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Problems Implementing the New Title 21

by Connie Yoshimura

After ten years, endless meetings and committees, and a financial cost too great to calculate, the new Title 21 land use regulations go into effect on January 1, 2016. The new land use regulations were to streamline the process and make it easier for developers, builders, and the public to understand and expedite due process and create a new aesthetic vision for Anchorage. The idea for the plan originated at the height of the 2006 building boom as a knee jerk reaction to some shoddy and, quite frankly, unattractive, homebuilding. A planner from Colorado, whose name I have forgotten, was hired as a consultant to craft the plan. However, I do remember asking him in a meeting what his proposed new land use regulations would do to the value of raw land and his response was ‘prices will go down’. In theory, that sounded like good news for the consumer, but ten years later, any adjustment in land value will be lost to the consumer due to the overreach of the new regulations promulgated by staff and overzealous community activists in their desire to create a more aesthetically pleasing community—at all costs.

I just picked up the new title 21 and the table of contents section alone is 17 single-spaced pages. The entire document barely fits into an oversized three ring binder and is over 836 single spaced pages. The pages are not numbered sequentially. It is not a user-friendly document. Developers, builders, and remodelers will all need to spend time and money hiring planners, engineers, and architects to tell them what they can and cannot build. To say it will slow down the spring 2016 building season is an understatement. To say that home prices will increase as a result of the new Title 21 design standards is a given. Bay windows, wide trim, porches, eight foot wide entries, windows, pop-outs, all cost extra dollars. Buyers and builders usually make those aesthetic and personal preference decisions together (with the help of Pinterest and Houzz). Now, there is a third party at the table.

However, the real underlying problem comes January 1st 2016 with the implementation of the new regulations. Not enough forethought has been given by staff and the assembly as to how to deal with current and ongoing developments. For example, if an acreage was purchased two years ago for residential development and between then and now was rezoned, platted into fifty foot wide single family lots, and issued a building permits for the construction of roads, water and sewer –all under the existing MOA rules and regulations--should not the builders be allowed to build homes under the code that existed at the time? The same question needs to be answered regarding condominium development which is usually on a single tract of land. If any vertical construction has been permitted under the old code, should it not be allowed to continue with the same vertical construction? When developers buy land, they have a vision in mind for the end product. They look at the market and try to project the home buying needs of the public. They design the width of the lot, the type of home, that they believe meet market needs. The entire process almost always takes two to three years from acquisition to the time the first dwelling unit is constructed. The failure by staff and the assembly to address this issue demonstrates a continuing lack of basic understanding of the development and building process, despite everyone’s best intentions of making Anchorage a more attractive, albeit more expensive, community.


A Look into the 2016 Real Estate Market

by Connie Yoshimura

There are five major reasons why people buy and sell homes. Those reasons are marriage, birth, death, divorce, and job change. Add (in parenthesis) the investor to that list and you have the universal buy/sell equation and Anchorage is no different. The real question in that equation is what will they buy as the Anchorage residential market continues to suffer from a lack of inventory, particularly for homes under $400,000. During the second week of November 2015, after adjusting for pending and closed sales, there were only 543 single family homes for sale in Anchorage in all price ranges. Not much to look at if you’re a family trying to beat the expected rise in interest rates come this December. This inventory of aging homes is lower than in 2009 or 2004, despite a population increase now at 300,000 plus.

In October there were 290 sales reported through MLS. With the exception of 2013, when there were 311 recorded sales, this is the highest October number since 2004. So the Anchorage market place remains alive and well, despite the bad news coming out of the oil industry and Juneau. Departing oil company employees will create a smattering of housing inventory desperately needed. Both Cartus and Brookfield, third party relocation companies to the oil industry, price their homes to sell. They are always the best resale homes in any neighborhood.

Unfortunately, 26% of available homes for sale are over $500,000 and you can expect this percentage to increase in 2016 due to the implementation of the new Title 21 regulations finally passed by the Anchorage Assembly. It’s true that in the past we have built some aesthetically unattractive homes and the new title 21 now requires builders to add more windows, three different textures to the front exterior, less garage frontage and wider, covered entries. All this comes at a cost, however, not only for a bay window, stones or shakes, but also requires wider lots and thus, more expensive home costs. The underlying cost of any new home is the building site which accounts for 20 to 28% of the total home value. Lot value is determined by the cost of the road and the extension of water, sewer, and storm drain. The average cost of a publicly dedicated road with public water/sewer/storm drain is now almost $2,000 per lineal foot, not counting the cost of the raw land acquisition, civil engineering, taxes, interest carry, et cetera. All this coming at a time when we have less than an average three month supply of homes available between $225,000 and $500,000.

In the past decade, home buyers fighting the cost of rising home prices in Anchorage, moved to the bedroom community of Eagle River. Now, the average sales price of $371,500 in Eagle River is a virtual tie with Anchorage, forcing more and more home buyers to commute to the Valley. As a result of the new Title 21 regulations, Anchorage will have better looking homes in 2016 but they will be more expensive and fewer of them. Already, this year’s single family permits through October are 36 fewer than 2014 permits. Counting in duplex and multi-family permits, the MOA is down 104 new housing units from last year. That downward trend will continue as builders and developers grapple with the new Title 21 regulations, consisting of 836 single spaced pages. Not the streamlined version as promised.


Why Buy New?

by Connie Yoshimura

Selection

New Hultquist communities are popping up all over Anchorage, including southwest, southeast, the hillside and east Anchorage. Hultquist Homes offers a variety of floor plans and homesite options, making it easy for you to find the home and neighborhood of your dreams. Home values begin at only $279,500.

Money Savings

All new Hultquist Homes are built to AHFC’s five star energy rating which make them more energy efficient than homes that were built just five to ten years ago. With most Anchorage homes over 30 years old, these energy efficiency savings are a significant financial benefit to new home buyers.

Advanced Technology and Design

Retrofitting an older home can be costly and time consuming. Wiring, appliances, shingles, furnaces, and windows are just some of the features that have improved greatly. Buy new and get current technology and design. Many of these costs are hidden until it comes time for retrofitting.

Timing

Hultquist Homes has a variety of homes in different stages of the construction process, giving you more choices. Why buy someone else’s decorating ideas when you can incorporate your own style preferences in a new home?

Home Warranty

Hultquist Homes offers a two-year interior warranty in addition to Alaska’s ten year structural warranty. No other builder in Alaska offers such a commitment to quality. Hultquist Homes will come back twice to repair the inevitable stress cracks caused by Alaska’s weather, as well as other items.

Watch Your Home Being Constructed

Once the foundation on your new home purchase has been completed and the lumber drop made, Hultquist Homes will provide you with a secret, online pass code so you can track the schedule and modifications to your home. It’s a cool way to keep track of your new home being built even while you are on vacation!

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Contact Information

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Dwell Realty
561 E. 36th Ave., Suite 200
Anchorage AK 99503
907-646-3600