Economic Growth Marches on in Boulder County, but Headwinds Building

Boulder’s economic horizon will keep its rosy glow, though economists anticipate the pace will slow in the face of growing local and national challenges.

Nationally recognized experts presented a mixed economic message to a record-setting crowd of civic, political and business leaders gathered for the 12th annual Boulder Economic Forecast. Organized by the Boulder Chamber and Boulder Economic Council, the event was held January 17 at the Embassy Suites Hotel. RE/MAX of Boulder is among the event’s sponsors.

The goal is to arm community leaders with up-to-date statistics and trends that inform decisions and support local economic vitality, according to John Tayer, CEO and President of the Boulder Chamber.

And community leaders will want to take heed.

Keynote speaker Dr. Richard Wobbekind, Executive Director CU-Boulder Leeds Business Research Division, shared a vision of continued economic growth but more moderate than previous years.

“Overall the picture is pretty positive in the sense that consumption is growing, investment is growing, government spending has been growing, so you have those pieces pushing the economy forward. That continues to fuel growth and employment,” says Wobbekind.

But uphill pressures are mounting.

With national GDP growth slowing to a projected 2.4-2.5 percent for 2019, the national economy is moving to a moderate trend. Wobbekind says the thing on everyone’s mind – “the elephant in the room”—is whether recent stock market volatility and other factors will lead to a significant downturn in the economy.

“Will the Recovery Ever End?” is his presentation title. But Wobbekind says it’s hard to say whether or not the economy will turn towards recession.

National outlook a mixed bag

Nationally, Wobbekind’s data showed a story of good news, bad news.

On the good news side, Wobbekind says nationally incomes are rising due to strong employment accompanied by strong wages. With rising incomes, consumption rates are growing and debt burden as a percentage of income is relatively low. National FHFA home price growth is showing strong price appreciation.

Then there are the tempered aspects of the national economy. He says consumer confidence is still quite high, historically speaking, but it has come down slightly. Businesses are in good shape, but there is uncertainty about interest rates, trade agreements, sales and profit growth and hiring. Nationally, business confidence is falling, but still above neutral.

Wobbekind also presents some straight-up challenges. Corporate and private tax cuts are effectively ending, with the tax cut stimulus leaving a national deficit of over $1 trillion, accumulated during a prolonged period of economic expansion. Workers are in short supply with low unemployment rates and 6.7 million jobs unfilled nationwide. Student loan debt is high and interest rates may see modest increases.

Colorado’s economy sustaining strength, but pressure is rising

Colorado’s economic record has been strong, outperforming the nation in recent years. For example, the state ranked third in the country for pace of GDP growth in 2017. Wobbekind suggests the trend may keep going, though more slowly.

For one, strong employment growth is expected to continue – Colorado has been in the top five states for job creation since 2008. But in 2018, the employment growth was down slightly to two percent. Even so, Colorado has the third highest labor participation in the country.

But worker’s wage growth is not as strong as would be expected given the tight labor market. Wobbekind notes lackluster increase in wages is troubling in the face of the high cost of housing and inflation.

While Colorado’s population keeps growing, the rate is slowing. Net migration will continue to decline as it did last year.

Home price appreciation—notably among the fastest growing in the U.S for the past 10 years—fell from the top three slots but remains in the top 10. Residential building permit activity is still strong.

While businesses are still confident in state and local economies, confidence is dropping when it comes to the national economy.

Boulder County carries on

Boulder County is expected to mostly hold steady. Though the area’s strong rate of growth is expected to decrease next year, the decline will be slight. Key statistics Wobbekind listed are:

Boulder’s GDP growth is 4 percent
Much needed multifamily housing stock is increasing
City of Boulder’s median single family home prices have stabilized somewhat
City of Boulder has a significant jump in office vacancies and more office space is coming online
Boulder County wage growth is 4.7 percent
Broomfield and Denver have higher wages than Boulder
City of Boulder’s sales and use tax dipped last year but is climbing back up

Headwinds ahead

Wobbekind points to headwinds facing Colorado, saying the state should watch out for:

Commodity prices
Drought and weather
Housing affordability
Talent shortage
Real wage increases
PERA funded only at 46 percent

Labor shortage one of state’s biggest challenges

Skillful Colorado’s Executive Director, Shannon Block, dove into to strategies for overcoming the shortage of skilled workers. Employers are struggling to find workers and the cause of the talent shortage is a skills gap. Fueling the problem, says Block, are traditional employment practices narrowly focused on candidates with 4-year college degrees. That focus is making job-landing difficult for the 70 percent of Americans who don’t have a 4-year degree.

Skillful Colorado’s focus is to shift that trend toward hiring practices that value skills-based talent. The goal is to help Coloradans get jobs in a rapidly changing economy, particularly the 60 percent In Colorado with no college degree.

For more information, see Boulder Economic Forecast slide presentations at:

Dr. Rich Wobbekind’s 2019 Boulder Economic Forecast: https://ecs.page.link/YoZU

Shannon Block, Skillful Colorado, Addressing the Skills Gap: https://ecs.page.link/kLGs

 

Originally posted by Tom Kalinski Founder RE/MAX of Boulder on Thursday, February 7th, 2019 at 1:40pm.

Posted on February 7, 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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Bike to Work Day Spotlights Boulder’s Commuting Options

Transportation and housing go hand in hand as critical components of infrastructure and quality of life. In Boulder, citywide enthusiasm for biking and alternative transportation came into sharp focus on the 42nd annual Bike to Work Day held June 27. Beginning at 6:30 a.m., thousands took to their pedal-powered wheels – or simply their feet – to go from home to work. In strong support, local companies and organizations hosted nearly 50 breakfast stations, keeping Boulder riders and walkers well fueled on their morning commute.

At the corner of Canyon Boulevard and Folsom, commuters were energized at such a station. Sponsored by RE/MAX of Boulder with Embassy Suites Boulder and Hilton Garden Inn, they treated riders to a hydrating Skratch Labs drink, refueling snacks, and giveaways. The station was manned by RE/MAX of Boulder Realtors with deep cycling roots including Art Schwadron along with biking enthusiast Chip Bruss, both of whom rode 150 miles in two days during Colorado’s Bike MS event to support multiple sclerosis research.

It’s only natural that Boulder’s Bike to Work Day is one of the largest nationwide. Presented by the City of Boulder, GO Boulder, Community Cycles, and a long list of corporate sponsors, Boulder Walk and Bike Day has grown into a month-long celebration of walking and biking highlighted by more than 60 free walks, bike rides, and other events.

The activities aim to encourage people to change their transportation behavior by experiencing Boulder’s 300+ miles of award-winning bike trails. It’s these multimodal corridors that elevate Boulder’s alternative transportation culture. Boulder was ranked #3 Bike-Friendly City by PeopleForBikes in 2018.

GO Boulder – part of Boulder’s transportation department – is focused on enhancing the city’s multi-modal transportation system and reducing single-car usage. The goal is to increase the travel choices available and create an innovative transportation system that sustains the quality of life valued by Boulder residents.

But bikers and walkers who share the road with cars can be at risk of harm. That’s why the City of Boulder developed its Vision Zero program. Vision Zero focuses on making other-than-car transportation safer by reducing the number of traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries to zero. Program components include targeted improvements to street design, enforcement, and outreach efforts in places where they are needed most.

Bike to Work Day 2018 has come and gone, but in Boulder, every day is a great day to commute by a means other than car. Get more information on alternatives and bike paths and get out there!

For more information, visit https://bouldercolorado.gov/goboulder and http://www.walkandbikemonth.org/

 

Originally posted here by Tom Kalinski Founder RE/MAX of Boulder on Friday, July 13th, 2018 at 10:18am.

 

Posted on July 15, 2018 at 7:02 pm
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Boulder Valley 2018 real estate predictions

The Boulder Valley real estate market has undergone a shift in 2017.  While we began the year in a fairly strong seller’s market, it soon became apparent that the indicators we track were pointing to a shift toward a more balanced market. 

Making predictions is always a risky business, but here are my top three predictions for 2018 and what they will likely mean for people in the market.

1. Appreciation will continue (but at a slower pace).

While the Boulder area continues to top the country in total appreciation since 1991 (a whopping 371 percent), we have fallen out of the top 10 — to number 19 — nationally in terms of one-year appreciation (10.84 percent according to FHFA). Nevertheless, many structural factors point to increased upward pressure on home values (including low unemployment, strong net migration, and lack of lots to build upon).

For single family homes, Boulder County experienced 5 percent appreciation through the first three quarters of 2017. While this is solid, it pales when compared to the over 15 percent appreciation during the same period of 2016.

In 2018, I predict we will see about 5 percent overall appreciation in Boulder County, with individual cities varying substantially.  I predict that the highest appreciation rates will be in Longmont and Erie, and the slowest appreciation will be in the City of Boulder.

For attached homes (townhouses and condos), Boulder County experienced a meager 1.7 percent improvement through the third quarter of 2017. This number is somewhat misleading, as most areas were up by a higher percentage while the City of Boulder was actually down 3.7 percent.

For 2018, I predict that attached homes will appreciate by about 5 percent, with appreciation being higher in every locale except the City of Boulder. In Boulder, it is possible that we will see a continued decline in prices, especially if investment property owners who have not brought their units up to Smartregs compliance decide to sell rather than spend the money to them into compliance.

What this means: For buyers, now is a great time to buy, especially if you are in the market for a condo in the City of Boulder.  Waiting will cost you, but not as much as in previous years.  For homeowners, if you are considering selling, you have ridden a strong wave of appreciation over the last several years, and you will not likely see the same rate of appreciation by continuing to hold.

2. Inventory will increase in 2018.

Since 2011, the inventory of available homes on the market has generally gone down when compared to the preceding year. That trend finally broke in 2017, with available inventory of both single family and attached homes rising above 2016 numbers. Without getting too deeply into the weeds, a number of indicators that we use to track the market point to a continuation of this trend in 2018.  Some of the more telling indicators are (1) a falling sales price to list price ratio, (2) an increase in months of inventory, and (3) more expired listings (homes that did not sell on the market).

In the City of Boulder, on the single family side, I predict that inventory will see the biggest increase in the $1 million+ market as a gap has started to open between sellers’ opinions of their homes’ values and what buyers are willing to pay for them. On the attached side, we will likely see an increase as well, partly due to an influx of non-Smartreg-compliant units as well as condos at the Peloton being converted from apartments.

What this means: For buyers, you will finally have more homes to choose from in your search. For sellers, you will have to be much more careful when pricing your home to avoid being rejected by the market.

3. Interest rates will rise modestly.

For the past several years, numerous experts have predicted mortgage interest rate increases. And for as many years, the rate increases have been non-existent or far more modest than predicted, even after the Fed increased its Fed Funds Rate. Speaking of which, the Fed is expected to raise rates again this month as the economy shows continued signs of recovery. However, the number and size of interest rate increases in 2018 is far from certain because of a change in leadership of the Fed.

Lawrence Yun, the chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, predicts that rates will increase to 4.5 percent by the end of 2018, which is about 0.5 percent higher than current rates. This figure could be affected by tax reform, the country’s economic performance, and other political factors. Nevertheless, for planning purposes, an increase to 4.5 percent in 2018 is likely to be in the ballpark.

What this means: While appreciation rates and inventory are starting to move into buyers’ favor, there will be a cost to waiting to enter the market in terms of affordability.  That is, the longer you wait, the more you will likely pay for a home and the more interest you will likely pay for it.

Conclusion: Sellers have been the primary beneficiaries of the real estate market since the recovery of the Great Recession, but 2018 will finally see buyers in a stronger position.

 

Published in BizWest on December 6, 2017. Original found here.

Posted on February 5, 2018 at 8:46 pm
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