Boulder Valley real estate – Rear and forward view

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.

So what?

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

Posted on February 5, 2020 at 3:00 pm
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The one statistic every renter needs to see

By Jay Kalinski — 

That’s right, based on the latest available data from the Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Finances, the average net worth of a homeowner is $231,000, a whopping 44 times greater than the average renter’s $5,200 net worth.  What makes the situation more dire is the fact that the gap is widening.  From 2013 to 2016, the average net worth of homeowners increased 15 percent while the average net worth of renters decreased by 5 percent. The situation for renters is bad and getting worse.

More than any other factor I could identify, homeownership best explains the gap between the haves and have nots. People seem to understand this fact, as a Gallup poll showed that Americans chose real estate as the best long-term investment for the fourth year in a row. So, why aren’t more renters buying homes?

Desire?

It could be that renters do not want to own homes. Anecdotally, we hear stories about how Millennials prefer to rent to give them a more flexible lifestyle, but the research tells a different story. In fact, Millennials represent the largest share of homebuyers today and only 7 percent of respondents to an NAR survey said that they did not want the responsibility of owning. More generally, 82 percent of renters expressed a desire in the fourth quarter of 2017 to be homeowners and about the same percentage said that homeownership is part of the American Dream.

What is driving this desire for renters to become owners? According to a recent survey, the main reasons renters would want to buy a home are: a change in lifestyle such as getting married, starting a family or retiring; an improved financial situation; and a desire to settle down in one location.

Renters seem to know that owning a home is a great investment, and they overwhelmingly express a desire to do so, and yet something is preventing many of them:

Ability

Based on a recent NAR survey, it appears that ability (perceived or actual) is the biggest obstacle to homeownership. In fact, 66 percent of renters reported that it would be somewhat or very difficult to save for a downpayment on a home. Only 16 percent said that it would not be difficult at all. Of those who said saving for a downpayment was difficult, 49 percent identified student loans, 42 percent cited credit card debt, and 37 percent cited car loans.

The above, however, only focuses on one aspect of home affordability. Another side is home price appreciation.  That is, if homes were more affordable, it would be easier to save for a downpayment.  Unfortunately for local renters, Boulder County has appreciated more since 1991 than any other area in the country — more than 380 percent! The average single family Boulder County home topped $708,000 in February 2018, which is almost 20 percent higher than two years ago.

In addition, interest rates are on the rise in 2018, and we’ve already covered how a 1 percent increase in interest rates can reduce your purchasing power by 10 percent.

Takeaways

There are two takeaways from this. First, for renters, you may be familiar with the adage “The best time to buy a home was 30 years ago. The second best time is now.” That is true now more than ever. If you have been considering making the jump to homeownership, now is the time. At this point, each day delayed likely equals less home for the money.

Second, for local government officials, if you truly support the idea of affordable (market rate) workforce housing, you have the power to encourage it. Without you, the affordability situation will only continue to deteriorate.

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

 

Posted on April 10, 2018 at 7:51 pm
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First Signs of Spring Home Sales Show Promise

‘Home for Sale’ signs are popping up like spring tulips in Boulder County, showing early indications the selling season is likely to emerge strong this year.

Those early positive signs are supported by February’s Boulder Area Realtor® Association sales stats that mark improvement in inventory and sales for single-family and attached dwellings.

“February showed good recovery in sales and inventory from last month’s slow start to the year,” says Ken Hotard, vice president of public affairs for the Boulder Area Realtor® Association. “It sets buyers and sellers up well going into the top home-selling months of March, April, May and June.”

Inventory increased for single-family and attached Boulder County dwellings in February compared to January. Single-family home inventory increased 7.6 percent – 592 units versus 550 – while townhome and condominium inventory improved 2.3 percent – 138 units versus 130 – month-over-month.

Month-over-month sales of single-family homes in the Boulder-area improved 9 percent compared to January – 240 units versus 220. Condominium and townhome sales rose 7.9 percent month-over-month – 95 units versus 88.

Year-to-date, single-family home sales in the Boulder-area increased 12.3 percent through February 2018, with 467 homes sold versus 416. The number of condominiums and townhomes sold also rose, marking a 26.2 percent year-to-date jump with 183 units sold versus 145 units for the same period in 2017.

Hotard says Boulder County’s real estate market hasn’t changed from last year, noting that “given the market we have, there is no denying demand is strong and there continue to be active buyers.”

The one shifting fundamental is increasing interest rates.

“Interest rates are over 4.5 percent now and projected to go higher. The question is just how high they will go,” explains Hotard.

He says it’s too soon to tell if rising interest rates will put a damper on home sales or the area’s ever-rising real estate prices.

All told, not much has changed in Hotard’s view. “We still live in a beautiful place that offers an exceptional quality of life, Colorado job growth continues to be strong, and the areas surrounding Boulder County are experiencing rising real estate prices.”

So bring on the 2018 home selling season, it’s budding with promise.

Originally posted here by Tom Kalinski Founder RE/MAX of Boulder on Tuesday, March 27th, 2018 at 1:21pm.
Posted on April 3, 2018 at 7:34 pm
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Boulder Real Estate Market Holds Steady, Despite Pressure

 

Early in 2018 the real estate outlook for Boulder County looks strong, even while sailing into the same headwinds that prevailed last year: low inventory and rising prices.

But this year promises additional gusts in the form of rising interest rates.

“None of the fundamentals in the market have changed, except a small rise in interest rates and the anticipation of additional increases,” says Ken Hotard, senior vice president of public affairs for the Boulder Area Realtor® Association.

“January data shows year over year single-family home sales are about the same as last year, and condos and townhomes are up significantly.”

Single-family home sales for Boulder County are down a single unit or .05 percent with 220 units sold in January 2018 compared with 221 in January 2017. Month-over-month, January sales dropped 39 percent for the first month of 2018 compared to December’s 363 units sold.

In condominium/townhomes, 88 units sold in January 2018, a 44.3 percent improvement compared with 61 units sold a year ago, but a 26.7 percent drop compared with the 120 units sold in December.

“December finished strong and the totals for 2017 pushed over and above 2016 slightly, which makes having a strong January challenging,” says Hotard.

Inventory continued its persistent decline. Single-family homes for sale in the Boulder-area declined 1.3 percent in January 2018 compared to December 2017 – 550 units vs. 557.

Meanwhile, condominium and townhome inventory improved 8.3 percent in January compared to December – 130 units versus 120.

Hotard notes that rising mortgage rates is a new factor for real estate markets that have seen a long run of low interest rates. He says the question is whether rising rates, while still historically low, will have a dampening effect on pricing or sales.

“Affordability is already an issue in Boulder, Louisville and Niwot. If interest rates go up people may have greater difficulty affording higher priced homes,” he adds. For 2017, Boulder’s median sales price came in over $800,000, Niwot’s roughly $750,000 and Louisville’s nearing $575,000.

With minimal data to consider this early in the year, Hotard is reluctant to predict this year’s market.

“For now, the data is over a small number of sales, so it’s difficult to identify trends. But this market has been strong for years and it is likely to continue to be strong.”

Originally posted here by Tom Kalinski Founder RE/MAX of Boulder on Monday, March 5th, 2018 at 9:37am.

Posted on March 9, 2018 at 7:59 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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