Economic Snapshots and Stats

Northern Colorado Economic Snapshot - June '13

“And the beat goes on!” 

The Northern Colorado real estate market continues to show improvement over 2012 as we begin our annual trek through the dog days of summer. Single family home sales are up 18.72% through May/2013 compared to through May/2012. Attached unit sales are up 24.80% and the combined market is up 19.68% for the same time periods.

Mortgage interest rates, those little devils that often play havoc with our economic lives, continue to reside near historic lows. That old bastion, the thirty-year fixed rate loan, which many home buyers have relied on through the years, is hovering around 3.75% to 4.0% for a conventional loan, and slightly less for a government insured loan (FHA/VA).  Rates have trickled up recently as the economic climate has experienced times of continued improvement.

Available inventory of single family homes in Northern Colorado showed a modest gain in May/2013 compared to April/2013 increasing by 2.09% (2068 vs. 2026). Improving home values have provided sellers, who have been sitting on the sidelines to do something these past few years, an opportunity to make the move to a larger home or downsize as their needs change. 

With lower mortgage interest rates and reduced inventory, rental properties have become less available. Scarcity creates demand and rental rates have increased over the course of the past year. Once again real estate is a wise investment, providing investors with tax benefits and appreciation.    

Real estate is characteristically a bottom-up phenomenon. Homes on the less expensive end of the scale have a tendency to start selling first in an improving real estate market. If the market sustains itself, then pricier homes begin to sell. The Front Range real estate market is following suit with more expensive homes showing marked improvement in sales activity this spring. Expect this pattern to persist through the balance of the summer.        

Late spring and early summer are the times when the Northern Colorado real estate market bell curve has a tendency to peak. Available inventory reaches its highest point and buyer activity rises. With low mortgage interest rates and a shortage of inventory (compared to previous years), expect the Northern Colorado real estate market to be quite active through late summer.

As we shift from spring into summer there doesn’t appear to be anything perched on the economic horizon waiting to create chaos with the Northern Colorado real estate market. Bank foreclosures and short sales still rear their ugly heads on occasion, but not at the levels that existed between 2007 and 2011. New home construction has become a greater part of the economic landscape with starter homes flourishing across the Front Range and even custom homes beginning to sprout in subdivisions that were stagnant for the past few years. Seller motivation has increased and buyer confidence has improved; two elements that are vital to a healthy real estate market.

Real estate markets are normally slow moving entities when they are going through a period of recovery. This current shift was accomplished quite quickly, which bodes well for both buyers (low mortgage interest rates) and sellers (appreciation and lack of competition).


Northern Colorado Economic Snapshot - April '13

As the Colorado real estate market ramped-up in 2012, one of the issues facing the Northern Colorado real estate market as 2013 began was available inventory of homes for sale when compared to previous years. In March/2012 there were 2,334 active single family listings in Northern Colorado. In March/2013 that number was 2,095 representing a 10.24% reduction, which was driven by increased buyer activity.

When comparing March/2013 to March/2012, single family home sales are up 17.52% for Northern Colorado. Attached unit sales are up 11.26% for the same time periods. Collectively, those two market segments are up 16.67%.

Below are some sold numbers for single-family homes and attached units for various geographic areas throughout Northern Colorado. Information is courtesy of IRES (Northern Colorado MLS).

As spring deals with winter’s last feeble efforts to hang on, this is the scenario that exists across Northern Colorado, the Boulder Valley, and Metro Denver – fewer listings and more sales. Combined with low mortgage interest rates the result is a perfect storm, if you’re a seller.

Normally, scarcity creates demand, which in turn adds value to whatever is in short supply. Looking at the areas noted above and average sales value, here is what has happened to the average sales value for single family homes when comparing March/2012 to March/2013: Fort Collins (+3.9%): Greeley/Weld County (+18.3%); Loveland (+8.8%); and Windsor  (+10.17%).  

Look for the Northern Colorado spring real estate market to continue to flourish. Available inventory will creep-up, but will continue to be swept-up by prospective buyers waiting in the wings. Mortgage interest rates have trickled-up over the past few weeks, but there are no signs on the horizon they will shift noticeably either up or down for the balance of 2013.

Northern Colorado Economic Snapshot - March '13

Two months plus into this New Year and the Northern Colorado real estate market continues to show strong activity. Through February single family home sales are up 30.79% for Northern Colorado over last year for the same time period; attached unit sales are up 24.54%. The inventory level of available single family homes in February/2013 mirrored January/2013 (1920 vs. 1921), but were down 21.89% when compared to February/2012 (1920 vs. 2458).

The US Department of Labor (Bureau of Labor Statistics) recently released their unemployment rates for the country and by state. Nationally, the unemployment rate stands at 7.7% at the end of February. Last year at this time the rate was 8.3%. Colorado is currently at 7.5%. The state with the highest unemployment rate is Rhode Island at 9.9%. Not far behind are Nevada and California at 9.8%. The state with the lowest unemployment rate is North Dakota at 3.2%. For a point of reference, the unemployment rate for the Great Depression peaked at around 25% in 1933. In 1929 the unemployment rate was 3.2%.

On the home mortgage scene, interest rates have trended up slightly since the first of the year. The traditional thirty-year fixed-rate loan has moved from 3.35% to around 3.75% depending on the lender and closing/loan costs. Sometimes an advertised lower interest rate can mean higher closing/loan costs. Buyers need to make sure when they are looking at getting a loan they are comparing apples to apples.

From a financial perspective, there are still those ankle biters out there in the real estate market, bank foreclosures and short sales. There aren’t as many as there were a year or two ago, but like weeds, they keep popping-up.  

Spring is that eternal time of year when everything looks brighter. Days are getting longer; nights are getting shorter. Flowers and trees are beginning to bloom and bud. The gray days of winter are fast becoming a distant memory. It’s also the time of year when a plethora (large number) of home sellers and buyers begin the process of becoming actively involved in the real estate market. 

The next few months are the time when the Northern Colorado real estate market begins to accelerate. Active listings will increase, but so will sales activity. Home values, especially in the lower price ranges, have been improving. Appraisers are aware of this and are making pricing adjustments accordingly. There has been a slight up-tick in sales activity in the higher end homes across most market areas. That’s a good sign for the overall market, since real estate markets strengthen from the bottom up.

New construction continues to play an important part of this renewed housing market. It started with production builders building starter homes, mid-range homes, and attached units. The market has slowly evolved to where custom builders are dusting off the cobwebs and seeing some activity. Spec inventory on expensive homes? Don’t see that coming anytime soon. Banks and builders are too wary.

As late winter and spring days vacillate between snowstorms and record highs, look for the Northern Colorado, Denver Metro, and Boulder Valley real estate markets to remain on the current pace. Available inventory will be the key to sustaining the rate of growth across all market areas.

Northern Colorado Economic Snapshot - February '13

The Northern Colorado real estate market continued its active pace in January/2013 as residential sales outpaced January/2012 sales. Single family home sales were UP 38.76% (315 vs. 227). Attached unit sales were down 14.07% (55 vs. 64). The collective market was UP 27.14%. Sales figures for January/2013 approached January/2007 sales numbers.

The inventory of available properties will increase as winter melds into spring and the real estate market gains momentum. Available inventory will be the key to how active the Northern Colorado real estate market is in 2013. January/2013 ended the month with nearly 29% FEWER active single family homes on the market compared to the end of January/2012 (1690 vs. 2392). When you take January/2011 into consideration, there were 40% FEWER single family homes available at the end of January/2013 (1690 vs. 2392). The past two years have seen buyer activity increase swallowing-up available inventory. Expect this pattern to continue throughout 2013.

On the financing side, the Federal Reserve has indicated they are going to keep lending rates at historic lows through the balance of 2013 and into 2014. The Fed’s goal is to get the national economy stabilized and then growing at a reasonable rate. National unemployment rates have dipped to slightly under 8%. Colorado’s unemployment rate has pretty much mirrored the national rate for the past five years.

When the Metro Denver and Northern Colorado real estate market was HOT back in 2004 through 2007, the Colorado unemployment rate had dipped below 4%. The national rate dropped to around 4.5% at that time. In its August/2012 economic forecast, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated the unemployment rate would be 5.9% by 2017. Getting from there to below 4% again would require a Herculean effort on the part of the local, national and global economy.

But that’s the future. We have to deal with the realities of today. Here are some thoughts to chew-on in looking at the Northern Colorado real estate market.

  • It’s a seller’s market, especially at the entry-level. The Absorption Rate for Northern Colorado at the end of January/2013 for single family homes was 166 days. That number at the end of January/2012 was 258 days. (The Absorption Rate is the length of time it would take the market to fully sell, assuming the same rate of sales activity and no new inventory entering the market.)
  • If a property is priced competitively and in reasonable condition, multiple offers are now the norm. Short sale properties, especially, invite multiple offers.
  • The upper end of the market is showing some resiliency. Driven by low mortgage interest rates and limited inventory. 
  • As buyer demand increases, home values follow suit. We’re seeing the trickle-up effect as mid-range and upper end homes are experiencing a positive movement in values.
  • New home construction will continue to be a viable part of the housing market as the resale inventory dwindles and buyer motivation increases. 

In Northern Colorado, the spring and early summer are characteristically the busiest time of the year with home closings peaking in the March through August period.

Northern Colorado Economic Snapshot - January '13

Single family home sales were UP 16.86% in 2012 when compared to 2011 (8,039 vs. 6,879). Attached unit sales were UP 20.25% for the same time periods (1,223 vs. 1,017). The collective market was UP 17.29% (9,262 vs. 7,896). 

The Absorption Rate (the length of time it would take for the market to fully turn) for single family homes ended the year at 95 days for Northern Colorado. 2011 ended the year at 145 days. This was spurred my low mortgage interest rates and diminishing inventory. 

For Northern Colorado, the year ended with 1,495 active listings. This was down 23.88% when compared to the end of 2011 (1,495 vs. 1,964). 

Below is an overview of sales activity for single family homes and attached units in the various Northern Colorado areas, courtesy of IRES – the Northern Colorado MLS.

2013 promises to be a year of continued change. Here are some thoughts relative to what the Northern Colorado market may experience.

  • Lack of available inventory will further foster a seller’s market, with both the resale market and new construction benefitting. 
  • Land sales, once a dormant part of the real estate landscape, will experience a rebirth as production and custom builders seek out new opportunities. 
  • Home mortgage interest rates should continue to hover below 4.0% for the traditional thirty-year fixed rate mortgage as the economic impacts of the decisions surrounding the fiscal cliff become more apparent. 
  • Rental rates will continue to increase as the availability of rental units shrinks.