Real estate has (maybe) never been hotter

Remind me when the residential real estate market in Santa Fe NM has ever been as “hot” as it is today. Maybe my memory is failing, but we have never seen absorption rates this low (number of months to sell existing inventory) and I know of no other measure that is as accurate in describing the status of our market.

What this means is we are deep into a seller’s market, with buyers having little or no leverage when attempting to negotiate purchase price and terms with a seller. And when the market is one sided in status, it becomes predictable and numerous generalities can be applied.

As the history of this blog illustrates, the number of homes in the higher price ranges has gone up over the years while the number of homes in the lower price ranges have gone down. There is precious little inventory of homes available under $300K and one could say (without irony) that there is nothing to purchase for less than half a million…

These are tough times for someone wanting to own a home in the City Different unless they are well established with equity from another home they are selling or have a gob of cash (or borrowing power) available.

The other day, on a flight into ABQ, a person in my airplane row spoke of arriving to take a job in the hospitality industry, but had never been to New Mexico before and did not know where she would set up residence after a week plus of gratis lodging provided by her new employer. She did not know the average sales price of a home in our market is in excess of $525,000 or that residential rentals are rare and relatively expensive.

How do we lure the best and brightest adults to Santa Fe when what we really have to offer is housing for the wealthy and retired? Is our town going to become a cult location only suitable for those who can spend more on housing than 95% of everyone else? Will we still be a major art market and support starving artists here if they cannot afford to live in Santa Fe? Who will wash the dishes at our favorite restaurant and where will they live? And how will they get to work? Who is going to keep buying the homes that are for sale other than transplants and newcomers who are not put off by the prices they see here?

Daily one might meet someone wanting to put a freeze on growth in Santa Fe (build a wall around it I suppose) now that they are inside. Others welcome the diversity and cultural benefits to an open city that does not keep people out (although many still cannot afford it). I was a newcomer once (March 1983) and rarely felt like I wanted to live elsewhere. And yes, some would say I should never have arrived in the first place. For example, a brother of one of my closest friends believes it is people like me that have ruined Santa Fe. Turned it into a big ugly town instead of a small friendly town. Now choose to live 45 minutes South, in Placitas (which reminds me of much of rural Santa Fe) and feel perfectly at home.

In the last 15 years we have experienced a complete crash followed by a total rebuild of our market. Prices plummeted to well below replacement cost and then climbed back to where they are now; above anything we have seen before. That is just how its looking to me. You may have a different view.

Please imagine someone else tending to this blog by early next year as I focus on retirement and the enjoyment of middle age. It has been fun, a lot of work, caused some heartache and damaged some professional relationships. But it has been worth it and I am personally glad to have shared some of what I know to help you in your real estate activities.

Happy safe holidays!

Alan Ball

alanball2@gmail.com

Pushing uphill

We cannot just roll along but must push uphill in order to get into a home or to help a purchaser buy. The lack of inventory is scary and sales would see even higher numbers if more product were available to buy. New highs were set again last month: most sales above $1 million in any 12 month time frame, most sales between $500K and $1 million in any 12 month time frame, fastest average absorption rate for under $500K in our 15 plus years of tracking, etc.

The spreadsheets and charts here tell the story. We have a red hot market here and that is saying something after more than 10 years of recovery from the cliff we all sailed over in 2007 and 2008. Some markets recovered more quickly, mostly those with strong employment trends or legal marijuana such as areas of Colorado. Santa Fe does not have either of those factors (I cannot include service industry jobs at below living wage pay rates), but we do have Meow Wolf. It has been responsible for more economic growth than any single other thing that has taken place in the last 10 years. What can compare? The expansion of St. Vincent Hospital? New casino buildings?

The fact that Santa Fe was always a major art center helped a new venture like Meow Wolf succeed, we suppose. but maybe it was unique and original enough that it would have taken off no matter where it was located. But not Los Alamos or Las Vegas NM. And not Taos or Raton. Look at the value of Meow Wolf stock since it was first issued. Nothing like that exists in Santa Fe New Mexico.

Should we lament the crazy hot market conditions? Maybe yes if you are looking to buy as your options are severely limited. Sellers should be happy. If they are not happy they might have the wrong Realtor because if anything is true to day in the residential real estate market in Santa Fe, there is certainly a buyer for every house listed for sale. Personally a more balanced market can favor more people overall, providing a level ground for all to stand on. But markets are constantly changing. There is no perfect real estate market as it turns out.

Thank you for following along with my reporting about the City Different. We may lack some road crews fixing our potholes and repainting stripes, but we have plenty of people wanting to live here. We may lack transparency in government and social services, but if you can afford it, you can get almost anything you want here. We might not have enough opportunity for our young people to stay here after leaving school, but we have plenty of old folks that need medical attention and help with their computers. Can’t find a job? There are jobs; food service, retail, personal assistance to those in need. Sad though they might not be what you want.

Same song, different verse

Take a quick look at the most recently updated statistics on this blog site and tell me, honestly, if you think sales units would be down if there was a selection of homes for buyers looking under $500,000. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

It is not pleasant to report that sales are down, but they are. They are down because there are precious few homes for sale for qualified buyers under that half million price point. That happens to be the price range threshold I use to set up my reports: Under 500K, then 500K to 1.0 million etc… If one wanted to search more narrowly, say between 300K and 400K, the numbers could be striking and actually sad.

There are plenty of market forces at work in Santa Fe residential real estate, including the dimensional shift into higher priced homes. Take for example the First Quarter Sales report attached and available for you to view by clicking in the margin. In the 15 years of reporting, home sales above $1 million have risen from single digits for the quarter, to five and six times that lately. This shows the effect of appreciation and the ever-increasing average and median home sales prices. Another way to view the shift is comparing the average sales price for a home in Santa Fe city and county for the two years 2001 and 2018… $295,674 then and $493,715 for 2018.

This is graphic evidence that the increasing average prices continue to hurt the first time home buyer and lay waste to reasonable market conditions in that lowest price range of under $500K.

How about comparing the # of months of inventory, on average, that our market offers to potential buyers, say as recently as 2009 compared to 2019. Then it was in excess of 13 months to sell a home; now it is barely over 2 months. do you think we could sell another 100 homes a year in that lower price range? How about another 250 homes? I suspect yes we could as there seems to be demand sufficient to accomplish that increase.

All is not lost for home buyers in Santa Fe. Their choices are limited and some say the quality inventory is gone in a flash, so one must be ready to move quickly with a solid written offer and be prepared to compete with other buyers.

I remember a time when a buyer customer I was showing homes to was upset because a new listing popped up overnight and I did not know about it to arrange for her to see it. Never mind that the market was much more saturated then and it would likely have been on the market for several months. It was not even a finished home so a large portion of the buyers eligible or interested would not have been able to secure a mortgage on an unfinished home. This buyer could due to the family trust having the ability to set him/her up with mortgage debt he/she automatically qualified for due to last name, DNA and being in good standing with the estate attorney in charge. Lucky me I was able to help with the sale. Lucky buyer that the home could be shown the first day it was on the market. We were the first to see it and of course the first to submit an offer.

Your favorite blogger will return soon with more analysis of what is going on in Santa Fe real estate. Stay woke!

How can it be so thin?

Just how can the capital city of New Mexico, with somewhere above 75,000 residents plus a bunch of part timers, be so short of inventory in homes available for sale? What do buyers do when they want to buy a home in Santa Fe? First, they watch to learn how the market is behaving. They pay attention to listings, studying how long they stay available before they are grabbed up by a motivated and qualified buyer. All of the widely used web sites that show residential listings – Realtor.com – Zillow – Trulia – and many more – show accurate listing data and when those homes go under contract, they often drop off the web site. That is your clue that home is no longer for sale (provided the contract holds up and it goes to closing).

So its fairly easy to track homes for sale if you are not ready and able to drive around town all day checking on for sale signs. What do you learn when you are shopping for a home below $500,000? (that is the low range in my posted and updated charts and spreadsheets available on the left margin). You see that there are many more homes sold in a year than there are available at any moment. This means that the absorption rate for homes under $500,000 is well below 12 months, on average. By the way, 6 months is considered a “balanced” market, between sellers and buyers. The calculation at the beginning of March was a mere 268 homes listed in Santa Fe city and county, while the current rate of sales is about 131 homes sold per month. That means in barely over two months, the entire existing inventory of homes will be sold.

It does not pay to be picky if you are a buyer ready to buy in this price range. Be prepared to act quickly and have a Realtor on call that can have your offer submitted in an hour or two.

Another point we might see more of is that listing brokers with Seller support may price a home knowing it will generate multiple offers and the status might change to pending on the listing in the first few days. Maybe the days of pricing a home a little above what it is likely to sell for are gone. Maybe better in this market to put a price on a home that is a “best guess” of what it will sell for and let the buyer’s brokers fight over whose customer is the most motivated to buy that home.

An issue with that approach is that Sellers must have put priority status on any repairs and cosmetic improvements. The new pending price has a better chance of surviving through the escrow period, when Buyers are trying to whittle down the price due to inspection issues. Sellers are well advised to get a pre-listing inspection and actually deal with the problems that report might identify.

And so, with thin inventory at critical low levels in the lowest price ranges, Santa Fe, the city different, extends its reputation as being unaffordable for most people. Money to put down? Good credit? You also need luck and excellent timing to buy a home in Santa Fe. Residential real estate deals are for the willing and the able.

2018 in review = part one

Actually in the rear view mirror, we’ll now look at 2018 for statistics relevant to Santa Fe residential real estate. I’ll point out a few things available for you to see on the spreadsheets and charts I have posted (see left margin for access to same).

An annual posting known as Fourth Quarter Sales shows the serious effect of the lack of overall inventory with the most pronounced shortage in the “low end” of homes sold below $500K. Yes, I know what you are thinking; that a home selling for $495K should not be considered “low end”. But this is Santa Fe we are reviewing where the average sales price in 2018 (Santa Fe county and city) was $493.715. This is out of an overall sample size of 2429 homes. In that report, the total sales for 4th Qtr 2018 were less than 4th Qtr 2017 and the obvious shortfall came in the under $500K range. All other categories went up. I would venture to say that if there were more homes available for sale, at least another 70 to 90 homes would have sold in that price range. And maybe they did sell; just not reported to the SF Realtors Association MLS database.

The next report I will suggest you look at is called Residential Lot Sales (again, from the list on your left). This annual report shows a still muted activity for lot sales in SF county and city. Why is that? Several reasons come to mind. First, the old saying that is still true… “get lots while you are young”. And another popular saying is “they aren’t making any more land so buy now”. And yet another possible reason is that the real estate crash that has devastated many individual nest eggs over the last ten plus years saw lot sales drop (again see chart) from annual units of in excess of 600 to just 257 units sold in 2018. And yes, there could have been plenty of sales not reported to the SF MLS database. I know Realtors try to report sales to help make the data more useful, but sales between friends, family, associates and sales without a Realtor involvement are not going to show up in these figures.

Did 350 sales just disappear? Yes, quite so. When a lot in Las Campanas sold for $210K and years later sold again for $85K, something tells me that investors are going to stay away from residential lots as solid investments. That is just one example, but those exist all over the place, if you can find the data. Average sales price now is similar to what is was in 2002 and 2003. While it went above $200K in subsequent years, it went back down and has not been above $200K since 2008. The transition from ’08 to ’09 shows a decline of 63% in unit sales and a drop of more than 25% in average sales price. You could say that was the day the music died. Who was left holding land and lots with a fairly high amount of debt? We all know at least a couple people like that. Did they survive financially? No, they almost all had to deed lots back to their lenders or face expensive and drawn out foreclosure action that might also have included bankruptcy. Lot sales are not a fond memory lately.

I will continue this review next week after I get in some alpine skiing and some much appreciated rest. At my age I am a more careful skier and a more fitful sleeper. Naps are glorious.

Steady as you go

I am pleased to share updated statistics about the Santa Fe residential real estate market in this autumn season of 2018. You will find several spreadsheets and reports available for viewing (and printing) on the left side of each of the blog pages you wish to view.

Please note the consistency of finding out that the Third Quarter 2018 sales matched the same Quarter from 2017. When I crunched the numbers I was amazed that we had exactly as many sales this year (over the last 3 months) as we did last year. But do take a look at the 3rd Quarter report because it clearly illustrates how short of inventory we are in the under $300,000 range. Actually I would say we are short of inventory of homes priced at $500,000 and below, but the lowest range really hits home showing a decline in sales below $300,000 year over year.

A prediction that might not be too bold is that if we had triple the inventory in that lowest price range, the sales of those units would have at least doubled. But it is what it is and for many years people living in Northern New Mexico have often had to settle for a manufactured or mobile home that they can afford. The average sales price over the last year is over $485K while the median sales price is $365K.

While the Third Quarter last year and this year are identical in total sales of units, sales in the middle and upper price ranges made up for the decrease (due to lack of product available) in the lower ranges. I think it is safe to say that total sales for the Quarter just completed would have been over 700 units if there was more to choose from.

Annual precipitation is yet again below the average for this date this year. The last chart I saw showed we had rec’d just under 7 inches so far this year while the historical average is over 1 inches. So when is this drought going to break? Or is this the new normal and we are now getting what we can expect to be the average for the near term future. How fortunate to be far away from the hurricanes and tornadoes that ravage our lands and people. We only have drought and a very rare case of the plague (sounds medieval) and hantavirus. And having spend some time in the Southeastern USA recently, we are fortunate not to have mosquitoes in thick swarms here.

You have to give credit to the typical Santafesino for being so frugal and careful with water use. Almost nobody has a visible blue grass yard (though I have seen some back yards with the water hungry grasses). I would hate to be selling lawn mowers and leaf rakes here.

Get your costume early so you can practice eating the Halloween candy that you will be collecting soon. It’s not my fave holiday so I will probably be sitting in the dark at home not answering the door.

Thanks for visiting my site. Its a bit of a labor of love for me so I always appreciate anyone that gets use out of it. Let me know anytime you want to say thanks. (insert big smiley face here)

Careful what you wish for

You had plenty to be worried about over the last 10 years including ‘will my home ever sell’ or ‘will I ever see my 401-K regain the level it was at before the storm’. You didn’t know if you’d ever get what you paid for when you finally sold that house. You would have loved to have sold in 2011. Or 2009 or 2012 or last year. And now in 2018 you may be able to sell it fairly quickly, but for enough to get back what you lost to the economic recession that wiped out your life savings and stock portfolio?

We have always wished for a full recovery from the real estate crash and we might finally be able to say with utmost confidence that we have achieved that. And you might also be thinking this sure doesn’t feel as good as you wanted it to feel. Now that you cannot blame impossible mortgage loan requirements and scarce money, plus the plethora of foreclosures clogging up the market, what is the problem exactly?

In a textbook example to illustrate, M/M HomeOwner paid $475,000 for their dream home in 2006, with the help of an 85% mortgage. The payments were pretty high, more than double their rent costs, but they had a bright outlook for the future and wanted the big and rambling home. After several years it turned out not to be their dream home for a list of reasons. So they tried to sell it in 2009 and their Realtor told them they MIGHT be able to get $350,000. Something had gone horribly wrong in the real estate market, and in fact the entire economy was flatlining. Well, their mortgage balance back then was $405,000 which scared the bejesus out of them and they “held on” to the home, making payments to stay out of foreclosure and the ruin of their credit. They did not replace the carpet or upgrade the master bath as funds were tight with payments and all.

Gradually things got a little better and in 2012 their favorite Realtor told them the home MIGHT sell for $400,000 and their balance by then had dropped to the same amount $400,000. But they knew the home was not going to show well with that heavily worn carpet and broken down fridge and dishwasher and stained countertops plus all the stucco cracks. They were told the cost of sale would represent about seven percent of the final sales price. They were not ready to take that hit and sell it on terms that would require them to bring so much money to closing. They barely had two months of living expenses saved up what with college for the kids and his car that he needed to commute in. So they stayed and kept making payments. They were not happy but they had a roof over their heads.

And then, the magical year of 2015 arrived and they finally started to think this was going to be their year to sell. The economy was much better and economic pundits told them the real estate crisis was over. Appreciation had started to become a reality again (in the lowest price ranges) and they were very optimistic about selling and walking away with a little cash. So that Realtor, who had moved to a new virtual brokerage by then, was asked to do another market analysis. The conclusion was a selling price range of $450,000 to $470,000, almost as much as what they paid in 2006. But homes were still taking almost a year to sell and the homes in great condition usually sold first. They had to figure out how much they could put into their home to bring it up to date and make it show so well that a buyer could not ignore it. By this time, since they had neglected almost everything about the upkeep of the home in their nine years of living there. They got some bids together and found out they would have to spend some $50,000 to make it shine and hopefully be irresistible to a buyer. It could actually run up to $80,000 if they went crazy and did everything. With their mortgage payoff at $390,000 plus the $50,000, their sales price would have to be north of $475,000 to close without having to bring cash to closing. That was above the range their trusty Realtor provided, but they were ready and hoped they could find the right buyer at $475,000.

IF THEY COULD find a buyer at $475,000 with minimal further reduction in price for items found in the inspections (remember they were going to spend $50,000 to upgrade), their seven percent cost of sale would drop the net, prior to payoff, to a bit over $440,000. They also had to payoff those credit cards for $50,000 from spending to upgrade the home. Payoff of $390,000…? Yes it could actually work. So they listed the home at $495,000 hoping to get a buyer to buy for at least $475,000. Professional photos were posted online after they decluttered and made the home look as close to a “model” home as possible. It did show well, but that effort and expense just put them in the middle of the pack of existing and new inventory. The absorption rate hit a plateau and many others in similar situations also had put their homes on the market. Since there were only so many buyers, their home did not sell right away. It was only shown six times in the first month and after 60 days they met with their Realtor to discuss lowering the price.

So they lowered it to $479,500, still hoping to get really close to $475,000. But after it was passed over by buyers looking to spend about $450,000, they had lost out on a good portion of the peak season and were still a bit overpriced. They thought if someone wants our home they can make an offer. That kind of thinking can lead one into belief that their home is priced to sell. But it did not sell. They had one buyer on the hook, but his mortgage was declined so another 30 plus days were wasted. Desperation was looming as they had really wanted to sell six years earlier and now they had planned to move out this very year. But they gave up trying (living in a home listed for sale can be stressful and restrictive) and they terminated their listing and fired their Realtor, blaming everyone in the process. It was almost Thanksgiving and they assumed home sales stopped in the wintertime.

AND NOW a new day has come. 2018 has arrived and they are damned sure going to sell this time for the amount they want and finally get beyond this ugly chapter in their lives. Their marriage has been severely strained, they have had to deal with illness and career goal disappointments, but there was finally a way out. The new Realtor they contacted, who had been in the business about 12 months, but was best friends with his mother, took the listing at a price of $540,000. This would be great, finally, they thought. The mortgage was lower, they owed less on those credit cards and the market was heating up to the point their new Realtor said they could sell it in 90 days with some good fortune and the right buyer.

And they did sell it in 90 days this year, getting a net bottom line enough to pay the mortgage and credit card balances in full and walk away with some cash. They celebrated by taking a trip to Italy and Greece and renewed their marriage vows in the process. They held off buying another home while the burn scars of owning the prior home were still healing. Renting was fine with them. Their credit was just good and they had an empty nest situation as the kids were grown and gone. They never spoke to the first Realtor, but that old veteran was used to failure and rejection. She could always find a way to put on a smile and speak positively, even with the down side of her business.

Is this a happy ending? Would they have ever chosen to write this script to live out in real-time with the goal of having a happy ending? How much did they worry and stress during the 12 years they owned that last home? Their kids saw them arguing and fighting on a regular basis. They did not take vacations and did not take good care of themselves during that time of worry and despair. His mother-in-law scolded him incessantly. Her father-in-law, after a serious stroke, seemed to not have the same fondness for her as before when they were younger and happy.

What else could have happened? They could have decided to walk away from the home in 2009 or 2010, when they owed more than it was worth. They could have mailed in the keys and likely been stuck for a deficiency balance for the amount between what the bank sold it for a year later versus their outstanding debt. That or all of the other burdens and mistakes could have placed them in bankruptcy anywhere along the timeline. As it turns out they did not ever declare bankruptcy and these days are wondering why they thought it was the wrong thing to do back then.

They might have sold it in 2013 with an agreement from their lender for a carry over debt to cover the short sale net amount that their did not get at closing. They might even have been able to negotiate a complete forgiveness of the short fall on the payoff.

Maybe they should have just stopped making payments and lived in the home for free (except utilities) while they fought foreclosure. This might have stretched on for 2 years or so. Of course if they were going to do that, they really should have put aside at least $3000 a month toward their future lives and a future home for themselves, but most people are not that disciplined.

What does it mean to have a foreclosure on your credit record? And a bankruptcy on top of that? After enough years have passed it might mean nothing. But back in 2009, they never imagined it would be nine more years before they would see a sale. Very few people predicted the long and painful recovery process that took basically ten years (in the Santa Fe area anyway).

Sometimes I go back and read the archives of what real estate counsel I was sharing from ten years ago and it was not pretty then. It was honest and negative; mostly gloom and doom. I was critical of most every part of the process of doing real estate business. Mostly I feel the largest mistake made by us all (and it would have been almost a miracle for it to turn out differently) was to not take the problem of millions of homes in foreclosure and millions more underwater and make federal laws that mandated a faster and equitable recovery for all of the people involved and all of the banks holding the notes. What did happen cost the federal government (and all of us taxpayers) a great deal of money, but they paid it to the banks that made the “bad” mortgages instead of actually paying down the mortgages allowing people to stay in their homes. The upheaval make a mess of many lives of Middle Class Americans. This subject has been the focus of many a book and article. What did we do wrong? And what did we not do right?

Do you want to pass judgment on the last 10-12 years of Santa Fe residential real estate? Feel free. My take on the single largest factor in our local scene is the thousands of mortgages made to borrowers who were not even close to qualifying for a mortgage, using conventional underwriting standards. Even allowing for payment of MPI and the VA/FHA programs that OK a small down payment, far too many loans were made to people who did not qualify. And then values plummeted and stayed down for years making certain that anyone who was vulnerable to that reality got a chance to suffer financially.

Hindsight is wonderful, si? no?

Praying for rain in Santa Fe…

Glad to report the news

What a year, what a year! It was easily the best in at least the past 10 years and the foundation for continued growth and prosperity in the real estate sector is solid. The breakdown in price ranges tells the tale in more detail, but you can guess the variations if you have been a student of the Santa Fe NM residential marketplace over the years.

The lower price range (under $500K) is the strongest; big demand and not enough inventory. At least in this lower range there are new homes popping up in several locations around the metro area. The demand is so strong they are selling quickly. An exhaustive search has not been performed to see if ALL the new homes are showing up in the Santa Fe Association of Realtors database. Likely not, so my stats, based on that same database, will be only part of the story. The mid range ($500K to $1M) is not far behind with a good steady absorption rate and almost no new homes showing up for sale. Home buyers looking in this range report back that there is very little quality inventory. Homes that are in top condition with lots of upgrades and amenities sell in three to six months. The rest take longer. And they still must be priced in line with the competition. Nobody is paying “too much”.

The top range, above $1 million, is the strongest it has been in many years as we have a wide range of product located from the hills to the valleys ranging from 100 year old adobes with masterful remodeling to sprawling McMansions on acreage all over the hills. Some have character and charm while others are just plain big. True in any measure, the art is in the eye of the beholder.

Savor the good news now that we are in a balanced and stable market. It has been a long and crazy climb out of the mess from 10 years ago and we hope never to revisit that painful experience. I’d like to propose a toast to a heavy snowpack and a flourishing 2018!

This was the year we got healthy

That header is not a new year’s resolution, but a market condition statement, saying we “got healthy” in terms of numbers of sold homes and the ever decreasing inventory…So we are supposedly healthy now? We have made up nearly all of the ground lost over the last 10 years and it feels like we are starting over now. Consistently we are seeing home sales per month in excess of 200 units. The grand total dollar sales for the year will easily exceed 1 billion, which has not happened in over 12 years.

Everyone is talking about how low inventory is. In case it’s not clear to you what that means, it means sellers might have the confidence to wait for the right buyer knowing those buyers have fewer homes to choose from. It does not mean that the junk, the extremely dated (can you say mid-century modern?) and the horrible floor plans will all of a sudden start selling. You still have to compete with clean and tasteful product to get a home sold. It might mean more buyers will have to settle for a home they can remodel to suit their needs if they can’t find one they really like as is.

Take some time to review the year-end statistics when they are posted by yours truly about January 10th and you will see unit sales growth in excess of 12% from 2016 to 2017. You will see an increase is sales count in each and every price range (unless it’s the lowest which is held back by that same lack of inventory). You will see Absorption Rates at their lowest (average months to sell all available inventory) in many years.

It is time to send out your thank you cards and start by sending one to each of your customers and to each of your fellow professionals that helped you succeed. And then plan for an even better year next year. I am going to take a bit of time off to travel so the blog posts will be strictly updates on statistics over the next couple months (each month about the 10th) and not so much trend analysis or political musing. You can get that anywhere from almost anyone.

People say a salesperson should not take sides in a political debate so as not to offend or run off the customers that disagree with them. But I tell you a guy that is 67 that is going to remain silent about what is going on in the world today is not someone I would respect anyway. So if you want to hear what I have to say about current events, stick around. You will get more than a lump of coal.

Thank you for your support and encouragement over the years. It is certainly nice to be able to report on positive trends and increasingly healthy sales results in our special market. Who knows, we might see more pastureland turned into ranchitos and mcmansions in the future. We might see a stronger backbone for city infill by the powers that determine who gets water and sewer hookups at what price. Everyone loves open space, but if its weeds and some junk autos and blowing trash, is that the highest and best use by some definition?

Happy new year and best wishes for a prosperous 2018.

Every dog has his day

…said someone, once upon a time. I am not going to research the origination of that saying, but it sounds like something Mark Twain or Will Rogers would have said. Or possibly Richard Nixon. And so we find ourselves in the third quarter of the year with continued improvement in sales results and still very reasonable interest rates. The town is heaving with visitors and activity, although most Realtors I know want more showings on their listings. I guess I do also, because homes need to be viewed before they will be purchased. Where to begin? When Amazon starts selling homes from their website, then we will know this dog had his day.

Look at the numbers in the spreadsheets available on the left side of these pages. In all price ranges, the average months to sell has dropped from 9.68 to 7.38 in just the last year. In the popular one half to one million range, the drop was more dramatic, going from 15.46 months on average a year ago to 10.56 months on average now. The absorption rate, which is what we call that calculation, is faster when inventory is lower and sales are up; both of which have happened just since last year. This is a trend line that I have consistently been tracking since we found ourselves in the gutter after the bubble burst. You know that bubble? The bubble that had many believing homes never go down in value and often go up by double digits every year. Everyone was wrong. Competition existed on who saw the crash coming first, but nobody escaped without serious damage. Some are still in recovery. Just now we can say we have almost reached the level of activity we saw prior to the crash and that bursting bubble. Only this time we are on a solid foundation as to value instead of seeing high appreciation unsupported by the large majority of sales. If you spend $750,000 on a home today, it is not likely to go down in value in the near future, unless we are in a nuclear war with seas rising a foot a year and anarchy is the law of the streets. Will it go up in value? Maybe someday, but that depends on you the owner.

Fears of overspending on a home should be all but erased, although it’s still possible to pay too much. No question there are plenty of homes listed for sale where the asking price exceeds the likely final sales price. But buyers have become extremely price aware that price has to be resolved first, then the other issues (location, condition, style) can fall quickly into place. All the sayings about there being a home for every buyer and a seat for every butt will be tested as we move forward with less inventory and a fairly strong influx of buyers. Some buyers become disenchanted once they examine our metropolis and others feel the prices are not justified. But some just have to have it as their own. And we can accommodate those newcomers. Changes happen slowly in an area with such long history. Affordable housing has been a headline seeking a response since I came here in the early 1980s. And likely before that. We still have that problem; witness all the manufactured and mobile homes in every rural quadrant of Santa Fe County and beyond. Last I heard, about 50% of all homes in New Mexico were not site built, but were moved onto the site on a trailer.

This market is healthy, wealthy and wise, to coin another phrase. Or like an old boss of mine (while I lived in Denver) said of himself, “fat, dumb and happy”. Those are things one could aspire to, I suppose.

Get your house while you can, while there is an inventory to choose from. The builders we need to build homes are trying hard to risk speculative home starts and I hope they are amply rewarded. We need more of those in all price ranges. In the meantime, learn your dog some new tricks.