The construction quality is the most important factor in all price ranges, according to the National Association of Home Builders’ recent survey. However, entry-level and moderate income buyers are also significantly influenced by financing. Sellers and builders offering financial incentives can help generate a faster sale. Alaska is lucky in that regard because we have several mortgage programs that incentivize and assist buyers with closing costs and down payments. Builders, in particular, often offer closing costs with matching assistance from most local mortgage lenders. If you’re looking for significant financial assistance, a builder’s finished inventory is a good place to start or a private seller whose home has been on the market longer than 60 days.

Most of Anchorage’s housing stock is old, really old. Four-star quality construction built in the 1980’s doesn’t begin to compare to the five-star quality today. Older homes need new roofs, furnaces as well as cosmetic remodeling. There’s a reason why we have all those Home Depots and Lowe’s. So it is interesting that building permits remain at historic lows in Anchorage. That stagnation can only be attributed to lack of financing and over regulation and not to demand.

But not so surprising, next to construction quality and financing, the exterior design of the home is a major factor in both moderate and high income buyers’ home selection. As someone who regularly holds open houses, I often see the ‘drive-by’ buyer. They follow the open house signs and keep right on going. They reject the home based on the exterior design. It may be the color, lack of landscaping or the specific orientation of the house on the lot. It is unfortunate that some builders don’t pay as much attention to the exterior elevation of the home as they do their interior selections. What color to paint the home sometimes becomes just a worn out after thought. Heavy timbers, stone wainscoting, cedar shakes, elevated and differing roof lines, even the color of the front door can all contribute to making a sale. However, the responsibility for an attractive exterior elevation and, thus, street scape, begins with the developer of the community. Strong architectural control can make the difference between a successful new home community and one that languishes.  

Other factors influencing a move include proximity to highways and easy community to work. We’re lucky that Anchorage still has easy commutes except on Tudor Road between four and five pm. In my experience, however, what’s also interesting is that east Anchorage residents rarely make a move across town to the west but will go southeast. The same is true for Sand Lake residents. It seems familiarity for routes to work, stores, shopping and schools plays an important role in a move-up to a new home. Also, high on the list of move factors is proximity to extended family and this is certainly true for our population. Anchorage has two large buying groups—boomers and millennials and we are seeing more and more grandparents moving to be near their grandchildren. 


As can be expected, high income buyers place a greater emphasis on the prestige/cache of the neighborhood than do moderate income buyers. In Anchorage, higher end buyers tend to cluster on the hillside, Old Turnagain and the downtown area. They are also more interested in public school performance although neither group places significant importance on religion or proximity to places of worship.