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Today’s Real Estate Market – I know. I wonder. I’m boggled!

January 8, 2021

The Rueth Team DMAR January 2021 - Denver Market Report

There are things I know, things I wonder about, and things that boggle my mind.  Here are a few… I knew demand was about to explode before 2020 began. Demographics told us that.  8.8 to 9.2 million first-time home buyers were coming and they wanted a piece of the American Dream. With the largest age cohort numbering over 23 million, Americans aged 25 to 29 are looking to start families and buy homes.  And once someone has a child they are twice as likely to purchase a home. 

I knew that a recession was coming, or at least I was pretty certain. America was on a Recession Watch at the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020 tracking slowing manufacturing, shipping, business spending, and job creation as well as declining consumer confidence, talks of trade wars, and political unrest. The two and ten-year yields had also inverted pointing to a longer-term financial instability.

Housing inventory was low coming into 2020, down 10 percent year over year with active listings a paltry 5,025 homes for sale. Yet, buyers were not budging.  Forty-five percent of sellers at the start of 2020 had to reduce their price to get their home sold even though we only had 1.13 months of inventory.  Consumer spending similarly was the very thing that was keeping our economy afloat. Since spending is 70% of the GDP, consumers were determined to not allow the U.S. to go into a recession.

Then, spending stopped because jobs stopped. COVID-19 shut the economy down, and to no one’s surprise the recession began, but then it ended just a few months later. There was political and social unrest, and lives changed forever. The mortgage market was a mess and public enemy #1 Mark Calabria, the head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, became a target.  But here’s what boggles my mind, consumers wanted to spend. But they couldn’t, not on hotels and airfare, nor concerts and restaurants but they could on homes, cars, and oh yea, on stocks. 

Housing remained resilient as we quickly defined “essential” and adapted to a work from home economy. Houses became bigger, more suburban, with 2 offices, and a place to work, play, workout, educate and relax. They became everything and everywhere to all of us. Coloradans who had jobs, saw weekly wages increase 8.7 percent. Counties like Denver saw the juxtaposition of 11 percent unemployment and 11 percent weekly wage increase in the same period.

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve continued to support the markets, dropping the fed rate to zero, and injecting trillions through the purchase of mortgage-backed securities and treasuries. As long as they continue, we will continue to see mortgage rates low and equities high. 

So I wonder, will the economy sustain while we distribute enough vaccines to realize herd immunity?  Will the stimulus package keep small businesses afloat or add to the equity market gains?  The Fed predicts unemployment at 5 percent, spending to increase 3.7 percent, and GDP rising to 4.2 percent in 2021. This is good! So, will they be able to justify a zero fed rate and quantitative easing until 2023?  And if they can’t, will rates start to go up?  By how much? I also wonder once people go back to work, ballgames, concerts and travel; will they find things to buy other than houses?  Easing demand slightly and putting us back towards seasonal normals.

January’s DMAR Market Trends report is anything but normal. With 0.4 months of inventory, the visual of our trending closed homes to active inventory tells the story we are all feeling… there are not enough sellers to satisfy the spending hunger of the demographic swell. Year to date, we’ve sold 6.95 percent more homes than last year for a total volume of 15.44 percent more, yet 1.79 percent fewer homes came on the market. Active listings hit an all-time low of 2,541 homes for sale, which’s down 49.55 percent from last year. Consider that there are 1.2 million households in DMARs 11 county area (per the census bureau). 0.2 percent of available homes are for sale. At the last census, Colorado’s 2020 population growth was 2.63 percent year over year. Where are they all living?

What boggles my mind is how our average and median prices did not move this month. We are all hearing of 5, 10, 42 offers per home with appraisal gaps and inspection waivers. Realtor friends are stumped at how to even price a listing in today’s market. Per the report, single-family homes sold at 100.11 percent close to list. Yet, our prices stalled at 7.14 percent for our median close price growth and 7.94 percent for our average. Our market feels on fire, yet this is only 1 percent higher than the historical average.

There is no doubt in my mind this year will be another incredibly strong year for housing. Low rates, favorable demographics, rising wages, and the wealth effect created by a staggeringly out of control stock market will be the story of 2021. With interest rates hitting record lows 16 times in 2020, buyers and investors alike are taking advantage of increased purchasing power and are willing to pay what a seller asks to get their own piece of real estate!