No such thing as termites?

In the high desert, such as in Santa Fe, NM, one can be excused for thinking that termites might not thrive, but we can be blessed with them without knowing they have invaded our homes. Yes they exist here and yes they can do serious damage to a home. The general rule is no wood building product should be in contact with the ground in a home. This is easy to say but sometimes difficult to accomplish.

The soil level may change on the exterior of a home and cracked stucco or the foundation may allow a family of termites to find access to the wood studs inside your walls, along with any other material they may like to devour. I am certain that someone told me 33 years ago when I moved here that we don’t have termites. Wrong answer.

Instead of perpetuating the myth that they do not exist here, why not find out? If you are real estate professional and are working with a seller or a buyer, a termite (or “pest”) inspection should be a normal part of your conversation with your customer, just the same as if there is a water well and the buyer wants it tested and inspected. Last I heard, a termite inspection was pretty affordable compared to the cost of remediation. Somewhere between $75 and $150 maybe? Now, the treatment can cost more, of course. If the professional pest person finds evidence of termites, treating and exterminating them must be done right away. It is no different that repairing a leaky roof. The longer the invasion continues, the more damage might be done, and the cost of repairs will only go up.

Stacks of firewood leaning against a home are a good example of something to avoid, the wood in contact with the ground below is enough to foster a termite colony. And leaning against the home? That seems like a gold-plated invitation to invade the home for the little critters. Why make it easy? Move the wood.

If you leave a piece of lumber laying in the dirt near your home, you will find that it might be riddled with termite damage in a matter of a few weeks, or possibly a month or two. Your home sits there all day every day and looks delicious for those bugs. Don’t let them in. They don’t know when to stop and will just breed and damage more of your home if you let them.

As a homeowner planning to sell, get a pre-listing professional inspection of your property and fix what needs fixing. Then make that report available to buyer prospects and show them the receipts for the repairs you had done. This removes some of the major hurdles to buyers following through with their intent to purchase your home. And get a pest inspection too. Having it to show a buyer may give everyone confidence that all investigation and testing is being done such that the buyer gets the home they want, not the home they are sorry to have purchased.

It’s a horse race, someone said

The race is on and the unpopular candidates have less than 60 days remaining to garner the required votes to move into the White House in January. Where will you be in January? Possibly enjoying a ski run or watching NFL playoff games cheering on the Clevelands? Or maybe escaping the winter cold and eating seafood on the beach in Mexico? Most of us will be working to provide a safe and warm home for our loved ones and wondering what the next POTUS will be like. Entertaining or scary? Stable or confused? Traditional or innovative? Seems like we really should vote so we can have a say in it.

Our local contest is to see if we can surpass 2015 in residential sales when the wrap is complete on 2016. So far, we can brag about the best single month (August) of unit sales in over 10 years. That is layered on top of zero change, year over year, for the first six months, giving us a splash of confidence with a few more months of results to come…

The monthly residential sales total of 222 units is the most in any single month since July 2006. We averaged 233 a month for the entire year of 2005, so our 2016 monthly average of units sold year to date seems pale when you realize it is only 165. One good month does not boost us enough to counter the flat year we are experiencing, but it is still fun to report we had our best month in over 10 years.

As about 75% of sales are concentrated below $500K, our average sales price has been hovering around $420K to $450K for the last 8 years. 2015 average sold price ($425,331) was still below 8 of the last 12 years.

None of this should be news to anyone paying attention. The trend lines have slowly evolved from an overheated real estate industry ten years ago (with aggressive liar loans and adjustable rates the norm) through a deep trough of pain and foreclosures to now a more stable yet still recovering market. We are not in Denver or Dallas, where sales are fast and sellers are happy. Santa Fe does not always follow national trends and while many experts will tell you home prices are going up and the rate of homeownership is on the rise, it is hard to reveal that exact status here, without facts in support. Yes, the lower price ranges are doing fairly well and they include most sales; so maybe we should be happy? Fact is, we saw the crash last decade as a correction of a real estate industry that was out of control; people buying homes that did not have verifiable incomes and/or a track record of credit. And they put very little money down, so when the going got tough, they had no real equity to work to protect. Today’s market has underlying strength. Nobody can get a loan if they don’t pass the test.

The Santa Fe residential real estate market is steady and predictable and that may be a good thing. Yes we have holes in our bucket and yet we have numerous reasons to think its a wonderful place to live. Many want to build a wall to keep it from growing further, while others readily admit their claim on the area is as tenuous as the wind and scarce as the rain. When you hear “born here all my life” do you chuckle at the grammar or recall that you might have changed someone else’s hometown in a way they do not appreciate? A newcomer makes it her town too. There is room for all of us and hopefully enough water. Now if we can get some victory gardens growing and balance our governmental budgets without such a high dependency on oil and gas, we can be said to be making progress. I am pretty sure the sun shines here almost every day. Or is progress something to fear and distrust? Should we move forward or return to another time when we were great? I can recall that I was great when I won a few swimming races as a child, and aced a few school tests in my teens. And I have progressed since then. Now I have a blog.

You don’t say

What is the background for putting a positive spin on things, even when the facts don’t indicate “things” are all that positive? Is it “the glass is half full” versus “the glass is half empty”? Possibly some folks keep beating the drum that everything is going up and growing and improving knowing they will be counterbalanced by someone else that counts the numbers and puts out a statistical report that shows an objective view. As you likely already know I am of the second school; putting numbers together that tell the story in facts and statistics instead of moods, desires and emotions. And yes I desire a growth in sales as much as anyone else. But wishing and hoping does not make it so. Maybe I could manifest progress by focusing my energy on having healthy shiny white teeth? Or channeling catching a huge fish next time.

We desire to see improvement, we want to get better, but what is going on? Why are sales numbers down in July of 2016 when we have had years of steady and solid growth coming out of the deep economic recession that began almost 10 years ago? July 2016 reports show 30 fewer home sales compared to the same month in 2015. The rolling 12 month count of home sales in all price ranges hit its lowest level in over 18 months. What is your take on the plateau we are on right now? Many blame the lack of inventory for the slower sales numbers. But how can we have 15 months of inventory in the 500K to 1 million segment and say there is a lack of inventory? Three out of four price range reports I publish here show a decrease in unit sales. And the inventory numbers since the 2012 year have been basically level, with slight variations up and down. We have almost exactly the same count of homes for sale in that price range now as we did in 2012 and 2013. Back then you will recall everyone said there was too much inventory. Now apparently their standards have changed and the same number now counts as too little.

The say what? …you don’t say aspect is: who is going to speak up when the market turns flat or turns downward? It is not the typical Realtor style to say the market is changing and slowing down. The usual gig is spouting a sales pitch that says things are getting better and you should get your house on the market now to take advantage. Or you should buy now before all the good homes are gone. Really? 368 listings in Sep 2013 and 371 listings now in August 2016? (between 500K and 1 million)…That is not even a 1% change per year for three years. What are people really saying when they say there is a lack of inventory? One of the first things I hear is it’s all old, shopworn and dated inventory that nobody wants to buy. That is not quite the same as saying there is a lack of inventory. You may be putting your own spin on things to claim the homes for sale are not worthy of your money; a subjective judgment about currently available homes.

What may be most rare is the correctly priced home that someone can afford to purchase & remodel with their final cost coming out fairly close to the newly created value, after the work was done and improvements were made. Plenty of examples exist of homes that are for sale and by most estimates, need substantial work to bring them into the 21st Century. Most buyers will not throw money at a home only to have it worth less than they put into it. For many years one could create equity by buying and remodeling, assuming it was done well and the improvements enhanced the home’s appeal and value. Maybe that is not that common in Santa Fe these days.

Does it matter what anyone says? What most matters is what people with money to spend on housing are doing. They are being quite selective and negotiating prices below asking price, for the most part. Buyers still have the balance of power on their side, except for the rare offering that is a beautiful home that is priced to sell from day one. How does one arrive at a price that fits that definition? “Priced to sell” is a groovy phrase with a good beat and you can dance to it. But where is the hit factory that comes up with these prices? Most Realtors can tell you the right dollar figure, but what is hard to understand is how they can take a hard look at today’s market and state with confidence that inventory is in short supply.

Is MAGIC or VOODOO required to know how to price a home? Not magic, but maybe a sober look at comparable sales with all subjective opinions left out of the formula. Can a seller truly think their home is the best one on the block only to have the proof show up in the resounding lack of interest when it’s listed for sale? Should a seller listen to their Realtor when they discuss the price? Maybe. Maybe not. Ask me for my designation of the two most comparable sales to your home and then tell me why yours is better. We can place a side bet on how the final sales price will be arrived at and what it will be.

Santa Fe residential real estate is a wonderful hobby, and for some a career with great potential. Many place themselves squarely in the forefront of knowledge and experience in terms of knowing our market. Some stand out and others muddle through. Get good, reliable and true information; ask your questions over and over. You don’t get to say if you don’t remember to ask.

A testimony to the numbers

Who goes there? Is that another home listed and sold in our MLS system I see reported today? In the last 24 hours, 16 homes have been reported as Sold in our database. 15 of them had some sort of price reduction during the listing term, or sold below asking price. Only one sold at the asking price, a home in Los Alamos that was below $125 per sq foot and likely did not need to go down any further. But the others showed a consistent trend of pricing strategy that has been the norm here for a long time.

First, a home is listed and the price is usually above what the seller and listing broker expect it to sell for. After a period of time on the market (anywhere from 3 weeks to maybe 3 months) a price reduction is often entered, increasing the pool of buyers. On occasion a second (or even a third) price reduction is entered before interest swells and offers start showing up. And then there may be the renegotiation from the inspection results, where the buyer attempts to get an even lower price based on itemized repairs and deferred maintenance issues.

In some of the 16 reported sold, the asking price remained static, but the final reported sales price was lower, meaning an offer was below asking and was eventually accepted, or the inspections (or other issues) led to an agreement to lower the price. Some may have required several counter offers to arrive at an agreement on price and terms.

If you are a buyer, or their broker, do you automatically see an asking price and know it will have to come down by the time it sells? Is it the norm to see price reductions and prices negotiated lower during the flurry of activity when a buyer wants to tie up a home and the seller wants to sell? Why is the original asking price almost always higher than the final sold price? Would it be prudent to put a home on the market at the price the seller wants to get instead of some price above the one they would settle for in a contract?

What is to be gained or lost by beginning the pricing at the most likely dollar value (what it will sell for) instead of padding the number so buyers can extract some small victory by getting a seller to agree to come down? Do most buyers expect to pay below asking price? I would say yes. Is that because their broker educates them to expect to get a price below asking when they are looking at inventory?  Probably true.

How will this change? Should it change? There are occasionally homes listed that draw immediate attention with multiple offers written and presented in the first week. Those are the exception. And that seems to be because sellers still have high hopes about what their home may sell for, combined with brokers unwillingness to stand firm on their pricing advice. The result may be a longer period of time on the market before a seller gets their net proceeds. And does the seller end up with more money? That is unlikely. It may mean the market is still shy about aggressive marketing and pricing; starting with prices IN the market instead of just going ON the market.

Is this even a problem? Not necessarily, but seller’s do want to sell and today is better than tomorrow. How do we find a way to recalculate our pricing strategies?

Would you want us to emulate Denver, for example, where anecdotal info about 15 offers on a newly listed property are the norm? Are they pricing their homes too low? Maybe. Or is their inventory truly a very tiny portion of the demand for housing. Some buyers in Denver have been trying to buy for a year or more, with no success. They may be careful not to overpay, want inspections and perform due diligence when trying to purchase; so the pushy buyers get in front of them and again they lose out.

I for one would not want our market to look like that. The problem with an overheated market is that it has nowhere to go but down (to cool off). A balanced and steady market, while possibly unremarkable, is preferable because there is time to examine all the details and make wise decisions rather than rushing into something without knowing what you are buying. Could our market improve? Does YES seem like the right answer to that question?

And until we have some more sawdust flying and more building permits requested, there is very little new inventory to pressure resale sellers into pricing their home to sell. The day may arrive soon where one can build a new home and be in the same range of size and quality that they could find in the resale market. Everyone says there is no inventory, or a shortage of inventory. My reply to that is that there is plenty of inventory, but quality product is limited and the mostly average and dated offerings get passed over by so many buyer prospects, they end up saying “there is nothing to buy in my price range”.

How to explain an Absorption Rate of over nine months (the average amount of time it will take to sell all existing inventory in all price ranges)? Does that seem like a shortage of inventory? It is over 27 months for the $1 million plus homes. If you cannot find a home you love within those numbers, building a new home might be the answer you are looking for. What is the definition of a seller’s market? And of a buyer’s market? Based on commonly accepted numbers, a 6 month Absorption Rate is a “balanced” market. Since we are in excess of nine months, that seems like it’s a buyer’s market still, after years of improvement and recovery. It is still the buyer that has the upper hand in negotiations due to the choices they have. The exception may be only in the lower price ranges where a buyer has less to choose from (and the rate of absorption for under $500K is around six months. It is even less below $300K.

We have entered the peak season for our market and now welcome many thousands of visitors to The City Different, some of whom will shop for homes. Let us hope August and September show the results of hard work and pricing that will attract offers and buyers. Then we might end the year with some improvement and keep the momentum of getting stronger. I’m all for that.

We should be so lucky

The best references to luck seem to always include references to hard work, and being in the right place at the right time. If I get lucky in my real estate career, it is likely because I prepared and put in the hours of work plus got my ass off the couch. Yes, I could get lucky on my couch, but that is not the kind of luck that has anything to do with careers or real estate, or business. If I am lucky, I can grab a short nap some afternoon when I am a bit tired. That would be my luck, away from real estate.

We all got lucky when New Mexico became a state, as did 49 other states and a couple of territories such as Washington DC and Puerto Rico. There may be others that I don’t recall. But we are quite fortunate to be able to be residents of the already great United States of America. We get to vote (our state’s primary was yesterday) and pay taxes (you might have to disclose how much you make if you want to be President). We can travel freely all over the place (unless you want to use commercial air travel in which case plan on some waiting and frisking). Our National Park system is a fantastic asset and resource and I keep fining new ways to visit Parks I have not seen before. How about the ease of finding goods and services? Can you ever say you could not find a loaf of bread anywhere, or emergency medical care, or a new smart phone?

Cost of those goods or services might be higher than you would prefer to pay, but better to at least have access than be told there is no bread, no medical care, no new smart phones to pick from.

How about real estate? The cost of real estate in the Santa Fe market area is a big pill to swallow for some folks in other parts of the state, or those considering relocating from other areas of the country. The average sales price in our market (Santa Fe city and county) over the last year was $432,000 while the median price was below $340,000. Some people relocate here and downsize (kids are grown and gone) but end up paying more for their home here than the larger and maybe newer one they lived in prior to moving to Santa Fe. And also despite the cries of low inventory, there are plenty of homes to choose from. Imagine there being no inventory. Rental and leasing inventories are shockingly low, but homes, condos and townhouses are plentiful. Whenever I show homes to potential buyers, there are many homes to look at prior to the list being narrowed to the ones that most interest them. Is inventory down? Yes. Is it so low that a buyer cannot find a home to buy? No. Is inventory so low that our market is heating up? Take a look and tell me what you think. Sales totals are not climbing, so how can it be a hotter market than last year?

What about sales? You know there are detailed spreadsheets available for your review listed on the left side of this site’s home page. You may be able to scroll to see them now, or take a look after reading this post, but the facts are presented and I trust they are easy to comprehend. The one word answer to your question about home sales is FLAT. Home sales are virtually flat for this first 5 months of this year versus the same period last year. In fact there were 17 fewer homes sold so far this year compared to 2015. What those spreadsheets will show you is the overall average of time it takes for all homes listed for sale to actually sell if in excess of 8 months. It was over 9 months last year this time. The rate of sales is quite similar but the inventory came down a little bit. Therefore the change in calculation.

We celebrate the many years of hard work that got us to today. When you look back at 2008, the absorption rate for all homes was in excess of 15 months! Times have changed and for the better. But if we want to get lucky, we might have to work even harder, and get off the couch! If you would like my professional and honest assistance in your real estate business dealings, please feel free to contact me anytime. The market is so much better than 8 years ago, but we still have plenty of room for improvement. And you can be the beneficiary of my many years of experience and accumulated knowledge.

Fresh numbers that show we are working on it

That may be a lame title…we are working on it? You may decide how lame, but the point is that if your head is buried in something like sand, or paperwork, or personal problems, or worldly problems such as our POTUS election cycle and the sick drama it features, you might not know that we continue to climb the charts and continue to improve on our real estate market numbers. That’s a long sentence, but it says we are doing well enough to write about, just not as well as our neighboring states and what our bankers and creditors would want to see.

We still are selling foreclosures, pre-foreclosures, short sales and homes that are selling below what the owner paid years ago (underwater defines homes where the debt is greater than the value). Who knew that some nine years after the bubble started to burst that we would be still up to our necks in problems? If you knew then, what would you have done differently?

Asset managers still have a death grip on humorless communication as they try to unload stuff they should never have made loans on in the first place. Whether you blame the lenders for the mess we are still repairing, or blame the “political system” for the agenda and candidates facing off this November, we made the world we live in. Investors and stockholders wanted higher returns from those banks and mortgage companies (to support lavish lifestyles maybe) so they pressed for more loans to be made, more creatively and more more more such that every American could be a homeowner. Never mind that many had no nickel to rub against a second nickel, to coin a phrase. Many should not have been home owners since they had no reliable or steady income, no track record of responsible financial behavior, no savings in case of illness or a layoff. Yet we loaned them the money anyway.

Try selling a home in Chimayo or Pecos or La Mesilla or Madrid that has a debt well above the home’s value today. What do you do? Give it away? Discount it in a short sale and leave the lender with a deficit? Back to the election, what do you do when your choices are thin? Do you go with a third-party? Do you bite your hand when you pull the voting lever and pray that our America does not crumble as so many on all sides would have us believe? Do you start shopping for a home in Canada? Probably the best answer to these and similar questions is that you get to work. Yes you. Get busy fixing the world you live in. Get busy fixing the economy and the real estate market. If you want to super charge our relatively flat real estate market conditions, try bringing an additional 15 home buyers into the picture each month. But make sure they have income and good credit and maybe a years worth of payments in the bank. Try selling that 30 year old home that is priced as if the floors are gold leaf and the cabinetry is silver plated. The point is to sell homes to people who will nest there, keep them in good shape and build memories and lives in that home. The point is not to make some bankers and lenders extra money so they can buy another car and take an island vacation while we wait for trickle down. How was your trickle down?

Whats up with our market today? True that inventory is way down, keeps going down in fact, although we are now entering the typical spring season run-up of new inventory. It’s not “new”, by the way. These are older homes that did not sell last year. They are homes the owner stayed in or leased out after realizing they could not sell them a few years ago. Many people said to me and said to themselves back in 2008 thru 2012 that they would wait for the market to improve. They would wait for the market to catch up to their home’s true value and then sell it when they could get all of their money back. There is a special place at the back of the diploma line for those folks. Realistic expectations never landed in their laps and the market did not magically return to those days of liar loans and no doc packages that put people into homes they had no business owning, or living in. We learned that lesson. Why would someone wait for our market to return to the days of home sales that was completely unsupported by facts and real numbers?

We have seen about 10 homes a month sell in the One Million plus range for many months now. Let us home we can see that number grow in the next year or two since we have several hundred plus homes listed publicly for sale in that higher price range. A great target would be 12 or 13 a month! At the other end, below $500K and even more so below $300K, homes sell quickly and without much fuss. Buyers in those price ranges usually want and need to buy and would love to get settled soon; while sellers usually have little choice but to sell; the opposite of the high-end transactions. Try talking a seller of a $1.8 million dollar home into selling at a deep discount when their other two homes are in different time zones and are highly sought after prizes. It’s difficult to accept that their beautiful Northern NM gem is not worth what they paid for it a decade years ago.

Help yourself to the numbers in the various spreadsheets and charts available on this website and blog. They are for your enjoyment and education. They are not perfect, nor is the blogger, but we try to be fair and even-handed, never playing favorites or grinding our own axe when its yours that needs sharpening.

So sharpen away and feel free to share this information with real estate players in all price ranges. There is always something to be gained by reading and understanding.

If you need assistance, I know someone that can help you buy or sell. Or both. Contact the author.

Thank you.

Orange hair and First Quarter results

We all get a kick out of other people on occasion; their words, their appearance, their car driving blunders, etc. But rarely do we get to focus on their character and true being, as that is not often available for us to see. We can chuckle and we can criticize knowing that we do not really know what makes that person tick or what their motivation is for doing what they are doing.

So we watch and listen, sometimes in shock and at times in awe of their talent or lack thereof. You Tube has some funny clips in the style of Funny Home Videos if you are bored. But how can you be bored when our serious news outlets show the childish behavior of literally all of our POTUS candidates (except for your favorite who is TOTALLY above the fray), quoting the sounds and words of their desperate efforts to win over voters while the truth be damned!

You would think becoming Prez of the great US of A is a windfall of money and fame, a lifetime salary and health insurance second to none and a free ticket to every symphony concert and rock festival forever. Which it kind of is. Lets not even factor in the “speaking” fees paid to former Presidents. That money will take you anywhere you want to travel with plenty left over for sushi or Chateaubriand.

First Quarter residential sales and inventory numbers are posted in the Absorption Rates charts accessible in the margin of this blog site. This information is being published 48 hours earlier than usual, to get the information off my desk and to get it into your next listing presentation. Sales are barely keeping pace with the same period last year. Home sales have felt a bit softer of late and these results prove it. Another source some try to measure is pending contracts, which our local Association says are much lower than this same period last year. Second Quarter better or worse?

It is not the increase in inventory that is making our progress look flat; it is the lack of sales. Lack of new and quality inventory will continue that trend of slower sales as people will not want to spend their hard-earned money on average or below quality homes in less than average locations. Many industry folks are calling for more spec homes to give buyers something to choose from. That product line is growing, but not very fast. Years of buyers skimming the available homes for amazing bargains have depleted the number that can be bought for well below appraisal or well below replacement cost. About the time our typical, average, median home sells for replacement cost, we will see new homes built in larger numbers and inventory will improve for buyers. Meanwhile we work with what we have.

When I meet with a seller prospect, they are often disappointed that they still cannot get more for their home than they paid in years past. Will that change anytime soon?

Rates are still quite attractive. Maybe all the real buyers have already bought something and we are awaiting another busload of customers to show up from other states where money is flowing and jobs are growing? Ten years ago we created buyers out of nothing. They did not know they could afford to buy a home until it was shown to them that anyone could get a mortgage. And they really could NOT afford to buy a home even though many did, with the help of some fast talking professionals, many of whom are now long gone.

How many people can buy a second home? Not everyone, certainly. An economist I follow (Dr. Ted Jones) shows that second home purchases have fallen off. Santa Fe depends on those transactions to grow its real estate numbers. If we did not have second home buyers, we would not have much of a real estate market above $500K. What if we had a real estate market that refused to grow? Where would you be?

After years of steady and boring and slow growth while we solidify our recovery here, sooner or later we had to plateau and maybe that time has come. Maybe 2016 will be a flat year? Sales do pick up in summer and fall, but can we match the growth year over year? Tune in next month for another chapter in the continuing saga of the Santa Fe residential real estate recovery mini-series. Starring that person over there as the seller and old whats his name as the buyer, with a cast of thousands hanging on every signature on every contract.

Early April is not the time to bemoan the type of year we will have because we simply do not know what is to come. It would be a good idea to take a deep breath and get to work to do your own part so the year turns out the way you want it to. Each of us has to put our shoulder to the wheel, as some have eloquently said.

The other day I went to Facebook for an update of what is happening in the world. I landed some great and easy recipes and some funny videos of cats, plus some inspirational words and some trash talk about politics and how the other guy is an idiot. Business as usual it seems. Then to Twitter for a quick flash of news: Merle Haggard, Patty Duke, a bombing in a Syrian neighborhood, the Fukushima half-life of hell, the guy that broke up the Beatles, Hulk Hogan in tears, etc. What a wonderful world we live in. Sometimes it feels great to be away from the leading edge of societal changes here in our little towns and villages of Northern New Mexico. Don’t forget to VOTE in the NM primary and again this November in the big one!! We will know what kind of year it is in residential real estate by then.

The St. Patrick’s day shuffle

This time of the calendar year we see the start of heavy numbers of newly listed property show up. A typical day now sees 30 plus new listings and maybe 8 sold properties. At that rate the inventory climbs rapidly and the balanced market we enjoyed during the winter shifts to become a buyers market again.

The exception to that rule is in the lower price ranges. There we see absorption rates less than five months and a real shortage of quality inventory for buyers to choose from. If you are a buyer and looking under $400K, you might need to fight for your right to purchase. But do it carefully please. I would never recommend buying without getting a home inspection and the other due diligence a buyer should do is way too important to skip. There will always be that one time you see a buyer concerned about the large vacant tract across the fence and then does not investigate; later a strip mall is being built and the new homeowner is worried sick. Ask questions until you run out of things to ask about. Get answers.

The mid-range market is interesting as it’s the only segment that saw an increase in inventory and a decrease in sales units over the last 12 months. Not big sweeping changes, mind you, but a slide in what some could call the wrong direction. And speaking, as we often do here, of quality inventory and homes for sale, that mid-range has everything from a 3000 square foot one bedroom shack on a mountain to a home, guest home, casita and studio compound with privacy and top end finishes. Looking in that range is a huge challenge just to sort out the Bushmills Black Bush from the Jameson 18.

And, drum roll please; for the first time in almost ever, we have hit the mark of 120 homes sold in a 12 month period that are above $1,000,000. in sold price. Yes we know some had an asking price of $1,069,00 but if it sold below the million mark, it is not counted here. 120 – say it loud and say it proud.

When you think of Santa Fe, do you think it is a hotbed of economic growth and opportunity? Or does it feel more like a sleepy and historic village with sights and sounds befitting a retiree comfortable in jeans and ready to nap whenever the urge strikes? We lag on many fronts and in terms of job creation, we cannot even get on the list. Tourism rules, and that is not bad except the jobs are in that range of hotly discussed minimum wages. You can earn more living in Santa Fe but can you own a home? Can you have any time to enjoy the surroundings and the culture if you are working a couple of jobs and feeding a couple of people?

I have been a have and I also have been a have not. Note; I did not say has been. I said have been. Insert emoticon here. Of course I prefer to be a have instead of a have not. Who wouldn’t? What are the opportunities for someone to move up to a higher income bracket and build a net worth that will provide for their children and their grandbabies? How about real estate? Did you know you can actually buy an investment property here and have a positive cash flow? The paper value of a property does not have to equal the amount it might sell for in a few months. So real estate is not liquid. It does not fit the need for those who say Cash is King. Cash has almost always been King, but leverage is also a meaningful option at times. Debt has been the ticket to fortune for many. I cannot recommend debt in simple terms – it is too debilitating and keeps you awake at night. But sometimes its the best way to get from A to B.

Stay tuned for regular updates about the residential real estate market in the Santa Fe area. We have room to grow if we have the water. We have room for improvement if we have the product for sale. And contact me if I can help you with your real estate needs in any way.  Thank you.

Priced to sell, maybe

It is difficult to break away from the pack and go forward alone. Well, for some it is difficult while we all know others that never do things the same way as everyone else. Pricing a home when listing it for sale is an art and a science. And very few sellers want to go forward alone in their pricing. They almost all start out above what the home will sell for and then settle for a lower price later on.

Why do they do that? Not only is everyone else behaving that way, but they seem to have a tremendous fear of underselling their home; getting less than it is worth. If it is worth $400K and will sell really close to that figure, then why price it at $449K to start? Why not price it at $409K? Then when an offer below $400K comes in, counter with $407K or something. The research and comparisons with other homes is why you pay your Realtor. Find out what it should sell for and then make your offer accordingly. Same with pricing; price it maybe 1% above what it should sell for then don’t budge if a lowball offer comes in.

In the data available this morning in our MLS system, there are 22 solds reported. 19 of them saw price reductions between their first day on the market and the eventual closing date. 1 was a new home with a few upgrades so it went for a little higher than asking price. Another shows it went for one hundred dollars above asking price (a foreclosure that someone really wanted) and the third may or may not have included some personal property and furnishings in the price. It was a Cash deal so that is quite likely.

But very few of them seemed to have started out very close at all to the eventual sales price. Times are changing however and the gap between asking price and sold price seems to be narrowing. That will serve to lower the average days on market (a number our MLS deemed meaningless several years ago) since buyers will not be as likely to sit on the fence waiting for a price to drop. Some do that, you know? They have a home or two in mind for themselves, then do nothing while waiting for the price to come down. When it does then they are ready to move. And correctly so because until the seller lowered the price, they were not emotionally (or financially) ready to accept the lower price.

Many say “if a buyer wants my home they should just make an offer”. If it is overpriced by more than, say 5%, they must might not make that offer. They may wait until you come to your senses and come down a few more percentage points; then they will be ready to write that offer.

Time and again we see listings priced well above what the market says they should be at. And just who is this market person anyway? They are the ultimate authority. They are the ones that deliver buyers to your door. The market is the final decision maker in real estate. Yes, there still are occasional sales that defy the market facts; buyers that pay more than they really have to for a house they love. Then they put more money into it insuring they may never get their money back out of that home in their lifetimes.

So tracking sold properties can be interesting. It can also be maddening because an active Realtor has seen many of the homes on the list. Then they see that home finally sold for $XYZ dollars; almost exactly what they guessed it would sell for when they saw it on tour six months ago. Back then it was listed for 12 percent above $XYZ dollars. It had to come down before a serious buyer would take a shot at purchasing it.

Condos are hot right now. Anything in town and fairly close to the Plaza is going to get lots of showings. Those units fit the bill for 2nd homes, investors and empty nesters that might be ready to downsize and get rid of couch #3 and dining room table #2, plus that second fridge and deep freeze in the garage. How about those old LPs? Are you saving those for a big vinyl comeback? You just might get the last laugh. My favorite thing I still have is a canoe rack system for hauling a canoe on top of a car. I have not owned a canoe in about 10 years. but I still have the rack system. Free to a good home! Time to downsize. After all, I am almost 65 now!

Have you noticed the growth in popularity of homes with a high walkability score? If you can live somewhere and walk to a grocery store, breakfast or dinner, a pharmacy and a yoga place, plus throw in some mass transportation facilities nearby and you have a winner. Just remember to price it right!


Always glad to be of service to you. Please reach out to me anytime!

Show me YOUR double digits and I’ll show you mine

If Santa Fe residential real estate gets any hotter, we are going to have to jump in the pool. At this point year-to-date we are 11.5% ahead of last year’s unit sales pace. Through July 31, 2015, 1139 sales had been reported while the same period in 2014 saw 1022 sold. That fact alone should make your day or your week. It might make it a memorable year if the upswing continues.

Funny how these things work. 2014 total unit sales was almost identical to 2007. And maybe possible there is a good chance that 2015 will see us break the 2000 unit sales barrier, which we used to be camped in from 2002 to 2006. To arrive at 2000 sold units for this year, we would need the annual increase to be at least 9% and we are running at 11.5%. Your hunch looks good right now.

What about average or median sales price? That continues to climb somewhat consistently. Using 15 years of data from the spreadsheet Monthly Residential Sales (available on this blog) our average sales price has been at $295K in 2001 and as high as $521K in 2008, with each year since then in the low to mid $400’s. That puts us in a fairly high tax bracket when compared to many other cities in our region. Denver recently was ranked #2 overall hottest market for home sales in the USA (behind perennial champ San Francisco). Santa Fe is not even on the radar being a somewhat small town, but I will take a 11.5% year over year increase in unit sales any day!

Where is the increase coming from? First, we must acknowledge that price creep, the gradual increase in average sales price, moves the meter in the upper ranges. A home that might have sold for $780K in 2003 may now be worth $1,100,000 without any major addition or remodel. On the other hand, a home that sold for $1,100,000 in 2009 may now still be worth only about $900K due to the backsliding we have endured since the bubble burst and the bankers took the profits and split. Yes, it was such a slow motion scam and larcenous event that many of us did not realize how we were losing our net worth and our life savings while super sized bonuses were being paid to financial players in New York and in other money centers. Those that knew were unable to get our attention and those that were stealing effectively hid it from plain sight. I heard one of the candidates for POTUS is claiming Dodd-Frank must be repealed. I guess NO reform of financial regulation is needed according to him. Free markets mean free to steal. Nobody goes to jail in that system.

Back to our little corner of the universe: sales are most robust in the lowest price ranges. I measure and report of brackets you can easily review in the spreadsheets available for you on this blog. Under $500K is the healthiest part of our market compared to $500K to $1 million and above that. Within the $500 and below range, the lower the price the faster it sells. Try finding a single family detached home here under $200K and then tell me how much work it needs or how close it is to a major street. Quality always costs more. If you can do some fix-up you can create equity while if you want a major remodel candidate, then be prepared to pay over $150 per foot for the mess you have to start with to do your magic upgrades.

The middle range of $500K to $1 million has become lethargic. Inventory has leveled off and sales are a bit flat. That segment was red-hot about 2 years ago, but now maybe many homeowners recognized the lack of quality product (reported on in prior posts on this blog) and put their homes on the market.

The $1 million plus range has grown in both inventory and unit sales but still hovered around the 30 months to absorb range since the end of 2012. We are now consistently above 100 homes a year selling in that range but there are more homes for sale, so no dramatic market trends are in play.

Rentals in Santa Fe continue to be strong for landlords and property managers. As the City fathers declined approval for a new 399 unit development of apartments between Agua Fria and the Santa Fe River, the lack of rental properties will just get worse until the demand forces more people to commute from out-of-town or rent from friends or family to be able to live here and ride the bus to the movies. No opinion is given here about that project, but where are the new rental units coming from? The developments near the WalMart SuperCenter or the newest one near the Airport? Something tells me that includes the extension of City services to outlying areas; water, sewer, trash pickup, bus lines, police and fire squads, Uber drivers, animal control, sign compliance ordinance. And private services too; Realtors, window washers, landscape artists, baby sitters, legal beagles…  What really did happen to the logic of infill in Santa Fe? Political pressure? Logic be damned sometimes.

Visitors continue to discover Santa Fe and aren’t we all in agreement that’s a good thing? As long as they don’t bring crime and punishment for us locals, bring ’em on, I say! Remember that Mayor that implied many visitors should just get back on the bus they came in on? For all his current troubles with recent votes and decisions, I like our Mayor and hope he can successfully navigate the choppy waters of Santa Fe NM. Would you want to be Mayor of this town? (see prior post on Pleasing Everyone)

So lets take our double digits and raise them high signaling our approval of a healthier real estate market. If you want to ponder, a healthy real estate market is a high tide raising all boats. The ripple from increased home sales (and other real estate segments) has a lifting affect on many trades and professions. You are in it or very close to someone who is in this rising tide. Raise your double digits!

Thank you