The end may be here (but don’t panic)

At this time last year, our market was experiencing all-time highs for average home prices and all-time lows for housing inventory.  Many of the market indicators we track were pointing to continued strong demand and price appreciation, especially with the continued influx of people into Boulder and Broomfield counties.  And yet, with home price appreciation outstripping wage gains for the better part of a decade, in the back of everyone’s minds was the question: “How long can this go on?”  We may now be starting to get our answer.

The big picture

In 2018 last summer, the Federal Housing Finance Agency measured the average appreciation nationally at 6.89 percent which slowed this year to 5.05 percent.  Then, FHFA ranked Colorado as having the fourth-highest one-year appreciation in the country, at 10.63 percent.  Boulder County ranked 68th among metropolitan areas in the country with 8.25 percent appreciation.  This year, Colorado has dropped to 28th, with 4.78 percent appreciation, while Boulder fell to number 91 with 6.14 percent appreciation  So, Colorado and Boulder County are cooling compared to the rest of the country, but, as a bright spot, Boulder County’s appreciation since 1991 still leads the entire nation at 417.28 percent.

There are 10 statistics we track to gauge the state of the residential real estate market, and studying the movement of these indicators can give you a good sense of the direction of the market.  For most of this decade, those indicators have generally pointed toward a rising market, marked by tight inventory, brisk appreciation, quick sales, and low months of inventory (the time it would take to sell all existing homes if no new homes entered the market).  At the close of the second quarter of 2019, we are seeing a strong shift for both the single-family homes and attached dwellings (see charts).

As you can see, nearly every indicator we track is pointing to a softening, shifting market, aside from interest rates.  And while Months of Inventory still indicates a seller’s market, the trajectory is moving toward a balanced market (between five and seven months of inventory).

And now for the good news

If you are an aspiring buyer in Boulder County, your timing is excellent: inventory is up, so you have more homes to choose from; prices are flat or falling, so you may be able to get a (relative) bargain; and interest rates have dropped once again, so you can get more house for the money.

If you are a homeowner or thinking of selling, the news is not all bad: you’ve rode an impressive wave of appreciation for the better part of a decade; and even when Boulder’s market stalls, it typically does not lose much value (even in the great recession, home prices only dropped about 5 percent).

Remember, don’t panic.  Boulder is still the best place in the country to invest in real estate.

Originally posted by Jay Kalinski is broker/owner of Re/Max of Boulder.

Posted on August 1, 2019 at 1:00 pm
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Where have all the buyers gone?

well-functioning market consists of two sides: suppliers who offer a particular good for sale and consumers who purchase those goods.  In the Boulder Valley residential real estate market since 2012, there have been more consumers looking to buy homes than there were sellers offering homes for sale, which has led to a long appreciation period for homes.  Now, however, it appears that the number of buyers is dropping as is their willingness to pay ever-increasing prices.

Spotting the trend

First, how do we know that there are fewer buyers in the market?  The most direct measure of buyer activity that my company tracks (courtesy of Broker Associate Mike Malec) is the number of showings per available listing.  From examining the data, it is fairly easy to see that this year’s showing activity is markedly below the recent boom years, but is still above the levels present during the recession.

Second, to further substantiate this decline in buyer activity, we can look at more indirect measures, such as average sales prices, available inventory of homes on the market, and average time a home will be on the market before sale.  Each of these markers indicates a decline in buyer activity.  Through May of this year, the average price of a single-family home in Boulder has fallen 0.6 percent, while the average attached unit has fallen 4 percent, compared to the same timeframe last year.  This indicates that there are fewer buyers competing for available homes to the point where home appreciation rates have stalled.  At the same time, the amount of homes available on the market has increased nearly 20 percent for single-family homes and almost 50 percent for attached ones, while the average time on the market for single family homes has gone up 5 percent and nearly 20 percent for attached ones.  These statistics indicate that those buyers in the market are becoming choosier and are able to take their time making decisions.

Based on the above discussion, it seems that there are fewer buyers in the market and that those who are in the market are more cautious, but why? 

Economic Conditions?

It does not appear that our local economic conditions explain the drop in buyer activity.  According to the State Demographer’s office, people are continuing to move into Boulder and Broomfield counties, albeit at a slower rate than previous years (though the city of Boulder has seen its population declining in the last two years).  And local unemployment levels continue to be historically low. 

Economic conditions at the national level are softening, to the point where the Fed is discussing interest rate cuts, so these conditions may play some role.  But, interest rates are actually about half a percent lower than they were at this time last year, which would appear to weaken that argument.

Could it be the weather?

Another possible explanation I’ve heard is that our unusually cold and snow winter could have suppressed buyer demand as people were less willing to trudge through the snow to go see houses.  While this is plausible, all else being equal, we would have expected to see that pent up demand being released as the weather improves, but we just have not seen that play out in the data yet.

The takeaway

Whatever the cause of the decline in buyer activity may be, local real estate legend Larry Kendall of the Group Inc. Real Estate in Fort Collins always says that buyers are the smartest people in the market, so they may be acting as the proverbial canary in a coal mine, meaning that they could be a leading indicator that our market is shifting from a seller’s market to either a balanced or buyer’s market.  If you are a seller, be wary of pricing above the market in these shifting conditions.

Originally posted by Jay Kalinski is broker/owner of Re/Max of Boulder.

Posted on July 2, 2019 at 3:00 pm
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Re/Max of Boulder owner to launch new Louisville office

LOUISVILLE — Jay Kalinski, owner of Re/Max of Boulder, is opening a new real estate agency in Louisville under the Re/Max Elevate banner.

The Re/Max Elevate office, set to celebrate a grand opening May 1, is at 724 Main St.

Kalinski said agents had been clamoring for an office in eastern Boulder County because many live in that area and many have clients looking for homes in places such as Louisville, Lafayette, Firestone and Frederick.

“Over time, more and more of our agents have been working outside of the city of Boulder and outside of Boulder County,” Kalinski said,

And while the company considered opening the office in other nearby towns, “Louisville seemed to be a consensus choice,” he said.

The Re/Max Elevate office, technically a separate franchise from Re/Max of Boulder Inc., will launch with 15 agents. A handful are transferring from the Boulder offices, but most are newly recruited agents.

Kalinski said the office may be able to support as many 20 or 25 agents. For comparison, Re/Max of Boulder has about 115 agents.

Kalinski said the Louisville office will likely not be the last new location for his team.

“We’re in growth mode and looking to expand,” he said.

The decision on where to target for the company’s next office will — like the Louisville decision — be driven by input from agents and clients, he said.

Originally posted by Lucas High

Posted on April 26, 2019 at 10:00 pm
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Boulder-Area Home Sales Warm As Spring Approaches

February’s Boulder-area home sales shook off January’s real estate chill with a rise in sales all around. But even with the significant jump for the month, sales for the year still lag compared with last year, which could be good news for those ready to buy a home in this competitive market.

Single-family home sales for Boulder rose 26.1 percent in February – 232 homes sold compared with 184 last month. In condominium/townhomes, 78 units sold in February, a 9.8 percent improvement compared with January’s 71 units sold.

“It was good to see the February rebound in sales for both single-family and attached dwellings. But year-over-year, sales are behind in both. We’re definitely getting a slower start to the year,” says Ken Hotard, senior vice president of public affairs for the Boulder Area Realtor® Association.

Year-over-year, single-family home sales dropped 14.8 percent through February 2019 with 426 Boulder-area homes sold vs. 500 the previous year. Condo/townhomes slid 20.8 percent over the same period with 152 units sold vs. 192.

Inventory is virtually unchanged going up .013 percent for single-family homes with 723 homes for sales in February compared to 722 in January. Condos and townhomes saw a 5.4 percent increase in inventory over the same period with 254 units compared to 241.

“The cause of the slowdown is unclear,” says Hotard. “Interest rates aren’t rising. It seems that demand, which has been strong for several years, has eased a bit.”

This can be good news for buyers who are looking for an opening to jump in the Boulder County market. With inventory holding steady and demand easing, the buying environment may be somewhat less competitive than it has been for the past several years.

“What we need is more middle-income housing in Boulder County, that is, housing priced at $600,000 and below,” Hotard notes. “Areas like Erie, Longmont, and Lyons offer homes that are in that sweet spot of affordability, but we could use new housing in that price range.”

 

Originally posted by Tom Kalinski Founder RE/MAX of Boulder on Wednesday, March 27th, 2019.

 

Posted on April 3, 2019 at 3:00 pm
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January Home Sales Chill, Fundamentals Solid

Home sales for Boulder-area real estate got off to a slow start in 2019 despite fairly mild January weather, resulting in decreased sales compared with a year ago.

Single-family homes posted 184 sales, a decrease of 20.3 percent compared with 231 homes sold in the same month last year. Sales of condominiums and townhomes dropped 23.0 percent for the same period with 71 units sold vs. 92.

“The market saw a pretty significant slowdown that started mid-November and continued through January,” says Ken Hotard, senior vice president of public affairs for the Boulder Area Realtor® Association. “The fundamentals are still solid—inventory improved and interest rates aren’t going up quickly,” he says, noting that interest rates are historically low and affordable at around five percent or below for a 30-year fixed mortgage.

Month-over-month single-family home sales dropped 39 percent in January with 184 homes sold compared to 302 in December. Townhome/condo sales were a bit stronger, nearly matching December sales with a .013 percent decrease – 71 units sold vs. 72.

Inventory jumped 15.7 percent for single-family homes with 722 homes for sale in January compared with 624 in December. Attached dwellings showed even greater improvement, rising 18.1 percent—241 units vs. 204.

Hotard explains that for now the statistics represent a series of events. “Once we get enough data, we’ll start to see trends,” he says.

“There seems to be uncertainty in the market and buyers are thinking I can stay where I am and look for a better opportunity in the future,” says Hotard. “It’s a story that’s repeating itself in a number of markets across the country.”

Yet Boulder-area prices continue to rise or hold steady, job growth and the employment rate remain strong, and Boulder County is still a desirable place to live.

“Our strong fundamentals should attract buyers as we move through February.”

 

Originally posted by Tom Kalinski Founder RE/MAX of Boulder on Tuesday, March 14th, 2019.

Posted on March 14, 2019 at 7:00 pm
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City housing proposal may be Faustian bargain

There is a serious shortage of homes in Boulder, as is evidenced by the roughly 65,000 people who commute in and out of Boulder on a daily basis.  About half of these people would live in Boulder if they could, but are forced to “drive until they qualify” for a home, which increases their carbon footprint, commute times, and overall stress level.  It is clear that creative solutions are needed to address this crucial issue.

The Boulder City Council’s proposed pilot program to “help” middle income families purchase market rate homes is, while creative, a Faustian bargain, in my opinion.  In the current iteration supported by members of the city council, the city would use a “loan-loss reserve fund” to guaranty second mortgages that would allow people to purchase more home than they would qualify for by themselves.  (An earlier version from a 2016 white paper would have had the city use its bonding power to raise money to buy a percentage of a purchaser’s home, which the city would get back at closing, plus some amount of appreciation).

 

If the program stopped there, I would applaud the city’s effort for trying to get more families into homes that would be owner occupied.  But here is where the Faustian bargain sets in.  In exchange for the city’s assistance, the buyer would have to “voluntarily” agree to deed restrict the home they just purchased to be permanently affordable.

Let us consider the consequences of this for the individual or family who purchases a home under this program:

  1. All of the burdens. The buyers now have all of the burdens of homeownership.  For example, if the furnace breaks or the roof wears out, the burden falls on the homeowner to replace them.  If the home loses value, it is ostensibly the homeowner who bears the loss when they look to resell.  And remember, in this fantasy, a lender is going to agree to loan buyers more money than the lender thinks they can reasonably afford because the city is going to guaranty a portion of the loan, which means the buyers will likely have more financial strain and be at a higher risk of default.  Whether the city can sufficiently incentivize a bank to overlook that they would likely be overextending buyers financially remains to be seen.
  2. Limited rewards.  While the homeowner is saddled with the burdens and risks of ownership, they do not reap the full reward of their home’s appreciation — the city sees to this through its deed restriction.  Suppose homeowners do an outstanding job of upgrading and maintaining their home, and the market rises over the 10 years they own their home, the owners will not receive the fruits of their labor and good fortune of an appreciating market.  Instead, the city will cap their appreciation at some percentage likely well below the market. 

For the majority of Americans, their home is their biggest asset and primary source of wealth creation.  The effect of the city’s program, then, is to make families who avail themselves of this program poorer over time relative to those who purchased homes on the open market.

It is, in my opinion, this asymmetry of unlimited risk and handicapped reward underlying the program that makes it so insidious.

If this wasn’t bad enough, let us now consider the consequences of this for the housing market in Boulder in general.  The more unfortunate souls the city “helps” via this program, the fewer homes will be available on the open market.  If the supply of homes is further restricted via this program, and demand for housing remains strong (remember the 30,000 commuters who would like to live in Boulder?), then the result will be home prices rising even faster.  So, in an effort to create a number of “permanently affordable” homes, the city will make the rest of Boulder much more expensive. 

Originally posted on BizWest.  Jay Kalinski is broker/owner of Re/Max of Boulder.

Posted on March 5, 2019 at 3:00 pm
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Equity Rich Properties Dominate Boulder County Cities

More than 40 percent of homeowners in Boulder County are equity rich – that is the amount of loans secured by the property is 50 percent or less of the property’s estimated market value, according to ATTOM Data Solutions Q3 2018 U.S. Home Equity & Underwater Report.

Cities in Boulder County notch the upper end of the equity rich measure. Here are the statistics for Boulder County. Percentages within cities vary slightly by zip code:

Boulder – 55% equity rich

Louisville – 46% equity rich

Lafayette – 42% equity rich

Longmont – 41% equity rich

Statewide, Colorado homeowners aren’t far behind with more than 32 percent of Colorado properties equity rich.

Across the U.S., nearly 14.5 million properties are equity rich. That’s 25.7 percent of all mortgaged properties, up from 24.9 percent the previous quarter. Conversely, the share of seriously underwater properties dropped to 8.8 percent. ATTOM says properties categorized as seriously underwater have a combined estimated balance of loans at least 25 percent higher than the property’s estimated market value.

States with the highest share of equity rich properties are California, 42.5 percent; Hawaii, 39.4 percent; Washington, 35.3 percent; New York, 34.9 percent and Oregon, 33.6 percent. Colorado is close on Oregon’s heels with 32.3 percent equity rich properties.

“As homeowners stay put longer, they continue to build more equity in their homes despite the recent slowing in rates of home price appreciation,” said Daren Blomquist, senior vice president with ATTOM Data Solutions. “West coast markets along with New York have the highest share of equity rich homeowners while markets in the Mississippi Valley and Rust Belt continue to have stubbornly high rates of seriously underwater homeowners when it comes to home equity.”

The ATTOM Data Solutions U.S. Home Equity & Underwater report provides counts of properties based on several categories of equity at the state, metro, county and zip code level, along with the percentage of total properties with a mortgage that each equity category represents.

For the full report and to view statistics by zip code, visit: https://www.attomdata.com/news/market-trends/home-sales-prices/home-equity-underwater-report-q3-2018/

 

Posted by Tom Kalinski Founder RE/MAX of Boulder on Wednesday, February 20th, 2019 at 2:54pm.

Posted on February 20, 2019 at 5:00 pm
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Home Sales Slow in December, Show Slight Decline for Year End

Boulder County home sales declined for December, but overall 2018 sales held somewhat steady with a slight decrease.

“December was not a fabulous month for home sales, particularly for attached dwellings,” says Ken Hotard, senior vice president of public affairs for the Boulder Area Realtor® Association.

Sales of condominiums and townhomes in the Boulder-area dropped 42.9 percent in December compared to November – 72 units sold vs. 126. For the year, attached dwelling sales improved .02 percent with 1,525 units sold vs. 1,522.

Single-family home sales dropped 2.6 percent with 302 sales vs. 310 for December compared to November. Year-over-year, single-family home sales dropped 2.3 percent – 4,533 sales vs. 4,640.

Hotard points out the total decline for all Boulder County dwellings sold for the year – attached and single-family – was only 1.8 percent. That compares to a 3.1 percent national decline reported by the National Association of Realtors.

“Our Boulder County market continues to perform well. Job growth is good, demand is strong, and the area is desirable,” says Hotard, adding that inventory is an ongoing challenge.

Inventory of single-family homes dropped 24 percent in December compared to November—declining to 624 units from 821, while multi-family unit inventory decreased 22.4 percent—204 units versus 63—over the same period.

So where do we go from here?

Hotard says many reports indicate the U.S. is entering a home sales slump, but he expects the Boulder County markets to continue to buck the national trend.

“It’s possible well see a year-over-year decline similar to this year, but I don’t expect it to be more significant, if our markets decline at all,” he says.

In Hotard’s assessment, strong fundamentals in Boulder County are not waning: Employers continue to bring new jobs and prices are holding or improving.

But inventory continues to take a hit. “We need to see inventory numbers improve as we head into March, April, May and June,” Hotard adds.

“It’s going to be ‘steady as she goes’ in 2019, as long as we don’t have any major national or international events.”

 

Originally posted by Tom Kalinski Founder RE/MAX of Boulder on Monday, February 11th, 2019 at 1:34pm.

Posted on February 11, 2019 at 3:00 pm
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Be mindful of warning signs in housing market

2018 was another strong year for residential real estate in Colorado in general and Boulder Valley in particular, but what’s in store for 2019?

First, a look back at 2018.  Nationally, Colorado jumped from 10th to fifth among all states for one-year appreciation, with a 9.16 percent increase in home values.  Boulder County improved from 57th in 2017 to 41st in 2018, with over 9.5 percent price appreciation.  Below are the 10 “Vital Statistics” for Boulder Valley we track to gauge the health of the real estate market from year to year.

As you can see, most of the indicators point toward an appreciating market, though increasing interest rates and a drop in the percentage of homes under contract indicate potential signs of weakness emerging. 

In the city of Boulder, the average price of a single-family home topped $1,215,000, which was up 11 percent from 2017.  However, Boulder also saw almost 50 fewer home sales than last year, which highlights our continued shortage of inventory.  The most affordable city in Boulder County continues to be Longmont, but even there, the average price of a single-family home is now over $460,000 and may reach $500,000 if its appreciation trend continues.

One statistic that gets very little attention is that we often see home prices dip slightly in the second half of the year as compared to the first.  As the chart below shows, we generally see appreciation through June or July, and then values trail off slightly.  What this chart means is that, if you’re a seller your best bet is to sell in the spring, and if you’re a buyer, try to buy in the fall when home prices are stagnant or dropping.

2018 was quite strong — will 2019 be similar?

Locally, conditions in our area generally support continued appreciation in residential real estate.  The total number of active listings available is still less than half of what it was before the Great Recession, which is likely to keep home prices growing, especially as our economy remains strong (very low unemployment) and we continue to see net migration into our area.

There are, however, several trends that could derail continued growth in our market.  First, interest rates are almost a full point higher than they were in 2017, and I’ve discussed before how a one point increase in interest rates can reduce purchasing power by 10 percent.  The Fed had indicated its intent to continue to raise rates in 2019, however, the news from the Fed’s most recent meeting in January suggested that they may hold off until at least June.

Second, the potential for a recession in the next year or two could begin dragging on home sales.  One indicator is that the yield curve (which compares rates for short-term vs. long-term Treasury notes) has been getting flatter.  When the yield curve inverts (that’s when rates for 10-year notes dip below rates for 2-year notes), it is very often followed by a recession.

Finally, local no-growth and anti-growth policies, regulations, and mindsets are making it increasingly difficult to add inventory to our region.  The dearth of homes to sell could negatively impact our market — and it is the only factor here that we as citizens have a measure of control over.

2019 has the potential to be another great year for residential real estate in Boulder Valley, but we need to be mindful of the potential derailers mentioned above.

 

Originally posted on BizWest.  Jay Kalinski is broker/owner of Re/Max of Boulder.

Posted on February 6, 2019 at 3:00 pm
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Top Places to Raise a Family in Boulder County

If you live in Boulder County, you know that all the ingredients needed to make a great place to raise a family are right here. So it’s no surprise that seven of Colorado’s top 25 places to raise a family in 2018 are in Boulder County, according to analysis by Niche.com.

Niche.com ranked the family friendliness of locations by assessing the quality of public schools, cost of living, crime rate, access to amenities, diversity, housing trends, employment statistics and percentage of households with children, among other characteristics. Data sources include U.S. Census Bureau data, the American Community Survey, FBI crime reports, and local surveys.

Most top 25 Colorado locations are in the Boulder area or the Denver metro area. Here are the Boulder County areas in the top 25 best places to raise a family in 2018:

#1 Pine Brook Hills

Pine Brook Hills is an unincorporated area just west of Boulder with a population of 1,091. According to Niche.com, many retirees live in Pine Brook Hills. 

Ranking on Key Attributes

Public Schools    A+

Housing               A

Good for Families  A+

 

#3 Louisville

The town of Louisville is in southeastern Boulder County. Amenities include 1,700 acres of open space, dozens of great eateries, a thriving arts scene, great schools, wonderful neighborhoods and a diverse mix of employment opportunities for its population of 19,972. 

Ranking on Key Attributes

Public Schools    A

Housing               B+

Good for Families  A+

 

#4 Superior

Located in southeastern Boulder County, the town of Superior has 594 acres of parks, greenspace, and open space and 27 miles of trails for its population of 12,928. Niche.com says many families and young professionals live in Superior.

Ranking on Key Attributes

Public Schools    A

Housing               B+

Good for Families  A+

 

#8  Gunbarrel

Gunbarrel is a mix of unincorporated county and city of Boulder lands, located just east of Boulder. Gunbarrel’s 9,559 residents enjoy craft breweries, coffee shops, trails and parks. Niche.com says many young professionals live in Gunbarrel.

Ranking on Key Attributes

Public Schools    A+

Housing               B

Good for Families  A+

 

#10 Boulder

Tucked into the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, the city of Boulder has a population of 105,420. Residents enjoy more than 45,000 acres of open space, 150 miles of trails, and 60 urban parks. The city is home to a thriving tech and natural foods industry and the University of Colorado Boulder. Niche.com says the public schools in Boulder are highly rated.

Ranking on Key Attributes

Public Schools    A+

Housing               C+

Good for Families  A+

 

#19 Niwot

Niwot is a small town in eastern Boulder County with a population of 4,588. Niwot offers craft breweries, coffee shops and a summer music program.

Ranking on Key Attributes

Public Schools    A

Housing               C+

Good for Families A

 

#24 Lafayette

The town of Lafayette is in eastern Boulder County with a population of 27,053 made up largely of families and young professionals. Lafayette has a parks system, greenbelts, bikeways, open space, and an attractive downtown featuring coffee shops and boutiques. 

Ranking on Key Attributes

Public Schools    A

Housing               B+

Good for Families A

 

For the full list of the top 25 most family-friendly communities in Colorado visit: https://www.niche.com/places-to-live/search/best-places-for-families/s/colorado/

To see average home prices in each Boulder County community, visit our website at boulderco.com and search “Communities.”

 

 

Originally posted by Tom Kalinski Founder RE/MAX of Boulder on Thursday, January 17th, 2019 at 11:13am.

Posted on January 18, 2019 at 9:09 pm
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