The Gardner Report – Q1 2019

 

The following analysis of the Metro Denver & Northern Colorado real estate market (which now includes Clear Creek, Gilpin, and Park counties) is provided by Windermere Real Estate Chief Economist Matthew Gardner. We hope that this information may assist you with making better-informed real estate decisions. For further information about the housing market in your area, please don’t hesitate to contact your Windermere agent.

 

ECONOMIC OVERVIEW

Colorado’s economy continues to grow with the addition of 44,800 new non-agricultural jobs over the past 12 months. This represents a reasonable growth rate of 1.7%. As stated in last quarter’s Gardner Report, we continue to see a modest slowdown in employment gains, but that’s to be expected at this stage of the business cycle. I predict that employment growth in Colorado will pick back up as we move through the year, adding a total of 70,000 new jobs in 2019, which represents a growth rate of 2.6%.

In February, the state unemployment rate was 3.7%, up from 2.9% a year ago. The increase is essentially due to labor force growth, which rose by more than 84,000 people over the past year. On a seasonally adjusted basis, unemployment rates in all the markets contained in this report haven’t moved much in the past year, but Boulder saw a modest drop (2.7%), and the balance of the state either remained at the same level as a year ago or rose very modestly.

 

HOME SALES

  • In the first quarter of 2019, 11,164 homes sold — a drop of 3% compared to the first quarter of 2018 and down 13.5% from the fourth quarter of last year. Pending sales in the quarter were a mixed bag. Five counties saw an increase, but five showed signs of slowing.
  • The only market that had sales growth was Adams, which rose 4.9%. The rest of the counties contained in this report saw sales decline, with a significant drop in the small Park County area.
  • I believe the drop in the number of home sales is partially due to the significant increase in listings (+45.6%), which has given would-be home buyers more choice and less need to act quickly.
  • As mentioned above, inventory growth in the quarter was significant, but I continue to believe that the market will see sales rise. I expect the second half of the year to perform better than the first.

 

 

HOME PRICES

  • Home prices continue to trend higher, but the rate of growth is tapering. The average home price in the region rose just 2.1% year-over-year to $456,243. Home prices were .3% higher than in the fourth quarter of 2018.
  • I anticipate that the drop in interest rates early in the year will likely get more buyers off the fence and this will allow prices to rise.
  • Appreciation was again strongest in Park County, where prices rose 21.9%. We still attribute this rapid increase to it being a small market. Only Clear Creek County experienced a drop in average home price. Similar to Park County, this is due to it being a very small market, making it more prone to significant swings.
  • Affordability remains an issue in many Colorado markets but that may be offset by the drop in interest rates.

 

 

DAYS ON MARKET

  • The average number of days it took to sell a home in Colorado rose five days compared to the first quarter of 2018.
  • The amount of time it took to sell a home dropped in two counties — Gilpin and Park — compared to the first quarter of 2018. The rest of the counties in this report saw days-on-market rise modestly with the exception of the small Clear Creek market, which rose by 26 days.
  • In the first quarter of 2019, it took an average of 42 days to sell a home in the region, an increase of four days compared to the final quarter of 2018.
  • Job growth drives housing demand, but buyers are faced with more choice and are far less frantic than they were over the past few years. That said, I anticipate the late spring will bring more activity and sales.

 

 

CONCLUSIONS

This speedometer reflects the state of the region’s real estate market using housing inventory, price gains, home sales, interest rates, and larger economic factors.

For the first quarter of 2019, I have moved the needle a little more in favor of buyers. I am watching listing activity closely to see if we get any major bumps above the traditional increase because that may further slow home price growth; however, the trend for 2019 will continue towards a more balanced market.

 

As Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, Matthew Gardner is responsible for analyzing and interpreting economic data and its impact on the real estate market on both a local and national level. Matthew has over 30 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.

In addition to his day-to-day responsibilities, Matthew sits on the Washington State Governors Council of Economic Advisors; chairs the Board of Trustees at the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at the University of Washington; and is an Advisory Board Member at the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies at the University of Washington where he also lectures in real estate economics.

Posted on May 9, 2019 at 10:36 am
Windermere DTC | Category: Housing Market, Market News | Tagged , , , ,

Investing In a Green Home Will Pay Dividends in 2019

As we step forward into 2019, eco-friendly “green homes” are more popular than ever. Upgrading your home’s sustainability improves quality of life for those residing in it, but it is also a savvy long-term investment. As green homes become more popular, properties boasting sustainable features have become increasingly desirable targets for homebuyers. Whether designing a new home from scratch or preparing your current home for sale, accentuating a house with environmentally-friendly features can pay big dividends for everyone.

While the added value depends on the location of the home, its age, and whether it’s certified or not, three separate studies all found that newly constructed, Energy Star, or LEED-certified homes typically sell for about nine percent more than comparable, non-certified new homes. Plus, one of those studies discovered that existing homes retrofitted with green technologies, and certified as such, can command a whopping 30-percent sales-price boost.

There are dozens of eco-friendly features that can provide extra value for you as a seller. To name a few:

Cool roof

Cool roofs keep the houses they’re covering as much as 50 to 60 degrees cooler by reflecting the heat of the sun away from the interior, allowing the occupants to stay cooler and save on air-conditioning costs. The most common form is metal roofing. Other options include roof membranes and reflective asphalt shingles.

Fuel cells

Fuel cells may soon offer an all-new source of electricity that would allow you to completely disconnect your home from all other sources of electricity. About the size of a dishwasher, a fuel cell connects to your home’s natural gas line and electrochemically converts methane to electricity. One unit would pack more than enough energy to power your whole home.

For many years, fuel cells have been far too expensive or unreliable. But as technology has improved, so too has reliability. Companies like Home Power Solutions and Redbox Power Systems have increased the reliability of these fuel sources while reducing their size. Much like we’ve seen computers and cell phones shrink in size while improving reliability and power, fuel cells continue to be refined.

Wind turbine

A wind turbine (essentially a propeller spinning atop an 80- to 100-foot pole) collects kinetic energy from the wind and converts it to electricity for your home. And according to the Department of Energy, a small version can slash your electrical bill by 50 to 90 percent.

But before you get too excited, you need to know that the zoning laws in most urban areas don’t allow wind turbines. They’re too tall. The best prospects for this technology are homes located on at least an acre of land, well outside the city limits.

Green roof

Another way to keep the interior of your house cooler—and save on air-conditioning costs—is to replace your traditional roof with a layer of vegetation (typically hardy groundcovers). This is more expensive than a cool roof and requires regular maintenance, but young, environmentally conscious homeowners are very attracted to the concept.

Hybrid heating

Combining a heat pump with a standard furnace to create what’s known as a “hybrid heating system” can save you somewhere between 15 and 35 percent on your heating and cooling bills.

Unlike a gas or oil furnace, a heat pump doesn’t use any fuel. Instead, the coils inside the unit absorb whatever heat exists naturally in the outside air, and distributes it via the same ductwork used by your furnace. When the outside air temperature gets too cold for the heat pump to work, the system switches over to your traditional furnace.

Geothermal heating

Geothermal heating units are like heat pumps, except instead of absorbing heat from the outside air, they absorb the heat in the soil next to your house via coils buried in the ground. The coils can be buried horizontally or, if you don’t have a wide enough yard, they can be buried vertically. While the installation price of a geothermal system can be several times that of a hybrid, air-sourced system, the cost savings on your energy bills can cover the installation costs in five to 10 years.

Solar power

Solar panels capture light energy from the sun and convert it directly into electricity. Similarly to wind turbines, your geographical location may determine the feasibility of these installments. Even on cloudy days, however, solar panels typically produce 10-25% of their maximum energy output. For decades, you may have seen these panels sitting on sunny rooftops all across America. But it’s only recently that this energy-saving option has become truly affordable.

In 2010, installing a solar system on a typical mid-sized house would have set the homeowner back $30,000. But as of December 2018, the average cost after tax credits for solar panel installation was just $13,188! Plus, some companies are now offering to rent solar panels to homeowners (the company retains ownership of the panels and sells the homeowner access to the power at roughly 10 to 15 percent less than they would pay their local utility).

Solar water heaters

Rooftop solar panels can also be used to heat your home’s water. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the average homeowner who makes this switch should see their water bills shrink by 50 to 80 percent.

Tax credits/rebates

Many of the innovative solutions summarized above come with big price tags attached. However, federal, state and local rebates/tax credits can often slash those expenses by as much as 50 percent. So before ruling any of these ideas out, take some time to see which incentives you may qualify for at dsireusa.org and the “tax incentives” pages at Energy.Gov.

Regardless of which option you choose, these technologies will help to conserve valuable resources and reduce your monthly utility expenses. Just as importantly, they will also add resale value that you can leverage whenever you decide it’s time to sell and move on to a new home.

Posted on January 25, 2019 at 9:33 am
Windermere DTC | Category: Design, Market News | Tagged , ,

2019 Economic and Housing Forecast

What a year it has been for both the U.S. economy and the national housing market. After several years of above-average economic and home price growth, 2018 marked the start of a slowdown in the residential real estate market. As the year comes to a close, it’s time for me to dust off my crystal ball to see what we can expect in 2019.

The U.S. Economy

Despite the turbulence that the ongoing trade wars with China are causing, I still expect the U.S. economy to have one more year of relatively solid growth before we likely enter a recession in 2020. Yes, it’s the dreaded “R” word, but before you panic, there are some things to bear in mind.

Firstly, any cyclical downturn will not be driven by housing.  Although it is almost impossible to predict exactly what will be the “straw that breaks the camel’s back”, I believe it will likely be caused by one of the following three things: an ongoing trade war, the Federal Reserve raising interest rates too quickly, or excessive corporate debt levels. That said, we still have another year of solid growth ahead of us, so I think it’s more important to focus on 2019 for now.

The U.S. Housing Market

Existing Home Sales

This paper is being written well before the year-end numbers come out, but I expect 2018 home sales will be about 3.5% lower than the prior year. Sales started to slow last spring as we breached affordability limits and more homes came on the market.  In 2019, I anticipate that home sales will rebound modestly and rise by 1.9% to a little over 5.4 million units.

Existing Home Prices

We will likely end 2018 with a median home price of about $260,000 – up 5.4% from 2017.  In 2019 I expect prices to continue rising, but at a slower rate as we move toward a more balanced housing market. I’m forecasting the median home price to increase by 4.4% as rising mortgage rates continue to act as a headwind to home price growth.

New Home Sales

In a somewhat similar manner to existing home sales, new home sales started to slow in the spring of 2018, but the overall trend has been positive since 2011. I expect that to continue in 2019 with sales increasing by 6.9% to 695,000 units – the highest level seen since 2007.

That being said, the level of new construction remains well below the long-term average. Builders continue to struggle with land, labor, and material costs, and this is an issue that is not likely to be solved in 2019. Furthermore, these constraints are forcing developers to primarily build higher-priced homes, which does little to meet the substantial demand by first-time buyers.

Mortgage Rates

In last year’s forecast, I suggested that 5% interest rates would be a 2019 story, not a 2018 story. This prediction has proven accurate with the average 30-year conforming rates measured at 4.87% in November, and highly unlikely to breach the 5% barrier before the end of the year.

In 2019, I expect interest rates to continue trending higher, but we may see periods of modest contraction or levelling.  We will likely end the year with the 30-year fixed rate at around 5.7%, which means that 6% interest rates are more apt to be a 2020 story.

I also believe that non-conforming (or jumbo) rates will remain remarkably competitive. Banks appear to be comfortable with the risk and ultimately, the return, that this product offers, so expect jumbo loan yields to track conforming loans quite closely.

Conclusions

There are still voices out there that seem to suggest the housing market is headed for calamity and that another housing bubble is forming, or in some cases, is already deflating.  In all the data that I review, I just don’t see this happening. Credit quality for new mortgage holders remains very high and the median down payment (as a percentage of home price) is at its highest level since 2004.

That is not to say that there aren’t several markets around the country that are overpriced, but just because a market is overvalued, does not mean that a bubble is in place. It simply means that forward price growth in these markets will be lower to allow income levels to rise sufficiently.

Finally, if there is a big story for 2019, I believe it will be the ongoing resurgence of first-time buyers. While these buyers face challenges regarding student debt and the ability to save for a down payment, they are definitely on the comeback and likely to purchase more homes next year than any other buyer demographic.

Originally published on Inman News.

Posted on January 23, 2019 at 4:32 pm
Windermere DTC | Category: Market News | Tagged , ,

How Restrictive Growth Policies Affect Housing Affordability in Many Cities

Windermere Real Estate Chief Economist Matthew Gardner explains how restrictive growth policies are affecting housing affordability in many cities.​

Posted on October 4, 2018 at 9:14 am
Windermere DTC | Category: Market News | Tagged , , ,

5 Reasons Rising Interest Rates Won’t Wreck the Housing Market

Interest rates have been trending higher since the fall of 2017, and I fully expect they will continue in that direction – albeit relatively slowly – as we move through the balance of the year and into 2019. So what does this mean for the US housing market?

It might come as a surprise to learn that I really don’t think rising interest rates will have a major impact on the housing market. Here is my reasoning:

1. First Time Home Buyers 

As interest rates rise, I expect more buyers to get off the fence and into the market; specifically, first time buyers who, according to Freddie Mac, made up nearly half of new mortgages in the first quarter of this year. First-time buyers are critical to the overall health of the housing market because of the subsequent chain reaction of sales that result so this is actually a positive outcome of rising rates.

2. Easing Credit Standards

Rising interest rates may actually push some lenders to modestly ease credit standards. I know this statement will cause some people to think that easing credit will immediately send us back to the days of sub-prime lending and housing bubbles, but I don’t see this happening. Even a very modest easing of credit will allow for more than one million new home buyers to qualify for a mortgage.

3. Low Unemployment 

We stand today in a country with very low unemployment (currently 4.0% and likely to get close to 3.5% by year’s end). Low unemployment rates encourage employers to raise wages to keep existing talent, as well as to recruit new talent. Wage growth can, to a degree, offset increasing interest rates because, as wages rise, buyers can afford higher mortgage payments.

4. Supply

There is a clear relationship between housing supply, home prices, and interest rates. We’re already seeing a shift in inventory levels with more homes coming on the market, and I fully expect this trend to continue for the foreseeable future. This increase in supply is, in part, a result of homeowners looking to cash in on their home’s appreciation before interest rates rise too far. This, on its own, will help ease the growth of home prices and offset rising interest rates. Furthermore, if we start to see more new construction activity at the lower end of the market, this too will help.

National versus Local

Up until this point, I’ve looked at how rising interest rates might impact the housing market on a national level, but as we all know, real estate is local, and different markets react to shifts in different ways. For example, rising interest rates will be felt more in expensive housing markets, such as San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, and Orange County, but I expect to see less impact in areas like Cleveland, Philadelphia, Pittsburg, and Detroit, where buyers spend a lower percentage of their incomes on housing. The exception to this would be if interest rates continue to rise for a prolonged period; in that case, we might see demand start to taper off, especially in the less expensive housing markets where buyers are more price sensitive.

For more than seven years, home buyers and real estate professionals alike have grown very accustomed to historically low interest rates. We always knew the time would come when they would begin to rise again, but that doesn’t mean the outlook for housing is doom and gloom. On the contrary, I believe rising interest rates will help bring us closer to a more balanced real estate market, something that is sorely needed in many markets across the country.

Posted on October 3, 2018 at 9:12 am
Windermere DTC | Category: Market News | Tagged , , ,

Challenges Builders Face with New Construction

Housing demand remains high across the Western United States, but home-building is still struggling to keep up. What can be done to help encourage construction of new homes? Windermere Real Estate’s Chief Economist Matthew Gardner has insight.​

Posted on October 2, 2018 at 9:15 am
Windermere DTC | Category: Market News | Tagged , , ,

The Gardner Report – Q2 2018

 

The following analysis of the Metro Denver & Northern Colorado real estate market (which now includes Clear Creek, Gilpin, and Park Counties) is provided by Windermere Real Estate Chief Economist Matthew Gardner. We hope that this information may assist you with making better-informed real estate decisions. For further information about the housing market in your area, please don’t hesitate to contact your Windermere agent.

 

ECONOMIC OVERVIEW

Colorado continues to see very strong job growth, adding 72,800 non-agricultural jobs over the past 12 months—an impressive increase of 2.7%. Through the first five months of 2018, the state added an average of 7,300 new jobs per month. I expect this growth to continue through the remainder of the year, resulting in about 80,000 new jobs in 2018.

In May, the state unemployment rate was 2.8%. This is slightly above the 2.6% we saw a year ago but still represents a remarkably low level. Unemployment remains either stable or is dropping in all the markets contained in this report, with the lowest reported rates in Fort Collins and Boulder, where just 2.2% of the labor force was actively looking for work. The highest unemployment rate was in Grand Junction, which came in at 3.1%.

 

HOME SALES ACTIVITY

  • In the second quarter of 2018, 17,769 homes sold—a drop of 2.4% compared to the second quarter of 2017.
  • Sales rose in 5 of the 11 counties contained in this report, with Gilpin County sales rising by an impressive 10.7% compared to second quarter of last year. There were also noticeable increases in Clear Creek and Weld Counties. Sales fell the most in Park County but, as this is a relatively small area, I see no great cause for concern at this time.
  • Slowing sales activity is to be expected given the low levels of available homes for sale in many of the counties contained in this report. That said, we did see some significant increases in listing activity in Denver and Larimer Counties. This should translate into increasing sales through the summer months.
  • The takeaway here is that sales growth is being hobbled by a general lack of homes for sale, and due to a drop in housing demand.

 

 

HOME PRICES

  • With strong economic growth and a persistent lack of inventory, prices continue to trend higher. The average home price in the region rose
    9.8% year-over-year to $479,943.
  • The smallest price gains in the region were in Park County, though the increase there was still a respectable 7%.
  • Appreciation was strongest in Clear Creek and Gilpin Counties, where prices rose by 28.9% and 26%, respectively. All other counties in this report saw gains above the long-term average.
  • Although there was some growth in listings, the ongoing imbalance between supply and demand persists, driving home prices higher.

 

 

DAYS ON MARKET

  • The average number of days it took to sell a home remained at the same level as a year ago.
  • The length of time it took to sell a home dropped in most markets contained in this report. Gilpin County saw a very significant jump in days on market, but this can be attributed to the fact that it is a very small area which makes it prone to severe swings.
  • In the second quarter of 2018, it took an average of 24 days to sell a home. Of note is Adams County, where it took an average of only 10 days to sell a home.
  • Housing demand remains very strong and all the markets in this report continue to be in dire need of additional inventory to satisfy demand.

 

 

CONCLUSIONS

This speedometer reflects the state of the region’s real estate market using housing inventory, price gains, home sales, interest rates, and larger economic factors.

For the second quarter of 2018, I have moved the needle very slightly towards buyers as a few counties actually saw inventories rise. However, while I expect to see listings increase in the coming months, for now, the housing market continues to heavily favor sellers.

 

Matthew Gardner is the Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, specializing in residential market analysis, commercial/industrial market analysis, financial analysis, and land use and regional economics. He is the former Principal of Gardner Economics, and has more than 30 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.

Posted on July 31, 2018 at 1:43 pm
Windermere DTC | Category: Market News | Tagged , , , ,

Colorado Real Estate Market Update – 1st Quarter 2018

 

The following analysis of the Metro Denver & Northern Colorado real estate market is provided by Windermere Real Estate Chief Economist Matthew Gardner. We hope that this information may assist you with making better-informed real estate decisions. For further information about the housing market in your area, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

 

ECONOMIC OVERVIEW

It’s good news for the state of Colorado, which saw annual employment grow in all of the metropolitan markets included in this report. The state added 63,400 non-agricultural jobs over the past 12 months, an impressive growth rate of 2.4%. Colorado has been adding an average of 5,300 new jobs per month for the past year, and I anticipate that this growth rate will continue through the balance of 2018.

In February, the unemployment rate in Colorado was 3.0%—a level that has held steady for the past six months. Unemployment has dropped in all the markets contained in this report, with the lowest reported rates in Fort Collins and Denver, where 3.1% of the labor force was actively looking for work. The highest unemployment rate was in Grand Junction, which came in at 4.6%.

 

HOME SALES ACTIVITY

  • In the first quarter of 2018, there were 11,173 home sales—a drop of 5.6% when compared to the first quarter of 2017.
  • With an increase of 5.3%, home sales rose the fastest in Boulder County, as compared to first quarter of last year. There was also a modest sales increase of 1.2% in Larimer County. Sales fell in all the other counties contained within this report.
  • Home sales continue to slow due to low inventory levels, which were down 5.7% compared to a year ago.
  • The takeaway here is that sales growth continues to stagnate due to the lack of homes for sale.

 

 

HOME PRICES

  • Strong economic growth, combined with limited inventory, continued to push prices higher. The average home price in the markets covered by this report was up by 11.7% year-over-year to $448,687.
  • Arapahoe County saw slower appreciation in home values, but the trend is still positiveand above its long-term average.
  • Appreciation was strongest in Boulder County, which saw prices rise 14.8%. Almost all other counties in this report experienced solid gains.
  • The ongoing imbalance between supply and demand persists and home prices continue to appreciate at above-average rates.

 

 

DAYS ON MARKET

  • The average number of days it took to sell a home dropped by three days when compared to the first quarter of 2017.
  • Homes in all but two counties contained in this report took less than a month to sell. Adams County continues to stand out where it took an average of just 17 days to sell a home.
  • During the first quarter, it took an average of 27 days to sell a home. That rate is down 2 days from the fourth quarter of 2017.
  • Housing demand remains strong and would-be buyers should expect to see stiff competition for well-positioned, well-priced homes.

 

 

CONCLUSIONS

This speedometer reflects the state of the region’s housing market using housing inventory, price gains, home sales, interest rates, and larger economic factors. In the first quarter of 2018, I have left the needle where it was in the fourth quarter of last year. Even as interest rates trend higher, it appears as if demand will continue to outweigh supply. As we head into the spring months, I had hoped to see an increase in the number of homes for sale, but so far that has not happened. As a result, the housing market continues to heavily favor sellers.

 

Matthew Gardner is the Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, specializing in residential market analysis, commercial/industrial market analysis, financial analysis, and land use and regional economics. He is the former Principal of Gardner Economics, and has more than 30 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.

Posted on May 7, 2018 at 12:56 pm
Windermere DTC | Category: Market News

FHFA Appreciation Graph 1977-2017

 

Denver metro real estate has been appreciating more than 10% per year for the last 5 years in a row!

Below is a breakdown of the past 40 years thanks to FHFA and Focus1st.

Posted on March 8, 2018 at 1:02 pm
Windermere DTC | Category: Market News | Tagged , ,

A Week in the Denver MLS – February 23, 2018

With the home inventory at all time lows our team is constantly monitoring the listing activity in the local MLS – REcolorado, and some interesting observations can be made on reviewing the data over this past week.

This first graph takes a look at how new listing numbers (homes just placed on the market for the first time) compare with price reductions and failed sale attempts (withdrawn & expired listings) over the last 7 days.

The standouts from this chart —

  • Only 1,122 new listings came on the market.
  • Relative to the number of new listings, about 14% of that number reduced their price.
  • 261 listings were taken off the market because they failed to sell (roughly 1/4 the number of new listings)!

The listings that are priced well are moving very quickly and often choosing between multiple offers, but the impact of this lessens as price increases.  

Once a listing goes under contract as it will either successfully close or go back on the market for some reason.

The data here shows that relative to the Sold listing numbers roughly 7 out of 8 are successfully closing which leaves 1 out of 8 coming back on the market.

We’ve seen this number fluctuate over the last 6 months, with the current numbers actually on the lower end.  This could be due to the fact that we are near month end, but some would still find it surprising given the low inventory market we find ourselves in.

Properly positioning a property within the market not only with the right price, but also an effective marketing plan and the benefits of the Windermere Certified Listing program have lowered our price reductions and expiration rate to nearly zero, while still maximizing the bottom-line return for our sellers.  To learn more, connect with one of the amazing Brokers on our team!

Posted on February 23, 2018 at 4:00 pm
Windermere DTC | Category: Market News