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It's the Usual Summer Slow Down

by Connie Yoshimura

     From Memorial Day through the Fourth of July weekend, there’s not a lot happening in the local housing market.  Potential buyers go fishing; friends and relatives from the lower 48 come to vist;  local movers and shakers fly or drive out to their cabins and summer homes on the Kenai, Big Lake and parts beyond.  So why sellers always want to put their homes on the market in June has always been a mystery to me.  But, there it is statistically.  Last week’s MLS inventory is up to  482 homes, a 50% increase from February.  Although there are still a handful of relocation buyers trickling in from Texas (BP), most relocating buyers made their home buying visit earlier in the year when the inventory was almost non-existent.

     Still, inventory of available homes remains low when compared to other years in this past decade.  May 2013 and 2014 total inventory  hovered just over 700 units, the lowest since 2005.  The average sales price has had a 4% increase so far this year and will probably continue to rise, ending the year at around 6.5%.  The average priced home that sold in May was $377,678.  However, that price point has only a 2.76 month supply.  As we all know, the higher the price point, the lower the absorption.  Homes above $500,000 have a 5.24 month supply and homes above $750,000 a 13.58 month supply.  The average days on the market for a home sold between $750,000 and $1 million is 140 days.  It takes patience to sell a home in this price point.

     The vast majority of inventory on the market continues to be pre-owned homes and they are aging in place with functional and cosmetic obsolescence.  There were only 39 new single family building permits issued for May 2014.  The total number of new home permits year to date is only 119, down even from last year’s 146.  May is usually a month when we see a jump  in permits but for lack of available lot inventory and/or commercial financing, that didn’t happen this year.  The average single family building permit has a $372,000 valuation.  If the average lot costs $135,000  that means almost every single family home in Anchorage has now reached the benchmark of half a million dollars!    Any new home less than that figure should be considered a bargain.  This high watermark, however, is not where the demand for housing is, as demonstrated by the 5.24 month supply of inventory from $500,000 to $749,999.

     Homebuyers who can’t afford a half million dollar home and still want to live in Anchorage are going to be forced to turn to a lower density multi-family development and the recent new construction stats point in that direction.  Duplex permits have more than doubled and multi-family permits have almost tripled in 2014.  There were 36 duplex permits YTD in 2013 compared to 96 this year.  Duplex permits include duplex condos as well as duplexes as rentals.  Most of the duplex permits as rentals are in Galatea subdivision, located off Lake Otis, and the duplex condo permits are scattered throughout the community.  New owner-occupied duplexes range in value from $469,000 to over $600,000 depending upon the location and amenity packages. Any new construction duplex condo under $300,000 with a double car garage is a bargain.  Without a doubt, the duplex condo with only one common wall has become the affordable version of the single family home.

     Let’s hope for a mid to late summer increase in single family building permits as new lots become available in the Terraces and Powder View (Eagle River) as well as an increase in new low density developments  scattered throughout the city in  in-fill locations. But, in the meantime, buyers and sellers are enjoying the summer solstice.

Alaska Housing Market Crunch

by Connie Yoshimura

     Good luck trying to find a  place to rent in Anchorage which has high rents and low vacancy rates.  The last survey by the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation put a 3.3% apartment vacancy rate  and  just 2% vacancy for  single family homes. It doesn’t help that Alaska  in general has more renters than the lower 48 as a result of a more fluid, younger and transient population.  Plus tightening  mortgage credit standards required for homeownership has put additional pressure on the rental market with young adults returning home to nest in spare bedrooms and rec rooms.  Also, as we all know, there has been  a significant decline in Anchorage new home starts over the past five years. For example, so far this year Anchorage has had only 80 new single family starts, a 20% decline from 2013.  For a population of over 300,000, it is almost absurd to be counting our single family starts in double digits.

     The average rental rate in Anchorage is now $1,154 which is about $50 more than last year due to increases in property taxes and utility costs that landlords pass on to tenants. Also, all those $10 increases per $100,000 property valuations for various bond packages get passed on to tenants as well as homeowners.  Plus, most tenants end up paying for their own electric while the landlord provides water/sewer/garbage pick-up and snow removal. Over the passed decade Alaskan rents have steadily risen, according to the Department of Labor’s most recent publication from a low of $750 to what we have today and the future does not look any better for renters due to the rising cost of vertical construction.

     Home ownership is not necessarily the only answer to affordable housing but more housing starts, including multi-family and duplex, would definitely ease the crunch without people having to move to the Mat-Su.  It is interesting to note that the Mat-Su has a higher percentage of home ownership than Anchorage. According to the last U.S. census, 76% of Mat-Su residents owned their own home compared to 59.9% in Anchorage.   Between 2002 and 2012, the Mat-Su Borough had 46.7% of the state’s new housing starts compared to Anchorage’s 22.7%.  Even the Mat-Valley’s rental rates are lower with an average rent of $940 per month.  An abundance of land and less regulation for its development in the Mat-Su makes the ‘Valley’ a viable housing option for either renters or homeowners.  These startling statistics should make Anchorage rethink its long-term goals for economic growth and development. If we can’t provide adequate housing for our population, we will eventually lose the economic engines that drive our local economy as well.

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Dwell Realty
561 E. 36th Ave., Suite 200
Anchorage AK 99503