Temperatures may be cooling off but the Front Range real estate market is not.
Typically the market starts to slow down a bit in the Fall after a hot Spring and Summer.
Not this year.
The indicator we use to measure future closed sales is current pending sales.
Simply, we look at the number of properties under contract and scheduled to close versus the same time last year.
Current pending sales are way up along the Front Range when measured against 2019:
Metro Denver up 34.1%
Larimer County up 48.6%
Weld County up 50.2%
Based on these numbers, closed sales numbers over the next 60 days will be very strong.
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.
It’s interesting to look at what population growth means for housing.
On average, along the Front Range, 2.5 people live in each housing unit.
What that means is 4 housing units are needed for every 10 people who live here.
So, for every 1000 new people moving to our area, 400 new housing units are required.
The population of Metro Denver is just under 3,000,000 and the population of Northern Colorado is just over 650,000.
Assuming the Front Range grows in population at 2% per year, that means 60,000 new people in Metro Denver and 13,000 new people in Northern Colorado each year.
To house those people, 24,000 new housing units need to be built per year in Metro Denver and 5,200 in Northern Colorado.
The market is in short supply.
More homes are needed to fulfill the need to buyer demand.
Compared to exactly one year ago, the supply of homes is down:
- 32.6% in Metro Denver
- 25.1% in Northern Colorado
An interesting and useful measurement we track is months of inventory. This stat tells how long it would take to sell all of the homes currently for sale at the current pace of sales.
Of course, months of supply can vary greatly by price range and location. However, this stat does a good job of explaining the overall state of the market.
Specifically, months of supply tells us if the market is in balance.
A ‘balanced’ market is when there is 4 to 6 months of supply. A buyers market occurs when the stat is higher than this range. A sellers market occurs when it is lower.
The months of supply looks like this in our market:
- 1.0 months in Metro Denver
- 1.3 months in Northern Colorado
So, the market overall is significantly under-supplied and more homes are needed to meet demand.
We’ve been waiting for June to catch up. It finally happened (almost).
Back in April, real estate activity was significantly limited and the showing of property was restricted which caused the number of closed properties in May and early June to be much lower than last year.
Bottom line, fewer properties going under contract in April caused fewer closings 30 to 45 days later.
Closed properties in May were down compared to 2019 by 44% in Northern Colorado and 43% in Metro Denver.
Then activity jumped significantly in May. The number of properties going under contract was way up compared to last year.
We’ve been wondering when we would see this sales activity reflected in the number of closed properties.
Well, it finally happened (almost).
The number of closings so far in June compared to the same time period through June of 2019 is only down 1.8% in Northern Colorado and 1.6% in Metro Denver.
In both markets, there are only a handful of closings separating activity in June 2020 versus June 2019.
By the end of the month, when all the transactions are tallied up, we expect that June of this year will out pace June of last year in terms of number of transactions.
This is significant not only because of COVID-19, but also because of the reduced inventory compared to last year. Quite simply, there are fewer homes to buy.
All of this speaks to the health and resiliency of the Front Range market.
The numbers that we find to be most interesting right now are all related to inventory.
Long story short, inventory is tight.
It was already tight pre-coronavirus and now it’s even tighter.
Here are the numbers.
Active properties for sale versus one year ago are down:
- 11% in Larimer County
- 20% in Weld County
- 26% in Metro Denver
This low inventory is one of several reasons that prices are generally still up across the Front Range.
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.
There is an abundance of great news when it comes to employment in Colorado.
The unemployment rate is incredibly low at 2.7% which is almost a full percentage point lower than the U.S. average.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Metro Denver added 28,300 jobs over the last year which ranks 15th out of all metropolitan areas nation-wide, many of which have much larger populations than Denver.
While this is positive news, what is even more remarkable is what is happening in the other, smaller cities along the Front Range.
Anytime job growth exceeds 2.0% per year, it is a sign of a very healthy economy.
Here is what the other Cities have seen in terms of job growth over the last 12 months.
• Fort Collins 2.6%
• Greeley 2.5
• Colorado Springs 1.9%
The following analysis of the Metro Denver & Northern Colorado real estate market 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 real estate agent.
Colorado’s economy picked up, adding 64,900 new non-agricultural jobs over the past 12 months — a growth rate of 2.4%. Over the past three months, the state added an impressive 28,300 new jobs.
In August, the state unemployment rate was 2.8%, down from 3.4% a year ago. Unemployment rates in all the counties contained in this report were lower than a year ago. It is fair to say that all markets are now at full employment.
- In the third quarter of 2019, 17,562 homes sold. This is an increase of 5.1% compared to the third quarter of 2018 but 1.6% lower than the second quarter (which can be attributed to seasonality). Pending sales — a sign of future closings —rose 9.7%, suggesting that closings in the final quarter of 2019 are likely to show further improvement.
- Seven counties contained in this report saw sales growth, while four saw sales activity drop. I am not concerned about this because all the markets that experienced slowing are relatively small and, therefore, subject to significant swings.
- I was pleased to see an ongoing increase in the number of homes for sale (+16.9%), which means home buyers have more choice and feel less urgency.
- Inventory levels are moving higher, and demand for housing appears to be quite strong. As I predicted last quarter, home sales rose in the third quarter compared to a year ago.
- Home prices continue to trend higher, with the average home price in the region rising 3.8% year-over-year to $477,776.
- Interest rates are at very competitive levels and are likely to remain below 4% for the balance of the year. As a result, prices will continue to rise but at a more modest pace.
- Appreciation was again strongest in Park County, where prices rose 7.8%. We also saw strong growth in Weld County, which rose 7.4%. Home prices dropped in Clear Creek County, but, as mentioned earlier, this is a small market so I don’t believe this is indicative of an ongoing trend.
- Affordability remains an issue in many Colorado markets and this will act as a modest headwind to ongoing price growth.
DAYS ON MARKET
- The average number of days it took to sell a home in the markets contained in this report rose seven days compared to the third quarter of 2018.
- The amount of time it took to sell a home rose in all counties compared to the third quarter of 2018.
- It took an average of 30 days to sell a home in the region — an increase of 1 day compared to the second quarter of this year.
- The Colorado housing market is still performing well, and the modest increase in the length of time it took to sell a home is a function of greater choice in homes for sale and buyers taking a little longer to choose a home.
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 third quarter of 2019, I continue the trend I started last summer and have moved the needle a little more in favor of buyers. I continue to closely monitor listing activity 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 to be a move toward a more balanced market.
ABOUT MATTHEW GARDNER
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.
Seventy-five major metro markets have seen home prices bounce back to above their pre-recession peaks.
Metro Denver has seen the biggest bounce with home values 91% above its previous high in 2007 , according to the Home Price Recovery Index from HSH.com.
“Aside from routinely strong home price appreciation, it’s important to know that the Denver metro’s housing ‘bust’ in 2008 was relatively short and shallow,” said Keith Gumbinger, the report’s author.
The peak-to-trough for home values was only three years long and the total decline in value was just under 8 percent in Metro Denver, he said.
By contrast, a half-dozen large metros have seen home prices more than double from their lows and still not reach the old highs. On that list are Las Vegas, Sacramento, Calif, and Cape Coral, Fla.