Where are the Highest Prices?

By David Arbit on Wednesday, July 29th, 2015

We are often asked “Which cities have the highest home prices?” Whether it’s a member, the media or the general public inquiring, it’s a fairly common question. Wonder no more! Below are tables showing the top 25 highest priced markets in the region. The top two tables rank all areas, regardless of market size. The bottom two tables only show areas with a certain volume of sales. The left table uses just June 2015 sales, while the table to the right uses 2015 YTD data. Of course, the measure used is median sales price.

Data to the people!


From The Skinny Blog.

Weekly Market Report

For Week Ending July 18, 2015

Let’s try to never forget how bad the U.S. housing market got. The Great Recession lasted from about December 2007 to June 2009. Ever since then, and particularly in the last couple of years, the market has strengthened to once again become a cornerstone in one of the strongest economies in the world. Better lending standards, low oil prices and higher wages are a few of the catalysts for positive change. As we tip into the second half of 2015, the trends still reveal stable housing in a stable economy.

In the Twin Cities region, for the week ending July 18:

  • New Listings decreased 7.8% to 1,758
  • Pending Sales increased 7.7% to 1,210
  • Inventory decreased 9.1% to 16,973

For the month of June:

  • Median Sales Price increased 4.7% to $229,900
  • Days on Market decreased 5.7% to 66
  • Percent of Original List Price Received increased 0.5% to 97.7%
  • Months Supply of Inventory decreased 15.9% to 3.7

All comparisons are to 2014

Click here for the full Weekly Market Activity Report. From The Skinny Blog.

Conventional is King Again as Government and Investors Exit

By David Arbit on Monday, July 20th, 2015

MortgageFinanceRates_2015-063-702x492The changing popularity of various home financing tools tells a unique story and shows how the government and private sector mortgage market shares have evolved through the housing crisis and subsequent recovery.

Following the ebbs and flows of the housing market itself, the mortgage finance marketplace has also transformed over the last decade. First, some scene setting. Each trendline above represents the percentage of closed sales in the Twin Cities 13-County MSA that utilized a particular form of mortgage financing, by month. No seasonal adjustments have been performed; the data is raw and comes directly from NorthstarMLS.

Between 2005 and mid-2007, conventional loans made up about 80.0 percent of all mortgages. With conventional mortgage liquidity—shall we say—plentiful, the government only represented about 5.0 percent of loans. As the economy and housing market began to unravel in 2007, the mortgage spigot was drying up. As such, the FHA started to take up that slack and became a dominant player in the mortgage marketplace. By the time of the first-time home buyer tax credit in late-2009, FHA loans comprised a whopping 45.0 percent of sales while conventional loans made up about 35.0 percent of sales. The remaining 20.0 percent include all-cash deals and other loan products.

Though its overall effectiveness remains somewhat debatable, that tax credit signaled a turning point—at least in the mortgage market. At that moment in late-2009, conventional loan market share began to recover and FHA market share started to shrink. Fast forward to present day and conventional loans now make up 60.0 percent of the market while FHA loans make up just 20.0 percent. Earlier in 2015, FHA loans made up about 15.0 percent of closed sales, which is consistent with 2004 levels. Most recognize this as a positive, as the private sector has once again assumed the majority of the risk associated with residential mortgage lending.

All-cash sales can also be illuminating, shining light in some of the more interesting nooks and crannies. Though not all cash sales reflect investor activity, it’s one of the better indications of investors in the market and can be used as a proxy.

Between 2004 and 2008, cash deals made up about 5.0 percent of all closed sales. By February 2011, about 28.0 percent of Twin Cities homes were purchased with cash—a record high. Note the dashed orange trendline. This was at the same time as distressed (foreclosure and short sale) market share was at its highest. Traditional sales volume had fallen dramatically and investors were picking up foreclosures for $0.30 – $0.70 cents on the dollar.

Of the consumers that could, even they were understandably nervous to make large purchases such as a home. Nowadays, about 12.0 percent of sales are done in cash, the lowest share in seven years, or since the middle of 2008. That reflects a mixture of fewer foreclosures and short sales, rising prices, a rising stock market attracting more capital and low inventory levels frustrating traditional buyers and investors alike.

The market numbers are well and good, but sometimes following the money can tell a unique story. The modes of financing behind the market can signal changes in investor behavior, consumer confidence, bank lending patterns and how those forces interplay with one another.
From The Skinny Blog.

Weekly Market Report

For Week Ending July 11, 2015

With the economy on the ups these days, the Federal Reserve Chair, Janet Yellen, is predicting a fine-tuning of monetary policy by the end of the year. In tandem with the improving economy, the unemployment rate dropped by 0.2 percent to 5.3 percent for June 2015. It is widely believed that interest rates will go up before the year is over, which is a pretty clear indicator that the housing market is thrumming along at a good clip.

In the Twin Cities region, for the week ending July 11:

  • New Listings increased 2.7% to 2,143
  • Pending Sales increased 7.5% to 1,310
  • Inventory decreased 9.0% to 16,655

For the month of June:

  • Median Sales Price increased 4.7% to $229,900
  • Days on Market decreased 5.7% to 66
  • Percent of Original List Price Received increased 0.5% to 97.7%
  • Months Supply of Inventory decreased 15.9% to 3.7

All comparisons are to 2014

Click here for the full Weekly Market Activity Report. From The Skinny Blog.

Weekly Market Report

For Week Ending July 4, 2015

As fireworks go boom, the boom of housing’s summer selling season tends to relax across the country, giving way to Facebook photos of families and friends at picnics and on road trips. Amidst the red, white and blue Instagram filters and patriotic Twitter profile pics, you’ll still likely see evidence of sales being made and articles about overall affordability. So take a quick break to play catch or chomp a hot dog, because the homeownership dream is alive and thriving this summer.

In the Twin Cities region, for the week ending July 4:

  • New Listings increased 0.2% to 1,270
  • Pending Sales increased 13.3% to 1,184
  • Inventory decreased 7.5% to 16,940

For the month of June:

  • Median Sales Price increased 4.7% to $229,900
  • Days on Market decreased 5.7% to 66
  • Percent of Original List Price Received increased 0.5% to 97.7%
  • Months Supply of Inventory decreased 15.9% to 3.7

All comparisons are to 2014

Click here for the full Weekly Market Activity Report. From The Skinny Blog.

Pending and Closed Sales Both Reach Highest Level Since June 2005

By Aubray Erhardt on Monday, July 13th, 2015

The Twin Cities metropolitan housing market reached key milestones in June. Both pending purchase demand and closed unit sales officially reached 10-year highs. The last time demand was this strong was June 2005. The number of signed purchase agreements rose 19.2 percent to 6,266. Closed sales increased 22.0 percent to 6,928. Seller activity showed more modest gains compared to last year. New listings rose 4.6 percent to 8,678 during the month, which is a multi-year high. It’s the highest number of new listings for any month since April 2010. Excluding March and April of 2010, new listings were at their highest level for any month since June 2008. Despite that, the number of available properties fell 9.4 percent to 16,597 homes.


“Buyers have been extraordinarily active this spring and summer,” said Mike Hoffman, Minneapolis Area Association of REALTORS® (MAAR) President. “With both pending and closed sales activity officially reaching 10-year highs, consumers— particularly first-time buyers—understand that the timing is right. Therefore, sellers are also getting strong offers quickly.”

Given all this demand, the June 2015 median sales price climbed 4.7 percent to $229,900. That puts home prices within about 3.5 percent of the June 2006 record high of $238,000. However, the typical price per square foot, now at $128, is about 18.5 percent below its June 2006 record high.

The market landscape continues to favor sellers, even though it is still a historically attractive time to purchase real property. Because of the ongoing imbalance between supply and demand, the number of days a listing spends on the market fell 5.7 percent to 66 days. Sellers are accepting 97.8 percent of their original list price and 99.6 percent of their last list price. The Twin Cities metropolitan area currently has 3.6 months’ supply of inventory, which still signals a seller’s market. That figure dropped 18.2 percent from June 2014. This measure is essentially a ratio of supply and demand and indicates how long it would take to completely clear the market of all inventory assuming no new homes enter the marketplace.

According to the Federal Reserve, interest rates could still rise slowly later this year if the economy continues to perform well as it has been. Mortgage rates continue to hover on either side of 4.0 percent, compared with a long-term average of over 7.0 percent. The most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington metropolitan area has the third lowest unemployment rate of any major metro. That puts our region behind only sister cities Austin, TX and Salt Lake City, UT. Minnesota and the Twin Cities specifically are uniquely well positioned to compete in today’s global economy.

“With positive momentum in housing and the economy, agents across the region are helping buyers and sellers achieve their real estate goals,” said Judy Shields, MAAR President-Elect. “Since most sellers are also buyers, those sitting on the fence may not want to wait to make their move.”
From The Skinny Blog.

Weekly Market Report

For Week Ending June 27, 2015

Most markets in the U.S. should still be seeing that nice steady buzz of new listings and closed sales. The most opportune time of the year to get residential real estate business closed continues into the summer months. There will be an expected drop in activity around the Independence Day festivities and scheduled summer vacations, but it would not be shocking to see heightened activity in July and August in front of possible rate hikes later in the year.

In the Twin Cities region, for the week ending June 27:

  • New Listings increased 1.3% to 1,861
  • Pending Sales increased 20.0% to 1,462
  • Inventory decreased 7.3% to 16,998

For the month of May:

  • Median Sales Price increased 6.6% to $223,950
  • Days on Market decreased 5.0% to 76
  • Percent of Original List Price Received increased 0.7% to 97.5%
  • Months Supply of Inventory decreased 9.8% to 3.7

All comparisons are to 2014

Click here for the full Weekly Market Activity Report. From The Skinny Blog.

Getting Over 100% Of Your List Price

By David Arbit on Monday, July 6th, 2015


Real estate professionals understand that there is an imbalance between supply and demand in most markets across the U.S. Buyers have been highly motivated by a variety of factors ranging from low (but rising) interest rates, job growth, rising rents, general optimism and other dynamics. Seller activity, however, has been more restrained—though there’s some evidence that’s starting to change.

In the Twin Cities, that imbalance between supply and demand has driven down absorption rates. With 3.6 months supply of inventory (5-6 is considered “balanced”), our market is still tilting toward sellers. In other words, low inventory combined with strong demand means many sellers are receiving multiple offers on well-priced and well-presented listings.

Buyers are essentially competing with each other in order to purchase the limited number of desirable homes on the market. It’s a regional bidding war: as buyers vie against one another, they may offer more than the list price of the home in order to win the day. That means sellers are sometimes yielding over 100 percent of their list price. It’s a dream-come-true for sellers. Now it just has to appraise!

In 2005, a full 33.8 percent of all closed sales sold for over 100 percent of the current list price. That’s over 1 in 3 sellers receiving more than their asking price. That figure fell to 18.9 percent as the market crash began in 2007, and it touched that low again in 2011. By 2013—a very strong recovery year—the figure had increased to 26.4 percent. After falling again to 22.0 percent of all sales in 2014, the number of homes that sold above list price has increased to 24.8 percent so far in 2015. With the second half of 2015 yet to be recorded, it’s possible we will end the year near 2013 levels, particularly as buyers face the looming risk of rising interest rates combined with climbing rents and an improving labor market.

Ultimately, a healthy and sustainable housing market should be well-balanced between sellers and buyers, supply and demand. A healthy market means relative equilibrium, one that favors neither buyers nor sellers, but allows for both sides of the transaction to successfully reach their goals. A healthy market means sellers are enjoying some appreciation but home prices aren’t dramatically outpacing incomes. After about a decade of lurching between boom and bust, the Twin Cities housing market as well as others across the nation finally seem to be settling into a healthy groove—for the time being.

Is Bigger Better?

By David Arbit on Friday, June 26th, 2015


New construction prices not only recovered far faster than previously owned prices, but they have also reached an all-time high (see chart). The median sales price for new construction was about $268,000 in 2009 but has since soared to new highs of just over $376,000. Previously owned prices, by contrast, reached $228,000 in 2006 but are now at $205,000. What’s driving this, you ask?

A multitude of factors have encouraged new home prices to stretch to new heights. Builders, contractors and suppliers will tell you that input costs have risen and that is true. Labor, copper, concrete, PVC, drywall and other related commodity prices have all risen lately. Steel prices, however—which make up a small share of overall construction costs—have fallen as China has flooded the global market with cheap steel. China now produces as much steel as the rest of the world combined. Lumber prices increased over the last few months, but have mostly declined since 2013. Lumber prices on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange are on-par with 2010. Let’s not digress too much.


Something else noteworthy is happening, and this graph illustrates it pretty well. Though perhaps unsurprisingly, the total square footage of new construction is increasing at a far faster rate than the previously owned segment. Between May 2005 and May 2015, the median square footage of newly constructed homes rose 65.2 percent. During that same period, the median square footage of previously owned properties only increased 7.1 percent. For new construction, the typical home was built with 1,614 total finished square feet in 2005 but that figure grew to 2,667 total finished square feet by 2015. By contrast, the typical resale home had 1,700 square feet in 2005 but has only risen to 1,821 square feet as of May of this year. Interestingly, previously owned homes tended to be larger than new construction in 2005.

The nature of previously owned properties is that they don’t change that much. Those properties are already built. The 7.1 percent increase can be explained by two different dynamics. First, those who are selling and buying resale homes are tending to list and purchase slightly larger properties. Second, through remodeling projects such as a master bedroom addition or finishing off a basement or attic space, the existing housing stock can increase in finished square footage even though the foundation is already in the ground.

So what does this all mean? Well for one thing, those who have ruled out purchasing a newly built home because prices are at all-time highs might reconsider once they realize what’s causing that. Builders are constructing larger and larger homes, but not every newly built home is enormous and over $1 million. In fact, new construction can be fairly competitive with existing resale properties in certain areas and price points. Additionally, though the median sales price is at an all-time high, the price per square foot is not even back to bubble levels (see chart).

Another factor to keep in mind is that a lot of new construction in 2005 was condo-centric, particularly in and around both downtowns. As the condo bubble burst, development shifted toward single family products on larger suburban lots. Condos obviously tend to be smaller than single family homes, so that was certainly constraining square footages 10 years ago. In other words, a low baseline can impact this sort of analysis as much as if not more so than the current period. The large increase in new construction may be explained by a low 2005 figure as opposed to a high 2015 figure, though both dynamics

As we become ever more cognizant of energy efficiency, carbon footprints, insulation and everything that comes with it, there is some anecdotal evidence that smaller housing products are gaining popularity and it seems to be consumer-driven. There are even entire communities of “micro homes” (see article). So, despite the trend in new construction, perhaps bigger won’t always be better.