ArticlesBizWest April 1, 2020

Real estate in the time of COVID-19

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.

Nationally:

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 and Boulder County outperform the nation:

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.

Summing up:

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.

ArticlesBizWest June 2, 2018

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.