2018 In the Books My Prediction for 2019 Follows

In Sunday’s Denver Post there was an interesting article titled: Is metro Denver’s hot streak in home prices at risk? Analysts disagree concerning the forecast for the Denver housing market and how those asked to opine are not in agreement; what a surprise.

While Denver continues to be placed in the same tier concerning price appreciation on a percentage basis as Seattle and San Francisco I am not sure these markets are truly comparable. Both those cities are on a coast thus you have a geography limitation (of note the most expensive cities in terms of cost of living in the United States are all along coastlines i.e. historic transportation/commerce hubs).  The reality is concerning those cities and others along coastlines is a simplistic supply and demand correlation concerning buildable land.

Yet cities such as Phoenix and Las Vegas are mentioned as a caution of past markets concerning exponential gains in values only to come crashing down. While in geographical terms Denver is more akin to those cities; again the comparison is flawed. Those cities experienced wide-spread speculation within their respective real estate markets and while similar population numbers the cities vastly greatly concerning socio-economic and business diversity demographics.

What I find interesting is Denver is rarely placed in the same category of cities in the Midwest including Minneapolis, St Louis, Kansas City and others.  These are cities which share geographic similarities, similar population numbers and other demographic traits. My gut is those cities are not as sexy concerning the attraction of readership numbers. Also never to forget our 300 days of sunshine!

So what do I see for Denver and the Metro area for 2019 (and yes I will be looking back to this blog and filling the TBD in December 2019):

Overall Slowing of Sales: My gut is we will see a continued slowdown in sales due to various factors including:

  • Continued mortgage interest rate pressures i.e. inverse to housing prices
  • A mild national recession
  • Slowing in-migration and increasing out-migration concerning the Metro Area
  • Stagnant job growth
  • Potential corporate relocations to locales with more affordable housing and larger  pool of labor

Yes I am well aware of VF Corporation relocating to Denver yet I am also aware of Chipotle relocating to the West Coast (more due to CEO desires versus labor and cost of living criteria).

While I do not see the Denver metro market cratering as mentioned I envision slowing concerning sales activity, a subsequent increase in inventory and by laws of economics stagnant to downward pricing to follow.

We have witnessed this already in the upper-tier of the market i.e. $500K and above and I believe we will see this trend trickle down to all price tiers and neighborhoods. On average I would suggest the overall 2019 across-the-board statistics at the end of the year will see prices 5% below 2018 and even more in real inflation adjusted Dollars.

In specific tiers of the market I believe closed prices will come down 10% of more based on a PSF basis especially in neighborhoods which witnessed exaggerated price appreciation since The Great Recession including areas where supply may be exceeding demand.

From a back of the napkin calculations and statistics gathered from REColorado:

Neighborhood               # Sold   2018 PSF     2019 Forecast  2019 Actual

  • Country Club*:      73         $535                $495   (-$40)             TBD
  • Cherry Creek**:    202       $425                $395   ($-30)             TBD
  • Wash Park***:       88         $609                $540   (-$69)             TBD
  • Highlands****:      386       $440                $405   (-35)               TBD
  • Cherry Hills*****: 87         $452                $410  (-$42)              TBD

Avg. PSF is based on Above Grade/Finished

  • *Country Club: 1st Ave. to 8th Ave., Downing St. to University Blvd.
  • **Cherry Creek: 1st Ave./Alameda Ave. to 6th Ave., University Blvd. to CO. Blvd.
  • ***Wash Park: Louisiana Ave. to Alameda Ave., Broadway to University Blvd.
  • ****Highlands: 28th Ave. to 38th Ave., Perry St. to I-25
  • *****Cherry Hills: Municipal Boundaries of Cherry Hills Village

I will be re-posting this blog on December 30, 2019 with the TBD to be replaced with actual numbers for a comparison.

Thank you for your readership and support and I forward to continuing to blog into 2019 and beyond. Have a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous 2019.






We are officially in a Bear Market Concerning Equities, what about Housing

Today’s abbreviated trading session on Wall Street brought us to a Bear Market.  While bears may be cute and cuddly concerning stocks not so much. Concerning a Bear Market here are some facts:

The term on Wall Street is synonymous with serious, long-lasting declines in stock markets. In numeric terms, a bear market is a 20 percent or more drop from a recent peak. This has happened, now the question is will the downturn in equity values continue?

Pessimism tends to prevail. When good news isn’t enough to hold off sellers and despite solid economic conditions, markets continue to tank — that’s a bear market.  Of note while the economy seems to be running full steam ahead in general equity markets look to the future and the earnings and continued expansion may have peaked, only time will tell.

Since World War II, bear markets on average have fallen 30.4 percent and have lasted 13 months. When that milestone has been hit, it took stocks an average of 21.9 months to recover.

Now the question is; if this Bear Market continues what can we expect on the housing front? This is a challenging question as housing is not liquid, reacts to trends beyond financial headlines and it can be a hedge against a falling equities market i.e. preservation of capital invested in one’s home.

The housing market is unlikely to hurt the stock market much this time around versus The Great Recession of 2008. However, continued stock market volatility or a cooling equities i.e. a Bear Market could have an effect on home-buying activity.

Historically, the stock market takes a hit when interest rates rise and we witnessed this last week when the Federal Reserve again increased rates. For housing, meanwhile, low interest rates have arguably allowed home prices to rise as quickly as they have — but that could soon change.

Mortgage rates have rebounded this year, and continue climbing. If rates were to continue to rise much higher, it could put a damper on the home price appreciation occurring in some markets, since prospective buyers would be less inclined or able to buy homes at such high prices as higher interest rates impact one’s monthly payment i.e. more $ allocated to interest and loan repayment versus equity appreciation.

However some analysts believe that the recent stock market turmoil could slow interest rates’ ascent. “The stock market adjustment can help bring mortgage rates down a bit which could help the housing and the mortgage markets. However for many prospective buyers witnessing their stock portfolio either in their retirement or saving for a down payment, the paper loss may curb one’s appetite due to the lessening of the wealth effect a Bull Market produces.

In Denver we have witnessed a cooling of the market, which has been a relief to buyers, and more challenging to sellers yet this comes after a 5+-year ascent in prices, which is not sustainable in a rational market.

Locally we need to watch the winter months and see what comes on the market, how it is priced and activity i.e. days on market before going under contract and price adjustments.

I am personally a proponent of not using one’s home as an investment vehicle. I have always believed one’s home is shelter and the benefits from tax deductions to hedging against inflation are bonuses. Yet with low interest rates and some purchasing a payment versus true equity appreciation; as with any market there will be winners and losers.

My advice with 20+ years as a real estate broker remains the same; if you find the correct house and it is affordable meaning within your budget and you plan to stay 3-5 years or more, go for it. Some would suggest and I tend to agree housing in a bear market can in fact be a safe haven. If you are in the market and speculating or fix/flipping and so forth I would strong suggest caution and/or an alternative option if your original strategy does not produce the profits you desire.





A Congress Park Bungalow Why I Always Look At Sales History

I am the first to admit sales history and chain of title may not tell the full story. Granted its records transaction prices as reported to the Clerk and Recorder office as we are a Deed of Trust state. Thus the following has always caught my curiosity as I drive by it daily.

The home, a small bungalow in Congress Park has as mentioned always attracted my attention. The main level per city records has 877 SF and the basement 432 SF of which 380 SF is finished. In addition the lot is small i.e. 2,970 SF. In addition no garage, a postage stamp sized yard and abuts a major thoroughfare thus no on-street parking and faces the major one-way thoroughfare.

I watched as the residence sold in 12/13 or 5 years ago for $210,000.

The buyers were fix and flippers and after a cosmetic renovation and some mechanical updates placed on the market for $409,000 3 months later. After a price decrease to $399,000 the home sold for $393,500 in April 2014, 5 months after the initial purchase. Again a fix and flip (and I am the first to admit a well-done cosmetic flip and the addition of egress from the basement). I was always curious as location abutting a major thoroughfare, no true yard or buffer from traffic, a curious home indeed.

The home was re-listed for sale in January 2017 for $549,000.

After a slight price reduction the home sold for $535,000 in March 2017. This seller probably hit the market just at the right time as in the 3 years of ownership enjoyed a gross gain of 30% before closing costs including commissions.

9 months later the house reappears on the market asking $575,000. Granted I would love to profit $40,000 however when one considers commissions and closing costs (let’s assume 6%, the net profit would be $40,000-$34,500 or $5,500. While not a great profit basically was able to live for free for the prior 9 months.

However this seller was not so fortunate! 4 months later a price reduction to $549,900 and subsequently the home sold for $540,000 in May 2018.

Of note the house sold to that seller for $535,000 14 months prior. Thus again assuming commissions and closing costs of 6% of $540,000 or $32,400 actually a loss of close to $30,000 during the 14 months or approximately $2,100/month not factoring in taxes, insurance and other homeowner associated costs.

The house again has come in the market 7 months after the last resale asking $585,000 or desiring to profit $45,000. Again assuming 6% closing costs at asking ($35,000) will net seller $550,000 or $10,000 profit in 7 months assuming it sells at asking price.

The reality is doubtful the home will sell at full asking and thus most likely this seller will also take a loss on the home when it sells.

As a broker on behalf of my clients I always do a look back concerning the sales history. On this particular home I would actually steer my client away due to size, inferior location i.e. on a busy street, no garage and so forth. Granted I believe it would make a great rental property however at asking even if cash the return would be minimal AND the potential equity upside I believe is limited as we are on the downside of the market.

Here is the history in an east to review table:

  • 12/13: Sold for $210,000
  • 4/14: Sold for $393,500
  • 3/17: Sold for $535,000
  • 5/18: Sold for $540,000 – Also known as the year of NO PROFIT
  • 12/18: Asking $585,000

I wish these sellers the best of success. Yet any home that has gone through 5 owners in 5 years would make me question “what is going on with this home?”

Month over Month showing Weakness

Late last week I posted a screenshot of the November 2018 sales statistics for Metro Denver. While the state economists today suggested 2019 should be a positive year for Colorado’s economy concerning job and wage growth across all sectors with a mild slowing;  the housing market may be advising differently.

Let me preface we have headwinds. While Denver may trail Seattle, San Francisco and Las Vegas concerning year-over-year price appreciation in percentage terms let us face the following realities locally and regionally:

  • Our housing market did not go into a free-fall unlike Las Vegas and Phoenix.
  • We have been in a 5+-year expansion concerning housing prices.
  • Wages are not keeping up with housing costs in Metro Denver.
  • New construction did not keep up with demand over the last 5 years.
  • Our economy is not Seattle and San Francisco nor is our population as noted below or geography i.e. available hinterlands versus coastal (Statistics from varied sources including Federal and Regional Census Data):

San Francisco:

  • Metro Population: San Francisco–Oakland–Hayward MSA: 4,335,400
  • San Jose–Sunnyvale–Santa Clara MSA: 1,837,000
  • Average Income: $96,600 / $110,000


  • Metro Population: Seattle–Tacoma–Bellevue, WA MSA: 3,867,000
  • Average Income: $78,612


  • The 12-county Denver-Aurora-Boulder Combined SA: .3,150,000
  • Average Income: $71,926

In general housing costs in San Francisco and Seattle are more expensive then Denver HOWEVER their average incomes are higher and by geography their ability to expand and build outward is limited.

While housing prices in metro Denver were on what seemed like an exponential trajectory I have suggested prior and statistics may be validating we peaked a few months back. While sales prices continue to climb, inventory is increasing, days on market are increasing and eventually prices may begin to adjust downward or keep with inflation and not show oversized gains.

The November 2018 #’s are interesting and showing an impressive gain on a year-to-year basis and while month-over-month does not show a trend I suggest the real estate market is looking outward and showing some hesitation similar to how the stock market projects out 6-12 months.

What will be interesting in to see what November 2019 stats show. My gut is we will see prices either static or lower. Inventory will be higher and days on market will also increase.

This is not necessarily negative, as markets should over time trend back towards normalcy. For too many years we have been in a seller market and it is time to move back to equilibrium of sorts.  In high-end neighborhoods there seems to be a glut of expensive homes waiting a buyer or rental signs as owners wait our the market conditions. While there continues to be some blockbuster sales they are more of an anomaly versus weekly updates. Two recent high profiles sales in Cherry Creek North and Belcaro were to out-of-state buyers relocating as part of VF Corp. relocation to Denver.

My concern is for our local and regional population of move up and move down buyers. At present 1sttime homebuyers continue to be challenged in the market and even as prices may be stabilizing; interest rate increases negate the opportunity of lower pricing.

Move-up buyers are being challenged in finding suitable inventory. This is worrisome as families outgrow their first home or desire more space find inventory challenged in central Denver and will migrate to the suburbs/exurbs or worse leave the state. Move-down buyers those who may be downsizing can take advantage of the sellers market HOWEVER again their inventory for replacement is challenged and thus may consider regional relocation or out of state.

As a 20+year broker in Denver as mentioned prior I have been through these cycles including:

  • 1987-89: Downturn
  • 1991-1995: Upswing
  • 1996-2001: Pricing matching inflation
  • 2002-2006: Irrational Exuberance
  • 2007-2012: Downturn, depths of Great Recession and Foreclosure Crisis
  • 2013-Present: Upswing potential leveling off

While I am not predicting a severe downtown I would not be surprised to see a 5%-10% correct concerning housing prices over the next year across Metro Denver. I believe there are segments i.e. the luxury housing niche i.e. $750K and above that will see more severe adjustments.

Let’s just use this blog posting as an opportunity to revisit in one year.

Is the slowdown in the housing market predicting an overall downturn for the economy?

In general we believe the stock market looks outward in the 6-12 month range concerning the economy and has priced in that forecast; however what about housing?

Granted housing is far from liquid. It is also in some respects a regional commodity based in supply and demand concerning micro and macro inputs. Like stocks housing and specifically mortgages are definitely impacted by interest rates presented in the equities market, which in turn impact mortgages, and credit card rates.

The news from the housing front seems to have gone from a seasonal pattern to one showing a trend. Some recent headlines from the housing front:

Pending home sales tumble to 4-year low in latest sign the housing-market correction has arrived

GOLDMAN: 3 reasons why the US housing market is slowing down

House price growth slows to nearly two-year low as Case-Shiller makes the slowdown official

Peers have suggested part of the issue is interest rates year over year are up one full percentage point. Coupled with somewhat inflated housing process nationally the 1% increase does in-fact impact affordability especially at the first-time home ownership market, which has been literally priced out of the market since the end of The Great Recession.

The paradox is the equities market continues to be at elevated levels leading to the overall “wealth effect”. Also the economy has the lowest unemployment rate that goes back multiple generations. Thus based on the above positive statistics the housing market should continue to be on an upward trajectory yet its not.

I went back a to the early 2000’s to see how the housing market reacted before The Great Recession reviewing notes from the Federal Reserve; some take-aways include:

  • U.S. house prices began to rise more rapidly in the late 1990s.
  • Prices grew at a 7 to 8 percent annual rate in 1998 and 1999
  • In the 9 to 11 percent range from 2000 to 2003
  • In 2004 and 2005, when the annual rate of house price appreciation was between 15 and 17 percent

Thus prior to The Great Recession there was a massive run up in housing values around the country. Part of the run-up was due to Adjustable Rate Mortgages i.e. ARM’s, which provided lower interest rates and thus lower PITI. Also there was rampant speculation in markets including Phoenix, Las Vegas and others where underlying economic statistics i.e. in-migration, average incomes and others were not in tandem with the rise in the underlying housing market. Thus a bubble formed and subsequently burst.

Personally I remember having a client purchasing a home with a 125 Loan to Value Mortgage meaning their loan was literally 25% higher than the underlying value of the home. Their i.e. buyers rationale as well as that of the lending institution was real estate values can only keep going up.

Are we witnessing a similar pattern in housing as seen in the early to mid 2000’s? The answer is yes and no. We have witnessed a serious run-up in values however the baseline from The Great Recession was historically low. Also we are not witnessing the frenzied pent-up demand for housing with buyers lining up for first opportunity to purchase spec. homes. Also lending requirements have become more stringent however I am seeing a return of no-document loans, low down payments i.e. 3% and other loan products that may be challenging in a downward cycle.

Is the housing market due for a bust? I do not believe so as we are not necessarily in a bubble. However are lower prices on the horizon? I believe so. Locally in Denver we have seen the revision in values from the luxury market all the way to the first-time ownership segment.

On the high-end a house in the Denver Country Club came on the market one year ago at $2.3M and sold within the last month for $1.7M. On the lower-end units in Monaco Place, a large condo complex at Hampden Monaco has 2BD units trading between $210-215 in the spring of 2018, more recently similar units are selling below $200 and some in the $180-$190 range.

My sage advice coupled with a historic perspective is as follows:

If purchasing for the longer-term i.e. more than 3-5 years should be OK. There may be continued softening in the market however interest rates are still below 5%, coupled with potential tax advantages ownership may be a positive.

If looking to fix and flip or rental may need to be a little more cautious. Unless the residence is quite underpriced to the overall market and/or there is upside due to renovation and/or location, again would proceed with caution.

If looking to buy and sell within the next 1-3 years I would probably suggest holding off. Between a softening of prices, rising interest rates coupled with costs associated with selling i.e. commissions, Title Insurance and so forth gain if any may be minimal.

If a seller, may be consider selling now as historically when the market softens we may witness increased inventory, which in turn will depress prices. At present inventory is still challenged and thus may be propping up short-term pricing.

Overall am I concerned? Not at all. Like all markets there are corrections. We have been in a seller’s market since The Great Recession and the markets are now moving more towards equilibrium, which is actually a positive for sellers and buyers. In general until this last generation housing was viewed as a solid investment to match or exceed inflation. It was not until the generation of easy access to money that housing becomes a commodity and home equity loans also known, as HELOC’s became the ATM of choice.

As we may remember the housing market started to show concern many months before The Great Recession hit full-force. While the underlying economy seems to be humming along are we on the later-side of the bell curve concerning economic activity? While we can collectively discuss stimulus, tax-cuts and so forth for every action there is a reaction. My gut and I hope I am wrong we have traded short-term growth versus longer-term health as I do not believe business cycles have not in fact ended.

The millenials may have the right idea concerning holding off purchasing homes. This generation witnessed the carnage between 2008 and 2012 and is proceeding with caution; maybe a good lesson for all of us.