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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Where will Boulder’s workforce of the future live?

The Boulder Economic Summit was held on May 22 and the focus was on the workforce of the future. The Boulder Economic Council rightly identified this as a key to Boulder County’s continued vitality and prosperity.  There were vibrant discussions about the growing importance of skills to both employers and employees, shifting employment patterns, how businesses can embrace Millennials, and more.

From a real estate perspective, the most thought provoking session was the roundtable discussion on “Addressing Housing and Transportation,” in which participants were asked to discuss what their businesses are experiencing in terms of housing and mobility needs, what they are doing to address them, and what possible solutions they see.  From this discussion, it became evident that the majority of many businesses’ employees live outside the city, that many of those employees would like to live in Boulder, and that there are myriad housing and transportation challenges facing businesses and employees.

Many of the proposed solutions will sound familiar: some additional housing, including ADUs (“granny flats”) throughout the city and multi-family housing in the light industrial areas along the east Arapahoe corridor; adding additional lanes to some of the major arteries to/from Boulder, especially along Arapahoe/Highway 7 and the Diagonal; more and “better placed” park-n-ride lots; more parking spaces throughout the city; more and better alternative transportation options, and possibly some shared shuttle services among Boulder businesses. 

Many participants expressed the opinion that they believe some of these solutions are viable, but they acknowledged that most of them would require the willingness and coordination of city and county governments.  The scope of these issues is supported by the estimated 50,000 — 60,000 people who commute into Boulder for work each day, half of whom purportedly want to live in the city, and the fact that currently there are no single family homes in Boulder on the market for less than $575,000 (and that only gets you 966 square feet).

The bottom line takeaway from this discussion was that if Boulder cannot find better ways to address its housing and transportation issues, it risks losing its economic vigor as more and more businesses will choose to relocate to more hospitable areas.  More than one employer at the roundtable lamented that if they cannot solve some of these issues, they will likely have to move their business elsewhere. 

Let’s face it, Boulder does not make it easy on businesses or their employees. Among other things, businesses in Boulder have to contend with sky-high affordable housing linkage fees on commercial development (which will ultimately be borne by tenants and consumers), complex and changing zoning and use regulations, rapidly growing commercial property taxes, and a dearth of parking spaces.  Employees face a severe lack of affordable housing to purchase, expensive rent or long — and increasingly frustrating — commutes, and difficulty finding parking (and not enough public and alternative transportation options).

There is always room for hope in Boulder, one of the brainiest (and best) cities in America, and an excellent example is the city council’s recent openness to allowing additional ADUs.  It’s not a panacea, but it’s a start.

Envisioning our workforce of the future is a great and useful undertaking, but if Boulder cannot (or will not) address its mounting housing and transportation issues, the workforce of the future will be happily employed… elsewhere.

 

Jay Kalinski is broker/owner of Re/Max of Boulder.

Originally posted by BizWest on Wednesday, June 1st, 2018. Original found here.

Posted on June 2, 2018 at 9:05 am
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