“Tracy is the best!! She sold our 1 bedroom condo in a Historic Register building in Capitol Hill in Denver. Unlike many realtors who are just looking to make a sale and move on to the next, Tracy really cares about her clients and their financial situation. She actually convinced us not to sell the first time we contacted her because the market was in the pits and our condo was worth less than 1/2 what we paid for it. By following her advice and waiting a few years, we ended up making money on the condo when it sold for OVER the asking price. She was incredibly patient with all of our concerns and questions, and knows more about the market than anyone. Also worth mentioning that we were out of state for the whole process, so she handled EVERYTHING; renovations, cleaning, staging, pricing, showing, you name it! She made this very stressful situation much less so, and we can’t imagine using anyone else.” – Keith Orell
The last seven years have seen a surge in the metro Denver real estate market as record numbers of buyers look for homes, which in turn has caused prices to jump. The strength in the market has been so pronounced that people are beginning to ask “Are we in another bubble?” It’s a reasonable question given the horrendous experience of the housing crisis, and while no one can ever predict the future with certainty, I see no evidence that we’re heading for a dramatic downturn in the real estate market any time soon. Here’s why:
1. Even with the continued increase in metro Denver home prices (up another 8 percent in the past 12 months) the average inflation adjusted PITI (Principle, Interest, Taxes, and Insurance) payment made in metro Denver is actually BELOW our 35-year average. This means that while prices have steadily risen, buyers are still able to afford their monthly payments, providing plenty of room for continued home price increases.
2. The number of transactions relative to the population of metro Denver is just about at the 25-year average. At the peak of the bubble in 2006 the number of home sales was about 20 percent above the historical average. When we see the number of closed transactions well above our historical average that’s an indication of an overheated market, as it was in 2006. The number of closed home sales is actually DOWN 12 percent in the past year due to the low inventory. No sign of a bubble here.
3. In 2006, many of the deals were closed with low or no documentation mortgages (“liar loans” or “no doc loans”). Today, mortgage underwriting standards are among the toughest they’ve been in decades. This prevents unqualified buyers from purchasing property, which mitigates the chance of the market overheating (fewer buyers means fewer purchases means less chance of the market frothing into bubble territory like it did in the past).
4. Because of relatively high home affordability it’s a lot cheaper to buy than rent in our market. This would not be true in a bubble. For housing price affordability to return to the average level that we saw in the years between 2000 and 2004 either home prices would have to increase an additional 35 percent or interest rates rise to 6.6 percent. Neither is going to happen any time soon.
5. The imbalance between buyers and sellers we’ve seen recently in our housing market (too many buyers/not enough homes for sale) is due to a lack of inventory, not illogical/unrealistic/unsustainable demand from buyers. “Much of the price increases we are seeing are the result of rising demand among investors and homebuyers for a still-limited supply of homes for sale,” said Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic. This imbalance is a logical correction from years past when we had too FEW buyers in the market. This is how markets are supposed to work, always regressing to the mean over time.
6. Rising mortgage rates will help to temper the possibility of a bubble as well (they are still near 50-year lows but are expected to rise someday). “History shows that a rapid rise in interest rates tends to have little correlation with home prices. Rather, rising rates are more likely to contribute to a decrease in home purchase volume,” wrote Mark Palim in a Fannie Mae commentary. So the positive side of a rise in mortgage rates is that it will reduce the number of buyers and therefore lower the chance the market will rise out of control and end up collapsing in a bubble.
Click on the monthly market snapshot, the inventory of metro Denver homes for sale continues to fall; it’s down another 5 percent from a year ago. Since the inventory is still extremely low (about 5,520 homes on the market where about 18,000 is a balanced market) I am all but certain the demand will still exceed the supply for the next several years and prices will continue to rise for the foreseeable future. No bubble on the horizon yet… Stay tuned!
If you agree that we’re not headed for a bubble any time soon what does this mean for you as a buyer? I think it means you should consider buying a home IF it makes sense for you to do so. Are you running out of room at home? Expecting a baby? Have an awful commute? Want to live in a nicer neighborhood? Looking for a better school district for the kids? There are a lot of great reasons to move. But don’t buy a home to speculate on the market; buy because it’s time for a new home. Call me anytime to discuss what your options are and how I can help you find a wonderful place to live.
We have been discussing the incredible strength in our housing market. If you’re looking to sell your home this should be very welcoming news! The inventory of homes on the market is at an all-time low and prices are up. Call me and I’ll be happy to run a complimentary Comparative Market Analysis on your home to let you know what it might be worth. It’s great information and costs you nothing.
The most recent “Metro Denver Area Residential Rent and Vacancy Survey” shows the great news continues for landlords. According to the report:
“The overall vacancy rate for the metro area for the fourth quarter of 2015 was 3.1 compared to 3.9 percent for the previous quarter, and 1.5 percent for the fourth quarter of 2014. It was 2.0 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013, 1.7 percent for the fourth quarter of 2012, 2.1 percent for the fourth quarter of 2011, 2.0 for the fourth quarter of 2010, 5.5 for the fourth quarter of 2009, and 4.9 percent for the fourth quarter of 2008.”
In the U.S., more millionaires owe their wealth to real estate investments than any other single source of income. Today’s market could not be better for long-term buy –and-hold investors. Call me to find out more.
Let’s talk about homeownership. Are you considering buying vs. renting?
Renters often ask me if it’s too late to buy a house: Are we heading for a big downturn? Are we too deep in the market cycle to buy? they wonder. Timing the real estate market perfectly is extremely difficult, perhaps impossible, and some of these potential buyers were the same renters that were sitting on the fence when the market was down, even once we’d passed the nadir. I believe that buying a home is less about the market and more about life; your life. So don’t try to time the market, take a look at your life, the low interest rates and time that!
1.) Are you getting married, starting a family, or tired of paying skyrocketing rent without having an asset to show for it? Would you like to have more space; a backyard for the dog, the kids, the BBQs, or the tomatoes? Do you like the idea of being part of a neighborhood, community? Perhaps you got a nice raise, job or promotion and you’d like to set down roots, do you plan on staying in one place for at least five years? Do you like the idea of investing in something that will build long-term wealth?
These are the types of questions you should be asking when you are considering homeownership.
Here’s another thing to keep in mind. In the U.S., the average total net worth of rental households is $5,800. Compare that with the average net worth of a home-owning household at $199,500 and you’ve got worth 34 times more than those who rent! There’s no doubt that over the long term, homeownership is a solid way to build wealth and financial security. I often advise my first-time buyers to get into something affordable now (not so easy in Denver these days, but doable) and then move up when life allows. If you can keep that first property as a rental, it’s a great way to invest in your financial future.
2. Interest rates remain at record lows but this can’t last forever. No one knows when they’re going to rise, but news this week gave hints of a rise as early as June. Though home prices have gone up the past several years, low interest rates continue to make homes relatively affordable— especially compared to renting. Once interest rates rise, the door to home affordability will begin to close for a lot of potential buyers, leaving them sorry they didn’t act when interest rates were at 50-year lows.
Let me break down the numbers. Assume you are purchasing a $210,000 condo with a 5 percent down payment. The Principle + Interest payment at 4% interest would be $952 per month (tax and insurance and HOA not included). An interest rate increase of one percent (5%) would take your payment of $1,070 per month—an increase of $1,416 a year. Now assume that rates tick up to 6 percent. That increase would result in a 21 percent increase in payments from $952 to $1,196. Where you really see the effect of these increases is when you hold the property for the full 30 years. On a $210,000, 30-year fixed-rate mortgage that increases from 4 to 5 percent, the borrower who obtains the 5 percent loan would pay an additional $42,772 in extra interest as opposed to the borrower who paid just 4 percent interest. Though most buyers consider their monthly payment as most important, when you look at the life of the loan you’re paying a lot more in the total loan amount. This is a great reason to make a “move-up” move right now. Say you’ve outgrown your place, it may be time to cash out and get your “forever home”, or like I mentioned, use your current home as an income property and let your renters pay off your mortgage.
The main reason the average home owner has so much more personal wealth than the average renter is that homes appreciate in value. Over the past 45 years, homes in metro Denver appreciated 6.3 percent per year. If you buy a $200,000 home, you can expect over the long term its value to rise about 6 percent every year. This means you’d make $12,000 in appreciation the first year, an additional $12,720 the second year, another $13,483 in the third year, and on and on. Contrary to popular belief, only 4 of the past 45 years did prices actually fall in metro Denver.
If you’re still wondering whether you’d be better off renting or buying, Trulia built a great Rent-vs-Buy tool. Answer a few simple questions and the system tells you whether it makes more financial sense over the next seven years to rent or purchase. I think it’s worth a couple minutes of your time to see what you can learn – you’ll really like it!
Key Messages for May
Prices are up 8% in the prior 12 months vs historical 6%. Inventories are tighter than last year, especially for small, lower priced homes. In 2016, we expect 8-9% appreciation, flat unit sales volume increases, and continued tight inventories.