Lately, as I’ve been watching my daily hotsheets, I’ve noticed an apparent shift in the number of condos for sale in Boulder County with many more attached homes showing up than what feels like normal. Whenever I notice something like this, my first step is actually look at our market data to see if the data actually supports my subjective feel. If the data does support my subjective feel, then I want to try and figure out what the meaning is of the shift I’m feeling if possible.
So, are there more condos for sale in Boulder Cunty than normal? Yes and no. There are more condos for sale than there have been since 2016 and their percentage of the total market has also increased, see the chart on the next page. If we look back further into the past however, we see that the total number of condos for sale back in the period from 2003 through 2011 was much higher. Interestingly, the percentage share of condos on the market back then is about what we’re seeing today. So, a change from the recent past but more of a return to older patterns than the establishment of a totally new pattern. If condos continue to increase their percentage of what is available on the market above the levels we’re at now and have seen in the past, that would signal something new.
Some people are saying this perceived surge in condos onto the market right now is a COVID effect, but if you look at the chart below, this trend started back in 2016 and has been rising steadily since then and any COVID effect should only have started this spring. I’ve debated with others if this is the start of a downturn with condos leading the way but am not sure that’s the right answer either. Hard to say this is the start of a downturn if it has already been happening for over four years. I wonder if it may just be a reflection of the general quality of attached homes in Boulder County, with most of that inventory existing in older, tired complexes. We are seeing buyer preferences shift towards homes that are turnkey and require no updating prior to occupancy and that doesn’t describe many of our local complexes. It also might not be any of the above but just a return to an older pattern for condos while the pattern for single family homes hasn’t adjusted yet. If we consistently breach the level where condo listings are 35% or more of the total available homes in our market, we’ll have to further debate and explain this new phenomenon.
As always, we’ll be watching the market movements to see where we’re headed. Be healthy!
I thought I’d take a break from COVID this month and look at the FHFA HPI data for the Second Quarter of 2020. This is the most recent dataset which was just released and probably has some COVID effect in the numbers but not the full extent of the COVID downturn or resurgence. I find the FHFA HPI numbers to be the best large-scale indicator of overall market appreciation. To recap, the reason I like the FHFA data so much is that they use paired transactions to derive their numbers. They are always comparing multiple sales of the same house over time, not using averages, medians or some other broader market measure. https://www.fhfa.gov/DataTools/Downloads/Pages/House-Price-Index.aspx
Here is how our local area has fared. You can see that our local MSA’s have been underperforming the rest of the nation in the short term but far outpacing the nation in the longer term. Of the 244 MSA’s in the dataset, the Boulder MSA still ranks #1 for appreciation since 1991 but is almost at the bottom of the rankings for one quarter appreciation with a negative 0.43% drop.
|Q2 2020||1 Quarter||1 Year||5 Year||Since 1991|
|Boulder||(0.43%) – 226th||1.55% – 224th||42.34% – 41st||425.84% – 1st|
|Denver||0.85% – 107th||3.21% – 169th||46.02% – 26th||394.17% – 2nd|
|Ft. Collins||0.86% – 105th||3.08% – 175th||44.44% – 35th||360.51% – 8th|
|Greeley||0.55% – 147th||3.29% – 159th||50.87% – 16th||321.78% – 11th|
|Colorado||(0.49%) – 47th||4.43% – 35th||45.98% – 4th||399.09% – 2nd|
Here’s the performance for the Denver MSA, Boulder MSA and overall US graphically. You can see that the Boulder and Denver MSAs have been decelerating in their appreciation rates since hitting their peak at the start of 2016. Annual appreciation decelerating, but still positive for both MSAs. As a reminder, the Boulder MSA is composed of all of Boulder County while the Denver MSA is composed of the 10 Metro Counties: the City and County of Denver, Arapahoe County, Jefferson County, Adams County, Douglas County, the City and County of Broomfield, Elbert County, Park County, Clear Creek County, and Gilpin County.
Lastly, I have a map of the entire US showing the appreciation for every state. Idaho leads the way with 10.8% appreciation over the last 12 months and W. Virginia and N. Dakota tie for the bottom at 1.1%. Strength across the map with every state showing positive appreciation.
We’ll be watching this index and our other metrics to continue to analyze how COVID is affecting the market. Hope everyone has a great end to their summer. Be well!
For many price points and areas, the typically slower summer remains red-hot in Boulder County. Surprisingly, in the middle of a global pandemic and a divisive election year, the County is seeing a higher percentage of homes under contract than we’ve seen since 2016 and we may still be climbing! We did have a strong start to the year and then a dramatic COVID lockdown drop followed by a strong release of pent up buyer demand. Here’s the % UC chart.
I believe a lot of this market strength can be attributed to the very low levels of homes available on the market, only 500 single family homes available for sale in the last week of July, a lower point for this time of the year than I’ve never seen . With fewer sellers and strong buyer demand, the market reacts. Another aspect of the low levels of home sellers, buyers are fighting over the available homes, and with the special homes, the competition can become fierce. This strong buyer demand is helped by the very low mortgage rates and our very strong, pre-pandemic employment levels.
Like the Federal Reserve though, I get a little nervous about making predictions of where we’re headed compared to reading the pulse of where we stand today. From the most recent FOMC statement, “The path of the economy will depend significantly on the course of the virus.” I strongly believe in the stability of the Boulder County market but this fall and winter will make for very interesting market watching as we possibly move into terra incognita. I don’t necessarily mean this as a negative, some of our metrics are moving into territory signifying market strength that we’ve never seen before. Always interesting to jump off into the unknown.
Be well and watchful!
We continue to ride the COVID roller coaster with its dizzying plunges and upward swoops. Below is another look at how four metrics are tracking this year compared to last year; the numbers of single family homes Sold, Available, Total Listings and Under Contracts.
Some thoughts on this chart. All of these metrics are comparing this year to last year, not the absolute numbers of each category. The dramatic rebound in the Under Contract numbers tells the story of how it feels to most buyers out there. In most price points, competing offers are the norm for new properties, which feels odd in the middle of a pandemic and at a time of the year which is typically less frenzied.
This feeling of strength is also driven by the continued decline in the number of available homes. This can get a little complicated, as the number of available homes has been flat in absolute numbers over the past month, but this flat trajectory is being compared to the steeper upward trajectory of a typical year or last year which results in the declining red line above. With an average number of buyers for this time of the year chasing a below average number of sellers, the market feels strong.
Lastly, one other good sign for our market, we’ve seen the number of sales hopefully start its rebound off the bottom. Due to the delayed nature of a sale, happening 1 to 3 months after a contract, our sales numbers have been the last to show recovery from the shutdown. I’ll want to continue to see this metric climb rather than rely on just one week’s upward motion, but with the large rebound in under contract numbers, sold numbers have to increase eventually.
Another statistician I was listening to last week talked about how these wide scope charts can hide more localized effects. The roller coaster ride for the national numbers is different than the ride for the statewide numbers, and I would take it even further to say, the ride for the individual city numbers and possibly even the ride for different price points and neighborhoods. With the lower numbers of sellers in the market, any sudden influx of buyers into a price point, area or neighborhood can have strong localized effects. I’m hearing many stories of fierce competition, but also other stories of people getting very little showing interest from buyers. Essentially, we’re all riding our own roller coasters and experiencing our own rides. You can see this a little in the chart below showing the different percentages under contract for the different cities within Boulder County. Someone riding the Louisville roller coaster is experiencing a much different ride than the person riding the City of Boulder roller coaster..
Be well everyone!
I think many of us are surprised by the strength in the local market during this time of COVID. I know I keep sifting and analyzing the tea leaves of the numbers trying to determine the direction we’re headed. Recently, I decided to take a look back over the last year and compare the number of new listings entering our market versus the number of homes going under contract. These metrics are proxies for the number of active sellers and active buyers. If those two numbers were to head in opposite directions, that would portend big changes for our market. If those two numbers were to generally track together, that would portend the continuation of the status quo.
As part of this look back, I struggled to re-create the timeline of COVID restrictions on our ability to show homes so that I could mark that onto the chart. To the best of my recollection, this was how it played out.
March 10th – Colorado state of emergency declared
March 13th – National state of emergency declared
March 25th – Statewide Stay-at-Home order – we thought showings allowed
April 6th – Real Estate Showings officially clarified as not allowed
April 27th – Safer-at-Home enacted statewide – Boulder County continues Stay-at-Home orders
April 29th – Boulder County vacant home showings allowed
May 9th – Boulder County In-Person showings allowed
Once I created this chart, I was comforted by how closely the seller and buyer activity was tracking together. Slight seasonal differences, where we see more sellers relative to buyers during the -summer and more buyers relative to sellers over the winter, but overall, remarkably similar tracks. It was especially interesting to see buyers and sellers both react to COVID restrictions similarly on the way down and the way back up. Most importantly, so far, the numbers are tracking together nicely which implies we’re continuing with the status quo, which so far, is a fairly robust market for all but the highest price points. As with many of my charts, I’ll be keeping an eye on this one, looking for periods where these two metrics strongly diverge as that may signal a market change, but so far, as we all adjust to the new normal of masks, gloves and an obsession with sanitization, the market just keeps chugging along.
Be healthy everyone!
The elephant is still loitering in the corner of my home office as the COVID pandemic continues its upheaval of the local real estate market. I find it hard to remember myself the timeline of how the pandemic has played out in our state. As a refresher, our first confirmed Colorado case occurred on March 5th and Governor Polis declared a state of emergency on March 10th and the National Emergency was declared on March 13th. Prior to those announcements, there was national discussion of the pandemic and how it would affect the US. It appears from our local numbers, that our real estate market first took substantial notice of the pandemic at the end of February. We’re now at the stage of conflicting State, County and Municipal orders for what real estate services we can and can’t provide.
Discussing showing counts at this point is not very informative as showings aren’t allowed in many places and the concept of what is and isn’t a showing has become blurry when compared to previous time periods. To me, the most informative thing we can look at right now is the Under Contract numbers. Total listings and Available listings can be distorted by seller motivation and COVID restrictions on photography and staging. Sold numbers are delayed 30-45 days due to contract length and won’t show what’s happening right now. Overall Under Contract numbers though, can give us a snapshot of the true activity in the market right now, even though they are also likely distorted by showing restrictions, inventory restrictions and sight unseen offers waiting to fail.
So, here’s what the UC numbers are telling us. Pre-pandemic, we were running about 20% ahead of the 2019 numbers for the same period. Now, at the end of April, we’re running almost 40% below the 2019 numbers, a drop of about 60% in buyer activity compared to last year. Total listings down about 30% and Available listings down about 10% from their pre-pandemic levels. So, Buyers are definitely reacting to the pandemic by being less active right now. The big question for the rest of the year, will those waiting buyers come flooding back to the market when restrictions are lifted or have buyers been financially scarred by the pandemic and need time to rebuild confidence, jobs and finances.
Many market experts are debating the shape of our recovery, I’ve heard of a “U”, a “V”, a “√” and a “L”. We’re still in the beginning stages of this and still trending downwards, so hard to guess yet at the shape of the upswing. I believe that our Under Contract numbers will be the first and most accurate indicator of the shape of our upswing when it occurs.
Be healthy everyone!
There’s an elephant looking over my shoulder as I write this month’s stats article from my home office, “COVID-19”. The question on all of our minds is; how big an impact is this currently having and going to have for both the short term and the long term?
We can actually get fairly good real time data to answer the first part of that question. ShowingTime, a national showing service provider, has released their showing data that illustrates the impact of COVID-19 in the markets they set showings in. Here’s the link (updated daily):
I’ve taken screenshots of their data for Colorado and all of N. America as of March 25th, 2020. Their Colorado data is definitely concerning. Hopefully that little move at the end, circled in green, is a moderation to the reduction in showing activity we’ve seen over the last 2 weeks, down 49% from the peak. As I write this on March 26th, the State of Colorado has enacted a “Stay at Home” order which may further affect our showing traffic.
The national numbers are very similar to Colorado’s but do not have the moderation in the most recent data. This may be an early indicator that Colorado’s desirability, low levels of housing inventory and low mortgage rates may shelter us somewhat from the impact of COVID-19. At the ShowingTime site, you can look at every state and three Canadian provinces. Some interesting differences amongst all of those data sets, but everyone is being affected.
Since this situation is changing hourly, very hard to confidently make predictions for the future. I will say I think there will be short term impacts due to social distancing and Stay at Home orders. I think longer term impacts will be determined by the economic impacts of the virus. Will there be long term job losses, how do the financial markets recover from their current lowered levels and what positive impact does the Coronavirus Relief package being debated in Washington have on the economy? The answers to those questions will define our long term impacts.
Be healthy everyone!
Malec – RE/MAX of Boulder, Inc. – 303-588-5716
The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) just released their Third Quarter House Price Index (HPI) data. As you can see in the chart below, Boulder, Denver and Colorado remain off their 2016 peaks in annual price appreciation yet remained clustered in the positive appreciation area right around 10% annual appreciation, not too shabby. This might drop further as the latest quarterly readings were clustered around 1% appreciation for the Third Quarter of 2018. Interestingly, Boulder County had been lagging Denver and the rest of Colorado for the past year or so and has accelerated back to match their appreciation rates.
While Boulder, Denver and Colorado have all sunk in the rankings for short term appreciation, the long term appreciation for these areas remains some of the best in the country.
|1 Quarter||1 Year||5 Year||Since 1991|
|Boulder||.84% – 181st||9.88% – 41st||61.54% – 19th||415.25% – 1st|
|Denver||1.29% – 152nd||9.97% – 37th||66.63% – 11th||373.34% – 2nd|
|Ft. Collins||2.67% – 48th||8.64% – 59th||60.41% – 21st||341.12% – 6th|
|Greeley||4.35% – 10th||10.53% – 27th||70.92% – 4th||293.11% – 13th|
|Colorado||1.7% – 11th||9.16% – 5th||58.76% – 2nd||366.03% – 2nd|
The FHFA HPI index is a very lagging indicator, we won’t see Fourth Quarter 2018 data until February 26th, 2019. That data release will be very telling, was our Fourth Quarter as slow as it felt to some? Will we not be worried by then as the spring market frenzy cranks back up? All good questions that we’ll answer next year!
I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season.
The latest FHFA House Price Index (HPI) data came out for the First Quarter of 2018 and I thought I’d spend some time on those stats. You’ll see in the chart below that the Boulder County MSA, the metro Denver MSA and the State of Colorado are all off their peaks in appreciation as our market shows some deceleration. Overall, the US is still showing increasing appreciation. It’s important to note that even though appreciation is slowing, it is still positive, with Boulder County still experiencing 8.25% appreciation over the last 12 months.
The Boulder MSA remains very strong compared to the other 245 ranked MSA’s across the Country as you can see in the chart below. As I’ve noted before, when you look at appreciation since 1991, our local MSA’s remain very strong, placing First, Second, Sixth and Thirteenth. Here’s a table showing how the different areas rank. It is interesting to note that the 10 metro County Denver MSA is showing stronger appreciation than Boulder County in the shorter timeframes. Since the Denver MSA has an overall lower price point than Boulder County, I think they continue to experience more of the frenzied appreciation we’re seeing occur on the lower end. Overall as a State, Colorado ranks second or fourth in the individual time frames.
|1 Quarter||1 Year||5 Year||Since 1991|
|Boulder||2.21% – 56th||8.25% – 68th||62.56% – 28th||390.93% – 1st|
|Denver||2.37% – 47th||10.18% – 28th||69.09% – 16th||349.19% – 2nd|
|Ft. Collins||1.84% – 82nd||7.98% – 75th||58.40% – 34th||316.16% – 6th|
|Greeley||3.50% – 15th||12.63% – 5th||70.13% – 15th||274.76% – 13th|
|Colorado||3.37% – 4th||10.63% – 4th||62.75% – 2nd||355.99% – 2nd|
Surprisingly from our local perspective of a hot market, the HPI report still shows MSA’s across the country that are experiencing depreciation. Not everyone has been having the appreciation we’ve been experiencing since 2012. Of the 345 total MSA’s across the country, 19 have had negative appreciation over the last year or last 5 years. Still some scattered parts of the country that have suffering home prices.
Two other items of note from the FHFA HPI report. The rebound in national prices has now easily surpassed the peak in 2006 before the national downturn. We also finally have every State showing positive annual appreciation, but the rates vary from 0.9% to 13.7%. I hope everyone had a great Memorial Day!
Last month we talked about what a high-end home was. After looking at the data for Boulder County for the last 16 years, I came up with the answer that the top 3% of the market was the high-end. In the raw data, there was a hitch in many years when you reached that 3% level, a jump larger than other increments that implied there was something different as you moved from the top 4% to the top 3%. After looking at all of that data, I was also left with the curiosity to see how those price levels played out across the individual cities in the County. As usual, some time with my head buried in Excel and I have some answers and some further questions. Here are the breakdowns for the individual Cities in the County for 2017 Sales using IRES only data, the chart of Single Family homes first, Attached homes second and combined third.
You can see that I’ve highlighted in yellow the sales price for each city that would have put that home into the top 3% of all 2017 sales for both single family and attached. The first thing I realized when I looked at this city by city data is that the hitch in my data at the 3% level has disappeared. When comparing prices within each city, apples to apples, there typically is just a smooth transition between the different price percentiles. An interesting result and one that throws out my assertion that there was something special about that 3% level.
Another thing that jumped out of the data is that we live in an expensive area, I know, shocking news. The Median Price for a home in the State of Colorado is $363,386 and for the nation as a whole, $213,146. The most affordable City within Boulder County is Longmont with a Median Price higher than the state median and far higher than the national median. 40% of City of Boulder sales were over $1M in 2017 and surprisingly to me, over 6% of City of Louisville sales were over $1M.
The more I contemplated this data, I also came to the realization that comparing City to City also has issues. We know of many areas where a City line is drawn, and on the other side of the City line is a subdivision composed of homes in a much different price point that gets included into a different area. Think of Portico (Suburban Plains) versus SW Longmont, Boulder Country Club versus the rest of Gunbarrel (the City of Boulder parts and the Suburban Plains parts), and White Hawk Ranch (Suburban Plains) versus the City of Lafayette. One other area of question, the Suburban Mountains. I would bet without looking that most of the high-end sales in that area were for the very close in to Boulder properties and not the homes up by Allenspark. I’m sure there are other similar areas as well scattered throughout the County. So how do you account for those differences? Should those areas be lumped in with the nearby Cities or not? This is really more of comment on the Area/Subarea structure of the MLS data. Possibly something that worked well in the past but today it may just be causing more confusion.
I’ve had a couple of weeks of thinking I’d answered something about the high-end, but further reflection tells me my definition doesn’t work. I’ll have to keep contemplating this question.