Home ownership has been part of the American Dream since the founding of our republic. It confers economic benefits, a sense of safety and security, and can be a source of pride. Sadly, for as long as this part of the American Dream has existed, it has not been equally available to everyone. As you will see, as much progress as has been made in 200+ years, our work is far from done to ensure that the dream — and reality — of owning a home is truly and equally open to all Americans.
Property protection officially began in the United States with the passage of the Fifth Amendment in 1789, but virtually anyone who was not a white man did not receive this right. After the Civil War, the 14th Amendment declared all people born in the U.S. were citizens and the Civil Rights Act of 1866 stated that all citizens had the same rights to real property as white men. This should have been the end of the story, but a series of court decisions, immigration laws and racially discriminatory zoning laws ensured that property rights continued to be denied to minorities and women.
Woefully and to its shame, in the late 1800s and into the 1900s, the National Association of Real Estate Boards (the precursor to the National Association of Realtors) encouraged racial discrimination and segregation. In fact, its Code of Ethics even mandated that its members work to racially segregate communities.
In 1917, the Supreme Court declared racial zoning ordinances to be unconstitutional, so private restrictive covenants were then used to prohibit the sale of homes to minorities. The Federal Housing Administration, created in 1934, used “redlining” in this period to identify African American areas as high risk by shading them in red and steering whites away from such areas, and real estate agents used discriminatory practices like steering and blockbusting (see the resource links below for more information).
In 1948, the Supreme Court struck down racially restrictive private covenants, though they lingered in practice, even if unenforceable. In a small bright spot, Colorado was the first state in the nation to pass a fair housing law in 1959, helping pave the way for nationwide fair housing legislation.
As many know, the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, but less well known is that legislators could not agree on fair housing legislation and NAR actively opposed passage of the Fair Housing Act. It was not until 1968, in the wake of the Kerner Commission Report (studying the causes of race riots) and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., that the Fair Housing Act was passed to prohibit discrimination based on race, color, religion or national origin.
By 1975, NAR had finally turned the corner, adopting an agreement with the Department of Housing and Urban Development to promote fair housing, educate its members about their obligations under the Fair Housing Act, and recommend fair housing procedures for its members to follow.
Today, the Realtor Code of Ethics requires Realtors to provide equal services regardless of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status and national origin in accordance with the Fair Housing Act, as amended. The code even goes beyond the act by covering sexual orientation and gender identity.
Despite the progress that has been slowly and painfully won, much work remains to be done to ensure truly equal opportunity in home ownership and property rights. In terms of numbers, the homeownership rate for white households in 2017 was 72.3%, but only 46.2% for Hispanic households and 41.6% for African American households (this is about the same rate of home ownership for African Americans as when the Fair Housing Act was passed in 1968).
The truth is, there are many things that need to change to realize this dream. Locally, it is time to revisit zoning and occupancy laws (see, e.g., www.bedroomsareforpeople.com), and more broadly, groups like the Fair Housing Alliance have put together concrete steps toward a solution (https://nationalfairhousing.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Fair-Housing-Solutions-Overcoming-Real-Estate-Sales-Discrimination-2.pdf).
It is incumbent on all of us — especially elected officials, real estate professionals and the mortgage industry — to continue to do better to make fair housing not just the law of the land, but also the reality.
Originally posted by Jay Kalinski is the 2020 chair of the Boulder Area Realtor Association and owner of Re/Max of Boulder and Re/Max Elevate.
It is evident that the world was woefully unprepared for a pandemic like COVID-19, and local real estate was no exception. COVID-19 wrought fright, confusion, and uncertainty on buyers, sellers, real estate agents, and legislators, as everyone tried to discern how best to navigate the crisis unfolding before them. Many contracts to buy and sell real estate that were then in-process fell through or were renegotiated, and the legal fallout from that may stretch on for years.
And yet, life marches forward, and people continue to need to move and buy/sell real estate, so all of the players have learned to adapt in order to help people move on with life. Some of these adaptations will likely become enduring features of the new normal, while others may fade with time. The following is a brief look at some of the most prominent trends to emerge from this pandemic and whether they are likely to last.
- Marketing.Before COVID-19, a small minority of properties were marketed using 3D technology, relying instead on photos and, perhaps, static floor plans. Now, however, virtually every buyer expects (and sellers demand) an immersive 3D tour of a listed property. Pre-pandemic, buyers would likely visit many homes in-person before deciding on which home to make an offer. Now, buyers are almost certain to “tour” a number of homes virtually and then select the one (or few) that they actually want to see in person. We are even seeing this trend emerge in commercial real estate, as being able to tour a property virtually can save companies time and money in assessing whether a potential commercial space will fit their needs.
This 3D marketing trend will almost certainly continue for the duration of the pandemic, but it is less clear if it will continue after or slowly fade back to “normal” as people begin to feel safer again.
- Remote transactions.Before this pandemic, a large portion of a real estate transaction could be accomplished electronically, with agency agreements, purchase contracts and property-related disclosures all commonly being signed electronically. However, when it came time to close the transaction, the parties still had to physically attend a closing and physically sign documents in front of a notary public. This was the case for two primary reasons. First, Colorado’s previous attempts to pass remote notarization legislation, which would have removed the requirement of physical presence and allowed parties to sign documents via the internet, never made it through the legislature. And second, many lending institutions continue to require physical “wet” signatures and in-person notaries to minimize the potential for fraud. To solve the first problem, Gov. Polis signed an executive order allowing remote notarization. However, as we soon learned, even with remote notarization now allowed, lending institutions (inexcusably, in my view) persisted in requiring in-person physical signatures. Thus, we experienced the phenomenon of “curbside closings,” wherein the parties would drive to the title company and sit in their cars while a notary in a mask and gloves would hand them the document, watch them sign, and then notarize their documents. Having witnessed such “curbside closings,” which are clunky and awkward, I can predict that buyers and sellers will demand that the government and lending institutions allow fully remote closings in the future. Once in place, I believe this trend will be here to stay because it is vastly more convenient for people.
- Shifting consumer preferences.With most employees (those fortunate enough to keep their jobs) being forced to work remotely, many people and companies have discovered that, not only do they like working from home, they can actually be more productive. As a consequence, an emerging trend we are seeing is that buyers are looking for homes with an office (or workspace) more than before. And they also seem to be favoring rural (i.e., private space) over dense and urban. This may also portend a coming shift in the commercial office market, as companies realize that they can get by with much less space than before. This trend is likely to continue as more people become accustomed to being productive from home; however, the strength and reach of this trend will be limited by the fact that some jobs can be done only in person and more space at home costs more money, so not everyone will be able to realize this desire.
These are just a few of the trends emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is likely that others will develop as things continue to unfold. It will behoove buyers, sellers, and landlords to track these trends carefully to best position themselves for the future.
Originally posted by Jay Kalinski is broker/owner of Re/Max of Boulder.
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
If you are like a lot of people, your eyes may start to glaze over at the mere mention of “Opportunity Zones,” but stick with me as there is a fascinating story of apparent desperation, questionable motives, and possibly deceitful tactics in order to stem any growth in Boulder.
What are Opportunity Zones anyway?
Opportunity Zones were created by the 2017 federal tax reform package, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, as a way to incentivize investors to improve and revitalize communities across the country that have languished while the rest of the US enjoyed a terrific boom. Specifically, an Opportunity Zone is a census tract that Congress designated as eligible (read struggling) to receive private capital investments through “Opportunity Funds,” which allow investors to receive a deferral, reduction, or possibly even elimination of federal capital gains taxes, depending on how long they keep their money invested in a qualifying property and how much they improve it.
This is where the story gets interesting. Gov. Hickenlooper, seemingly with support from Boulder at the time, designated a Boulder census tract that runs from 28th to 55th Streets and from Iris to Arapahoe Avenue as an Opportunity Zone. While virtually every other municipality welcomed these designations as an opportunity to revitalize their struggling communities, the Boulder City Council placed a moratorium on its Opportunity Zone, blocking investment. And did I mention that this is a limited time offer?
If you are new to the area or have not been following local politics closely (and who could blame you?), it might seem surprising that Boulder would block such investments. However, as discussed in a previous column, a majority of the Boulder City Council appears to be beholden to Boulder’s CAVE people (Citizens Against Virtually Everything) who do not want growth of any kind. It seems they want things to be like it was “back then,” an apparently bygone era with fewer people, fewer businesses, etc. When viewed through this lens, their actions, though by definition counter productive, make sense.
And now for the master stroke of the CAVE people: make it look to the public like they are lifting the moratorium, when they are actually downzoning large parts of the city. Under the guise of lifting the Opportunity Zone moratorium and updating “use table standards,” the city will effectively downzone thousands of properties (not just in the Opportunity Zone), limiting office uses to 25 percent of floor area in the BR, BMS, and TB business zones, and limiting small office uses in residential zones. This will make any existing building in an affected business zone with more than 25 percent office space a “non-conforming use,” meaning that changes or expansions to this use would require city approval through a non-conforming use review. And what do you think the chances of getting approved would be?
This proposal by the city council runs counter to its stated positions on the environment, not to mention its own Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan policies supporting creation of 15-minute walkable neighborhoods and other policies favoring mixed-use planning, smart growth, and pedestrian uses.
If you are so inclined, you can share your opinion with the city council at firstname.lastname@example.org, or if you are really motivated, you can attend the council’s public hearing at 6 p.m. on Sept. 3 at 1777 Broadway.
Originally posted by Jay Kalinski is broker/owner of Re/Max of Boulder.
More than 40 percent of homeowners in Boulder County are equity rich – that is the amount of loans secured by the property is 50 percent or less of the property’s estimated market value, according to ATTOM Data Solutions Q3 2018 U.S. Home Equity & Underwater Report.
Cities in Boulder County notch the upper end of the equity rich measure. Here are the statistics for Boulder County. Percentages within cities vary slightly by zip code:
Boulder – 55% equity rich
Louisville – 46% equity rich
Lafayette – 42% equity rich
Longmont – 41% equity rich
Statewide, Colorado homeowners aren’t far behind with more than 32 percent of Colorado properties equity rich.
Across the U.S., nearly 14.5 million properties are equity rich. That’s 25.7 percent of all mortgaged properties, up from 24.9 percent the previous quarter. Conversely, the share of seriously underwater properties dropped to 8.8 percent. ATTOM says properties categorized as seriously underwater have a combined estimated balance of loans at least 25 percent higher than the property’s estimated market value.
States with the highest share of equity rich properties are California, 42.5 percent; Hawaii, 39.4 percent; Washington, 35.3 percent; New York, 34.9 percent and Oregon, 33.6 percent. Colorado is close on Oregon’s heels with 32.3 percent equity rich properties.
“As homeowners stay put longer, they continue to build more equity in their homes despite the recent slowing in rates of home price appreciation,” said Daren Blomquist, senior vice president with ATTOM Data Solutions. “West coast markets along with New York have the highest share of equity rich homeowners while markets in the Mississippi Valley and Rust Belt continue to have stubbornly high rates of seriously underwater homeowners when it comes to home equity.”
The ATTOM Data Solutions U.S. Home Equity & Underwater report provides counts of properties based on several categories of equity at the state, metro, county and zip code level, along with the percentage of total properties with a mortgage that each equity category represents.
For the full report and to view statistics by zip code, visit: https://www.attomdata.com/news/market-trends/home-sales-prices/home-equity-underwater-report-q3-2018/
Posted by Tom Kalinski Founder RE/MAX of Boulder on Wednesday, February 20th, 2019 at 2:54pm.
Let’s face it, what happens in Boulder affects the rest of Boulder Valley in terms of housing, transportation, economics and myriad other dimensions. If you want to know where your neighborhood is headed, it’s informative to know what Boulder is doing, even if you live in say, Erie. And, if you even casually follow Boulder politics these days, you might be perplexed and concerned by the (seemingly) increasingly bizarre actions coming from Boulder’s City Council.
For a council that purports to support the environment, public safety, and inclusivity, its recent actions don’t seem to match its rhetoric. In my opinion, however, its actions make sense when you understand the true underlying motivations and desires — and to do that, you have to understand Boulder’s CAVE people.
Who are Boulder’s CAVE people and what do they want?
Simply put, I call these people “Citizens Against Virtually Everything” (CAVE), and they seem to have the ear of the majority of the current council. It appears that the plurality of Boulder’s CAVE people arrived in Boulder in the 1960s and ‘70s as students, hippies, ski bums, etc. They decided to stay, bought homes here, and have become relatively well off as Boulder’s home price appreciation outstripped virtually everywhere else in the country. At the same time, they seem not to like the multiple dimensions of growth Boulder has enjoyed over the last several decades; indeed, their strongest desire is apparently to see Boulder return to as it was “back then,” with fewer people, fewer businesses, less crowding, etc. Their apparent goals, then, are to slow, stop, or reverse growth of all kinds in Boulder. Their tactics appear to be to (disingenuously?) cloak themselves in the rhetoric of environmentalism, populism, and liberalism in order to achieve these goals.
Recent examples of CAVE people tactics and their effects:
1. South Boulder Flood Mitigation Plan. The 2013 flood brought the issue of flood mitigation to the front of everyone’s minds in Boulder Valley, but the study of how to best deal with this issue in South Boulder goes back well before then. After nearly a decade of study, and more than $2 million in fees and environmental studies, and extensive public engagement, the City Council had a few feasible flood mitigation plans, one of which (500-Year Variant 2), had the support of the University of Colorado (the property owner), the city’s Water Resources Advisory Board, and general public. One would think, then, that it would be an easy decision for the City Council to support. One, however, would be wrong.
Recently, the Boulder City Council voted to proceed with a different flood mitigation plan, one that is opposed by CU, disregards expert testimony, the preferences of the city’s Water Resources Advisory Board, and general public sentiment.
Why would the council disregard science, experts, reason, common sense and nearby residents? Using the lens of CAVE people logic, it may be because they believe that taking a position in opposition to all of these things will greatly slow the process of CU developing that land, which fits the goals of “slow, stop, reverse.”
2. Sales Tax Revenue. Cities like Boulder depend on sales tax revenue as an important component of their budgets. Earlier this year, Boulder reported a $4 million budget shortfall, attributable primarily to flattening sales tax in the city — at a time when nearby cities are enjoying double digit growth in their sales tax revenues. Members of the City Council held a study session on the topic on July 10 in which some members declared that they apparently want fewer visitors to Boulder (both tourists and locals from neighboring cities). They expressed these opinions even with the knowledge that locals already visit downtown Boulder an average of seven times per month, but tourists spend several times what locals do per visit.
Why, in a city that prides itself on being welcoming and at a time when sales tax revenues are falling, would members of council declare an apparent desire for fewer tourist (and accompanying tax dollars)?
3. Increased housing density. Council members often voice their support for efforts to provide inclusive housing, reduce Boulder’s carbon footprint, and improve our city’s environmental sustainability; however, when it comes to increased density — the thing that would arguably go the farthest toward achieving those aspirations — the council’s words do not match their deeds. Boulder’s draconian housing restrictions, including the 1 percent cap on annual residential growth (which we’ve never actually hit), blanket height restrictions, severe occupancy limits, among other measures, has forced our workforce to largely live outside the city. This, in turn, causes the more than 60,000 daily commutes into and out of Boulder. By simply ameliorating some of these harsh policies, and allowing a modicum of sustainable and smart development, Boulder could include more of its workforce within city limits and could considerably lessen its environmental impact.
Why, then, has the city actively resisted efforts that would address these critical housing and environmental issues? One possibility — CAVE people logic: if it is extremely difficult to add housing density, not only will it slow population growth, it will force workers into longer commutes and growing frustration. Over time, businesses will relocate to areas more accessible to their workforce, and there will be fewer people, fewer jobs, less congestion… like it was “back then.”
What’s to come?
Rather than building a bridge to the future, Boulder’s CAVE people seem intent on digging a trench to the past. In fact, their efforts seem to be achieving results — not only did Boulder run a budget deficit, but its population actually decreased between 2016 and 2017. There is no stasis for cities — they are either growing or dying. It seems the CAVE people are succeeding at pushing their agenda of “slow, stop, reverse,” through council. And if they win, all of us who are truly for the environment, public safety, and inclusivity will lose.
Jay Kalinski is broker/owner of Re/Max of Boulder.
Nine Colorado cities rank in the top 50 best cities for first-time home buyers, according to recent analysis by WalletHub, a personal finance website. Four of those made the top 20 – Centennial, Thornton, Arvada and Greeley, coming in at Nos. 3, 6, 17, and 20, respectively.
With home prices rising in Colorado and across the nation, buying a first home is challenging. Potential buyers need to develop a realistic perspective on market prices, their financing options, and neighborhoods that have a good reputation and appeal to their lifestyle.
To help potential buyers target possible locations, WalletHub compared 300 cities of varying sizes across 27 key indicators of market attractiveness, affordability, and quality of life. Data includes important factors like cost of living, real-estate taxes, and property-crime rate.
Here are the rankings of the Colorado cities reported:
25. Fort Collins
27. Colorado Springs
Among those cities, Colorado Springs has the fourth-lowest real estate tax rate in the nation.
First-time home buyers are often in the millennial generation. As it turns out, Colorado is the ninth-best state for millennials, according to a separate WalletHub report.
Millennials – those born between 1981 and 1997 – make up over 35% of the workforce. While often thought of as “kids,” the oldest are 37 years old.
In addition to a total score of 9, Colorado ranks high for quality of life (7), economic health (3) and civic engagement (10). No. 1 ranked District of Columbia also ranked first in the nation for quality of life and civic engagement.
Colorado was evaluated along with all 50 states and the District of Columbia across 30 key metrics, ranging from share of millennials to millennial unemployment rate to millennial voter-turnout rate.
Here’s a look at the top 10 states for millennials:
For more information, see the full reports at https://wallethub.com/edu/best-and-worst-cities-for-first-time-home-buyers/5564/#methodology and https://wallethub.com/edu/best-states-for-millennials/33371/ .
Posted by Tom Kalinski Founder RE/MAX of Boulder on Friday, August 24th, 2018 at 10:36am.
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.