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Q1 Goode and Farmer Report Boston


The national real estate pundits are talking about the lack of available inventory and declining sales numbers. These first quarter results for downtown Boston condominium sales tell a different story. The average sales price for condos in downtown Boston neighborhoods increased 21%. Sale were up by 12%. Total sale volume was up by 35%.

The South End and Back Bay neighborhoods reflect the more  standard state of the real estate industry here in eastern MA. Prices are up because of buyer demand, but sales are down and volume is flat – the effect of the critically depressed inventory of available condos for sale.


Boston chart























South Boston is  standout neighborhood! Average sales price up 20%.  Sales up 41%. Volume up 71%…and interestingly enough the only neighborhood with an increase in days on market, a result of additional inventory.

The all important spring market will be very important in determining the state of the real estate market in Boston.

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When Will Home Values Return To Peak?

Interesting post with a national perspective from HW  Housing Wire’s Trey Garrison.

Home prices won’t return to peak levels until when?

Clear Capital sees 3-5% appreciation rate


Home prices are growing slowly but remain in line with inflation, Clear Capital reported in its Home Data Index, but at this pace it will be 2021 before they return to peak prices.

National home prices are right in line — within 2% — with inflation adjusted long-run average levels, which Clear Capital says shows prices have normalized post-bubble and future rates of growth will look more like historical rates of growth. Home prices have typically gained between 3% and 5% a year.

At the current quarterly rate of national growth, peak prices won’t be reached until the year 2021.

“With the majority of metro markets still so far below peak prices, it’s time for conversations surrounding price trends to shift away from the 2006 peak as the point of reference, and back to current trends and forecasts,” said Dr. Alex Villacorta, vice president of research and analytics at Clear Capital. “While there are certainly investors and homeowners holding real estate assets that will be underwater for seven years or more, the current housing market is positioned to behave very similar or even below historical norms, given the current economic climate.”

“For new deals and investors without legacy assets, the new housing environment should be framed in terms of more typical, moderate rates of growth with tempered optimism for the ongoing housing recovery,” Villacorta said.

He added that Clear Capital sees a steady growth pattern, and no bubbles in housing.

Nationally, we don’t see evidence of a price bubble forming again. Double digit gains over the last year, while similar to rates of growth in the run-up to the bubble, are off a much lower price floor. Phoenix and Las Vegas, however, are showing signs of overheating,” he said.

“These markets skyrocketed off very low price floors as their low-tier and distressed market segments exploded with demand,” Villacorta added. “Each market saw yearly gains top out around 30%, and now are seeing price gains cool substantially. Las Vegas has seen more than a 10 percentage point pull back in just three short months, even though prices remain 20.8% below 2000 levels, after adjusting for inflation. Meanwhile, Phoenix’s yearly gains are down to 19.8%, with prices now 1.9% above 2000 levels after adjusting for inflation. We’ll be watching these markets closely throughout the winter to see how demand holds up.”

Inflation adjusted home prices at the metro level show 46 out of 50 metro markets’ home price levels at pre-2003 levels, with 25 out of 50 metros reporting prices below 2000 levels.

Because the majority of markets remain far off peak values, the peak becomes a less relevant point of reference for new investors and homebuyers. Honolulu is the only metro out of the top 50 to see home prices within peak levels, with inflation adjusted home prices resting at levels last seen in 2005. This anomaly has, in part, been driven by very unique supply and demand, a benefit of being a highly desirable tropical island.

While prices remain far off peak values, current trends continue to moderate across the country.

National yearly gains cooled to 10.8%, a trend that should continue over the next several months. Yearly gains at the metro level are moderating as well, with Sacramento now seeing the highest yearly gain at 25.4%, down from a high of 28% in October. Las Vegas has seen substantial pull back in January with yearly gains of just 21.3%, down from 32.4% in October.

Using a broad array of public and proprietary data sources, the HDI Market Report publishes is a granular home data and analysis earlier than nearly any other index provider in the industry.

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The Sky Is Not Falling

A perfect post by the incredible KCM crew. They do a great job highlighting assumptions around what is causing the national trend towards decreasing sales numbers, and then debunking them with Reality. We are seeing some of these dynamics in our local markets. This is a very good post with a broad national slant on the issues…for consumers and agent/brokers too.

Be Quiet Chicken Little. The Sky is NOT Falling


There has been much speculation about what is causing the falling sales numbers in the most recent Existing Home Sales Reports (EHS) from theNational Association of Realtors (NAR). Some have claimed that rising interest rates have scared buyers out of the market. Others have claimed that consumers are just losing confidence in the housing recovery fearing a new bubble may be forming. We want to look at the validity of these two assumptions.


ASSUMPTION: Rising interest rates have forced buyers back onto the fence. Evidence offered up by those in this camp comes directly from the EHS Report from NAR. Three of the last four reports revealed that sales were below sales from the same month the previous year.

THE REALITY: Though it is true year-over-year sales have fallen nationally, a closer look at the report reveals major regional differences. Sales in the West Region are down 10.7% versus the same month last year. Sales in the Midwest Region are also down but by less than 1%. The Northeast Region is up 3.2% and the Southern Region is up 4.6%.

If the issue is interest rates, why is one region virtually unchanged and two of the remaining three regions up in sales? We don’t believe rates are the challenge.


ASSUMPTION: The pace of the recent price increases has caused many to fear the emergence of a new housing bubble. Similar to the first assumption, evidence offered up by those in this camp comes directly from the less than enthusiastic EHS Reports from NAR.

THE REALITY: As we mentioned before, sales in the Midwest Region are down but by less than 1%. The Northeast and the Southern Region have both shown increased sales as compared to the year before. Are only the consumers in the Western Region afraid of a possible bubble forming?

The fear of a new housing bubble is vastly overstated. Forty states have not yet returned to home values they experienced seven to nine years ago. Nineteen of those forty states still have home prices 15% or more below peak prices. We believe home values will continue to increase but just at a slower rate of appreciation.

It is not just us that believe this is the case. The over 100 housing experts recently surveyed by Pulsenomics revealed that they believe prices will continue to appreciate at historical annual numbers (3-4%) for at least the next five years.


If the lack of sales is not the result of increasing interest rates or decreasing consumer confidence, what actually is happening? We believe it can be broken down to three words: LACK of INVENTORY.

Inventories of foreclosure and short sale properties are falling like a rock in the vast majority of regions across the nation. These two categories of homes have driven the market for the last few years. As foreclosures and short sales sell, they are not being replaced because the economy has gotten better and more families have regained control of their finances. All fifty states have seen a decrease in the number of homeowners who are seriously delinquent on their mortgage payments with thirty nine states seeing the number shrink by over 20%.

This inventory has not yet begun to be replaced by the non-distressed properties in the country. Just this month, NAR revealed that the months’ inventory of homes for sale has dropped to only a 4 month supply. A normal market has between 5-6 months’ supply.

This is the main reason home sales are declining in certain regions – there are just not enough houses for sale.


With the economy improving and with homeowners gaining back some equity they lost when prices fell, we believe there will be many homes coming unto the market this spring. A recent survey revealed that 71% of homeowners are at least considering selling their home in 2014.

If you are thinking of selling, beating this increased competition to the market before spring might make sense – and might enable you to get the best price possible for your home.

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Existing Home Sales Take A Dive…

I haven’t reposted anything by Tara Steele of AG recently but this post tells a smart national perspective.


Existing home sales take a dip

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), existing home sales dipped 5.1 percent in January from December’s revised sales numbers. This places sales at their lowest level since July 2012, which they blame squarely on the perpetual inventory shortages, which also serves to continue lifting prices, which is good news to some (homeowners) and bad news to others (buyers).

Dr. Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, also stated that unusual weather is playing a role. “Disruptive and prolonged winter weather patterns across the country are impacting a wide range of economic activity, and housing is no exception. Some housing activity will be delayed until spring.”

“At the same time,” Dr. Yun added, “we can’t ignore the ongoing headwinds of tight credit, limited inventory, higher prices and higher mortgage interest rates. These issues will hinder home sales activity until the positive factors of job growth and new supply from higher housing starts begin to make an impact.”

Median existing home price

NAR reports that the median existing home price for all housing types was $188,900 in January, up a whopping 10.7 percent from January 2013.

Distressed homes accounted for 15 percent of sales (11 percent were foreclosures, and only 4 percent were short sales), down from 24 percent in January 2013. Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 16 percent below market value and short sales were discounted 13 percent.

Housing inventory levels

Although NAR cites ongoing inventory problems, housing inventory did rise 2.2 percent for the month, and rose 7.3 percent compared to January 2013. Inventory now represents a 4.9-month supply at the current sales pace.

The median time on market was 67 days in January, down from 72 days in December and 71 days on market in December 2013. Non-distressed homes sold in 66 days, foreclosures typically sold in 58 days, and short sales spent 150 days on the market. NAR reports that nearly one in three homes sold in January were on the market for less than a month.

Who’s buying right now?

The number of first time buyers are slowly dwindling, hitting 26 percent of all sales in January, down from 27 percent in December and 30 percent in January 2013.

The trade group said in a statement, “This is the lowest market share for first-time buyers since NAR began monthly measurement in October 2008; normally, they should be closer to 40 percent.”

Fully 33 percent of sales were paid for with cash, up from 32 percent in December and 28 percent in January 2013. Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 20 percent of homes in January, compared with 21 percent in December and 19 percent in January 2013. Seven out of 10 investors paid cash in January.

Regional performance varies

Existing-home sales in the Northeast declined 3.1 percent to an annual rate of 620,000 in January, and are also 3.1 percent below January 2013. The median price in the Northeast was $241,100, up 6.6 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the Midwest dropped 7.1 percent in January to a pace of 1.04 million, and are 8.8 percent below a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $140,300, which is 7.6 percent higher than January 2013.

In the South, existing-home sales declined 3.5 percent to an annual level of 1.95 million in January, but are 1.6 percent higher than January 2013. The median price in the South was $161,500, up 9.4 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the West dropped 7.3 percent to a pace of 1.01 million in January, and are 13.7 percent below a year ago. Sales in the West are attenuated by tight inventory in many areas, pushing the median price to $273,500, up 14.6 percent from January 2013.


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Condo Prices Shatter Record


Great post from Scott.

Mass condo prices shatter record

Posted by Scott Van Voorhis
Yes, condo prices are getting nutty again.

The median price of a condo in Massachusetts crossed the $300,000 threshold in January.

That’s the highest condo price ever for a January since The Warren Group, publisher of Banker & Tradesman, began tracking condo prices back in 1987.

It also represents a 24 percent increase from January 2013, when the median price for a condo in the Bay State was at a relatively more affordable $242,000.

By comparison, the median U.S. home price weighs in at $188,900. And that’s after a 10 percent increase in January.

Condo sales were also up by a pretty sizable 16 percent, with 1,144 units changing hands the first month of the year, The Warren Group reports.

What’s even more amazing, condo prices are not all that far behind single-family home prices in Massachusetts, with the median home price in January rising 16 percent, to $315,000.

Condos have long been a starter home alternative in pricey Greater Boston, but it’s not clear how much longer that’s going to last given current trends.

Certainly condo prices are out of sight now in Cambridge, Boston and the inner suburbs.

Of course, the price increases might be good news for sellers, but it’s hardly anything for buyers to cheer about. Even if you are trying to sell a house in order to move up into something grander, you are still going to be scrambling to keep up when prices are rising at double digits.

So what’s driving this price escalation? Some of it is due to pent-up demand, but low inventory – basically not enough listings for all the buyers out there – is the bigger problem right now.

The inventory of single-family homes dropped more than 20 percent in January compared to January 2013, the Massachusetts Association of Realtors reports this morning. (There were 15,246 listings this past January, compared to 19,142 the year before.)

Condo inventory was down even more, by 27 percent, to 4,232, MAR reports.

Anyway, it should be an interesting spring market. At a time when sales and prices in many other parts of the country are starting to moderate, the market in Massachusetts kicking into high gear.


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U.S Real Estate Is Cheaper Than Most!


Boy does this post put things in perspective. An interesting world view from Colin Robertson at The Truth About Mortgage! The post is a little long and wonky but gives us a needed perspective – like that the median price in Hong Kong is $4.024M!

Real Estate in the United States Is Actually Cheaper Than Most Other Parts of the World

 January 21, 2014

Real Estate in the United States Is Actually Cheaper Than Most Other Parts of the World

Believe it or not, real estate in the United States is actually really cheap, assuming you compare it to what others are paying in places like Asia, Europe, Canada, and Australia.

A new report released today by Demographia compared housing affordability in 360 markets worldwide and found that the U.S. was far and away more affordable than other countries.

In its 10th Annual International Housing Affordability Survey (which relied upon data from the third quarter of 2013), the company looked at median home prices and household incomes to determine if the dream of homeownership was within reach.

They took the median home price and divided it by the median gross household income to come up with different levels of affordability.

Historically, the median multiple has been similar across the nine nations surveyed, with median home prices typically three times (or less) median household income.

[The Home Price vs. Income Rule of Thumb]

Real Estate in Hong Kong Is Reserved for the Uber Rich

cheap and expensive

But times have changed…

Using that metric, Hong Kong was the least affordable major metropolitan area in the world with a staggering median multiple of 14.9.

In Hong Kong, which is a special administrative region of China, the median household income was $270,000 as of the third quarter.

While that sounds amazingly great, the median home price was $4,024,000. In other words, good luck.

For the record, Hong Kong was the most unaffordable major market (1,000,000+ population) in the world for the fourth year in a row.

Our neighbors to the north have a pretty expensive city of their own, with Vancouver coming in second place in terms of being largely unaffordable.

There, the median home price was only $670,300, but the median household income was just $65,000. That’s a multiple of 10.3, which makes it “severely unaffordable,” according to Demographia’s definition.

The third place you’ll never be able to afford a home is in San Francisco-Oakland, California. Hey, I didn’t say everything in the U.S. was affordable…

The Bay Area had a pretty sizable multiple of 9.2, with the median home price $705,000 and median income $76,300.

The fourth spot was located down under, with Sydney boasting a multiple of 9.0 with a median $722,700 home price and $80,500 median income.

Rounding out the bottom five was San Jose, CA, with a multiple of 8.7. There, the median home price was $805,000 as of the third quarter, higher than SF. And the median income was a hefty $92,400.

Numbers six through 10 included Melbourne, Auckland, San Diego, Los Angeles, and London.  So again, lots of U.S. cities, but those are the outliers.

Unfortunately, it’s a mess that will likely never get better because severely unaffordable markets are also the most attractive to buyers looking to snag short-term profits and “extraordinary returns on investment.”

As a result, home prices in these sought-after regions rise further, thanks to what the report calls “urban containment,” or a lack of land aka supply. Then unsustainable prices in these very cities cause mass damage to the economic system.

The report also pointed out that for young households, the “California” dream requires moving to other states, such as Texas, Indiana or Georgia…

Ireland Is the Most Affordable Nation

affordability ratings

The U.S. also had 84 “affordable” markets, compared to just seven in Canada and four in Ireland. The other regions had ZERO.

Additionally, the U.S. had 100 “moderately affordable” markets, compared to just a handful in other regions of the world.

Overall, the U.S. multiple was 3.4, which is just above the affordable mark. And a lot of pricey regions like California and New York are probably skewing the data.

The only other country to beat us in terms of overall affordability was Ireland of all places. There, the multiple was a low 2.8.

The top 23 major markets were also all located in the United States, with Pittsburgh the most affordable with a 2.3 median multiple.

It was followed by Detroit with a multiple of 2.5, Grand Rapids and Rochester with multiples of 2.6, and Atlanta with a multiple of 2.7.

In all, the U.S. accounted for 40 of the 50 most affordable major markets in the world. So stop complaining! There are plenty of bargains to be had.

[Tips for First-Time Home Buyers]

Who Cares About Worldwide Home Prices?

Why should we care about housing affordability worldwide? Shouldn’t we just focus on local home prices to make real estate decisions?

Sure, it’s good to stay local. But knowing what’s going on in the world is important too.

For example, if home prices are cheap in the U.S. relative to other regions of the world, including places as close as Canada, there’s a good chance those foreigners will be looking to invest in our neighborhoods.

Assuming they do, the supply/demand picture will change, meaning home prices should get a boost. Of course, this could also make it more difficult to land that dream home too.



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Condos Soar

Its always interesting to hear mixed reactions to condos, as our “local” markets, downtown Boston and Provincetown are very condo centric. A good statewide perspective though.

Condos soar as home sales stumble

Posted by Scott Van Voorhis
Are buyers turning to condos as they find themselves on the losing end of soaring single-family home prices?

It happened during the bubble years and in previous booms as well. And it looks like it may be happening again given the latest Massachusetts sales stats out this morning

Bay State condo sales jumped more than 15 percent in December compared to the year before, even as home sales slid –  by just under a percent –  for the fewest sales since April,The Warren Group reports.

Yet even as home sales faltered, home prices rose yet again in December amid a dearth of listings for buyers to look at, with the median price hitting $320,000, a 6.3 percent jump over 2012 and an increase over this November as well, the Massachusetts Association of Realtors finds.

And despite the stagnant sales numbers, demand still appears to be relatively strong, with the drop in sales driven by the sparse choices in the market as much as anything else.

Even as home sales stagnated in December, average days on market dropped to 99 days, down from 130 in December 2012, according to MAR.

By contrast, condo prices look a little more reasonable, though that window appears to be closing as well.

The median condo price rose 8 percent in December, to more than $305,000, MAR reports. The median condo price for all of 2013 – $300,000 – was the highest since 2004.

While generally less expensive, condos have the perception as being a riskier bet than singe-family homes. There’s more price volatility with condos the poster child, at least in New England, of the devastating early-1990s real estate collapse.

Many of those who snapped up condos during the greed-is-good 80s were stuck with them for years, unable to sell, period, let alone settling for a loss.

Developers during those heady boom times got the very dangerous idea they could turn any old building anywhere into overpriced condos and stuff their pockets with easy profits.

Bad bets include the downtown Haverhill condo next to a car dealership that one of my former newspaper colleagues was stuck with from his bachelor days.

He wound up renting it after he got married and bought a house – he may very well still be sitting on it, though I suspect he finally found a way to unload during the bubble years, circa 2003-2006.

Ready to go condo? Homes too expensive for you now?


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Cold Weather Hot Prices

Succinct post by Scott!

 Cold weather, hot prices

Posted by Scott Van Voorhis  January 24, 2014 10:26 AM

Hard to believe with the arctic temps, but the spring real estate market is just around the corner.

And if the latest price and sales numbers are any indicator, this spring is likely to see another big jump in prices, driven in large part by the long-standing shortage of listings.

Just take a look at what happened in December, usually the dead zone of the annual real estate cycle.

Instead, home prices in the Boston area jumped 3.6 percent in December from November to a median price of more than $372,000. That’s also a more than 8 percent rise as well from December, 2012, Redfin reports.

But here’s the key stat: The inventory of unsold homes dropped nearly 20 percent from November to December, a very big one-month plunge, according to Redfin.

Overall, the number of home for sale in December was down more than 30 percent compared to December 2012.


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Home Appreciation Back To Historic Norms

Zillow sees home price appreciation headed back to historic norms


The cumulative value of U.S. homes is expected grow by 7.9 percent in 2013 — the biggest annual increase since 2005 — according to an analysis by Zillow, which expects gains to continue into this year, at a slower pace.

“The housing market is transitioning away from the robust bounce off the bottom we’ve been seeing, toward a more sustainable, healthier market,” said Zillow Chief Economist Stan Humphries in a statement. “This will result in annual appreciation closer to historic norms of between 3 percent and 5 percent.”

Zillow said two years of home price appreciation have added $2.8 trillion to the cumulative value of U.S. homes –  or 44 percent of the $6.3 trillion drop seen from 2007 to 2011


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US Economy On Best Footing Since 2007

Interesting year in review article from Lou Barnes at INMAN.

US economy is on best footing since 2007 — maybe even 1998

Lou Barnes INMAN Contributor

As with all New Year look-aheads in this space, begin with Peter Drucker: “Nobody can predict the future. Stick with a firm grasp of the present.”

Thus a focus on where we are, and things to watch, not wild swings at the blue sky.

Then note that we focus on real estate, investors and owner-occupants, mortgages and credit. The stock market does affect the economy and interest rates from time to time, but its wanderings defy grasp, firm or otherwise.

Changing my mind is a painful process. An original hypothesis may have grown obsolete, but a new one can double the chance of error. Nevertheless, the U.S. economy is on a better footing and facing lighter headwinds than any time since 2007, and maybe since 1998.

On the turn of the century we labored in the goo of a blown stock bubble, and then splattered credit and housing bubbles all over our faces. The bulk of those messes is past. The most durable and stiff breeze against us, still: Since circa 1990 global competition has capped U.S. wages.

The table set, here follows the watch list:


Stagnant income has been the primary force frustrating the Fed’s stimulus, and tripped every Fed forecast since the show stopped in 2008.”

Above all else, watch incomes, especially wages in the bottom two-thirds of the workforce. Stagnant income has been the primary force frustrating the Fed’s stimulus, and tripped every Fed forecast since the show stopped in 2008.


Until incomes grow, a ramping of inflation is impossible. That was your dad’s — or granddad’s — problem.

The Fed

So long as incomes and inflation behave, the Fed can and will continue extreme stimulus. It has to pull back from QE and will, even if the economy slows.


Next to incomes the most important thing to watch. We cannot accelerate, or even get off Fed life support without it. My very smart friend, Paul Kasriel, has detected an acceleration in bank credit, one strong enough to offset the gradual end of QE. I can’t find it. I will look, early and often.


Ow and ouch. Most folks have noticed the difficulty the administration has had with “Obamacare.” These are the same officials who have presided over implementation of Dodd-Frank. The nation has felt the chaos of “Obamacare” for two months. The same people have been rearranging the financial world for four years. It’s amazing that we make any loans at all. At banks the combined effects of new capital requirements and the Volcker Rule are incalculable, but none lead to more credit.


Under the heading “Everybody Gets Lucky,” the White House has at last succeeded in replacing the Fannie-Freddie regulator. The White House’s intentions (trying fitfully for three years): Find somebody who would make life easier on underwater households, specifically by forgiving loan balances, a very bad idea. Now they’ve got their guy, Mel Watt, but the foreclosure tide has receded to scattered puddles. However, he may be just the man to lift the dead hand choking mortgage credit. At the top of the we’ll-see list.


Will not lead a cyclical recovery. Not. See “incomes,” above. Also far too many households damaged by the Great Recession. Good jobs replaced by poor ones, savings exhausted, credit damaged. Hey, Mel Watt! Want to do something useful for foreclosed families and the nation? Shorten the punitive lock-out intervals for new mortgages. Housing will over time repair itself the old-fashioned way: As rents rise, a new generation will grasp the big benefit of homeownership: The monthly payment stays put, and the mortgage balance falls over time for the persistent and disciplined.

Wild cards

The whole friggin’ outside world! Which is today a lot bigger relative to us than it used to be. One major nation is in genuine recovery: the United Kingdom. Europe is a wreck with no structural political progress at all, financial and social stresses rising. Japan’s risks are internal, but we’d all get wet in the tsunami following implosion. China is an all-time black box. Makes us look well-governed. Perverse benefits: Trouble over there might help here, just as the U.K. looks safer for business than the Continent.


Oh, that. Mortgages will rise into the fives on the slope of GDP. Or not. :-)