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.
The last time we saw a balanced market was late 1990s, meaning many sellers and buyers have never seen a normal housing market. Windermere Real Estate’s Chief Economist Matthew Gardner looks at more longer-term averages, what does he see for the future of the housing market?
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.
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.
- 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 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.
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.
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.
Here’s what our Chief Economist, Matthew Gardner, thinks about the 2019 U.S. Housing Market. He is regarded as one of the Country’s experts on real estate and is frequently quoted by leading industry publications.
• Existing Home Sales up 1.9% to 5.4 million units
• Home Prices up 4.4%
• New Home Sales up 6.9% to 695,000 (the highest since 2007)
If you want to see all of Matthew’s predictions including where interest rates are headed, get signed up for our annual Forecast. Click the link below!