Mark McClung

As prices set new records, why aren’t Denverites selling their homes?

The median sale price has hit an all-time high of $653,000 in Denver. Inventory continues to decrease, and 1,464 homes sold in May, which is 6% above the last five-year average. Active listings were also down 20% in May. People aren’t selling their homes. The question is, why?

Denver is becoming one of the most expensive cities in the country. The median sale price has increased by 31% over the last three years with no sign of cooling off. Traditionally, sellers move every few years for various reasons — size requirement changes, a neighborhood change, or a lifestyle or work change. People are now staying put because they cannot afford their next home in Denver or fear being unable to secure a new home.

Want more detailed information about the market in your neighborhood? Please reach out!

Questions about the Denver real estate bubble that keep us up at night

How long will our fierce, low-inventory, deep seller’s market last? Will it slowly ramp down or will it crash overnight? Are we keeping up with new construction? These are the questions that keep real estate professionals and home buyers up at night!

How is inventory looking?

Every day I look over new homes that hit the market for our clients, a task that used to take up the length of a nice cup of coffee. Now, I can’t even finish my coffee before I run out of properties to view! Over the last seven days, there have only been 204 new listings in Denver and 411 have gone pending. Typically, we measure inventory in months, but we are just shy of 40 days of inventory — days! Denver had 318,445 households as of 2019. An average of 29 homes hit the market each day, which means that only .002% of Denver households are hitting the market each month. Things are certainly tightening up.

How are rising interest rates affecting the market?

As interest rates go up, buyers in the lowest price ranges find themselves forced out of the market. As more of a monthly payment goes toward higher interest rates and not towards purchase power, everyone is shuffled down the totem pole. This reshuffling will reduce buyer demand, but not enough to reshape inventory and get us to a balanced housing market. To significantly increase inventory levels to quell increasing prices, work must be done on the supply side of the equation.

(P.S. We’ll be keeping an eye on the 10-year treasury rate, which mortgage rates have historically been tied to. Glen Weinberg at Fairview Commercial Lending recently published a great write up on the recent inflation jump reported on this month’s CPI Index report and what that means for real estate.)

Can we turn to new construction?

This is where Denver has a severe disadvantage to other cities where “urban sprawl” is an option. Denver is locked in by other municipalities and unable to develop large tracts of land. We aren’t the only city with this problem; as a nation, home building has dropped significantly over the last decade, from an average of 26.3 million homes built per decade from 1970-2010, to only 5.8 million new homes built from 2010-2019. That’s a 77.8% change in the wrong direction! Denver needs new homes to add to the inventory to supplement existing home sales. The city can’t build out, so we have to build up. Increasing density via high- to medium-rise condominium development and finding a compromise to construction defect laws must happen.

Will the market crash?

Lending practices have been corrected since the great housing crash of 2008 and those buying homes are now generally well-qualified. As interest rates increase, I do believe things will start to slow down, but not crash. I mean, we are living through a pandemic that has rocked the world and our housing market is still going straight up! Now, we just need homes to build upwards as well.

April 2021 stats recap: Denver home bidding wars continue to drive up prices

I recently read an article published online by a Denver television network. It was titled: “Home out of range: 65% of Denver homes sell over asking price.” As I began to read, I didn’t even make it through the first sentence before I was met with disappointment. It started, “Littleton, Colorado…” So which is it, Littleton or Denver? Being a stats geek, I had to find out the actual number of Denver listings that closed at or above list price last month, in addition to pulling monthly stats (see below).

We’ve all heard the bidding war stories that are floating around and I knew the number would be high, but the numbers really were astonishing. In April, there were 1,519 homes that closed, and of those, 1,215 sold at list price or above. That means that a staggering 79.9% of homes sold at or above list price! Let that sink in a bit — now it makes even more sense why the median sale price for single family homes jumped another $20k from March, up to $650,000. 😳

Want more detailed information about the market in your neighborhood? Please reach out!

3 alternative routes to selling before you buy

Feel stuck in your current home? If you are under the impression that you need to sell and move out of it before you buy a new one, think again! You’re not alone in that impression, but the reality is that selling and moving out before you buy is not always necessary. Looking for an alternative route? Read on for three options to consider that may help you succeed with your next home purchase.

1. Sell after you buy your new home

This isn’t your average uber-expensive bridge loan that only wealthy folks can afford. There are several new home loan products out there that specialize in this niche home lending area. We’ve partnered up with one of the best new out-of-the-box-thinking lenders to help our clients buy before they sell. The “elevator pitch” for the Knock Home Swap? It allows you to buy a new home before you even list your current one for sale. Knock will provide up to a 20% down payment on your new home, six months of mortgage payments on your old home, and up to $25,000 to get your old home looking its best before it hits the market! Take a minute (86 seconds to be exact) and watch our quick video explaining the program. Have additional questions? Any of our brokers can help! We’re all Knock certified.

2. Don’t sell, and convert your current home into an investment property

Curious about investing? Why not buy a new home and own an investment property! The good news is that you’ve already got the latter. Most lenders will allow you to convert your current residence into an investment/rental property, provided the following criteria can be met:

  • A lease signed by the future tenant who will occupy the home shortly after your new home is purchased.
  • A security deposit from your new tenant, safely deposited into your bank account.
  • A small cash reserve in an account owned by you. This amount varies between lenders, from 2 to 6 months of the investment property’s mortgage payment.
  • Cash for your new home’s down payment.

Once these criteria are met, the debt magically disappears from your debt to income ratio and you qualify for the new purchase! The best part? Your new investment property keeps the same principal and interest payment you had when you lived there, you don’t have to refinance! This is a great way to diversify your retirement portfolio, generate passive income, and increase your net worth.

3. Sell before you buy, but continue living there while you search

If options one and two aren’t going to work for you, then number three has got you covered! Almost everyone who owns a home in Denver knows that it is a very competitive seller’s market right now.We all know if you submit an offer with a contingency to sell your current home, it immediately goes to the bottom of the offer pile. As part of your negotiation strategy, you should definitely employ a Post-Closing Occupancy Agreement, aka seller’s rent back. This agreement means that after you sell your current home, you become a tenant in it and you should have 60 days (or longer, depending on skillful your broker is) to find your replacement home, hopefully at no cost. If you go this route, you’ll need some tips for successfully finding and purchasing a new home in under 60 days:

  • Be aggressive. See homes as soon as they hit the market and make sure you are getting your new listings from the most reliable and up to date source.
  • Commit to one lender who will provide you a competitive rate (not the lowest) and who will be available during your search. I can’t say this enough: if the lender doesn’t give you their cell phone, don’t use them!
  • Get pre-approved! And submit all requested documentation to your lender. And yes, there is a difference between pre-approval and pre-qualification.
  • Review all of the purchase contracts and ask your questions before starting your search.
  • Research and discuss the hot market strategies with your broker before starting your search.
In conclusion…

Listing brokers who pitch their services have one goal: for you to sign that listing agreement. Remember, that isn’t always the best option for you! The current housing market can be a stressful realm for buyers, and careful consideration should be made before making a plan. Have conversations with your tax advisor, financial planner, lender, and real estate professional so that you make the best decision for you, not for a listing agent.

Denver housing market up 18.8% since January

Interest rates are back above 3% again, and the Denver housing market didn’t even notice! In fact, the bidding wars that everyone keeps talking about (which are real) have pushed the median sale price for single family homes past 600K, a record high for Denver and an 18.8% increase since January. Inventory, typically measured in months, was down to 1.06 months in March. There is so much pent-up buyer demand that I believe we’ll soon be measuring it by weeks. This is going to be another fast-paced, multiple-offer summer unless we start seeing a large number of listings hitting the market soon.

Want more detailed information about the market in your neighborhood? Please reach out!

How the -bleep- to buy a home in Denver today

If you are buying a home in Denver right now, you already know how tough the competition is. In fact, most buyers have to submit several offers before they finally get one accepted. We’ve been talking (a lot) about our ridiculously low inventory, the increasing home prices, and the speed at which homes sell. It can be discouraging to say the least, but what’s really happening out there? We dove into February’s closings and here’s what we found out.

Median Original List vs. Close Price

We broke down several price brackets to look at the median close price versus the original list price for single family homes (the original list price is the price a home is first listed at on the market before any price adjustments; the close price is what the home actually sells for). It’s not a surprise, in our current market, that every price group sold above its original list price. If you are one of the lucky ones who’s come out on top this year with a signed contract, you’re probably wishing that these median differences were all that you paid over list price! Again, I want to point out this is the median for all sales within a given price range in Denver. This means that the ridiculously overpriced home that sat on the market for eight months because the sellers didn’t want to admit reality is included in that number. If we could pull this statistic for only homes that went under contract in 7 days or less, there would likely be a huge shift upward in these numbers. Sadly, we’ve reached a limitation on the data the multiple listing service will let us pull or we’d show you!

Historical Data

We wanted to dial out our numbers to show what the last six years have looked like. We’ve been in a deep seller’s market the entire time (a.k.a. a market with less than five months of inventory) and the close-to-original-price ratio remained between 92% and 98% the entire time. Right around the start of the pandemic, the chart shows a drastic change. The most surprising takeaway is that homes priced over $1M, which typically offer buyers the most negotiating power, now happen to have the least!

How to Succeed

Like most savvy buyers, you’re probably already aware of the hot market strategies you can employ to help you successfully buy a home. They will work if you give yourself margin. This means you’ll need to leave room to escalate your offer price upward to beat out other buyers. Unfortunately, this also means you’ll need to consider looking at homes in a lower price range than your maximum budget. Developing the right “secret sauce” for your home purchase game plan is crucial to success. While the ratios we shared above reflect Denver as a whole, you’ll want to have your broker share more stats specific to the neighborhood you’re searching in. Or, you could wave the white flag of surrender and have your broker send this text to the listing agent of the house you’re trying to buy:

The choice is yours! 😂

Denver home prices reach an all time high

In case you missed it, the single family housing market is on 🔥 ! February’s numbers are in and the median sales price jumped 11% from January and almost 23% from February 2020’s benchmark. In fact, this month’s median sale price has set an all time high for Denver City and County. With interest rates hovering around all time lows and outpacing buyer demand, don’t expect to see the rising home prices reverse until inventory increases dramatically. Until then, we will be on the edge of our seats, feverishly watching!

Want more detailed information about the market in your neighborhood? Please reach out!

How to win in Denver’s home bidding war

I’ve been saying it since the first week of January… “It’s like someone flipped a switch and turbo charged this market!” If you aren’t on the hunt for a new home, let me be the first to tell you it’s a crazy, crazy, crazy market with the sellers in complete control. I took a quick peek at the multiple listing service statistics today, and here’s what I found:

There’s nothing to buy.

In Denver County as of February 11th, 2021, there are 895 active listings for sale and 1,831 listings that are pending (under contract). In January, there were 889 property sales. That leaves us with one month of available inventory, one month! I’m concerned for February’s stats after seeing that massive pending number. For buyers looking for properties under $1 million, it’s a very frustrating time. There isn’t much to look at. 895 homes is 0.003% of the 338,341 total homes in Denver, per the US Census as of July 1, 2019.

The competition is stiff.

Buyers are showing their resolve to succeed in this market. I was recently involved in two separate negotiations that came in over list price; one ended up $50k over list price, the other $130k. Each negotiation had over 15 offers, and not one was at or under list price. In fact, January’s single-family close-to-list price ratio was 101.3%, so my experiences were not the exception, but the rule these days. While the reality of the market may seem disheartening, let’s take a turn and break down how you can succeed in it.

Competing requires strategy.

I’ve seen some very aggressive offers in the last 30 days. Below are some of the popular tools used to get your offer accepted, though it’s by no means a comprehensive list.

  • An aggressive initial offer.
  • An escalation clause.
  • Purchasing the home “as is” and limiting inspection asks to a low dollar amount ($1-5k).
  • Appraisal protection (gap) clauses that waive the buyer’s right to object if the appraisal doesn’t come in at the above list contract price.
  • Buyer paying seller’s closing costs.
  • Higher earnest money deposits with a portion of or all of it non-refundable.
  • Shorter close periods (2-3 weeks for financed purchases).
  • Free seller lease backs after closing to allow the seller to find a replacement home (good luck).
Buyers need a Plan B.

If you find yourself on the losing end of things, don’t give up! Backup offers are becoming competitive — I just experienced my first multiple offer backup negotiation (no joke). It used to be a slam dunk to get a backup offer accepted after the home is pending, but not anymore! Have your backup prepared and submitted as soon as you receive the bad news. Being quick to the punch when everyone else is sulking could make the difference.

Backup contracts are free insurance policies that don’t prevent you from submitting other offers on new homes that you find. In the event that the primary contract terminates (which they do), you automatically become the first contract with zero negotiations. If you find another home you like while you’re in the backup position (and can get it under contract), a simple email terminates the backup contract, and voila! The best part? No earnest money is required for backup contracts!

It’s easy to get discouraged in this market, and I understand the urge to just take the “blue pill” and sign a lease to ease the endless anxiety and disappointment. But I would encourage you to take the “red pill” and work the plan that you and your real estate broker created. The end result will be worth it. Stay the course!

The emotional roller coaster of home buying in Denver

Along with every other real estate professional in Denver, for years we’ve been saying, “it’s a seller’s market,” “homes are going quickly,” so on and so on. But what does that really mean for a buyer? How do you navigate the current market, let alone the roller coaster of emotions throughout the buying process? Let’s walk through it.

Setting Expectations

It’s important to understand the current market you’re about to throw yourself into. You’ve probably heard home buying stories from co-workers, family, or friends advising on how difficult it is to purchase a home these days. While there’s certainly truth to their experiences, there also tends to be exaggeration (we all want to tell a good story, right?). The best place to start for an unbiased opinion of the market is with statistics. It may not be one of the most exciting parts of buying a home, but it’s one of the most important. It will help you understand the reality of what’s happening in the market, and more importantly, what’s driving it. You don’t need to spend hours doing research, you just need the 30,000 foot view so that you can begin to formulate accurate expectations for your upcoming journey. Luckily, we’ve made that easy for you. Skip the endless Google searches and read our 2020 real estate recap. Before you know it, you’ll be up to speed with the current market. It will be painless, I promise!

Game Planning

It’s important to have an organized plan before you start your search (yes, even your online search). Once you’ve educated yourself on the market, the next step is to make a game plan. Start putting together your advisory team, which consists of a knowledgeable real estate broker and lending partner. These professionals will help to facilitate your planning in each of their prospective areas. A few things to consider while planning:

  • Budget
  • Time frame for purchasing
  • When to start the search
  • Type of financing that is best for you
  • Down payment source and amount
  • Type of home (condo, townhome, single family, etc.)
  • Neighborhood
  • Neighborhood statistics (zoom in from the 30,000 foot view!)

This list is just a starting point. Everyone’s planning will look somewhat different based on their home buying goals. The great thing about hiring a team? You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. They’ll coach you through the process to make sure you’re making the best possible decision for you and your family.

Home Touring

This is the fun part. Once your plan is complete, it’s time to work your plan. In our current market, time is of the essence for touring homes. Traditional pre-pandemic home touring consisted of clustering several homes and viewing them back-to-back in a short time period. Usually, there are other overlapping groups touring the same home you’re looking at. Today, overlapping showings are a no-no, and bookings to view hot listings in desirable neighborhoods fill up fast. It can occasionally take one or two days for a tour slot to become available (picture anxious buyers hitting refresh over and over again). The moral of the story: When a home catches your eye, schedule a tour with your broker. Whether that’s in-person, via FaceTime, a recorded video, or on Zoom, it doesn’t matter. Just get your eyeballs on it so you have the opportunity to compete.

Submitting an Offer (or two, or three)

Now the planning pays off (hopefully). With Denver’s low inventory, you’ll likely be in competition with other buyers for a home. Emotions get high, and anxiety can creep in. Don’t worry. This is normal. The greatest advice I can give you is to trust your broker regarding the value of the home you’re interested in and listen to their negotiating strategy. Remember that they’re on your team, and together, you’ve already outlined the desired outcome in your planning session. I like to call the plan a “guard rail.” It’s outlined before all the craziness begins, and it’s there to keep a buyer from making an emotionally-based, often poor decision. Don’t let the plan fly out the window when things get stressful!

We are in a deep seller’s market, consisting of multiple offers. There can only be one winner per home, and while hopefully that winner is you, be mentally be prepared to walk away when things go awry. Stick to your plan. Listen to your broker’s advice on a recommended maximum price for the homes you are offering on, and you’ll be fine. Your solace in losing will be knowing that someone else overpaid!

In conclusion…

Buying a home can be an emotional roller coaster.The process is filled with hope, anxiety, stress, disappointment, frustration, and eventually joy. To help manage these emotions, set expectations, plan properly, and seek counsel from your real estate broker. These guard rails should soften the blows. Remember that your broker has their head in the game every day, and their years of knowledge can be trusted. Their council, along with your perseverance, will get those keys into your hands in no time.

2020 Denver Real Estate Market Recap

What a year — and that’s just in reference to the Denver real estate market!

Imagine you were flying at 45,000 feet, staring down at a hurricane, with its eye directly over downtown Denver and winds stretching across the Front Range. I know this sounds like a strange analogy for real estate (especially since we don’t have hurricanes in Denver), but bear with me since I majored in aeronautical science and minored in meteorology (think, former professional pilot and weather nerd, turned real estate pro). Back to the hurricane… the wind represents the fast-paced, single-family home market where homes have been selling in days (sometimes hours), prices are skyrocketing, and buyers are frustrated. Then, look over to downtown Denver — where the condo market isn’t fast and furious. Just like the eye of a hurricane, it’s relatively calm and clear. Those who’ve been following the condo market in downtown Denver can understand — it’s been very slow and experienced a price correction in the pandemic.

Alright, enough analogies. On to the stats!

Days on the Market

We started 202o off strong, in the 40-45 average days on market (DOM) range. Then, well… you know. After the pandemic started gaining momentum, inventory started to shrink and buyers that were committed to buying saw it through. The buying frenzy that followed pushed the average DOM down to the mid-twenties for the remainder of the summer, and into the fall.

Inventory

The initial decline of inventory that started in January leveled off, then inventory began to jump in mid-late March when the stay-at-home orders hit.

In fact, it peaked all the way up to 3 months, a level we haven’t really seen since 2013! What was interesting to watch (statistically) in the midst of the media’s doom and gloom, was what happened as-stay-at home orders began to ease. As soon as Governor Polis deemed the real estate transaction an essential service, inventory began to plummet, eventually dipping lower than one by year-end. Yes, less than one month of inventory!

(more…)