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.

RECOUNT!!

I guess anyone might demand a recount if they really want to. But its clear only those on the short end of vote counts ever want a recount. You COULD demand a recount for home sales in Santa Fe year to date or you could just bite your lip and accept my numbers. They are not perfectly accurate, never were intended to be, but they are a consistent measurement of where residential real estate sales are going and where we have been. We are in such an improved market over the wretched one of the last 10 years that it would be easy to relax and assume all is well forever. Not so fast on the casual attitude!

This year’s now completed 10 months of sales is running at 7.8% more unit sales above last years first 10 months. We will likely end the year in similar shape; great improvement and manageable growth. But what are we going to do about the lack of inventory? To have an absorption rate below 3 months in the under $500K price range is crazy because it does not favor the buyer in any way. So the pressure to keep raising prices up from the bottom just makes everything less affordable for the first time home buyers and those with little or no down payment. And if the people that live and work here cannot afford to live here, do we have to build more highways so they can commute from El Rito or Golden?  Or Belen?

We are thankful for the snowfall today and hope El Nino kicks in some much needed snowpack to extend our claim on this high desert. Without water to drink and wash our dinner plates, how can we keep growing and prospering? Some would say we are already growing faster than we should. IF we had more homes under say $350K we would increase our growth rate exponentially. I am personally not sure what is right or wrong about growth. You be the judge. But not having affordable housing in the greater Santa Fe area cannot be right for realistic human needs.

Thanks for voting and I hope you got whom you wanted. Make it a habit to vote anytime there is an election. And maybe get some people elected that will take action on the rapid destruction of our planet and our habitat. New Mexico could be a leader in alternative energy and if we make it a priority, it will serve us well with new jobs and all that follows. While you are at it, take the Roadrunner sometimes, just to save some petrol and some ozone. Or take the bus or ride your bike instead of starting your car. Please.

Happy and warm holiday wishes to all.

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.

Strong, stronger, strongest

We can cheer and smile just a bit as we continue to build on a strong year, the strongest in many years, and stronger than we have had the pleasure to brag about for some time… The unit sales numbers for Santa Fe residential real estate are running at or above a 10% increase over last years unit sales numbers. That’s some news you can smile about.

Various spreadsheets and charts are available for your review if you enjoy digging into the historical trends and current versus prior tallies. Look on the left margin and select the report(s) you are interested in. Try the Third Quarter chart and note the increases in the 1 Million plus price range, 2016 and then 2017. That is a 42% increase. The entire Quarter, including all homes in the sample, went up 13.6% this year compared to last year.

Inventory is actually pretty low in the more affordable price ranges, with barely over 4 months of product  (using my absorption rate formula), while the overall market inventory to be absorbed, using the current rate of sales, is only 7 months. That is within shouting distance of a “balanced market” and based on recorded history in Santa Fe residential real estate, it IS now a balanced market here. While we have lagged other cities in our part of the US, we are healthy and solid in our growth lines without wild fluctuations that later could result in another bubble bursting… I can almost make a prediction, but I will not because I am careful not to, that we will not see prices and home values going down anytime soon.

But will they go up? Now that we are in balance and not very many new homes are being built to meet the demand for the smell of fresh sawdust, we are likely to start seeing actual price appreciation by mid 2018. It could come sooner but we are entering the cooler months and our winter time sales are usually slower; not as robust as summer and fall. Are you looking for a promise that homes will go up in value next year? That’s what you want? Anyone who promises anything like that is certifiable crazy but it very well could happen. I would be delighted to see some consistent across the board appreciation finally.

Get your deals while it’s still 2017 if you know what I mean. Next year could see the sellers tighten up and be less flexible on price and terms, knowing their home is one of only a few available with the quality and location everyone wants. The beautiful adobe in the more distant hills may not notice the market changes as those homes are less compliant with popular buyer location desires. Sellers, plan now to begin your marketing for next year. Buyers, get your pencils sharpened for the deal you want before next spring brings highly optimistic sellers to the dance. Or just buy or sell when you are ready to pull the trigger. Deciding when to do something based on market trends is not always profitable. Better to do things that work for your lifestyle and schedule than following what the masses are trying to do.

Absorption Rate – Unplugged

A major focus of this blog site, along with statistics about the Santa Fe NM residential real estate market, is something called an Absorption Rate. On the left side of the site pages you will see the list of spreadsheets and charts available for review. Four of those charts are specific to Absorption Rates and they are in four price categories: all prices and then each of three smaller categories.

What does it mean if your home is approximately in the middle of the price range of $500K to $1 million? What it means is that there is an absorption rate that may apply should you attempt to sell your home. The rate uses averages so is no more precise that throwing a dart at a board, but it is very instructive if understood and factored in to how your home is marketed.

First, the chart for that price range shows four columns; inventory of homes for sale – total homes sold in that range over the last 12 months – average number of homes sold per month – average number of months it would take to sell all of the inventory (from the first column). This set of calculations presumes that only those presently for sale will actually sell and no new listings will come along in the mean time. It is a diminishing return sort of number, even though in reality, homes are withdrawn from the market and newly listed homes show up all the time.

Looking at the fourth column, the number of months entry; this is the approximate number of months it will take for those homes to sell. Let us say you have a home in that range and it is for sale. If the months count is 10 for example, one out of 10 homes will sell each month for 10 months. Each month 10 percent fewer homes will be for sale because they would have sold. A key question to ask yourself at this moment of clarity is: in which month do you want your home to sell? Maybe you are highly motivated and want yours to sell in month one or month two. Next I recommend looking at the other homes for sale in your price range and positioning yours to compare favorably with the competition. If you have a fairly “normal” home and it should be worth about $700,000, what is the asking price? If its much more than maybe $735K, what are you doing? Are you hoping a buyer will come along that cannot tell the difference between your home and another one that might be priced just above $700K?

The charts and graphs and spreadsheets herein are for your use and education. You are always welcome to share, print and quote the content with appropriate attribution. If you think I am an idiot and want to share your criticism, please feel free to contact me and I will try to incorporate your suggestions. There may be no other site that will give you the depth and breadth of information that this site offers. If you know of one, please let me know so I can take a look. I do like knowing what the competition is publishing.

Absorption Rate – Defined

Throughout this website and blog, the words Absorption Rate show up, in texts of posts and as titles of four unique and dynamic reports available to you anytime you visit here.

What is Absorption Rate and how is it calculated? And what does it mean?

I am glad you asked!  Absorption Rate is a calculation based on sales of homes and inventory of available homes listed for sale. First, I use only data available in the Santa Fe Association of Realtors that is managed through a proprietary program known as Paragon.

Every month I research the inventory of homes listed for sale. This number (in various price ranges) is saved and I have approximately a 15 year history of those numbers from every month. Next I determine how many sales were reported for the most recent 12 month period. This would be a rolling 12 month count that is updated monthly. The newest month is added and the oldest month drops off. Make sense so far?

Then I come up with an average number of homes that sold in the prior 12 months. That number is then used to calculate how many months it will take for all currently listed inventory to sell based on how many sell, on average, each month.

What is means is: if the Absorption Rate in a price range is longer than 6 to 8 months, any real estate expert will likely tell you that it is a buyer’s market and that buyers have plenty of inventory to look at while shopping. This is a disadvantage to sellers as they are competing with many other homes and theirs must stand out in order to be selected and purchased. Price is usually the # 1 factor for a buyer, but condition is very important as is location.

The higher price ranges in our market area tend to be buyer’s markets. The lowest price ranges tend to be seller’s markets, where the seller can expect to get favorable (to them) offers and terms.

Look at any of the spreadsheets and charts available here and you can see how trend lines and seasonal fluctuations show up. Lately inventory is up and sales are down. Take a look when you have time.

Thanks

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.