullBath','HalfBath','BedroomAbvGr','KitchenAbvGr','TotRmsAbvGrd','Fireplaces','GarageCars','MoSold_Binned','YearBuilt_Binned','YearRemodAdd_Binned','YrSold','GarageYrBlt_Binned','PoolArea_Binned']

df_concat[from_num_to_cat] = df_concat[from_num_to_cat].apply(lambda x: x.astype('category'))

df_concat_dummified = pd.get_dummies(df_concat, drop_first=True)

Modelling

We decide to use Python's skilearn package because it provides all models we need and its object oriented approach makes it easy to fit models.

Preparations

Some preparations are needed before going to the modelling. Since we combine the train and test data sets for east manipulation, we now need to separate them back into train and test. Since test data set must not have target variable, we drop SalePrice_Log even though it consists of all NAs and drop the index.

test = df_concat_dummified.loc[df_concat.SalePrice_Log.isnull(),]
train = df_concat_dummified.loc[~df_concat.SalePrice_Log.isnull(),]
test.drop('SalePrice_Log', inplace=True, axis=1)
test.reset_index(drop=True, inplace=True)

Furthermore, we initialize a Pandas data frame for submitting the predictions with the Id column from the test data set. To fit the models, we specify X (predictors) and Y (target). Be mindful that X must not have Id and SalePrice_Log so that we drop them. There is no need for Id column for test data set as well so we drop Id from test, too.

submission = pd.DataFrame()
submission['Id'] = test.Id

Y=train['SalePrice_Log']
X=train.loc[:, ~train.columns.isin(['Id','SalePrice_Log'])]
test2=test.loc[:, ~test.columns.isin(['Id'])]

Last step before modelling is to check for dimensions of train and test and any nulls, positive or negative infinity.

print(X.shape)
print(test2.shape)
print(set(X.columns) - set(test2.columns))
print(len(set(X.columns) - set(test2.columns)))
print(set(test2.columns) - set(X.columns))
print(X.isin([np.nan, np.inf, -np.inf]).any(axis=0).any())

Multiple Linear Regression

We only use numerical columns as predictors for multiple linear regression. First, we simply add all numerical columns to the regression model and check whether the coefficients are significant or not. However, we need to split the training data as train and test to figure out the train and test errors after fitting. We employ a split of 30% test size and 70% train size.

X_train, X_test, y_train, y_test = train_test_split(X, Y, test_size=0.3, random_state=42)
OLS Regression Results                            
==============================================================================
Dep. Variable:          SalePrice_Log   R-squared:                       0.902
Model:                            OLS   Adj. R-squared:                  0.900
Method:                 Least Squares   F-statistic:                     366.4
Date:                Mon, 10 Jun 2019   Prob (F-statistic):               0.00
Time:                        08:49:30   Log-Likelihood:                 670.21
No. Observations:                1020   AIC:                            -1288.
Df Residuals:                     994   BIC:                            -1160.
Df Model:                          25                                         
Covariance Type:            nonrobust                                         
================================================================================
                   coef    std err          t      P>|t|      [0.025      0.975]
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
const           14.3594      6.164      2.330      0.020       2.264      26.455
BedroomAbvGr    -0.0268      0.008     -3.566      0.000      -0.042      -0.012
BsmtFullBath     0.0732      0.009      8.362      0.000       0.056       0.090
BsmtHalfBath     0.0068      0.017      0.398      0.691      -0.027       0.040
Fireplaces       0.0437      0.007      5.896      0.000       0.029       0.058
FullBath         0.0198      0.012      1.637      0.102      -0.004       0.043
GarageArea    9.434e-05   4.31e-05      2.187      0.029    9.67e-06       0.000
GarageCars       0.0318      0.014      2.340      0.019       0.005       0.058
GarageYrBlt   3.075e-05   1.18e-05      2.607      0.009     7.6e-06    5.39e-05
GrLivArea        0.0003   2.03e-05     12.860      0.000       0.000       0.000
HalfBath         0.0210      0.010      2.030      0.043       0.001       0.041
KitchenAbvGr    -0.0648      0.023     -2.815      0.005      -0.110      -0.020
LotArea       1.987e-06   3.92e-07      5.073      0.000    1.22e-06    2.76e-06
LotFrontage      0.0004      0.000      1.890      0.059   -1.44e-05       0.001
MSSubClass      -0.0004      0.000     -3.422      0.001      -0.001      -0.000
MasVnrArea    1.588e-05   2.78e-05      0.570      0.568   -3.87e-05    7.05e-05
MiscVal      -2.386e-05   1.24e-05     -1.925      0.055   -4.82e-05    4.65e-07
MoSold           0.0011      0.002      0.701      0.484      -0.002       0.004
OverallCond      0.0479      0.004     10.842      0.000       0.039       0.057
OverallQual      0.0677      0.005     13.115      0.000       0.058       0.078
PoolArea      3.677e-05      0.000      0.291      0.771      -0.000       0.000
TotRmsAbvGrd     0.0155      0.005      2.849      0.004       0.005       0.026
TotalBsmtSF      0.0001   1.43e-05      9.789      0.000       0.000       0.000
YearBuilt        0.0029      0.000     11.700      0.000       0.002       0.003
YearRemodAdd     0.0011      0.000      3.593      0.000       0.000       0.002
YrSold          -0.0058      0.003     -1.873      0.061      -0.012       0.000

Having all numerical variables included as predictors, we have an adjusted R2 of .9 and test error of .885.

Train error is: 0.902
Test error is: 0.885

To determine the coefficients with 0 lying within confidence interval, we issue the command below:

table[table['p value']>=0.05][['name','coef','p value']]

name	coef	p value
3	BsmtHalfBath	0.006800	0.691
5	FullBath	0.019800	0.102
13	LotFrontage	0.000400	0.059
15	MasVnrArea	0.000016	0.568
16	MiscVal	-0.000024	0.055
17	MoSold	0.001100	0.484
20	PoolArea	0.000037	0.771
25	YrSold	-0.005800	0.061

After refitting the multiple linear regression model using only the significan coefficients, we find that train error is a bit lower but the test error is a bit higher. It is not much improvement as we expected but still we decide to go on with the reduced model.

print('Train error: %.5f' %mlr.score(X_train_significants, y_train))
print('Test error: %.5f' %mlr.score(X_test_significants, y_test))

Train error: 0.89998
Test error: 0.88699

Ridge

Ridge is a regularized model so that it needs to be tuned for hyper parameters. Penalty term (alpha) is a hyper parameter to tune. and if it is large, model has less variance but it may suffer from high bias. We use cross-validation to find the best alpha considering different combinations of normalization and intercept parameters.

  • Alpha range = linspace(0.01, 5, 200)
  • Cross-validation folds = [3, 5, 10, sqrt_n]
  • Normalization = [False, True]
  • Intercept = [False, True]

200 alpha X 4 CV X 2 Norm X 2 Intercept = 3200 config

Below table shows the training and test R2 values, mean squared error and average cross-validation error for each combination of cross-validation folds, normalization and intercept. Values for CV are experimentally proven that they are the best candidates to find the optimum for the variance-bias tradeoff. P.S. sqrt_n is the square root of number of observations. The strategy here is to choose the alpha giving the maximum R2 for the test data set. Hence, we choose;

 

alpha=0.41, CV=10, normalization=TRUE, intercept=FALSE

 

CV

Norm Type

Intercept Type

Alpha

R2 Training

R2 Test

MSE

Avg. CV Score

CV_3

TRUE

TRUE

0.34

0.94307

0.86306

0.01809

0.90146

CV_3

TRUE

FALSE

0.39

0.94784

0.89691

0.02134

0.85406

CV_3

FALSE

TRUE

5

0.94958

0.86306

0.01611

0.90035

CV_3

FALSE

FALSE

0.39

0.94784

0.88388

0.02134

0.85406

CV_5

TRUE

TRUE

0.21

0.94769

0.86303

0.01805

0.90681

CV_5

TRUE

FALSE

0.29

0.95005

0.89718

0.02135

0.86948

CV_5

FALSE

TRUE

4.17

0.9507

0.86303

0.01607

0.91139

CV_5

FALSE

FALSE

0.29

0.95005

0.88419

0.02135

0.86948

CV_10

TRUE

TRUE

0.16

0.94968

0.86299

0.01808

0.90625

CV_10

TRUE

FALSE

0.41

0.94736

0.89738

0.02135

0.86789

CV_10

FALSE

TRUE

3.27

0.95204

0.86299

0.01604

0.91051

CV_10

FALSE

FALSE

0.41

0.94736

0.88408

0.02135

0.86789

CV_31

TRUE

TRUE

0.16

0.94968

0.86299

0.01808

0.90048

CV_31

TRUE

FALSE

0.41

0.94736

0.89736

0.02135

0.8682

CV_31

FALSE

TRUE

3.5

0.95169

0.86299

0.01604

0.90696

CV_31

FALSE

FALSE

0.41

0.94736

0.88408

0.02135

0.8682

Lasso

Lasso is another regularized model. Only difference from Ridge is Lasso has L1 penalty such that when alpha is large enough, coefficients of the predictors are pushed to become 0. That is why Lasso allows for predictor selection. We use the same approach as we did for Ridge and the best alpha we get is:

alpha=0.16, CV=5, normalization=TRUE, intercept=FALSE

ElasticNet

ElasticNet is a combination of Ridge and Lasso and introduces an additional hyper parameter to tune. Rho specifies how much Ridge (or Lasso) one intend to use in the model.

  • Alpha range = np.linspace(0.1, 10, 100)
  • Rho range = np.linspace(0.01, 1, 100)
  • Cross-validation folds = [3, 5, 10, sqrt_n]
  • Normalization = [False, True]
  • Intercept = [False, True]
  • P.S. Set max_iter = 10,000 to solve convergence problem

100 Alpha X 100 Rho X 4 CV X 2 Norm X 2 Inter = 160K config

 

Best hyper parameters we get:

 

alpha=0.01, rho=0.01, CV=10, normalization=TRUE, intercept=FALSE

Random Forest

Random forest does not need categorical columns to be dummified so that we omit them in this model. It also has a lot of parameters to tune. Below are the ones we find important:

 

  • Randomly select samples
  • bootstrap = [True, False]
  • Max. # of levels in tree
  • max_depth = [10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100, 110, None]
  • Max. # of features to consider at each split
  • max_features = ['auto', 'sqrt’]
  • Min. # of samples required to split node
  • min_samples_leaf = [1, 2, 4]
  • Min. # of samples required to split node
  • min_samples_split = [2, 5, 10]
  • # of Trees
  • n_estimators = [200, 400, 600, 800, 1000, 1200, 1400, 1600, 1800, 2000]

2 BS X 12 Levels X 2 Feat X 3 Leafs X 3 Samples X 10 Estimators = 4320 config

 

 

Using grid search to find the best parameters, we end up with the below summary table:

 

CV

R2 Training

R2 Test

Avg CV Score

MSE

CV_3

0.94598

0.7622

0.723

0.03715

CV_5

0.946

0.76201

0.74271

0.03718

CV_10

0.94571

0.76276

0.72345

0.03706

CV_31

0.94582

0.76377

0.70945

0.03691

Since scores are very close to each other, we employ CV=5 and CV=31 which provides best average CV score and best test R2 score, respectively.

Model Comparison

We compare the models we fit using different metrics such as test R2, MSE and CV scores:

Model Results

Here are the best predictions results submitted for each model:

 

SubmissionNo

Model

Parameters

Score

16

Ridge

CV=10, Norm=T, Int=F, alpha=0.41

0.12757

19

ElasticNet

CV=10, Norm=T, Int=F, alpha=0.01, rho=0.01

0.12866

11

Lasso

CV=5, Norm=T, Int=F, alpha=0.01

0.12946

15

RandomForest

CV=5, trees=1000

0.14313

In general, Ridge performed the best and random forest performed the worst. Our best score is 0.12757 with Ridge.

Future Work

We believe there may be some improvements both in the feature engineering and modelling parts of the project. If we are given more time, we think that new features can be added to the model and then we can check for any improvement happen in terms of test error. Another improvement point is that we employ XGBoost but do not have enough time to find the best parameters. We think, XGBoost can give better results when tuned properly. Lastly, ensembling can be applied to the trained models, so that a combination of each can be implemented as a final model. Ensembling may allow for better predictions since each model learns a different part of the data.

About Authors

Ali Uysal

Ali Uysal

Ali is a passionate data scientist with an educational background in Engineering and Economics. He has more than 9 years of work experience in various IT roles. He started his career as a Support Engineer at Vodafone Turkey...
View all posts by Ali Uysal >

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