In the last two weeks, two reports were released giving strong indication that we really can’t rely on the national news stories to tell our local real estate story.  NAR’s report was released last week revealing existing-home sales declined slightly in February, noting specific emphasis on softer sales in the West.  Sales, according to the report, slipped 0.6 percent nationally, though they were seven percent higher than a year ago.

Within a few days, Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller released its home-price index.  The report revealed that Denver was among nine metropolitan areas in a 20-city survey that saw home prices increase in January compared with the same month a year ago.  Denver-area home prices rose 2.6 percent in January compared with January 2009, making it the sixth-largest increase among surveyed cities.

What is promising about Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller’s report is that it showcases we’re on the road to recovery.  Locally, the Colorado market is seeing some of the nation’s biggest gains and we seem to be making some great strides from month to month.  Of course we’re probably not out of the woods yet.  There is still fear of a double dip recession and with unemployment figures (though improved) still staggering, it does make home purchases a challenge for some.  But the signs are encouraging and our local housing market is showing signs of life.

Have we stabilized?  Prices are reasonably flat from a year ago.  But that doesn’t mean we’re going to see sudden, double digit appreciation.  Watch for a very normal, balanced recovery with mild to moderate gains.

One final note.  As of the writing of this piece, we have just 29 days and counting until the first time home buyer and existing home buyer tax credit expires.  If you are planning to act, now truly is the time.

Now, let’s take a look at this week in real estate:

  • Boulder/Longmont—Boulder reported sales in Boulder County continue to climb, up 9% during the last two weeks.  That’s after a 7% increase during the first two weeks.  New listings were down 9% so overall inventory is moving in the right direction.  Showings were down 5% but 2 days of blizzards with lots of warning probably caused that, so I’m saying “steady” using a weather adjustment.  Agents are reporting lots of visitors to open houses & those buyers are collecting information for purchases later this year.  Longmont reported spring has sprung and it’s a great time to buy a home.  Showings on our listings are on again increasing week over week.  Buyers know that the deadline for the tax credit is coming soon.  Entry level housing that is well priced is selling quickly.  There are some incredible bargains to be made in the upper end price ranges.  Good news is that jumbo loans are making a comeback.  The local job market is stabilizing.  Longmont as a city and the surrounding area continues  to realize that jobs make our world happen.  The local economic council is aggressively negotiating with companies to relocate to Longmont.
  • Evergreen/Conifer—We had a total of sixteen new listings for the month of March, eight of which went under contract.  Four of them were at price points above $500,000.  A total of 410 showings and previews during the month brought us to an increase of 23% in activity over the same month last year.  Conifer reported we had seven new listings during the month of March, five of which went under contract.  The total showing for the month increased to 131.  This is a continuing increase in activity since the beginning of January.
  • Denver Central – March has been great and sales continue to increase.  Inventory has been low but we’re seeing an increase of sellers putting their homes on the market.  Appreciation is neighborhood specific and there are some hot areas in the Denver metro area.  It’s important to be working with a professional that can educate & give you the proper advice to make the right real estate decisions.  The April 30th under contract deadline for the tax credit is fast approaching & buyers are realizing that with low inventor they need to start the process of buying a property now.  The inventory shortages in the lower end market has created multiple offer situations for most homes on the market.  It might take a couple of offers before buyers find the right property.  Over 50% of the home sales in the Denver metro area continue to be under $250,000.  If you’re looking to sell a home priced under $300,000, this is a great time to sell.  We’re also seeing improvement in the higher-end market.
  • Denver West— The office is very busy.  It appears to us that consumer confidence is up and the sellers are taking the next step which is to list their property.  Sellers are also more attune to listing their property at a price that will cause it to sell.  We are seeing many listings sell with the sellers purchasing another property in the marketplace.  Some are downsizing, however the majority are buying “up.”  First time home buyers are still active in the marketplace.
  • Devonshire— Spring has sprung and with it is renewed energy and activity in the real estate market.  We’re seeing a dramatic increase in people attending open houses and the conversation with these people indicates that they are not just looking but are serious about finding a new home.  Our mortgage company has seen a strong upswing as the public is concerned about the uptick in interest rates.  The consumer is getting settled with their financial picture before looking & actually putting offers in on a home.  Sellers are putting homes on the market with much more consideration of market analysis data & thus are getting their homes under contract in much more reasonable time frames.  It’s going to be a busy spring as we are moving from a place of fear & uncertainty to a little more comfort & cautious optimism.  Happy Spring!
  • El Paso County— Colorado Springs reports as we enter in to the last month of the First Time Homebuyer credit and move up credit, we’re seeing a flurry of activity.  Buyers are getting serious about getting qualified and making offers.  We still see banks sitting on short-sale offers but word is we could see banks responding more quickly in April with new incentives from the Federal government.  If banks begin responding, we could see inventory levels start dropping more quickly and housing prices start to recover.
  • Larimer County—Our Fort Collins/Loveland offices report we are moving along steadily, and the two large snow storms did not seem to slow the showings down too much.  With warm weather becoming a more regular occurrence I would expect to see more and more home buyers out in the market.  In addition the listing inventory is growing as home sellers have recently been very realistic about the market and there selling price.  The tax credit is worth mentioning again as you have about one month to get under contract to receive either the $8000 or $6500 tax credit if you are eligible. Finally, the Federal Reserve is no longer buying mortgage backed securities as of March 31, 2010.  This means there is an excellent chance of mortgage rates increasing in the upcoming months. Get out and buy now before the rates jump!
  • North Metro— Comparing March to February (the first 15 days of the month), the North Metro has twice as many listings as this time last month and twice as many under contract.  There is an urgency to take advantage of the tax credit before it’s too late.  The average sales price out of our office is $250,000.  The average list price is up to $275,000. We continue to see low inventory on homes under $200,000 & multiple offers.  With the nice weather, activity at open houses and sign calls is picking up.  We have even been experiencing walk-ins to our office, people ready to get their homes on the market to beat the spring rush.
  • Parker— We are receiving an unusual amount of buyer requests compared to new listings on the market.  Of course the approaching deadline of April 30th for the buyer tax credit has a big impact on this change in dynamics.  However, we are confident that there are other drivers and the positive development will continue.
  • Southeast Metro— Spring has sprung in SE Denver!  The SE Metro office scheduled over 1400 showings in the last two weeks of March.  Open house traffic is off the charts with 30 to 40 people visiting properties on the weekends.  The luxury home market is also reaping the benefits of energetic marketing.  We closed one luxury home last month for $1,200,000 and another for $1,600,000.  Our open house blitz is scheduled for April 10th & 11th and we’re sure to see lots of ready willing and able buyers visiting our listings.
  • Southwest Metro – Our showings have increased week over week.  Activity in our open houses has also been great!  The weekend of April 10 & 11 we’re having an open house blitz in the Highlands Ranch area as well as having an open house in our office to answer questions and hand out flyers to all of our open houses.  We’re seeing much activity not only in our $250,000 to $350,000 range but also in the higher price ranges in both Highlands Ranch and also in Littleton, Castle Rock and Centennial.  Agents are very busy listing homes and showing buyers.  There is a great amount of energy in the office and in the streets.
  • West Lakewood – The office is very busy!  It appears to us that consumer confidence is up and the sellers are taking the next step which is to list their property.  Sellers are also more willing to list their property at a price that will cause it to sell.  We are seeing many listings sell with the seller’s purchasing another property in the marketplace.  Some are downsizing, however the majority are buying “up.”  First time homebuyers are still active in the market place.