2020 was a chaotic rollercoaster for the Boulder Valley real estate market. Luckily, home values weathered the storm better than anyone could have hoped, and we are now primed for potentially the most real estate sales volume we have ever seen.
Buyer Demand. Our company has tracked buyer demand on a daily basis for many years, and it is higher than it has ever been for this time of year. This demand is especially strong for single-family homes. It appears that the trend of buyers desiring larger living spaces and more land will continue into 2021, as the pandemic lingers on and the work from home movement has finally crossed the chasm into mainstream acceptance. This latter work from home development is particularly salient for Boulder Valley, where our 300-plus days of sunshine per year and world-class quality of life are attracting those who can now work from anywhere. At each of our weekly sales meetings this year (attended by more than 100 of the best agents anywhere), we hear story after story of multiple offers on listings, prices getting bid up by tens of thousands of dollars, and buyers who are getting frustrated with all of the stiff competition. It seems that the pool of eager buyers is very deep this year.
Interest Rates. Adding fuel to the buyer demand fire is the fact that interest rates are forecast to stay at once-in-a-lifetime low rates for the foreseeable future. Our most veteran agents tell stories of helping people buy homes in the 1980s with mortgage rates above 18% — that is like financing a home purchase with a credit card. Now, buyers can expect to obtain loan rates at-or-below 3%, which is as close to free money (when average inflation is considered) as we are likely to ever see in America.
So, what could possibly derail this buyer juggernaut? Well, here are a couple of the most likely possibilities.
Lack of Inventory. In 2020, despite high buyer demand, many would-be sellers opted to stay put in their current homes. It is part of the human condition to become more conservative in the face of uncertainty, and COVID-19 presented humanity with one of the biggest uncertainties of the past 100 years. Thus, it is not surprising that we finished 2020 with only 313 single-family homes for sale in all of Boulder County, down 37% compared to the end of 2019 (498 homes). For added context, consider that at the end of 2002, we had more than 1,800 homes on the market.
It remains an open question as to whether sellers will get the message that 2021 will be an excellent time to sell a home — and an even bigger question regarding whether sellers will act on this message. If the answer to both questions is “yes,” then we really could have the highest dollar volume of home sales ever in Boulder Valley this year. This is a big “if,” however, because of…
COVID-19. At the time of this writing, more than 25 million Americans have contracted COVID-19 and more than 400,000 of them have died. This has — and will — greatly affect home sales in ways predictable and unforeseeable. Thankfully, there are multiple effective vaccines currently being distributed and administered. There remain, however, several unknowns on this front: Will too many people refuse to get vaccinated and thus thwart herd immunity? How quickly will enough of the population be vaccinated to provide such herd immunity and restore more certainty for people’s decisions? Will the current vaccines be efficacious against new (and perhaps more virulent) strains of the virus that are emerging?
A lot of things vis-à-vis COVID-19 will have to break in our favor this year to give enough sellers the confidence to move ahead with their home sale decisions, which is the only way we will even come close to meeting the apparently insatiable buyer demand. If we are lucky, this could be a year for the record books (in a good way).
Regardless of how things go with our fight against COVID-19, 2021 promises to be an excellent time to sell a home if you’re considering doing so… and a very challenging time to be a buyer.
May we all be lucky in 2021.
Jay Kalinski is the owner of ReMax of Boulder and ReMax Elevate.
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 real estate market in Boulder County is red hot, which makes maintaining your mortgage approval a must if you’re shopping for a home.
“It can be a lot of work to get your mortgage approved. Once it is approved, it is important not to make any major financial changes until you sign your final disclosure and the loan is closed,” says Jessica Shanahan, loan officer with Premier Lending.
To keep your mortgage approval, you need to know the financial moves not to make.
Your mortgage approval is primarily based on documenting your income and assets, your equity stake or down payment, your credit history and the cash you’ll have left over after the deal is done, according to Tuttle’s Real Estate Update.
After your mortgage is approved, don’t change any one of those qualifiers without first consulting your loan officer or you could lose your mortgage.
Here’s Real Estate Update’s list of what not to do:
Avoid Big Purchases
Don’t buy a new car or another large possession, or change the lease on your current car. It could show up on your credit report or bank statement. The new loan or purchase amount could tilt the debt-to-income ratio the lender used to approve your home loan, and your mortgage could vaporize.
Don’t Get New Credit
Don’t sign up for any new credit cards or other lines of credit, even for a zero interest rate. Resist all of those credit card offers that flow in after you get your mortgage approval.
Don’t Miss a Bill Payment or Pay Late
Pay your bills on time without fail, even if you dispute the charge. If you stop paying a bill, it can end up on your credit report and cause a problem with your mortgage.
Don’t Change Jobs
Now isn’t the time to start a new job or lose the job you have. It is okay to take a second job, as long as you keep the job you have. However, if you should be so fortunate as to get a promotion and raise, your mortgage shouldn’t be jeopardized.
Don’t Spend Your Cash
Don’t use your cash reserves, transfer large sums between bank accounts, or make undocumented transactions in your back account – either deposits or withdrawals. This activity can cause your mortgage approval to be reversed.
Just remember to control items that affect your financial picture, and barring any uncontrollable life events, your mortgage should be fine.
For more information see: https://bit.ly/2JzU2lx
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?
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:
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.
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.
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.”
It’s the same old story, but one we love to hear. Boulder County home sales closed 2017 with yet another increase over the previous year, despite ongoing low inventory, according to Ken Hotard, senior vice president of public affairs for the Boulder Area Realtor® Association.
“All in all, the year was positive. Sales increased moderately over 2016 in both single-family and attached residential housing,” says Hotard.
That’s saying a lot, since sales have increased in Boulder County for several years in a row and prices have increased significantly, while inventory levels never cease to become more challenging.
“The past several years have a pattern of similarity. It’s a sure sign that the demand for a home in Boulder County is strong and undeterred,” he says.
In fact, year-over-year increases in sales were only about 1 percent apart in each market category. Condominiums and townhomes lead with a 5.6 percent rise through December 2017 – 1508 homes sold vs. 1,428 through 2016 – while sales of single-family homes improved 4.4 percent for the year with 4,612 homes sold vs. 4,419.
Month-to-month sales of single-family homes were virtually unchanged, increasing .1 percent in December 2017 compared to November 2017 – 363 vs. 359 units. In the same period, sales of attached dwellings dropped 2.4 percent compared to the previous month – 120 units vs. 123.
Hotard says lack of inventory is a problem plaguing Boulder County that shows little sign of change in the near future.
Inventory of single-family homes dropped 28.3 percent in December compared to November—declining to 557 units from 777, while multi-family unit inventory decreased 5.5 percent—138 units versus 146—over the same period.
Adding to the inventory crunch, demographers say age is starting to catch up with Boulder County. State demographics show the size of the retired Baby Boomer age group will reach unprecedented levels in the coming years.
Experts say older people tend to move less and age in place. Hotard cautions the aging population could make the already tight housing inventory even tighter over the next decade.
Where might inventory easing come from? Hotard notes that Boulder city leaders are looking at land use policies that may bring some limited relief by making it easier to build Accessory Dwelling Units or Occupant Accessory Units. And there’s consideration being given to a targeted zoning change that would allow two homes to be built on larger lots where only one home currently stands.
None of these changes, though, will have the impact needed soon enough or large enough to negate the fact that many people who work in the city of Boulder will likely live somewhere else. Hotard believes that improved public regional transportation will be a needed component of our housing picture.
“We’re in the midst of a big shift,” says Hotard. “Boulder Valley used to be 25 square miles surrounded by reality. Now it’s 25 square miles surrounded by competition. That competition is in shopping, locations for businesses, housing and jobs.”
Housing start statistics show that building has increased in Eerie and the tri-towns of Dacono, Frederick and Firestone north of Boulder.
“Increasing inventory in these towns is helping to keep pricing in check in Boulder,” Hotard says of the competition. “Moderating prices is probably a good thing.”
But he remains confident that Boulder County holds strong as a place that people want to live. He expects 2018 to be another positive year in the area’s residential real estate, beginning with a strong first quarter. With interest rates expected to slowly rise, buyers will be motivated to move earlier in the year rather than later.
“As long as we have the beauty and quality of life Boulder County offers, people will want to live here.” And that means our real estate market will be rock solid.