John L. Scott Real Estate
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Monday, May 19, 2008
The dire headlines coming fast and furious in the financial and popular press suggest that the housing crisis is intensifying. Yet it is very likely that April 2008 will mark the bottom of the U.S. housing market. Yes, the housing market is bottoming right now.
Posted by Jenna Englund at 5/19/2008 10:04:00 PM
Thursday, April 3, 2008

This link will take you to a feature article that appeared in the Idaho Statesman on February 25th regarding the new Galileo Math & Science Magnet School in the Meridian District. 


Posted by Jenna Englund at 4/3/2008 8:47:00 PM
Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Please don’t let me spoil a good cathartic experience for you. If you are certain the sky will fall, then by all means wear a helmet and turn elsewhere for confirmation. I enjoy amateur economics, you know, basic stuff like supply and demand. In my job, we study the real estate market in the Treasure Valleyand have been closely monitoring residential inventory since 2006 after the unfathomable sales year of 2005. At this point, you probably know there is an extreme excess supply of residential lots and, in my opinion, a much more reasonable supply of finished home inventory. I would argue that the market has been correcting itself for some time and we have made considerable progress toward equilibrium.  

One way to evaluate the trend of finished residential inventory supply is to study the change in inventory by month from one year to another. Because we live in Idaho, winter both impedes the construction process and the buying process. During the holiday period, people are otherwise focused to think about buying a home and builders know this and try to stage inventory appropriately. The real estate business is seasonal and so viewing year over year data using analysis on a month by month basis is appropriate. Figure 1 measures these variances[i]. In June of 2006, the supply of units began to outpace that of the prior year. The peak of the variance was in September of 2006 with 4,601 more housing units available than in September of 2005. Since then, this variance has steadily decreased to December 2007 where we had 471 more units than the prior year. This trend, derived from fewer home starts and a reasonable level of sales, indicates that the excess finished home inventory is eroding.   

Sales trend measurement is one method of gauging the demand for housing. We experienced extraordinary record sales in 2005 that spawned the large inventory in subsequent periods and we may not reach those sales levels for a few more years. However, we can study the change in sales volume numbers for the market to help us understand the direction of the market. Figure 2 is a three-month rolling average of the year over year sales variance measured in number of residential closings[ii]. In October of 2005 our number of closings began to slow until they fell below the prior years figures in August in 2006. Closings in 2006 were well below the levels of 2005, but 2005 was a fantastically, and unrealistic, robust period. Since June of 2007, we are trending back toward growth. This is in part due to the more realistic comparison to 2006.    
We have established that the inventory levels are correcting nicely and the number of closings is trending back toward a more normal level but if you are a buyer, you probably want to know how far prices might fall in this excess supply environment. The parts of the country particularly hard hit by falling prices are where there have been extreme levels of appreciation over the last several periods. The question then becomes how much appreciation did we experience and what has the reversal been since then?
The following table (Figure 3) uses the 3 month rolling average and compares the average home closing price, in both Ada and Canyon Counties[iii]. It is interesting that both counties’ average sales prices have come back down to the average established in June of 2006. This implies that today you can purchase a home in the Treasure Valley for about what you would have paid 20 months ago. Coincidently that is the time that closings fell to below the prior years 3 month average (see Figure 2).  If you look closely at the trend lines in Figure 3, you will see that both the Canyon County and Ada County average closing price attempted to rally back up again last summer. You could argue that there is a ‘floor’ developing, which would imply the average home closing price may very well start up again soon. 
One other variable worth studying is the foreclosure rate in the area because foreclosures will add to our already large inventory pool of finished homes. Goodness knows we have been inundated with bad news about the impending catastrophe. Much of that data we see in the media is collected by national entities that collect information on foreclosures and merely count every document filed as a foreclosure. Sometimes property owners salvage the property from foreclosure for a time and then fall back again into foreclosure. The result of this data collection technique is that instead of measuring the number of foreclosures it measures the number of filings. The following chart (Figure 4) was obtained from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC); it gauges actual property foreclosures in the state of Idaho, not the number of filings[iv].  
This indicates to me that our situation in Idaho is rolling within the range of the last few years and that we are in much better condition than the nation as a whole. The next graph (Figure 5), again supplied by the FDIC demonstrates the delinquency and charge-off rate for Idaho compared with the nation5. The Idaho rates have been rising but within an historic margin of variance. 
If you are a prospective home buyer and you think that foreclosures will add significantly to the supply of inventory I would argue that the likelihood of that is remote. History has shown that national recessions drive people to our productive, beautiful surroundings and quality life style. If you were unemployed and/or tired of bigger city crime, smog and alienation where would you look to live? Perhaps in a city with mountains, clean water and an unemployment rate of less that 3%. 
I submit that the fundamentals of our real estate market are correcting and by waiting to purchase you may see the home prices rise. The facts are that the excess supply of finished residential inventory is eroding. Lot inventory notwithstanding, the number of home closings is accelerating and prices appear to be ready to stabilize. When you add to these facts mortgage interest rates in the 6 % range it seems like an excellent time to buy. 
By David R. Player
Dave Player has been in the banking and commercial finance industry for 30 years. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from the Business School of the University of Utah with a degree in Economics. He is responsible for commercial lending in southern Idaho and Northern Utah, and a Senior Vice President at Mountain West Bank.

[i] Jere Webb, [], “Webb Charts”, January 2005-January 2008.
[ii] John L Scott Real Estate, [], “Monthly Market Survey”, 10 Jan 2008.
[iii] Jere Webb, [], “Webb Charts”, January 2005-January 2008
[iv] FDIC Regional Economic Conditions, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, 21 Jan 2008.
5 FDIC Regional Economic Conditions, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, 21 Jan 2008.


Posted by Jenna Englund at 3/25/2008 10:00:00 PM
Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Gradual Recovery Through Spring

Boise, ID: Home sales statistics for February show that 360 Single Family Homes sold in Ada County according to figures released by the Intermountain MLS and reported by the Ada County Association of REALTORS®.

According to the National Association of REALTORS® Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist said many buyers have been waiting for higher mortgage loan limits. "The higher loan limits for both FHA and conventional loans will increase consumer choice and provide greater access to lower interest rate mortgages in high-cost regions," he said. "Therefore, a notable rise in home sales can be anticipated in the second half of the year."

"Buyer activity is continuing to grow," said ACAR President Dan Hernandez. "February sales are up 16% compared to last month. Sellers are coming back gauging the temperature of the market and getting ready for the spring."

Median home prices for existing homes slipped 5.54% as sellers continued to adjust expectations downward due to sluggish sales. "A median price of $196,000 means that more Treasure Valley families will be able to achieve the dream of homeownership," said Hernandez.

The number of days that it took to sell a home dropped from 74 last month to 66 in February.

"Our Ada County market is still fundamentally strong," said Hernandez. "The national attention to short sales and foreclosures suggests that a significant number, if not the majority of homes for sale are in foreclosures. Nothing could be farther from the truth."

The Ada County Association of REALTORS ® (ACAR) is the business advocate for real estate professionals in Ada County. ACAR represents more than 4,000 REALTORS® active in all phases of real estate brokerage, management, development and appraisal. 

Posted by Jenna Englund at 3/11/2008 7:48:00 PM
Monday, March 10, 2008

This is a very confusing time in our economy, and especially in the real estate market. We hear from the national media that values will continue to drop on homes and that we should wait to buy a home.

Interest rates are down and I want to buy, but I’m afraid and not sure what to do! That is what we are hearing from a number of people. It is a very important decision and there is a lot to consider.

First of all not all states and city’s are created equally. Every city or community has their own economy. The problem with these statements from the national media is that they do not tell us what is really happening in our own community. Even the local papers are quoting some expert in Washington D.C., New York or wherever! We need to know our local market. In the Treasure Valley we are very lucky as we have very low unemployment, a healthy commercial building climate, job creation and growth, low crime rates and mild weather, which all create an atmosphere where people want to live and move. We have been through a number of economic downturns in the economy and the Boise area always recovers quicker than the rest of the nation because of our underlying health economy.

The next big question a buyer has to ask themselves is how long do I plan to live in my next home? Real Estate is normally a long term investment. Most of the people who got caught up in the 2005 housing frenzy buying and flipping homes got hurt. It takes a very sophisticated buyer or investor to play in that environment. If we plan on living in our next home 4 years or more, the risk is very low.

The next question is whether I’m buying a new or existing home. Most generally the highest equity gains come in the first 4 to 5 years of a new home. Right now in the Boise area there are great opportunities. Builders have dropped prices dramatically. They are taking money to the bank to get rid of current inventory. The problem comes with the depleting new home inventories. Once the deals are gone, they are gone forever. The homes that will replace the old product will be more expensive. Cost of permitting and raw materials are going up. We are in a global economy and the demand for raw materials in on the rise. Foreign economies are placing heavy demands on building materials as well as oil. If you are thinking of buying or building a new home, DO NOT WAIT! Waiting will cost you money.

With regards to existing homes it will take a bit longer. The foreclosures and short sales are where some of the real deals are right now. However, we do not have the high inventory levels that we see in the larger cities and this supply of distressed sales will clean up soon. Then the full attention will be back on the existing inventories.

There is also one more major factor that gets overlooked, HAPPINESS! How do you place a price on that? Sometimes we get so wrapped up in finding a great deal we forget the most important part of the American Dream, being happy. If we find the ideal home, we can afford it, and it will make me or my family happy, then so be it. Do not let being a tough business person interfere with the most important aspect of home ownership, HAPPINESS!       

Posted by Mike Pennington at 3/10/2008 9:35:00 PM
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