The last time we saw a balanced market was late 1990s, meaning many sellers and buyers have never seen a normal housing market. Windermere Real Estate’s Chief Economist Matthew Gardner looks at more longer-term averages, what does he see for the future of the housing market?
Luxury homes sales across the U.S. continue to perform strongly, but I’m noticing some headwinds starting to appear that are worthy of a closer look.
It’s often thought that luxury real estate runs totally independent of the overall market, and while this is true in some respects, there are definitely correlations between high-end housing and the rest of the market.
The first similarity is that the luxury market has suffered from some the same inventory constraints that are almost endemic across all price points in the U.S. But, similar to the overall market, we are starting to see a rise in inventory, which should be good news for real estate agents and luxury home buyers alike.
Impact of rising inventory
This increase in the number of luxury homes for sale has started to have a tapering effect on price growth, which again, is similar to what we’re seeing in the rest of the market. But as real estate professionals, we know full well that all housing is local and some markets are performing far better than others.
For example, luxury markets in Maui, Northern California, Colorado, and Sarasota, Florida, are all experiencing substantial price growth, while there are noticeable slowdowns in many parts of New York and New Jersey. Even Queens and Jersey City, which have continued to benefit from high demand, have seen price growth stall recently, indicating that those markets could be losing some steam.
Why the slowdown?
The slowing of luxury sales in certain areas around the country piqued my interest, so I decided to explore why this is happening. The first thing I noticed is that cities with high property taxes are fairly prevalent on the list of slowing markets; this includes cities like Boston, Austin, New York City, and Chicago. It is likely that the federal tax changes limiting the deductibility of property taxes are the culprit for such slowdowns in these areas.
Something else that has undoubtedly impacted luxury home sales in markets, such as New York City and Seattle, is the significant decline in foreign buyers from countries like China and Canada. According to the National Association of Realtors, the number of purchases by international buyers fell by 21 percent between 2017 and 2018, amounting to a drop of $32 billion – the largest decline on record. Foreign buyers spent $121 billion on 266,754 properties, making up 8 percent of the buyers of existing (previously lived in) homes.
My research tells me that foreign home buyers are pulling back amid political uncertainty in the U.S. Ongoing concerns about a potential trade war, combined with rhetoric against foreigners, have done their part to dampen some of the enthusiasm to invest in U.S. housing. Also playing a role in this slowdown is the Chinese Central Government which has started placing tighter controls on the ability to spend money outside of mainland China. And finally, rising home prices and a strong U.S. dollar are likely two other key factors behind the tumbling interest in luxury real estate from overseas buyers.
So how do I see the luxury market performing in 2019?
Luxury real estate sales in markets like Boston, Clearwater, Austin, and Alexandria, Virginia will continue to slow down for the reasons stated earlier, but in other parts of the country, home buyers will provide the demand needed to keep the market plugging along at a healthy pace.
The changes affecting mortgage interest deductions and property taxes will also continue to impact the luxury market in certain areas, but this will, to a degree, be offset by other tax changes that favor high-income households and increase their disposable income. Something else that will help keep the luxury real estate market afloat in the coming year is jumbo mortgage interest rates which remain remarkably competitive compared to historic standards.
On a whole, high-end real estate sales have been strong over the past few years. While I am predicting somewhat of a slowdown next year given the headwinds discussed earlier, 2019 will be remembered as a year where balance started to return to the luxury housing market.
Mr. Gardner is the Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, specializing in residential market analysis, commercial/industrial market analysis, financial analysis, and land use and regional economics. He is the former Principal of Gardner Economics, and has more than 30 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.
Windermere Real Estate Chief Economist Matthew Gardner explains how restrictive growth policies are affecting housing affordability in many cities.
Windermere Real Estate Chief Economist Matthew Gardner explains the ways zoning rules and regulatory costs can limit housing affordability.
Check out the latest Gardner Report below with information and stats on the Northern Colorado Real Estate Market!
You can download the 4-page PDF here: Gardner Report PDF Download
Annual employment growth in Colorado was measured at a respectable 2.2% in November and will likely finish the year having created around 55,000 new jobs. Within the metropolitan market areas included in this report, we are seeing employment growth at or above the state level and I anticipate that this will continue to be the case in 2017.
Unemployment rates continue to drop, and with rates now below three percent, all of Colorado’s metro areas are at full employment. Because of this robust level of growth—in concert with very low unemployment levels—I anticipate that we will see some fairly substantial income growth as companies look to recruit new talent and keep existing employees happy.
HOME SALE ACTIVITY
- There were 14,614 home sales during the fourth quarter of 2016—up by a marginal 0.7% from the same period in 2015.
- Jefferson County saw sales grow at the fastest rate over the past 12 months, with a 5.9% increase. Sales activity fell in three counties, but this was a function of short supply rather than slowing demand.
- Listing activity continues to remain well below historic averages, with the total number of homes for sale in the fourth quarter 12.8% below that seen a year ago.
- The key takeaway from this data is that 2017 is shaping up to be one which will still substantially favor home sellers. I do anticipate that we will see some improvement in listing activity, but it is almost a certainty that demand will exceed supply for another year.
- Demand continued to exceed supply in the final three months of 2016 and this caused home prices to continue to rise. In the fourth quarter, average prices rose by 9% when compared to the fourth quarter of 2015. The average sales price across the region is now $393,969.
- In many parts of the region, prices are well above historic highs and continue to trend upward. With double-digit price increases over the past year, the market remains very hot.
- Annual price growth was strongest in Larimer and Jefferson Counties, where prices rose by 11.8% and 10.9% respectively.
- While we will likely see some modest softening in home price growth in 2017, we can still expect a very strong market.
DAYS ON MARKET
- The average number of days it took to sell a home dropped by one day when compared to the fourth quarter of 2015.
- Homes in a majority of the counties took less than a month to sell.
- In the final quarter of the year, it took an average of just 27 days to sell a home. This is down from the 28 days it took in the fourth quarter of 2015.
- The Northern Colorado housing market is still firing on all cylinders. The only missing piece is listings, which remain well below the historic average.
This speedometer reflects the state of the region’s housing market using housing inventory, price gains, sales velocities, interest rates, and larger economic factors.
For the fourth quarter of 2016, the needle remains firmly in the seller’s territory. It will be interesting to see if the recent increase in mortgage rates has any effect at all on the housing market. I believe that it will; however, I expect that it will likely cause a slowdown in home price growth rather than any collapse in home prices.
Matthew Gardner is the Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, specializing in residential market analysis, commercial/industrial market analysis, financial analysis, and land use and regional economics. He is the former Principal of Gardner Economics, and has over 25 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.