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).
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.
Home sales in Boulder-area single-family and attached housing markets rose in August along with the late summer heat index.
Single-family home sales increased 10 percent in August 2018 compared to July with 460 homes sold in Boulder-area markets vs. 418. Sales for condominiums and townhomes climbed 15 percent with 146 units sold vs. 127.
Meanwhile, Denver-metro home sales went in the opposite direction, slowing significantly over the same period, according to the Denver Post.
It’s testament to the state of Boulder Valley real estate market, according to Ken Hotard, senior vice president of public affairs for the Boulder Area Realtor® Association.
“We have our own little market here. While Denver dipped, Boulder Valley showed strong growth in sales, despite ongoing rising prices and inventory squeeze,” says Hotard.
Year-to-date sales also continue to climb steadily. Single-family home sales grew 1.7 percent through August 2018 compared to last year – 3,154 homes sold vs. 3,100. Attached homes followed a similar track, improving 1.6 percent year-to-date – 1,154 sold in 2018 compared with 1,135 in 2017.
Inventory dropped 2.0 percent for single-family homes – 993 units in August 2018 vs. July’s 1,013. But condo/townhomes available for sale grew 11.2 percent with 268 units available in August vs. 241 the previous month.
Hotard attributes the unceasing increase in real estate sales and prices to the area’s strong economy and continued job growth, along with a desirable quality of life. “Significant companies are hiring in Boulder, like Zayo, Google, Twitter – and the natural foods industry is strong,” he adds.
Interest rates are slowly pushing upward, which traditionally results in a slowdown in rising home prices and sales. But Boulder Valley’s housing market may not readily respond to interest rate increases.
“It’s unknown what the tipping point is for interest rates affecting our housing market. And with 35 percent of Boulder County homes bought with cash, rising interest rates may not have a significant effect locally,” says Hotard.
Looking ahead to the final quarter of the year, Hotard expects sales to continue to match those of last year, unless “something unusual happens.”
“We seem to be operating on an upward trend and it’s hard to see what would stop it. The real challenge for Boulder County is providing the housing and transportation infrastructure to support job growth.”
Boulder-area housing continues to reach new heights, shrugging off a pullback in July sales.
“Prices in Boulder Valley are at an all-time high in both single-family and attached homes. Also inventory challenges are ongoing. Despite both of those realities, housing demand is absolutely holding,” says Ken Hotard, senior vice president of public affairs for the Boulder Area REALTOR® Association.
The City of Boulder July average sales price reached more than $1.3 million – a 15.4 percent increase for the year. Median price hit $984,648. While Boulder’s prices are the highest, every area in Boulder County saw an increase in average sales price ranging from 3.5 percent in Superior to 17.7 percent in Niwot year-to-date.
However, July sales slowed from the previous month, following the typical late summer pattern of a month-over-month slowdown. Sales declined for single-family and attached homes in July compared to June, 2018. Single-family home sales in the Boulder-area markets dropped 16 percent—418 vs. 498 units—while condominium and townhome sales fell 32.8 percent—127 units vs. 189.
Hotard says this year’s July slowdown is a little more pronounced than last year.
Even so, year-to-date single-family home sales were virtually unchanged with a 1.0 percent increase compared to the prior year with 2,666 homes sold compared to 2,639. Attached home sales over the same period improved 5.8 percent; 914 vs. 864 units sold.
Inventory held its own. There was essentially no change in single-family home inventory levels, which rose .8 percent across Boulder County in July compared to June, 2018 with 1,013 vs. 1,004 homes available for sale. Condo/townhome inventory grew 1.3 percent in July compared to the previous month with 241 units for sale vs. 238.
Hotard notes there is potentially downward pressure on the market with interest rates trending upward and prices rising faster than wages in the area.
“But with demand as it is, we’re just going to keep moving forward,” he says.
Hotard adds that real estate is a “dynamic industry and Realtors are responding to the challenges by continuing to advise their clients on successful strategies for selling and purchasing homes.”
Sellers in the Front Range housing market enjoyed a blistering spring season. Everything seemed to be breaking in favor of sellers — brisk appreciation, multiple offers, favorable terms, and generally quick sales. However, several trends are emerging that could derail (or at least diminish) a seller’s summer home sale plans. Here are three of the biggest trends likely to affect our summer market:
1. Rising Interest Rates. For the past several years, economists have been predicting that interest rates will rise from their historic lows (in the 3.5 percent range for a 30-year conventional fixed mortgage). It turns out that the eggheads finally got it right. Compared to this time two years ago, interest rates are at least a percent higher — and with the Fed raising their Funds Rate again at their last meeting (and with more raises on the horizon), it seems that even higher rates are coming. It seems now is an appropriate time to refer back to my article discussing the 1 percent Equals 10 Percent Rule, which is a rule of thumb that for each 1 percent increase in mortgage rates, your buying power decreases about 10 percent. When you consider this with the fact that average home prices in Boulder County have risen about 21 percent in the past two years, it means that the same buyers from two years ago can now afford 31 percent less than they could have back then.
If you’re thinking, “but I’m a seller, it doesn’t affect me.” Think of it in these terms: that pool of buyers who would have bought your 2,000 square-foot, three-bedroom house two years ago? They can now only afford a 1,380 square-foot, two-bedroom condo. That is, the pool of buyers for your home is significantly smaller today.
2. The market hates uncertainty. To say this has been the least conventional presidency of the modern era is an understatement. Setting aside the human side of the geopolitical uncertainty caused by the Trump administration (alienating the G7, backing out of the UN Human Rights Council, separating families at the border, etc.), the president has decided to wage trade wars on multiple fronts. And while these acts might be appeasing his base, they are starting to have a negative effect on the economy. As of mid-June, the stock market has given back all of the gains it made in 2018, due in large part to the trade wars started with China and other countries. Speaking of China, its investments in the United States have dropped 92 percent this year, and less foreign cash means less money to invest in the housing market.
The effect of this is straightforward — when people feel uncertain and less wealthy (i.e., watching their world turn topsy-turvy and stock portfolios drop), they are less willing to take risks and make changes. And while home ownership might be the best investment you’ll make, it still represents a risk, especially if you’re a first time home buyer. Thus, the uncertainties in the economy will produce fewer buyers than a steadily rising market.
3. What the frac? The fracking industry in Colorado has flourished since a Colorado Supreme Court ruling in 2016 held that state laws trumped local bans and regulations limiting fracking. In Weld County alone, there are approximately 23,000 fracking wells, and fights are currently raging over applications to drill near highly populated parts of Boulder and Broomfield counties. Wells are being placed within 1,000 feet of schools, and this encroaching boom has generated growing health and safety related concerns, from a Colorado School of Public Health study reporting that living near fracking wells may increase the risk of cancer, to a home in Firestone that literally exploded from a leaky underground pipeline.
As the concerns grow, so will buyers’ reservations about buying homes near fracking, which could slow demand in these areas. Longmont took the extraordinary step of paying two oil and gas companies $3 million to leave town and prevent future drilling. To be sure, there are competing property rights at issue, but if compromises are not reached that make people feel safe, then homeowners could see their home values fall.
In sum, our market has been red hot this spring, but there are issues on the horizon that could dampen summer sales prospects. Some of these are likely beyond our direct control, but I encourage you to make your voice heard where you feel you can make a difference. Your home’s equity (and your conscience) will thank you.
Jay Kalinski is broker/owner of Re/Max of Boulder.
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).
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.
Jay’s monthly article via Boulder Valley 2018 real estate predictions – BizWest