At the start of the year, I read an article about the 10 biggest threats to the global economy in 2020, written by a prestigious international organization. “Global pandemic” did not make the list, which goes to show how generally lousy we humans are at accurately predicting the future. As such, any predictions that I (or anyone else) could give you about how this pandemic will unfold, in terms of its impact on the local real estate market, would likely fare no better than random chance. Similarly, with the situation evolving so rapidly, any advice or best practices I could offer today may become obsolete in short order.
So, rather than peddle advice and predictions, let’s pause and take stock.
Back in 2008, the financial crisis was sparked in the real estate sector and led to a crisis that nearly collapsed the banking system. We see from history that recessions that begin in the housing sector tend to be worse and last longer than recessions ignited by other factors. Today, the recession we are likely heading into has a very different background — our economy and housing market were far stronger and more resilient, thanks in part to the measures put in place after that recession (tighter lending restrictions, more stringent liquidity requirements for banks, etc.). In fact, we were enjoying the longest economic expansion since WWII.
According to National Association of Realtors chief economist Dr. Lawrence Yun, “Conditions today are very different than the last boom/bust cycle. In 2004, we had a huge oversupply of new homes. In 2019, we still had a huge undersupply of new homes. In fact, we haven’t been building enough new homes to keep up with demand in over a decade. During the last downturn, there was the subprime factor and the variable interest rate. Now there are fewer variable rate mortgages and virtually no sub-prime mortgages.”
Colorado is well-positioned as a top economy nationally. Real GDP growth in Colorado ranked seventh in the nation year-over-year, and the state’s five-year average ranks fifth, according to economist Rich Wobbekind with CU-Boulder’s Leeds School of Business. Wobbekind says that Boulder County’s economy has been outgrowing the state economy, and is uniquely able to weather a recession. Boulder County’s economic vitality is fueled by a highly educated workforce and diverse ecosystem of industries including government research facilities, aerospace, biotechnology, cleantech, and information technology — industries that endure in the long term.
Boulder ranks number one in the nation for home value stability and growth for the fifth consecutive year, according to SmartAsset. As discussed in our recently published real estate report, based on our extensive data and market analysis, we have had a healthy housing market through 2019. Even through the grim days of the Great Recession, home prices in Boulder County declined only by 5 percent and recovered quickly post-recession. If you held onto your home for at least six years, there is no period when you would have lost money on your investment here.
While past performance is no guarantee of future results, the real estate market in our area has a history of weathering recent recessions better than other places and recovering more quickly after the storm has passed. Given everything that is going on, I still believe that owning property in Boulder Valley is and will continue to be an excellent investment.
Be well and do what you can to flatten the curve. Stay home.
The year 2019 was another very good year for residential real estate in the Boulder Valley, but unlike the previous five-plus years, it was marked by slowing appreciation, slightly rising inventory (finally), and longer average time on the market.
In Boulder County, median and average sales prices of single-family homes increased by a very modest 1 percent, while attached dwelling (condos and townhomes) appreciation was essentially flat. In the city of Boulder, the average single-family home sales price increased a modest 2.6 percent to an immodest $1,246,250, while attached dwellings increased 2.4 percent to $538,360.
Single-family listing inventory in Boulder County reached a peak of 1,058 homes and attached dwellings topped out at 370 units on the market, both reaching their peak in June, and both above the peak inventory of the last several years. To put this in perspective, however, the inventory of single-family homes in 2006 (just before the Great Recession) reached a peak of 2,763, more than two-and-one-half times the peak of 2019. That is, we still have far less inventory available than we used to.
The average number of days homes stayed on the market before closing reached 61 days, an increase over last year by 5.2 percent for single-family homes and 15.1 percent for attached units. The average months of inventory (the time it would take for all existing homes to sell if no additional homes came on the market) rose to 1.8 months, an increase of 6 percent for single-family homes and 28.6 percent for attached units. By traditional standards, this would still qualify as a seller’s market (when months’ of inventory is in the 5-6 percent range, it is considered a balanced market, and we are still a long way from that). Charts on top show a snapshot of the Boulder County 10 vital statistics we track to gauge the market.
So, what is going on? Why do the months’ of inventory indicate that we’re in a strong seller’s market when many of the other metrics are pointing toward a more balanced market? And what can this tell us about 2020?
Explaining the months of inventory question
There appear to be a couple of key factors keeping our months of inventory much lower than historically. First, the nation as a whole — and Boulder County especially — have been building far fewer new homes that we were building pre-Great Recession. This graph from census.gov illustrates the situation well:
In Boulder County, we are getting close to full buildout under our current zoning and land use regulations, meaning that unless they are amended, we will run out of available lots on which to build new housing. (In practicality, this means that neighboring counties will become our bedroom communities, as Boulder still has the lion’s share of jobs in our area and people will be forced to commute farther and farther.)
Thus, with people continuing to move into the area at a strong pace while building is lagging behind, demand will structurally continue to outpace supply.
Second, people are staying in their homes longer than they used to. In 2010, homeowners nationwide stayed in their homes an average of eight years before selling. By 2019, that figure had increased to 13 years. With people selling less frequently, inventory goes down and, with strong demand like we have in Boulder, months of inventory stays low, too.
In Boulder, this issue is exacerbated by the fact that a lot of our homeowners are older (the National Association of Realtors reports that homeowners 73 years and older stay in their homes for an average of 17 years) and many of these Boulderites want to continue to age in place. Moreover, the Boulder Valley does not have a lot of options for the elderly looking to downsize and stay in their current community.
Accordingly, housing turnover is lower than it used to be, and this trend is likely to be even stronger in Boulder, further suppressing inventory.
For 2020, it appears that our available housing inventory will continue to be reined in by the structural impediments of inability to build sufficient new housing and current homeowners staying in place. That will put upward pressure on prices. Continued migration into our area fueled by our (currently) robust economy will keep demand high and put additional upward pressure on prices. Additionally, our return to very low interest rates will allow more potential buyers to qualify for our expensive property than would have otherwise been the case.
On the other side of the equation, home prices have risen so high (especially in the city of Boulder) that, even with low interest rates, the pool of buyers able to buy in our area will be relatively small. Moreover, the political uncertainty of election years can cause people to take fewer risks (such as buying a home). The fact that this promises to be an especially colorful election cycle will likely be a drag on demand as we get closer to November.
Based on the foregoing, if I had to make a prediction, I would suspect that the first part of the year will have very strong activity, with prices rising and multiple offer situations being not uncommon. Then, I suspect that the market may cool as we get closer to the election, which may be an especially good time to buy for those with intestinal fortitude.
Originally posted by Jay Kalinski
Colorado ranked as the No. 5 most innovative state in the U.S. and the achievement comes with perks.
For example, innovation is a principal driver of U.S. economic growth, reports WalletHub, which points toward good news for Colorado’s economic outlook.
“In 2019, the U.S. will spend an estimated $581 billion on research and development — more than any other country in the world and about 25 percent of the world’s total — helping the nation rank No. 6 on the Global Innovation Index,” writes WalletHub in its recently released study of Least & Most Innovative States.
The study compared 50 states and the District of Columbia across 24 indicators of innovation-friendliness, ranging from share of STEM professionals to tech-company density.
The top five states and their corresponding scores out of 100 are:
No. 1 Massachusetts, 72.31
No. 2 Washington, 68.03
No. 3 District of Columbia, 67.47
No. 4 Maryland, 64.06
No. 5 Colorado, 63.35
“Certain states deserve more credit than others for America’s dominance in the tech era. These states continue to grow innovation through investments in education, research and business creation, especially in highly specialized industries,” notes WalletHub.
Colorado also ranked in the top 10 for six metrics, including tied for No. 1 in eighth-grade math and science performance, No. 5 for share of STEM professionals and share of technology companies, No. 6 for projected STEM-job demand, and No. 7 for venture capital funding per capita.
What makes Colorado so innovative?
WalletHub compared two dimensions across 24 metrics, “Human Capital” and “Innovation Environment.”
Human Capital includes:
- Share of STEM Professionals
- Share of Science & Engineering Graduates
- Projected STEM-Job Demand by 2020
- Scientific-Knowledge Output
- Eighth-Grade Math & Science Performance
- AP Exam Participation
Innovation Environment includes:
- Share of Technology Companies
- R&D Spending per Capita
- R&D Intensity
- Invention Patents per Capita
- IP Services Exports as a Share of All Services Exports
- Business Churn
- Jobs in New Companies
- Net Migration
- Entrepreneurial Activity
- Number of Startups “Accelerated” per Total Number of Start-ups
- Venture-Capital Funding per Capita
- Average Annual Federal Small-Business Funding per GDP
- Industry-Cluster Strength
- Open Roads & Skies Friendly Laws
- Average Internet Speed
- Share of Households with Internet Access
- Adoption of K–12 Computer Science Standards, Note that this metric was chosen because WalletHub considers most future innovation will be tech enabled.
For more information visit https://wallethub.com/edu/most-innovative-states/31890
Originally Posted by Tom Kalinski Founder RE/MAX of Boulder on Tuesday, April 16th, 2019
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
Wobbekind points to headwinds facing Colorado, saying the state should watch out for:
Drought and weather
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.
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.
A tale of two markets emerged in November, as Boulder County’s single-family home sales skidded to a stop, while townhomes and condos took a significant leap forward.
Single-family home sales in the Boulder-area markets dropped 14.4 percent in November compared to October —310 vs. 362 homes—while condominium and townhome sales rose 14.5 percent—126 units vs. 110.
Yet when data for 2018’s first 11 months is considered, the two markets tracked closely together, and both appear to be slowing, according to Ken Hotard, senior vice president of public affairs for the Boulder Area Realtor® Association.
“This is the first month single-family home sales fell below last year, and condos and townhomes are only slightly ahead,” Hotard explains.
Year-to-date through November, sales of single-family homes decreased 1.4 percent compared to the prior year with 4,205 homes sold vs. 4,266. Attached home sales over the same period improved 3.3 percent – 1,445 vs. 1,399 units sold.
Inventory decreased in both housing categories, though more significantly for single-family homes, which dropped 13.1 percent in November compared to October with 821 vs. 945 Boulder County homes for sale. Condo/townhome inventory fell 6.1 percent in November compared to the previous month with 263 units for sale vs. 280.
“My guess is the growth of the townhome/condo market is due to a larger inventory and more affordable pricing,” says Hotard. “Interest rates are making people jumpy, but the reality is that mortgage rates are still historically low. The more complete view is the inventory and pricing dynamics of the Boulder-area markets.”
He notes that single-family home sales could recover in December, but it’s not likely.
“We have the ongoing headwinds of low inventory and rising prices. When we look back, we’ll see 2018 as market slowdown for housing in our market areas,” Hotard predicts.
Despite the slow-down in housing, Colorado’s economy continues to show strength, wage growth is increasing, and gross domestic product is up, according to recent news reports.
“What the Boulder-area needs is more housing that is desirable and more affordable for people,” adds Hotard.
Boulder leads the nation for the most positive economic outlook, followed by two other Colorado cities in the top 10 — No. 3 Fort Collins and No. 9 Denver. According to the recent survey by Indeed.com, a positive economic outlook is driven largely by where you live more than by a national or political view of a national economy.
Colorado is the only state with three cities in Indeed’s top 10. Smaller mountain-state metro area residents performed well when surveyed about the economy and their personal outlook. Tech hubs also fared well, such as the San Francisco Bay Area, Austin, and Raleigh.
The following 10 U.S. cities have the highest economic confidence, according to Indeed.com:
- Boulder, CO
- Provo-Orem, UT
- Fort Collins, CO
- San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
- Boise, ID
- Ann Arbor, MI
- San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA
- Austin, Round Rock, TX
- Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO
- Raleigh, NC
For the 2,000 American adults nationwide surveyed on politics and attitudes about the economy, local economic conditions such as lower unemployment, faster job growth, and a more educated workforce correlate with local economic confidence.
Nine percent describe their regional economic conditions as excellent and 51 percent say their economies are good. To analyze the local influence on economic perspective, Indeed combined answers to survey questions with data on local job markets. Five factors were found to drive local economic confidence:
- Personal finances – 81 percent of respondents rate their personal financial situation as excellent or good and say the same about local economic conditions.
- National economic view – 83 percent who rate national economics as excellent or good say the same about local economic conditions. The survey found that views of the national economic situation are also strongly influenced by politics, with 73 percent of Republicans and 43 percent of Democrats rating national economic conditions excellent or good.
- Local unemployment rate – Respondents in areas with lower unemployment rates have a more positive economic outlook. The outlook is likely driven by the view that a lower unemployment rate results in more job opportunities and bargaining power for workers, which should translate into faster wage growth.
- Higher local job growth – Job growth where you live means expanding opportunities and rising home prices. The majority of homeowners like this combined dynamic.
- Highly educated populations – For those who live in areas where a larger percentage of adults have a college degree – such as the Denver-metro area – there is a correlation with higher earnings and more spending power.
People are more optimistic when they live in places that are doing well economically. That holds true for those who live in Colorado where unemployment rates continue to be among the lowest in the nation and job growth remains strong.
Yahoo Finance article: https://finance.yahoo.com/news/10-u-s-cities-highest-economic-confidence-170140863.html
Indeed’s full report at: https://www.hiringlab.org/2018/11/27/local-economic-confidence/
If there is one constant in Boulder Valley, it’s a strong real estate market. October’s sales statistics show 2018 is on track to finish strong. This is despite that month-to-month, those statistics sometimes show significant fluctuation.
Take September and October 2018. When compared to October, September’s data is like Colorado weather: If you don’t like the statistics one month, wait a month, they are likely to change.
September’s single-family sales dropped 20 percent, then recovered to gain 8.7 percent in October with 362 homes sold vs. September’s 333. Despite the short-term fluctuation, year-to-date sales are holding steady through October, reaching just one unit short of the same volume as last year – 3,880 vs. 3,881.
“It’s hard to characterize our market here in Boulder County. Given all of the factors, it can be difficult to decipher trends as opposed to an event,” says Ken Hotard, senior vice president of public affairs for the Boulder Area Realtor® Association.
“While the swings add volatility to the market, the market exhibits good health with strong demand, and prices and sales holding steady,” he says, adding that a strong economy and job growth continue to be drivers.
Condo/townhomes in Boulder County saw a month-over-month sales decrease of 5.2 percent, with 110 units sold in October compared to 116 in September. Year-to-date attached dwelling sales rose 4 percent through October – 1,317 vs. 1,266.
October’s inventory for attached dwellings also increased 7.3 percent over September with 280 units available in October compared to 261 the prior month. Single-family home inventory declined 10 percent, with 945 homes available for sale in October compared to 1,050 in September 2018.
Hotard projects November and December sales will be “anybody’s guess depending on the weather. But all things being equal, I don’t expect much change through the end of the year.”
The next big change he expects will be in early 2019. “I think we’ll see a big increase in inventory and sales in February and March. I think people will look at taking the gains we have seen in this market, providing inventory and set the market up for pretty strong increases in the big home selling months.”