The Case-Shiller Home Price Index tracks appreciation in the 20 largest real estate markets across the U.S.
Their most recent quarterly report was just released this week.
Metro Denver prices are up over last year by 3.89% which is just slightly higher than the average of the 20 markets.
It is interesting to see how the 20 locations have performed since the pre-Great Recession housing peak.
Turns out that Denver has done the best out of all the markets.
Since 2008, Denver home prices have appreciated 64.9%. Second-best is Dallas at 55.5% and Seattle is third at 41.2%.
Believe it or not, there are markets where average home prices have still not returned to their 2008 levels.
Las Vegas is 14.5% below 2008 and Chicago is 12.8% below.
These numbers are another indicator of the long-term health and performance of the Front Range market.
Job growth is critical to the health of the housing market, so on this week’s episode of “Mondays with Matthew,” Windermere Chief Economist Matthew Gardner analyzes the effect of COVID-19 on employment and what we can expect for the duration of the year.
April represents the first time we can look at the impact of COVID-19 on a full month of real estate activity.
To no one’s surprise, activity in April in terms of closings and new contracts did slow significantly.
Much of this slowing was caused by in person showings not being allowed for most of the month.
(showings are now allowed again by following Safe Showings protocols)
Here’s what the numbers say…
Closed transactions were down compared to April 2019
- 26% in Northern Colorado (Larimer & Weld)
- 27% in Metro Denver
New written purchase agreements were down compared to April 2020
- 48% in Northern Colorado
- 44% in Metro Denver
So, while activity did slow, there was nothing resembling a “screeching halt” that took place.
While the way property is shown has certainly changed, the market is still very active and we expect activity to increase even more with showings now being allowed again.
This week our Chief Economist took a deep dive into the numbers to examine the current health crisis versus the housing crisis of 2008.
The reason why? People wonder if we are going to have another housing meltdown nationally and going to see foreclosures and short sales dramatically increase.
It turns out that the numbers show that today’s housing environment is quite different than 2007, right before the housing bubble burst.
Specifically, homeowners are in a vastly different situation with their mortgage compared to the pre-Great Recession’s housing meltdown.
In addition to much higher credit scores and much higher amounts of equity compared to 2007, the most significant difference today is in the amount of ARM mortgages.
Back in years leading up to the housing bubble, Adjustable Rate Mortgages were very prevalent. In 2007 there were just under 13 million active adjustable rate loans, today there are just over 3 million.
The number of those ARMs that would reset within three years was 5 million in 2007 compared to only 320,000 today.
It’s those Adjustable Rate loans resetting to a higher monthly payment that caused such a big part of the housing crisis back in 2008 to 2010.
Back then not only was people’s employment impacted, but many were facing increased monthly mortgage payments.
That’s why there were so many foreclosures and short sales in 2008 to 2010.
That is not the case today and one of many reasons why we don’t foresee a housing meltdown.
An impact we expected from COVID-19 to the housing market is reduced inventory. That prediction is certainly proving to be true.
In March, the number of withdrawn properties from the MLS went up 68% in Larimer County and 38% in Weld when compared to March 2019.
Reduced inventory is one reason why we don’t expect a significant drop in home prices in 2020. We don’t see a glut of housing supply dragging prices down.
So how are properties being sold now? Virtually! We are helping people view homes using virtual 3D Tours and live online walk-throughs.
Our business right now is certainly not business as usual and our industry has proven to be resourceful so we can still help people with urgent real estate needs.
Our Chief Economist made a video for all of our clients where he shares his perspective on COVID-19’s impact on housing. You can watch it by clicking the image below:
A high-level look at the Northern Colorado region shows that the number of residential sales is down 5.4% in Larimer County and up 4.7% in Weld County. This is simply comparing the number of closings from June 2018 to June 2019 versus June 2017 to June 2018.
The high-level look doesn’t tell the whole story. It get’s more interesting when we look at individual Northern Colorado cities and towns:
• Fort Collins = -8.8%
• Loveland = -5.7%
• Greeley = +11.7%
• Windsor = +16%
• Wellington = -16.9%
• Timnath = +44.1%
• Severance = +20.4%
• Johnstown = -18.7%
• Berthoud = +18.1%
• Evans = -14.7%
So, what can we learn from this? The areas with increased sales are where there is an abundance of new construction (Timnath and Severance for example).
The areas with decreased sales don’t have an abundance of new construction (Fort Collins for example).
The exceptions to this would be Wellington and Johnstown. It appears that there is price sensitivity to the new construction product now being built in these areas. Given rising costs, builders are challenged to deliver a product under $350,000 in these places.
For instance, in Wellington, between June 2017 and June 2018 there were 137 sales of new homes priced under $350,000. Today there are only 6 new homes on the market at that price point.
We’ve seen some headlines recently that suggest home prices along the Front Range have peaked and are starting to decline.
When we dig in and do the research, this is what we find…
Home prices are still going up, just not as fast as they have been.
We’ve known that the double-digit appreciation that we’ve seen for the last several years could not be sustained and we expected the pace of appreciation to slow down.
So far in 2019, this is the case. Prices still going up, just not as fast.
It’s like running up stairs. Eventually you will get tired and you will need to start walking (but you’re still going up).
Headlines that suggest that prices have peaked and are falling create unrealistic expectations for buyers and give sellers a skewed perspective on the market.
Here are the numbers…
- Up 1.53% in Metro Denver
- Up 6.1% in Larimer County
- Up 5.1% in Weld County
Months of Inventory:
- 5 Months in Metro Denver
- 5 Months in Larimer County
- 4 Months in Weld County
- (Remember that 4-6 months of inventory represents a balanced market)
There has been an increase in Days on Market which means that homes are taking longer to sell. But the increase is measured in days, not months.
Here are those numbers…
Days on Market:
- Up 4 Days in Metro Denver
- Up 11 Days in Larimer County
- Up 3 Days in Weld County
So, be mindful of headlines that can be sensationalized and might suggest that the market is falling.
Bottom line, the market is going up, just not as fast as it was
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.
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.
When making an important decision like buying a new home, personal circumstances are often a driving force. Whether you are a first-time homebuyer, need more space for your growing family, downsizing to fit an empty nest, or looking for a retirement property, finding the right information, the right real estate agent, and the right properties that fit your needs are all important parts of that process. Based on recent studies by the National Association of REALTORS®on generational trends, we can identify the best resources to help you in any phase of your life.
Among all generations, the first step most buyers take when searching for a home is online. Younger generations tend to find the home they eventually purchase online, while older generations generally find the home they purchase through their real estate agent.
Across generations, home ownership still represents a significant step in achieving the American Dream. According to a study by LearnVest, an online financial resource, 77 percent of those surveyed believed that buying a home of their own was, “first and foremost in achieving the American Dream”.
How that dream manifests is different for those who have grown up in different eras.
Also known as Generation Y or the Echo Boomers because this generation almost equals the baby boomers in population. This age group is the second largest group of recent homebuyers, representing 28 percent according to the National Association of REALTORS. 79 percent of homebuyers in this age are purchasing their first home. According to the 2012 Trulia American Dream Study, 93 percent of renters in this generation plan on purchasing a home someday.
When considering a home purchase, Millennials (and some Generation X buyers) place a high value on convenience to work, affordability, and the quality of school district. This generation is the most likely to choose an urban center as the location of their first home. According to market research by Gfk Roper, this group is most interested in their home as a social hub, with a focus on entertainment and amenities.
When looking for a real estate agent, Millennials are most likely to looks to friends and family for a referral. They generally place a high value on an agent’s honesty and trustworthiness because they are often relying on their agent to walk them through the home purchase process for the first time.
As the largest group of recent homebuyers, the LearnVest findings suggest that 72 percent of Americans in this generation are already homeowners. They also represent the largest group of home sellers, with a substantial percentage of the group looking to upgrade their home to accommodate their growing families or increase investment. Experts in the real estate industry expect this group to lead in the recovered real estate market.
Generation X households are more likely to have a dual income, with both adult members in the household working. According to a study by GfK Roper, a market research company, this generation placed state-of-the-art kitchens at the top of their priorities, as well as large closets and amenities for organization, since many Gen Xers have children living in their homes. They are less concerned about formality in their home and have less interest in formal dining and living rooms.
Interestingly enough, the NAR study finds that as the age of the homebuyer increases, the age of the home being purchased declines. Baby boomers and older buyers are looking for newer construction, with less need for renovations or large maintenance issues. This generation ranks state-of-the-art kitchens, whirlpool baths, walk-in closets, and hobby spaces high on their list of must-haves, according to GfK Roper.
The boomer generation is also looking to the future for both themselves and their aging parents, “fourteen percent of homebuyers over the age of 48 are looking to purchase senior-related homes, for themselves or others” according to the NAR study. Boomer parents are becoming accustomed to (or preparing for) an empty nest, so this group may be downsizing or looking for a home that specifically fits their needs.
This generation of buyers places a bigger emphasis on finding a home closer to friends, family, and health facilities. While this generation uses the Internet to find their home in the early stages of a home search, they work more directly with a trusted real estate agent to find the home that specifically fits their needs. A home purchase for members of this generation will likely not be a first-time experience so they are less willing to compromise on the price, size, or condition of a home.
This generation is generally more satisfied with the homebuying and selling process because they have been through it before and know what to expect. According to the Trulia American Dream study, this group is also most likely to have realistic assumptions about the cost of a home and mortgage.