Denver weather chills as does the real estate market and my visit to Hong Kong

While some brokers continue to suggest the recent slowdown in sales and significant and immediate price reductions is seasonal (and they may be correct) a few outlets are advising the slowdown in the market may be more serious. An article from The New York Times titled  Housing Market Slows as Rising Prices Outpace Wages provided their national and international readership with an interesting overview of Denver which is not flattering. Even during my recent trip to Hong Kong more than one person when realizing I reside in Denver mentioned the article.

Related according to the monthly report from the Denver Metro Association of RealtorsIn September (2018), housing inventory continued to move higher, even though it typically decreases this time of year, and home prices dropped nearly 5 percent since its record-peak highs this past May and June. Good for prospective buyers not necessarily welcome news for sellers.

Some of my readers have advised privately that I am a pessimist as I have been advising a downturn or the moving towards a more stable market. I do not consider myself a pessimist; more a realist. With 20+ years as a broker literally been there and gone through that. While I too have been impressed with the most recent expansion post The Great Recession I have been concerned about headwinds in the market from out-migration to increasing interest rates to incomes lagging housing price appreciation.

On the lighter side Hong Kong was as usual a frenetic, dynamic city which continues to be considered the most expensive housing market in the world. If you are feeling cramped in your residence or being priced out of the local market, the following quote excerpted from an article concerning a participant in the government sponsored Hong Kong housing lottery may change your prospective.  As published in The South China Morning Post

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(Above a housing block in the Quarry Bay neighborhood on Hong Kong Island)

“Feng Xinmei, a 46-year-old part-time construction worker, said she, her husband, two children and mother-in-law rented a 200 sq. ft. subdivided flat for HK $8,000 a month.

To place this in prospective, a undivided flat means the 200 sq. ft. Ms. Feng rents is part of another apartment. Their rent in US Dollars is $1,021/month. The average hotel room in the United States is 325 sq. ft. or 125 sq. ft. larger than the living space for this family of 5!

While I have in general been against the concept of slot homes due to its impact on the existing urban fabric of traditionally single-family and duplex neighborhoods; all of a sudden Hong Kong makes such density look palatable even preferable.

 

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Charting the Market in One Property over the Past 5 years the Trend says Caution

Per my past blogs I am not providing the address of the following (I can advise within 1 block of King Soopers and adjacent neighborhood retail) I am using this listing as an indicator of the market and possible predictor of the near future. The residence is a historic 1/2 duplex, part of a grouping of townhomes dating to c. 1908 located in a desirable central Denver neighborhood yet addressed and fronting on a busier one-way Avenue.

With 3 bedrooms, multiple levels, approximately 1,800 SF finished square feet, reserved parking and low HOA/taxes an attractive listing and opportunity for the correct buyer. Personally as a prospective buyer and real estate broker I see challenges from being semi-detached i.e. sharing a common wall to the frontage on a busier roadway to reserved yet uncovered parking but this is the logical side of me.

I decided to look at the history of this listing as I pass it almost daily on my commute from Cherry Creek North to Downtown Denver.

The residence first came on the market as follows listed with a full-service brokerage offering a 2.8% co-op:

  • 7/9/13:          Initial Price:               $360,000
  • 7/9/13:          Price Increase:           $375,000
  • 7/11/13:        Goes Under Contract
  • 8/2/13:          Sold and Closed:        $375,000

The same unit enters the market again with a full-service brokerage offering a 2.8% co-op as follows:

  • 7/13/16:       Initial Price:               $585,000
  • 7/21/16:       Price Reduction:        $574,900
  • 9/11/16:       Listing Expires

Five (5) days later the listing reappears with a different full-service broker and brokerage firm offering a 2.8% co-op yet $35,000 lower asking.

  • 9/16/16:       Initial Price:               $535,000
  • 9/26/16:       Goes Under Contract
  • 11/21/16:     Sold and Closed:        $536,000

Thus the seller who purchased in 8/13 for $375,000 has sold 3 years later for $536,000 or $161,000 gross profit in excess of 40% before commissions, fees and closing costs. Over three (3) years an attractive return coupled with being a nice abode.

Now fast forward to June 2018 or just shy of 18 months after the last purchase. The unit is placed on the market with a fixed fee brokerage and offering a co-op of 2.5%

  • 6/7/18:         Initial Price:               $590,000
  • 6/23/18:       Price Reduction:        $585,000
  • 8/11/18:       Price Reduction:        $575,000
  • 8/30/18:       Listing Expired

If the seller above did sell for $575,000; their gross profit would be $39,000. After the fixed fee commission and the 2.5% co-op to the selling broker AKA the buyer broker their net profit would be approximately $22,000 before closing costs and Title Insurance. Not to shabby for 18 months, basically generating $1,200/month in profit HOWEVER, the unit did not sell.

The unit has been placed back on the market as follows with a full service broker (a firm/broker/team that is quite well-respected and knowledgeable) and a co-op of 2.5%.

  • 9/14/18:       Initial Price:               $575,000

Now let’s assume with the new broker/brokerage and the co-op, let’s assume 5% of the closing purchase price. My gut says the unit will close between $545,000 and $555,000. Let’s see what the net is after commission of 5% sans closing costs and Title Insurance:

  • At $575,000 – 5%($28,750) = $546,250
  • At $567,500 – 5%($28,375) = $539,125
  • At $560,000 – 5%($28,000) = $532,000
  • At $553,500 – 5%($27,675) = $525,825
  • At $545,000 – 5%($27,250) = $517,750

Thus not even considering inflation which is now evident or the Time Value of Money, unless this sellers assuming a 5% commission structure transacts at $565,000 or above a strong possibility of actual net loss over the last 18 months.

I understand the initial listing with a fixed rate brokerage as in a strong sellers market there is this assumption that all full-service brokers due it place in MLS and other distribution channels and wait for the phone to ring. I with 3 decades as a broker can attest this is far from reality, however the perception continues.

Yet consider this, while listed with the fixed price brokerage for three months the seller  I assume was paying on a mortgage, thus those 3 months of payments are not coming back and doubtful much impact towards principal. With the new listing I would not be surprised to see reductions before the end of September.

Granted there may be new prospective buyers who have not seen the listing prior. Yet with continued forecasted interest rate hikes and a general slowing of demand, whether seasonal or I assume more indicative due to a lack of demand I would be surprised if the unit sells at the asking of $575,000.

Again my gut advises the unit will sell for between $545,000 and $555,000 assuming no Fall Surprise in the equity markets; not much more than when sold two years prior and if factoring in closing costs and inflation, an actual monetary loss. Will keep all posted.

 

The Three Condo Buildings That Set the Foundation for The Golden Triangle

For many years the neighborhood known as The Golden Triangle (area south of The Denver Art Museum) mystified urban planners and developers. Located south of downtown the area was a mix of low-rise dated commercial buildings and parking lots that by virtue of location should have always been in demand.

During the last 1990’s into the 2000’s a period similar to the boom at present three (3) high-rises were developed setting the foundation for the neighborhood and its resurgence. Of the three buildings, two centrally located in the neighborhood, a third on its eastern flank. The buildings were conceived and developed by Craig Nassi.

At present the area continues to surge with redevelopment including rental apartments along its Speer Boulevard border, in-fill row houses within the heart of the neighborhood i.e. between Broadway and Speer, south of 12thAvenue and continued activity on the Broadway corridor.

Of the three buildings, which changed the skyline of the neighborhood The Belvedere at 475 W 12th Avenue, was the first to be completed and offered for sale. Conceived and designed based on the aesthetic of elegant pre-war co-ops of Manhattan the finished building includes an opulent lobby, an attended door and exterior design details reminiscent of pre-WWII apartment houses. The Belvedere was consider out of place in the Rocky Mountain West (to date most condo buildings has been developed with a contemporary design) and was followed by The Prado, within one block sharing similar aesthetics and The Beauvallon, a hulking structure built on Lincoln Street with full amenities offering views of Downtown and The Front Range.

Having recently represented a seller in The Belvedere, a sale which commanded the highest per square foot transacted in the building to date I wished to look back on the market over the last year for all three buildings. Due to their design and location, the three buildings are truly unique and have yet to be replicated.

The Belvedere 475 W 12thAvenue (1999)

  • Closed Sales: Seven (7)
  • Size: 900 SF to 2,640 SF
  • Sold: $350,000 – $985,000
  • Average PSF: $385.95*
  • On Sale or Under Contract: Two (2) Avg. $411 PSF
  • *The transaction in which I represented the seller closed at $415 PSF

The Prado: 300 W 11thAvenue (2001)

  • Closed Sales: Six (6)
  • Size: 1,008 SF to 2,096 SF
  • Sold: $375,000 – $900,000
  • Average PSF: $380.32
  • On Sale of Under Contract: Two (4) Avg Asking $403 PSF
  • Of note, two parking spaces for sale asking $60,000 not included in stats above

The Beauvallon 925 Lincoln St (2001)

  • Closed Sales: Nine (9)
  • Size: 769 SF to 2,272 SF
  • Sold: $315,000 – $730,000
  • Average PSF: $374.24.95
  • On Sale of Under Contract: Seven (7) Avg Asking $380 PSF

Please note while the buildings were developed one person, each is unique concerning setting, amenities, views and floor plans. Yet even in the present day in which we are witnessing glass enclosed high-rises penetrating the skyline from Downtown to Cherry Creek, The Belevedere, The Prado and The Beauvallon continue to occupy a unique niche in the marketplace concerning location, design and views and doubtful to be replicated anytime soon. While one rarely uses the term “bespoke” concerning condos, these three buildings fit the definition.

And in the interest of a fair and balanced blog I would be remiss if I did not include the opposing opinion concerning the design of the The Beauvillon as noted in the following article from Westword titled: The Ten Worst 21st-Century Buildings in Downtown Denver.

A Broker Makes a Rational Offer for his Future Residence the Results

My wife and I have been looking for a home (for followers of my blog we sold our primary residence of just shy of 30 years back in April 2017). We have kept our eye on a listing in one of Denver’s most desirable and stable (concerning values over the long-term) neighborhoods. The home we expressed interest in is small (similar houses have been expanded), requires updating to present code including electrical, no garage and the basement shows evidence of past and more recent water damage.  Coupled with all the above information the most recent index by Beracha, Hardin & Johnson Buy vs. Rent Index suggests we would be better of renting than purchasing at present yet as brokers we too sometimes operate on emotion and we are looking longer-term.

While the index does somewhat influence my decision; being a logical broker I conducted my due diligence concerning comparable properties in the same block on the same side of the street. I went back a few years and extrapolated the comparable’s using an inflation calculator to justify our offer.

While I will not disclose the address, the asking based on above grade SF is approximately $625 Per Square Foot (PSF). The comparable properties all have similar lot size and as mentioned on the same side of the street on the same block:

  • Comp 1: Sold – 3/2018:

Sold for $459/PSF Above Grade

Inflation Factor: N/A

-This home is in meticulous shape including the architecturally designed addition on the rear with the expanded kitchen, family room with fireplace, 2-car garage and professionally landscaped front, rear and side.

  • Comp 2: Sold -10/2017

Sold for $417/PSF Above Grade

Inflation Factor: $429 PSF Above Grade

-While I have not seen the inside except from the exterior new lighting, new windows, architect-designed extensions on the rear, garage parking to match. It is a duplex and both sides sold together as one structure. Each 1/2 of the duplex has 3 bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms, larger than the subject property.

  • Comp 3: Sold – 6/2017

Sold for $532/PSF Above Grade

Inflation Factor: $546 PSF Above Grade

-While used as a pied-a-terre the interior condition is similar. The kitchen was outdated however larger space, has a garage and deep south setback with a lot that is 1,000+ SF larger than subject property.

  • Comp 4: Sold – 7/2015

Sold for $395 PSF

Inflation Factor: $420 PSF Above Grade

The house is very similar to Comp 1 (next door) yet narrower lot and smaller size overall. Excellent design and layout. The rear and upper extension were beautifully designed and executed with functionality i.e. den w/ fireplace, expanded kitchen with breakfast area, 2 car garage made of brick to match the historic urban fabric coupled with a professionally landscaped yard.

Thus concerning the comparable properties using 2018 dollars the prices per square foot above grade range from $420 to $546. While 4 homes do not make a proper statistical average would be $463.50 PSF based on inflation with the $546/PSF sale skewing the average upward do to limited sample size. Of note the Median is $444/PSF.

Many of my peer brokers believe the peak of the market was 6-12 months prior as prices are beginning to slip, inventory is increasing coupled with rising mortgage interest rates.

Based on the $463 PSF average noted the house we made the offer upon should be priced at approximately $625,000 which may even be somewhat aggressive as the comparables are homes that have been extensively renovated or updated and all include alley access garages.

We offered $560 PSF or 20% above the comparable properties identified on a PSF basis.

Our offer was promptly rejected as the seller is asking $625 PSF.

While no fault of the out-of-state seller if /when the residence goes under contract and assuming there is an appraisal there may be a rude awakening. We could have offered full price and use the appraisal and inspection contingencies to eventually close at a lower market oriented price; however that is not our method of operation.

We made a viable offer, provided statistical pricing guidance and was subsequently rejected based on I assume emotion and/or irrational exuberance concerning valuation. I have been incorrect before and the residence may actually sell for asking (of note at present on the market almost two months and one price reduction to date); on this one we like it (we do not love it) however we willing to wait it out or pass altogether as inventory increases and pricing pressures are forecast to be in our (buyers) favor.

 

The Avenues of Valuation Demarcation Concerning Cherry Creek Residential

For many of us experienced real estate brokers there was a time when Cherry Creek residential was literally split into two distinct neighborhoods, Cherry Creek North (north of 1stAvenue) and Cherry Creek East (south of 1stAvenue).

At present brokers and prospective buyers seem to use the term Cherry Creek to represent the area generally bounded by 6thAvenue on the North, Alameda Avenue on the South (from east of the Mall), University Boulevard on the West and Colorado Boulevard in the East.

While the housing styles are similar throughout the greater Cherry Creek neighborhood including duplexes, row houses and more recently condos and a few very pricy single family homes I have been curious from a broker’s perspective concerning demarcations within the neighborhood.

I decided to analyze the Cherry Creek Neighborhood from Steele Street on the West to Colorado Boulevard on the East, an area that is all residential. I decided to use various avenues as demarcations as based on experience residences north of 3rdAvenue (which has become a bypass for 1stAvenue) seems to always be more expensive and inventory south of 1stAvenue due to size and design is the lowest cost in the area. Thus I wished to validate my experience with statistics of what is on the market at present.

From 3rdAvenue to 6th Avenue -On market: 53 residences

-Avg Layout: 3BD/5BA

-Above Grade SF: 2,812 SF

Avg. Asking: $1,839,000 or $527.86 PSF

-Days on Market: 53

-Average Year of Construction: 2005

From 1stAvenue to 3rd Ave -On market: 47 residences

-Avg Layout: 3BD/4BA

-Above Grade SF: 2,404 SF

-Avg. Asking: $1,049,500 or $500.34 PSF

-Days on Market: 47

-Average Year of Construction: 2004

From 1stAvenue to Alameda Avenue -On market: 26 residences

-Avg Layout: 2BD/3BA

-Above Grade SF: 2,047 SF

-Avg. Asking: $877,450 or $459.10 PSF

-Days on Market: 76

-Average Year of Construction: 2006

Some will suggest the new construction north of 3rdAvenue is skewing the numbers upward and the condos south of 1stAvenue bring down prices. Thus I have also included the asking based on above grade Per Square Foot to provide a more accurate representation.

As one traverses north from Cherry Creek (the waterway) towards 6thAvenue there is a continual uptick in asking prices (and sales data).  North of 6thAvenue the urban fabric changes drastically to majority single-family houses of the Congress Park neighborhood, thus not included in the analysis.

Thus if considering buying or selling, the sweet spot east of Steele Street seems to be between 3rdand 6thAvenues.  Even more impressive purchase or sell just north of the Cherry Creek North Business Improvement District i.e. University to Steele, 3rdto 6thAvenues, just be aware older housing stock and longer days on market yet an impressive $600+ PSF:

From 3rdAvenue to 6thAvenue University Blvd to Steele St. -On market: 11 residences

-Avg Layout: 3BD/4BA

-Above Grade SF: 3,043 SF

Avg. Asking: $1,650,000 or $603.02 PSF

-Days on Market: 89

-Average Year of Construction: 1997

Happy House Hunting

 

 

 

 

 

The Whipsawing of the Real Estate Market, an example in Cherry Creek North

The 200 block of Harrison Street in Cherry Creek North is an interesting block and one I have some familiarity with as I resided on it for 27.5 years. The east side abuts Colorado Blvd, the west side somewhat sheltered from the traffic. Yet old-time brokers know Jackson St and Harrison St. were always more challenging due to their proximity to Colorado Blvd. Yet in recent years developers have found opportunities on these blocks for redevelopment and advantages with the higher natural topography allowing for unobstructed mountain views.

With interest I have been watching 235 Harrison St, the south side of a duplex. Constructed during the tail end of the boom in the mid 2000’s I always appreciated the contemporary design. While most of the block is of traditional design including a bungalow, the expansive glass and landscaping truly set this duplex apart.

The unit is presently on the market and seems to have been struggling to find a buyer thus I decided to look at the history (please see inflation adjusted to 2018 dollars as noted by the *):

  • The unit came on the market on 4/26/18 for $1,100,000
  • The most recent price adjustment happened on 6/8/18 down to $950,000

Thus I decided to look back at the history a little further:

4/30/08:Comes on the market as new construction for $899,000.

*In 2018 Dollars: $1,050,500

-Of note the beginning of The Great Recession is happening.

1/13/09:Sells for $750,000

*In 2018 Dollars: $879,526

-Basically 6 months later and a $149,000 price reduction from initial asking.

2/09/12: Comes onto market at $799,900

*In 2018 Dollars: $875,540

-$49,000 above last resale 3 years earlier does not sell!

After multiple iterations on the market and price adjustments:

2/24/14: The unit sells for $764,276

*In 2018 Dollars: $812,224

Thus from January 2009 to February 2014 the unit in real dollars increased $14,000 and based on inflation has lost $60,000+.

  • 4/28/18: The unit comes on the market at $1,100,000
  • 5/16/18: Asking reduced to $1,050,000
  • 5/23/18: Asking reduced to $1,000,000
  • 6/08/18: Asking reduced to $950,000

As mentioned this is a lovely residence perfect for the buyer who wishes to own a contemporary residence with mountain views and a roof deck. However as astute buyers, sellers and investors we usually desire our real estate holdings at minimum keep up with inflation and even better exceed inflation coupled with various tax advantages (which are usually negated by maintenance and upkeep).

Thus for 235 Harrison Street the past decade has not been a wise investment. Historically buyers and sellers have come close to breaking even yet when factoring in inflation, which has been historically low over the past decade the ownership, has in fact lost money.

Most economists believe inflation will be making a comeback as we witness low unemployment, increased pricing for basic goods and services from gasoline to commodities coupled with potential trade disputes all coupled with rising mortgage interest rates and a possible recession.

What is interesting I have been watching similar designed row houses going up on Harrison Street south of First Avenue; units with a more pronounced impact from Colorado Boulevard and south of 1st Avenue. Will be interesting to see how the market reacts to those units. Granted new construction does have a premium.

Concerning 235 Harrison as a broker, unless one can get a better price on the purchase consider renting or if making an offer present the information from this blog. Good luck out there.

If At First You Do Not Succeed; Relist and Hope for the Best

While I do not necessarily believe the following quote is attributable to Einstein in the context of this blog I find it most appropriate:

 Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

I use the above quote to characterize some aspects of the real estate market in Metro Denver that I am witnessing as both a broker and observer. To distill the niche of the market for which this quote is appropriate are the select listings which enter the market, do not sell, are withdrawn or expired and come back on the market at the same or higher price.

Here are just a few select examples:

100 Lafayette Street: A sprawling 2-story post-war suburban style home in the desirable Country Club neighborhood on an expansive lot.

  • 4/2/16          Listed at $1,350,000 – subsequently withdrawn or expired
  • 3/9/17          Listed at $1,300,000 – subsequently withdrawn or expired
  • 5/18/17        Listed at $1,300,000
  • 6/6/17          Price Adjustment to $1,280,000
  • 7/18/17        Price Adjustment to $1,250,000 – subsequently withdrawn or expired
  • 3/18/18        Listed at $1,250,000
  • 4/18/18        Expired
  • 4/19/18        Listed at $1,199,000

This residence will have been on and off the market for 2 calendar years. During that time, while there has been at the most recent resisting a $150,000 price reduction or approx. 9% the residence continues to search for a buyer. Yet the pricing over the past year had remained static. Yes, one may argue inventory for the neighborhood continues to be challenged and just waiting for the correct buyer. I will continue to watch as while the residence has many positives i.e. finished square feet and larger lot; much of the interior could use a cosmetic update and the residence is adjacent to 1stAvenue at a partial motion intersection; while designed correctly i.e. south garage will continue to be a challenge.

600 High Street: A large sprawling large brick potential duplex configuration sitting on a coveted 100’ x 125’ lot. Personally I have had my eye on this one for potential redevelopment HOWEVER I too cannot make the numbers work yet its pricing history continues to baffle me:

  • 8/26/14:      Listed at $1,495,000
  • 8/26/15:      Price Adjustment to $1,445,000
  • 11/20/15:    Price Adjustment to $1,395,000
  • 1/9/16:        Price Adjustment to $1,345,000 – under contract and active again
  • 4/8/16:        Relisted at $1,150,000
  • 10/8/17:      Price Adjustment to $1,250,000 (yes adjusted upward)
  • 10/27/17:    Price Adjustment to $1,150,000  (1.5 years to get back to that price)
    •                         -Goes under contract multiple times and falls through
  • 12/11/17:    Price Adjustment to $999,000 (under contract and falls through)
  • 3/23/18:      Relisted at $999,000
  • 4/15/18:      Goes Under Contract
  • 4/26/18:      Back on market at $999,000

At of April 2018 this residence has been on and off market for 3.5 years. While there had been a substantial price reduction from the original $1,495,000 to a more realistic $999,000 the home has still not sold.  I will not get into the details of Time Value of Money and Inflation. Yet I will suggest the history of this house seems to repeat itself, look at the sales history:

  • 7/13/1995:   Sold for $670,000
  • 2/20/1997:   Sold for $670,000
  • 6/15/2002:   Sold for $625,000

Thus between 1995 and 2002 the home actually lost $45,000 (more if factoring in inflation) and now with 3.5 years on the market continues to look for a buyer. While there may be a buyer willing to pay $999,000, when factoring in inflation and rising interest rates is it worth the wait not even considering maintenance and carrying costs.

140 S Claremont Street: This is a home I have watched as I walk by weekly when looking at options in Hilltop. With its coveted location within 2 blocks of Graland as well as Cranmer Park coupled with great curb appeal I have literally watched this home bounce around concerning pricing as follows:

  • 6/15/16:       Listed at $2,375,000
  • 8/30/17:       Price Adjustment to $2,275,000 – Subsequently withdrawn
  • 1/12/17:       Listed at $2,275,000
  • 4/10/17:       Price Adjustment to $2,175,000
  • 6/14/17:       Price Adjustment to $2,075,000 – Subsequently withdrawn
  • 8/7/17:         Price Adjustment to $1,999,000
  • 10/4/17:       Price Adjustment to $1,900,000 – Subsequently withdrawn
  • 4/1/18:         Relisted at $1,950,000
  • 4/27/18:       Goes Under Contract

During its almost 2 years on the market there were multiple price adjustments coming down to $1,900,000 in October 2017 only to be placed back on the market in April 2018 at $50,000 more. Again, I understand spring selling season yet I guarantee you any good broker representing a buyer will review the history of the listing and share with their client. As of last week, went under contract; I assume the broker representing the buyer has shared the pricing history.

Back to the definition of insanity. While I am not suggesting the above examples are insane. I believe it is more a function of the market or the perception of the market i.e. unabated demand, low supply and continued low interest rates. Yet the markets are a changing i.e. interest rates are ticking up, inflation is on the horizon and the equity markets are buoyant yet the charts are showing a slow downward trend from their peak on 1/28/18 of 26,616 (while composing this blog the DJI is trading at 24,288 or 9% off the high of 3 months ago.

I do not fault the brokers or their clients i.e. the sellers…..this has happened to me as a broker! This was back in 2012 when the market has just endured the Great Recession and was just beginning to show signs of a activity. I will not disclose the address as the home has since been sold and closed however the neighborhood was Cory-Merrill.

The house a pop-top first sold after renovation in October 2005 for $810,000. 2005 we were 1.5 years before the peak of the market; the buyers in retrospect over-paid for the residence. In addition to being in the house for $810,000, they added an additional $40K in cosmetic upgrades to the interior, thus their in the house for $850,000.

I am contacted in early 2012 concerning listing the residence. The sellers are retiring and moving and desire to leave Denver. I go over to the residence with a peer broker armed with comparable’s and camera. My co-broker and I confer and suggest an asking of $715,000. And now the saga begins as follows:

Per the seller the house is listed in April 2012 for $819,000! Yes, $819K

  • 4/25/12:       Listed at $819,000
    •   -3 weeks, one showing off an open-house.
  • 5/15/12:       Price Adjustment to $739,000
    • -Seller still believes this is the selling price regardless of our $715,000 suggestion a month earlier.
  • 10/4/12:       Relisted with another broker for $739,000
  • 11/2/12:       Price Adjustment to $725,000
  • 12/14/12:     Sold for $710,000

In addition to the loss between the $810,000 paid in 10/2005 to the $710,000 paid in 12/12 or $100,000 over the 7 years during my 10 months as broker the seller’s paid in excess of $40,000 in mortgage and carrying costs only to sell the residence for what my peer and I suggested 10 months earlier.

While I did not share the following with the seller; based on inflation the $810,000 paid in 2005 equaled $952,250 in 2012; thus their loss was even more severe.

 

The lessons are simple:

For sellers, even in a hot “sellers market” be realistic.

For brokers, while a listing may look attractive, if it does not sell, it is a challenge both financially and psychologically for all parties.

Finally from Wall Street we say “Do not fight the tape”…..the DJI is off 9% from its high, interest rates are going up, inflation is an actual concern and wages while ticking up are still considered stagnant for now.  My humble suggestion, price correctly and sell immediately, the Goldilocks market conditions can change to a Papa Bear in a moment’s notice. Sell like its 2016 not 2005.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why I believe the Housing Market is Overheated An Example with Statistics

This morning a listing alert came on my MLS advising 549 Lafayette St is on the market asking $800K. This is the exact type of home my wife and I have been looking for. Well actually a renovated version; let me explain.

In the 400 block there are three similar homes 434, 440 and 446 Lafayette all Victorian design on smaller lots i.e. 37.5’ frontage. All have been renovated with similar design criteria including enlarging the rear on the ground and upper levels including master suites with en sure bathroom and an additional 2nd bathroom. 440 Lafayette Street sold in 2015 for $825,000 and was truly turnkey condition. 446 Lafayette Street was last asking $1,150,000 (adjusted downward from $1,200,000) and is now under contract, also truly turnkey.

Thus I was intrigued with the 549 Lafayette Street listing. In my professional broker opinion; not as strong a block as the 400 Block of Lafayette Street as it is denser and is impacted by 6th Avenue traffic noise. Also the house has been a rental thus has not been updated or expanded recently. From the pictures a total renovation is needed and assuming an expansion would run $250,000 to $300,000 to replicate the design of the homes in the 400 block mentioned above.

Now let me compare sizes and condition:

549 Lafayette: 1,587 SF Above Grade / 846 SF Basement – Condition – Good (Asking $504.10 PSF Above Grade)

440 Lafayette: 2,084 SF Above Grade/ 329 SF Basement – Condition – Excellent (Sold for $395.87 PSF Above Grade)

446 Lafayette: 2,306 SF Above Grade/ 380 SF Basement – Condition Excellent (Asking $498.70 PSF Above Grade)

Thus as per my usual research I decided to look at the sales history of 549 Lafayette Street as follows:

In January 2011 the home seems to have been inherited, as the conveyance was a Personal Representative Deed, usually associated with an estate.

In February 2015 the home sells I believe through an arms length transaction for $225,000

Two months later in April 2015 the home sells again to an LLC for $456,000. Almost double in two months, which usually suggests either, not an arms length transaction OR someone just hit the market just at the right time.

Now 3 years later almost to the date, the home is asking $800,000 or a gain of $344,000 or basically a $10,000/month increase in valuation since the last sale.

Now back to 440 and 446 Lafayette St. Both of these homes are on a stronger block, have been gut renovated, expanded, offer 25% – 40% additional above grade square footage when compared to 549 Lafayette and are in excellent condition.

The following is their sales history:

440 Lafayette, which I believe mirrors market conditions:

  • 11/98:           Sold for $425,000
  • 5/04:              Sold for $665,000 (close to the pinnacle of the market cycle)
  • 12/11:            Sold for $675,000 (just coming out of the Great Recession)
  • 9/15:              Sold for $825,000 (Just as the market started to its ascent)
  • -Of note, between 2004 and 2011 the house gained just $10,000 in value or based on inflation the house actually lost $130,000 in value.

446 Lafayette:

  • 9/98:              Sold for $287,500
  • 10/05:            Sold for $530,000 (a few months shy of the pinnacle of the cycle)
  • 7/13:              Sold for $875,000 (market starting to begin to overheat)
  • 2/18:              Asking $1,150,000 under contract

Now granted someone may purchase 549 Lafayette for the asking at $800K. And in this market such a price may look attractive (yet on the 400 Block of Lafayette St a superior home and renovation asking $5 PSF less) .

However while I am not suggestion history repeats itself I would be remiss if they were my client not to mention one block south, larger homes in excellent renovated/upgraded condition sold for similar pricing just a few years back yet offering more above grade square feet and overall condition. Even in the present when comparing 446 Lafayette Street and 549 Lafayette Street within $5 PSF above grade, serious differences.

Personally I would take a pass. At $600K I am a cautious buyer, maybe even $625K knowing I am in it for another $200K and 6 months of construction to convert from its existing condition to my primary home. However at $800K I will pass and I hope the purchaser at that price does not see this blog posting.

Happy House Hunting.

Home Prices in Metro Denver Continue to Rise but…..

As a real estate broker and subscriber to our local Multilist service in Denver known as www.REColorado.com (and the site with the most accurate and up-to-date real-estate information) I am provided with information and overviews of the markets on a monthly and annual basis. Thus a year in review and a look back.

In 2017 the average home price in the 12-county metro area rose to $433,000.

For comparison, the average home price in the same area in 2015 was $362,000 and in 2016 was $400,000 or $61,000 and $33,000 gains respectively. Considering inflation has been marginal and barely measurable i.e. below the Federal Reserves target of 2%, the real-dollar gains continue to impress.

Home Sales Volumes: 2017 witnessed the highest number of actual home sales totaling 53,739 totaling $23.3B. In 2016 sales totaled 51,617 units at $20.6B and in 2015 51,510 units sold at $18.6B. Thus a small year over year increase coupled with limited new construction the trend could be considered steady with underlying values exceeding inflation. Of note historically until this past generation home prices nationally usually mirrored inflation with obvious regional anomalies.

As a broker based in Denver’s Cherry Creek Neighborhood and educated as an Urban Planner (graduate of CU Denver) I view the market activity within the City and County of Denver as the overall indicator of the metro area market as the City is the center of commerce, the largest most dense in the metro area, limited land for additional sprawl/growth and other factors.

Interestingly sales volume in Denver did not follow the trend of the overall metro area.

  • In 2017 13,043 homes sold in Denver for $6B. (- over previous two years)
  • In 2016, 13,265 homes sold for $5.6B (+ over previous year)
  • In 2015, 13,053 homes sold for $5.1B

While one may view the reduction in home sales year over year as troubling, I would suggest looking a little deeper. First statistically the actual physical number of homes sales year over year has been steady with almost no statistical variation. During the 3 years the amount of closed volume based on dollars went from $5.1B to $6B this is a major increase in both real dollars and by percentage.

Or in more simplistic terms, the number of homes sold in 2015 and 2017 was about even, a difference of 10 homes less in 2017 versus 2015 HOWEVER the difference in sales dollars during the two-year period went from $5.1B to $6B, a difference of $900M.

Thus, one could surmise values within the City and County of Denver continue to outpace the metro area and demand is outstripping supply. Yet there is an additional variable; Denver in general has more percentage of sales from non-traditional single-family homes i.e. condos and townhomes. Through November of 2017 within Denver 12,168 residential properties sold with 7,602 of transactions recorded in MLS as single-family homes and 4,566 belonging to condos or townhomes.

Over 1/3 of properties sold were in the multifamily space usually a less costly product versus the single-family home (and yes I am aware of multimillion dollar condos in downtown and Cherry Creek yet their volume is somewhat insignificant against the overall sales volume i.e. limited impact on actual sales dollar numbers).

The question or the BUT… in the title is? Can the City and County of Denver sustain this valuation increase or are we looking at a market that may in fact be over-heated and not-sustainable? I do not know the answer as only future activity can answer this question.

HOWEVER 1) If I were considering selling a residence, I would place it on the market sooner than later. 2) Interest rates are forecast to increase due to the stronger national economy thus placing potential pressure on sale prices and 3) reports of decreased in-migration and increased outmigration are troubling yet not surprising as the State has witnessed this in past business cycles i.e. late 1980’s energy bust, mid 1990’s expansion, late 1990’s plateau, mid 2000’s boom and later 2000’s Great Recession.

While I do not believe we are headed into a recession anytime in the immediate future, the growth in real-dollar values coupled with low-inflation is just not sustainable within traditional economic theory (coupled we have very short memories). While some suggest low interest rates have fueled the housing market as it has the equity market; unlike stocks, housing is not liquid. My advice and the future may prove me incorrect however I would suggest a “Yellow Light” proceed with caution and keep looking ahead for potential issues.

 

Does the Record Sale of Steele Creek Apartments Cherry Creek Signal a Top

I remember when Steele Creek Apartments were proposed for the Southeast corner of Steele Street and 1st Avenue, at the time occupied by a few Class C buildings and a discount dry cleaner.

With the news hitting that the building set a new record on a per-unit basis for the sale of an apartment building of $570,000 per unit does the valuation make sense even considering future equity appreciation?

Working in both New York and Denver such numbers are not surprising as in NYC such a deal would be a steal especially for a newer construction building minus any rental controls, statutory affordable housing or long-term leases. Yet Denver is not New York.

Granted we have seen other close to blockbuster deals in Central Denver concerning rental properties as excerpted below from my morning daily read BusinessDen including but not limited to:

However are these deals good money-chasing returns, which are far from guaranteed? One could argue Denver at present is in an up cycle with record high rents (even though some buildings are offering rental incentives). Yet I am concerned as follows:

The New Rental buildings are oriented to deluxe and luxury tenants offering studio to 2-bedroom configurations limiting marketability to affluent singles and couples. In New York and San Fracisco the highest prices on bith a per-unit and PSF basis are “family-oriented” apartments considering of usually 2-4 bedrooms and minimum 2 bathrooms where a family can be reside comfortably.

Is there a glut on the horizon in the marketplace? Between Lower Downtown and Cherry Creek along the Speer Boulevard/1st Ave. corridor we are witnessing new buildings sprouting up like weeds with the assumption that demand for luxury rental apartments will continue unabated.

The Millennial Generation Will Age: I am witnessing it in my real estate practice; millennial’s are pairing up, starting families and due to price pressure are looking at homes to purchase in outlying Denver and suburban neighborhoods; not much different how Brooklyn became chic when Manhattan rents became unaffordable (with some help from Michelle Williams and Maggie Gyllenhaal and for us old timers, Patty Duke lived in Brooklyn Heights).

If the Influx Slows Who Will Rent these Apartments? While certain buildings have a reputation for attracting empty nesters (25 Downing Street) and those whose change in lifestyle may necessitate move to an apartment from a home (The Seasons at Cherry Creek), while renting is an option, many opt to purchase. Again anecdotally I know two empty-nest couples who moved from Country Club to condos, one in downtown, one in Cherry Creek.

What is Trendy Today is a Maintenance Headache Tomorrow: We see this in buildings throughout Capitol Hill, the party rooms with the naugahyde chairs on brass wheels and the pool table that has seen better days or the pool which requires constant expensive maintenance and upkeep.

While I understand the attractiveness of the cost on a per unit basis when compared to other in-demand cities including San Francisco, The Northeast Corridor (from Boston to Washington DC), Los Angeles and so forth those cities have physical geographic constraints and draconian rent-control laws which circumvents true market supply and demand laws thus raising rents on the free-market inventory.

Thus I do not see how the numbers work based on existing rental rates even when factoring in equity appreciation and nominal inflation. Granted there is always the option of conversion from rental to condo. The process includes upgrading the common areas and interiors of unitsoriented to the for-sale market AND developing a legal condominium, HOA and so forth. Not unheard of in Denver i.e. The Barclay (which when first converted were offered with developer backed below-market financing), Brooks Towers and other buildings have experienced such conversion.

However at present transaction cost per unit, is there really the demand for the $600K one bedroom condominium? We have seen such sales in smaller boutique developments including 250 Columbine (which does have a Starbucks on the retail level), but it is rare and definitely a niche market.

From experience such condos sell to those looking for a pied-a-terre in which their primary residence is NOT Denver or potential investment however for a decent cash-on-cash return the rents do not justify the selling price.

In New York City developers take the opposite approach developing condos and if the plan if sales do not meet the pro-forma then re-branded as a rental with the option to sell individual units when the market strengthens.

At present looking at prices coupled with construction activity I would be “short-selling” the apartment market if such a vehicle existed. Long-term I may be proven wrong, however within the three-five year time horizon and even in the present as leasing entities/developers are offering rent concessions, I would be more concerned versus excited at the blockbuster record prices being recorded.