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.
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
A well-functioning market consists of two sides: suppliers who offer a particular good for sale and consumers who purchase those goods. In the Boulder Valley residential real estate market since 2012, there have been more consumers looking to buy homes than there were sellers offering homes for sale, which has led to a long appreciation period for homes. Now, however, it appears that the number of buyers is dropping as is their willingness to pay ever-increasing prices.
Spotting the trend
First, how do we know that there are fewer buyers in the market? The most direct measure of buyer activity that my company tracks (courtesy of Broker Associate Mike Malec) is the number of showings per available listing. From examining the data, it is fairly easy to see that this year’s showing activity is markedly below the recent boom years, but is still above the levels present during the recession.
Second, to further substantiate this decline in buyer activity, we can look at more indirect measures, such as average sales prices, available inventory of homes on the market, and average time a home will be on the market before sale. Each of these markers indicates a decline in buyer activity. Through May of this year, the average price of a single-family home in Boulder has fallen 0.6 percent, while the average attached unit has fallen 4 percent, compared to the same timeframe last year. This indicates that there are fewer buyers competing for available homes to the point where home appreciation rates have stalled. At the same time, the amount of homes available on the market has increased nearly 20 percent for single-family homes and almost 50 percent for attached ones, while the average time on the market for single family homes has gone up 5 percent and nearly 20 percent for attached ones. These statistics indicate that those buyers in the market are becoming choosier and are able to take their time making decisions.
Based on the above discussion, it seems that there are fewer buyers in the market and that those who are in the market are more cautious, but why?
It does not appear that our local economic conditions explain the drop in buyer activity. According to the State Demographer’s office, people are continuing to move into Boulder and Broomfield counties, albeit at a slower rate than previous years (though the city of Boulder has seen its population declining in the last two years). And local unemployment levels continue to be historically low.
Economic conditions at the national level are softening, to the point where the Fed is discussing interest rate cuts, so these conditions may play some role. But, interest rates are actually about half a percent lower than they were at this time last year, which would appear to weaken that argument.
Could it be the weather?
Another possible explanation I’ve heard is that our unusually cold and snow winter could have suppressed buyer demand as people were less willing to trudge through the snow to go see houses. While this is plausible, all else being equal, we would have expected to see that pent up demand being released as the weather improves, but we just have not seen that play out in the data yet.
Whatever the cause of the decline in buyer activity may be, local real estate legend Larry Kendall of the Group Inc. Real Estate in Fort Collins always says that buyers are the smartest people in the market, so they may be acting as the proverbial canary in a coal mine, meaning that they could be a leading indicator that our market is shifting from a seller’s market to either a balanced or buyer’s market. If you are a seller, be wary of pricing above the market in these shifting conditions.
Originally posted by Jay Kalinski is broker/owner of Re/Max of Boulder.
Why Louisville and why now?
Those are the questions RE/MAX Elevate, the sister franchise of RE/MAX of Boulder, had to answer when deciding whether to put roots down there with its first office. And the answers came easy. Louisville is to many the unofficial “Capital” of East Boulder County. Business booms there, school are great, families love it, and it’s been recognized numerous times in the national media as one of the safest and best places to live in the nation (Money Magazine’s “Best Places to Live” in 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015, and 2017, one of the “20 Safest Places to Live in Colorado” by Elite Personal Finance, and among the “10 Best Towns for Families in the U.S.” by Family Circle Magazine). Louisville is a great little city. In fact, 78 percent of respondents to a citizen survey rated Louisville as an “excellent” place to live.
So it was with much excitement that RE/MAX Elevate planted its flag at 724 Main Street and had its grand opening on May 1. The public was invited to enjoy a ribbon cutting ceremony with Shelley Angell, executive director of the Louisville Chamber of Commerce, live music by Louisville musician Johnny O., wine and sangria tasting with local Decadent Saint winery thanks to Premier Lending LLC, small bites by local Wildcraft Kitchen, desserts from Bittersweet Café & Confections, and flower arrangements donated by Red Door Flowers. RE/MAX Elevate thanks the sponsors and vendors who made it such a special day in Louisville.
It is with much excitement that RE/MAX Elevate planted its flag at 724 Main Street in Louisville and had its grand opening on May 1. (Photo: Jonathan Castner)
RE/MAX Elevate Broker/Owner Jay Kalinski. “It’s an ideal place to live and do business with a great quality of life. We Heart Louisville. That’s the sentiment you’ll see on t-shirts and stickers for RE/MAX Elevate.”
Jay says that for those who want a little more space to live in, along with the beauty and amenities of Boulder County, Louisville is a remarkably attractive choice.
Lest our readers think this is a case of a national “chain” without ties to the community setting up shop in a hot market, a brief history lesson is helpful.
RE/MAX of Boulder was founded 42 years ago in Boulder by Tom Kalinski. At the time it opened for business, it was only the third RE/MAX franchise in the United States. RE/MAX of Boulder has been the No. 1 company in Boulder Valley home sales for more than 30 of its 42 years and the No. 1 single RE/MAX office in the U.S. 8 times. The company has more than 100 award-winning Realtors who are among the best in the nation, averaging more than 15 years of experience. They are seasoned experts with the utmost dedication to clients, going far beyond the extra mile to help them navigate an often challenging market. Jay became Co-Owner of RE/MAX of Boulder in 2012 and helped further expand the company to where it is today, serving as Broker/Owner for several years.
While Jay remains co-owner of RE/MAX of Boulder, he has turned Broker duties back over to Tom, so he can focus on expanding RE/MAX Elevate. Jay is a Boulder native, CU-Boulder alumnus, and Tom’s son. Jay, a lawyer and military veteran, says, “We’re thrilled to introduce RE/MAX Elevate to Louisville, where many of our founding real estate agents – and their families – live, work, and go to school, and where our clients are selling or searching for homes. We are rooted in the community.”
Jay has been a licensed broker for 10 years and a licensed attorney for 14 years having worked at several prominent law firms and serving 4 ½ years on active duty as an Air Force JAG officer. “We are committed to the city of Louisville, East Boulder County, Broomfield, and beyond,” Jay says. “And as a small local veteran-owned business, we are excited to be actively involved in the local entrepreneurial community and with nonprofits and community organizations and to support the vitality and wellbeing of the community.”
Manager Tammy Milano with Broker/Owner Jay Kalinski
Realtors in both offices have donated gift baskets from Louisville businesses for a free drawing, which kicked off during the grand opening party. Drop by any day during business hours in May to enter. Tickets will be drawn and winners announced during the Taste of Louisville on June 1. And to celebrate the opening of the new office, RE/MAX Elevate is sponsoring the Louisville Public Library’s Summer Reading Program. RE/MAX Elevate along with RE/MAX of Boulder are giving back to the community by co-sponsoring the Louisville Downtown Street Faire on Friday nights thoughout the summer.
Jenni Hlawatsch, owner of The Singing Cook, the business next door to RE/MAX Elevate where she continues to be a neighbor, is looking ahead as she welcomes the new office. She says, “While I’ll miss my Book Cellar neighbors, I look forward to the new business relationship with Jay and the RE/MAX Elevate team who are eager to support and get involved in all the goings on in downtown Louisville.”
“We’re delighted to welcome RE/MAX Elevate to downtown Louisville,” says Louisville Mayor Bob Muckle. “Their contributions to the local economy and strong tradition of community involvement will be a win for us all.”
RE/MAX Elevate is a member of the Louisville Chamber of Commerce and the Louisville Downtown Business Association.
RE/MAX Elevate, 724 Main St., Louisville; 303.974.5005; elevatedrealestate.com. Hours are: M-F 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM; Sa/Sun 11:00 AM-4:00 PM
By Darren Thornberry, At Home
Photos by Jonathan Castner and Flatirons Pro Media
Originally Posted by RE/MAX of Boulder
Boulder County home sales declined for December, but overall 2018 sales held somewhat steady with a slight decrease.
“December was not a fabulous month for home sales, particularly for attached dwellings,” says Ken Hotard, senior vice president of public affairs for the Boulder Area Realtor® Association.
Sales of condominiums and townhomes in the Boulder-area dropped 42.9 percent in December compared to November – 72 units sold vs. 126. For the year, attached dwelling sales improved .02 percent with 1,525 units sold vs. 1,522.
Single-family home sales dropped 2.6 percent with 302 sales vs. 310 for December compared to November. Year-over-year, single-family home sales dropped 2.3 percent – 4,533 sales vs. 4,640.
Hotard points out the total decline for all Boulder County dwellings sold for the year – attached and single-family – was only 1.8 percent. That compares to a 3.1 percent national decline reported by the National Association of Realtors.
“Our Boulder County market continues to perform well. Job growth is good, demand is strong, and the area is desirable,” says Hotard, adding that inventory is an ongoing challenge.
Inventory of single-family homes dropped 24 percent in December compared to November—declining to 624 units from 821, while multi-family unit inventory decreased 22.4 percent—204 units versus 63—over the same period.
So where do we go from here?
Hotard says many reports indicate the U.S. is entering a home sales slump, but he expects the Boulder County markets to continue to buck the national trend.
“It’s possible well see a year-over-year decline similar to this year, but I don’t expect it to be more significant, if our markets decline at all,” he says.
In Hotard’s assessment, strong fundamentals in Boulder County are not waning: Employers continue to bring new jobs and prices are holding or improving.
But inventory continues to take a hit. “We need to see inventory numbers improve as we head into March, April, May and June,” Hotard adds.
“It’s going to be ‘steady as she goes’ in 2019, as long as we don’t have any major national or international events.”
Originally posted by Tom Kalinski Founder RE/MAX of Boulder on Monday, February 11th, 2019 at 1:34pm.
Boulder’s economic horizon will keep its rosy glow, though economists anticipate the pace will slow in the face of growing local and national challenges.
Nationally recognized experts presented a mixed economic message to a record-setting crowd of civic, political and business leaders gathered for the 12th annual Boulder Economic Forecast. Organized by the Boulder Chamber and Boulder Economic Council, the event was held January 17 at the Embassy Suites Hotel. RE/MAX of Boulder is among the event’s sponsors.
The goal is to arm community leaders with up-to-date statistics and trends that inform decisions and support local economic vitality, according to John Tayer, CEO and President of the Boulder Chamber.
And community leaders will want to take heed.
Keynote speaker Dr. Richard Wobbekind, Executive Director CU-Boulder Leeds Business Research Division, shared a vision of continued economic growth but more moderate than previous years.
“Overall the picture is pretty positive in the sense that consumption is growing, investment is growing, government spending has been growing, so you have those pieces pushing the economy forward. That continues to fuel growth and employment,” says Wobbekind.
But uphill pressures are mounting.
With national GDP growth slowing to a projected 2.4-2.5 percent for 2019, the national economy is moving to a moderate trend. Wobbekind says the thing on everyone’s mind – “the elephant in the room”—is whether recent stock market volatility and other factors will lead to a significant downturn in the economy.
“Will the Recovery Ever End?” is his presentation title. But Wobbekind says it’s hard to say whether or not the economy will turn towards recession.
National outlook a mixed bag
Nationally, Wobbekind’s data showed a story of good news, bad news.
On the good news side, Wobbekind says nationally incomes are rising due to strong employment accompanied by strong wages. With rising incomes, consumption rates are growing and debt burden as a percentage of income is relatively low. National FHFA home price growth is showing strong price appreciation.
Then there are the tempered aspects of the national economy. He says consumer confidence is still quite high, historically speaking, but it has come down slightly. Businesses are in good shape, but there is uncertainty about interest rates, trade agreements, sales and profit growth and hiring. Nationally, business confidence is falling, but still above neutral.
Wobbekind also presents some straight-up challenges. Corporate and private tax cuts are effectively ending, with the tax cut stimulus leaving a national deficit of over $1 trillion, accumulated during a prolonged period of economic expansion. Workers are in short supply with low unemployment rates and 6.7 million jobs unfilled nationwide. Student loan debt is high and interest rates may see modest increases.
Colorado’s economy sustaining strength, but pressure is rising
Colorado’s economic record has been strong, outperforming the nation in recent years. For example, the state ranked third in the country for pace of GDP growth in 2017. Wobbekind suggests the trend may keep going, though more slowly.
For one, strong employment growth is expected to continue – Colorado has been in the top five states for job creation since 2008. But in 2018, the employment growth was down slightly to two percent. Even so, Colorado has the third highest labor participation in the country.
But worker’s wage growth is not as strong as would be expected given the tight labor market. Wobbekind notes lackluster increase in wages is troubling in the face of the high cost of housing and inflation.
While Colorado’s population keeps growing, the rate is slowing. Net migration will continue to decline as it did last year.
Home price appreciation—notably among the fastest growing in the U.S for the past 10 years—fell from the top three slots but remains in the top 10. Residential building permit activity is still strong.
While businesses are still confident in state and local economies, confidence is dropping when it comes to the national economy.
Boulder County carries on
Boulder County is expected to mostly hold steady. Though the area’s strong rate of growth is expected to decrease next year, the decline will be slight. Key statistics Wobbekind listed are:
Boulder’s GDP growth is 4 percent
Much needed multifamily housing stock is increasing
City of Boulder’s median single family home prices have stabilized somewhat
City of Boulder has a significant jump in office vacancies and more office space is coming online
Boulder County wage growth is 4.7 percent
Broomfield and Denver have higher wages than Boulder
City of Boulder’s sales and use tax dipped last year but is climbing back up
Wobbekind points to headwinds facing Colorado, saying the state should watch out for:
Drought and weather
Real wage increases
PERA funded only at 46 percent
Labor shortage one of state’s biggest challenges
Skillful Colorado’s Executive Director, Shannon Block, dove into to strategies for overcoming the shortage of skilled workers. Employers are struggling to find workers and the cause of the talent shortage is a skills gap. Fueling the problem, says Block, are traditional employment practices narrowly focused on candidates with 4-year college degrees. That focus is making job-landing difficult for the 70 percent of Americans who don’t have a 4-year degree.
Skillful Colorado’s focus is to shift that trend toward hiring practices that value skills-based talent. The goal is to help Coloradans get jobs in a rapidly changing economy, particularly the 60 percent In Colorado with no college degree.
For more information, see Boulder Economic Forecast slide presentations at:
Dr. Rich Wobbekind’s 2019 Boulder Economic Forecast: https://ecs.page.link/YoZU
Shannon Block, Skillful Colorado, Addressing the Skills Gap: https://ecs.page.link/kLGs
Originally posted by Tom Kalinski Founder RE/MAX of Boulder on Thursday, February 7th, 2019 at 1:40pm.