Friday, December 13, 2013

Ho Ho Ho, Real Estate is in the Holiday Spirit

The real estate market is healthy right now. We are enjoying modest growth in pricing and strong sales volume. This is the kind of sustainable growth that is better than the rampaging growth of the 2004-2006 period.

The Regional Multiple Listing Service here in Clark County has posted sales summary data through first nine months of this year. 4728 real estate transactions have closed in those first nine months and that compares quite favorably with the 3805 through the first nine months of last year. This reflects a 24% increase in closed transactions. There is no shortage of buyers out there. The median price for 2012 was $194,500 and through the first nine months of 2013 the median is up 14% at $223,600.

Numbers tell many tales and a healthy pinch of the proverbial salt is in order with statistics. Has the actual value of any given home in Clark County appreciated by 14% this year? Not necessarily. Last year the market was still being driven by sustained growth with first time home buyers and the entry level market as well as a lot of REO (bank owned) and Short Sale transactions with typically lower closed prices. This year has seen a nice progression into the mid level price range as homeowners can finally sell that formerly upside down home. So as more transactions occur in the mid level, the median price rises. Even if the actual appreciation was very modest the median can rise much steeper if there is a market transition to more expensive homes.

All of that said, there has clearly been appreciation in the marketplace this year. Those three bedroom two bath 1200 square foot 1950s move in ready homes that were readily available for sale in the $130-140k range a couple of years ago are now easily $160-170k this year. But homes in the middle to higher price range have had much more modest appreciation.

I decided to dive in a little deeper. I took two county wide but very narrow market segments and will show actual growth in volume and appreciation between 2012 and through yesterday's closings this year. The first is a batch of typical entry level family homes and the second a typical first move up house. These are fairly small segments but this helps to keep them all truly comparable with as little variance as possible but still providing a large enough pool of data to be statistically sound. These all have very similar lots, in town and very similar sized homes, etc.

Last year there were 47 detached single family, three bedroom homes with 1200-1400 square feet of living space, sold in Clark County that were on a small to medium city lot and were not bank owned or short sale transactions. The median price was $163,900 and 98.19% of original list price with an average time on market of 27 days. So far this year the numbers for the exact same search yielded 83 sales with a median price of $185,000 and 97.55% of original list price with an average of 22 days on the market. Well that is 13% appreciation in that segment and a unit sales volume growth of 77%. What about the move up market?

This time I ran sales of homes again, traditional sales, not short or REO. 2000-2500 square feet of living space, four bedrooms on a small to medium size city lot. 2012 had 71 sales with a median price of $232,000 and 95.79% of original list price and average time on market at 42 days. The numbers so far this year look like this; 170 sales at a median price of $251,125 and 97.01% of original list price with an average 39 days on market. This represents appreciation of 8% and a huge sales growth of 139%.

The overall synopsis follows the traditional model for market recovery. The bottom grows first and feeds growth to the middle of the market. With a 139% sales growth this year in the move up market, I foresee an opportunity for double digit appreciation in that segment for 2014. This of course depends on all the crazy variables in the real estate market and the economy at large. Marketing time continues to shrink and well priced homes get multiple above asking price offers. There is a segment of sellers that will "test the waters" with a high price and then end up reducing the price to sell. But 97% of original asking price is quite good.

Short sales in both of these segments were flat year over year. 23 sales in both 2012 and 2013 in the 3 bed segment. The 4 bed segment 31 in 2012 against 27 in 2013. I left out REO because the condition of the home varies so widely, banks often use auction methods and such, it is difficult to gauge those against traditional sales. If you look at the combined segments here, 2012 had a roughly 2:1 traditional vs short sale ratio and this year short sales remained flat while traditional sales skyrocketed so the ratio is now slightly more than 5:1. If this ratio carries through to the overall market it bodes well for our local market.

2014 is shaping up nicely for real estate. As the middle of the market begins to feel a surge so then the upper levels will enjoy favorable price movement as well.

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