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April Existing – Home Sales Show Modest Improvement Behind Gaining Inventory

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

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WASHINGTON (May 22, 2014) – Existing-home sales increased for the first time this year in April, while inventory meaningfully increased and home price growth moderated, according to the National Association of Realtors®. Monthly sales gains in the West and South offset a modest decline in the Midwest while the Northeast was unchanged.
Total existing-home sales1, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, rose 1.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.65 million in April from 4.59 million in March, but are 6.8 percent below the 4.99 million-unit level in April 2013.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, expected the improvement. “Some growth was inevitable after sub-par housing activity in the first quarter, but improved inventory is expanding choices and sales should generally trend upward from this point,” he said. “Annual home sales, however, due to a sluggish first quarter, will likely be lower than last year.”
Total housing inventory2 at the end of April jumped 16.8 percent to 2.29 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 5.9-month supply at the current sales pace, up from 5.1 months in March. Unsold inventory is 6.5 percent higher than a year ago, when there was a 5.2-month supply.
“We’ll continue to see a balancing act between housing inventory and price growth, which remains stronger than normal simply because there have not been enough sellers in many areas. More inventory and increased new-home construction will help to foster healthy market conditions,” Yun added.

The median existing-home price3 for all housing types in April was $201,700, which is 5.2 percent above April 2013; in the first quarter the median price was 8.6 percent above a year earlier. “Current price data suggests a trend of slower growth, which bodes well for preserving favorable affordability conditions in much of the country,” Yun said.
Earlier this month, NAR reported the market share of all-cash purchases has risen despite a downtrend in distressed home sales and investor activity. Distressed homes4 – foreclosures and short sales – accounted for 15 percent of April sales, down from 18 percent in April 2013.

Ten percent of April sales were foreclosures, and 5 percent were short sales. Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 16 percent below market value in April, while short sales were discounted 10 percent.
NAR President Steve Brown, co-owner of Irongate, Inc., Realtors® in Dayton, Ohio, said there was some heating of the market last month. “The typical time on market shrunk in April, with four out of 10 homes selling in less than a month,” he said. “Homes that show well and are properly priced tend to sell the fastest. More housing inventory gives buyers better choices, and takes the pressure off of the buying process, which is a welcome sign, especially for first-time buyers.”
Properties sold faster for the fourth straight month in April, reflecting the prolonged lag in inventory relative to demand. The median time on market for all homes was 48 days in April, down from 55 days in March; it was 43 days on market in April 2013.

Short sales were on the market for a median of 96 days in April, while foreclosures typically sold in 56 days and non-distressed homes took 45 days. Forty-one percent of homes sold in April were on the market for less than a month.
According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage was 4.34 percent in April, unchanged from March but up from 3.45 percent in April 2013.
First-time buyers continue to represent fewer than one-third of all buyers at 29 percent in April, down from 30 percent in March; they were 29 percent in April 2013.

All-cash sales comprised 32 percent of transactions in April, compared with 33 percent in March and 32 percent in April 2013. Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 18 percent of homes in April, up from 17 percent in March; they were 19 percent in April 2013. Seven out of 10 investors paid cash in April.
Single-family home sales inched up 0.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.06 million in April from 4.04 million in March, but are 7.7 percent below the 4.40 million pace a year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $201,100 in April, up 4.7 percent from April 2013.
Existing condominium and co-op sales rose 7.3 percent to an annual rate of 590,000 units in April from 550,000 units in March, but are unchanged from April 2013. The median existing condo price was $205,500 in April, which is 8.3 percent higher than a year ago.

Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast were unchanged at an annual rate of 600,000 in April, but are 6.3 percent below April 2013. The median price in the Northeast was $244,000, down 0.4 percent from a year ago.
Existing-home sales in the Midwest slipped 1.0 percent in April to a pace of 1.03 million, and are 9.6 percent below a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $157,200, which is 5.8 percent above April 2013.
In the South, existing-home sales increased 1.0 percent to an annual level of 1.94 million in April, but are 3.5 percent below April 2013. The median price in the South was $173,200, up 3.2 percent from a year ago.
Existing-home sales in the West rose 4.9 percent to a pace of 1.08 million in April, but are 10.0 percent below a year ago. The median price in the West was $291,200, which is 9.7 percent above April 2013.

5 free things for visitors to do in Santa Fe

Monday, May 12th, 2014

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SANTA FE, N.M. — There’s no doubt this capital city has truly earned its nickname as The City Different. Its skyline is not made of skyscrapers, but rather a collection of flat-topped adobe buildings that has taken more than four centuries to evolve. At its heart, Santa Fe’s narrow, unaligned streets are decorated with colorful strings of chile called ristras and quaint mud-plastered homes. The endless shades of brown and turquoise all pay homage to the blending of Native American and Spanish cultures. There are plenty of private and state-run museums that can provide history lessons, but simply wandering the streets, talking to locals and breathing in Santa Fe’s mountain air — seemingly always tinged with the sweet smell of burning cedar and pinon — can all be done for free.

THE PLAZA
A national historic landmark, the plaza has served as the commercial, social and political center of Santa Fe since the early 1600s. It plays host to art markets through the year and is home to the Palace of the Governors, the nation’s oldest continuously occupied public building. A webcam offers 24-hour views of the plaza, but there’s nothing like strolling under its portals to get a look at the rows and rows of silver and turquoise jewelry and other wares made by Native Americans. The plaza is also a perfect place for people watching.

CANYON ROAD
Just blocks from the plaza, Canyon Road is home to all things Santa Fe-style. The long, winding road once served as an artery to the mountains for residents who needed to gather firewood. Now, it’s lined with more than 100 fine art galleries and studios that welcome visitors for free. The galleries feature everything from antiques to traditional Hispanic and Native art and international folk art.

HISTORIC CHURCHES
Amid all the adobe architecture is an impressive collection of chapels, cathedrals and mission churches that dates back centuries. One of the largest is St. Francis Cathedral. Aside from being one of the city’s most photographed landmarks, Pope Benedict XVI in 2005 declared it the Southwest’s cradle of Catholicism. Nearby is Loretto Chapel, which features a legendary spiral wooden staircase that the sisters of the chapel believe was built by St. Joseph himself. Church services are held every Sunday. Also within walking distance is the oldest church in the nation, San Miguel Mission Church. It’s open during the week and regular services are held on Sundays.

STATE CAPITOL ART COLLECTION
During the legislative session, the Roundhouse — it’s the only round capitol building in the country — is often crowded with people running between committee meetings and hand-shake sessions. But the building’s hallways are also adorned with hundreds of works of art. The Capitol Art Collection was created in 1991 and consists of nearly 600 works exhibited in the building’s public spaces and on the grounds outside. The collection is currently valued at more than $5.6 million. Self-guided tours can be taken Monday through Friday. Free guided tours are also available.

SANGRE DE CRISTOS
The Sangre de Cristo Mountains provide a beautiful backdrop to Santa Fe’s adobe skyline. A short drive out of the city leads to numerous hiking and biking choices. In the fall, the changing aspens attract thousands of people.

Just be prepared for the change in altitude. Santa Fe sits about 7,000 feet (2,133 meters) above sea level and the mountain vistas can top out around 12,000 feet (3,658 meters).

BY SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN
Associated PressMay 8, 2014

The Santa Fe Film Festival

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

Your Source for Santa Fe Real Estate

The first four days in May will be filled with films and related events as The Santa Fe Film Festival returns.  This year’s theme is

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The Festival offers a program of over 60 films, panels, juried awards, workshops and parties.  Film screenings take place at either the Jean Cocteau Cinema or the Center for Contemporary Arts.  Ticket information and event details are on the Festival website.

 

Santa Fe’s own George R. R. Martin, author of A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) and owner of the Jean Cocteau, puts it beautifully:  For anyone who loves movies, the opening of the annual Santa Fe Film Festival is like Christmas in May. With popcorn. What presents will the SFFF bring us this year? I cannot wait to find out.

Love Santa Fe: Angels Night Out – April 24th

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

Your Local Source for Santa Fe Real Estate

On Thursday April 24th you can combine a good meal with a good deed.

If you are in the Santa Fe area, you can participate in Angels Night Out, the annual restaurant event to support Kitchen Angels.*

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When you dine out at one of the 29 participating restaurants onThursday, April 24th, 25% of your bill will be donated to Kitchen Angels.

Not familiar with Kitchen Angels?  Their mission is to provide free, home-delivered meals to people facing life-challenging conditions.  They are community-based and volunteer-driven.

This is a great way to have fun and support a truly valuable community service group.  Bring your friends and make it a party!

In Santa Fe, dining out never felt so good!

 

* Click here to learn more and see a list of participating restaurants.

Love Santa Fe: A Quarter Mile Plus

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

What happens when you take an entire college campus and turn it into an art gallery?  A Quarter Mile Plus.  Santa Fe Community College has been transformed by this ambitious, creative show of student, faculty and staff work.*

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Conceived by Printmaking department head Patricia Pierce, the show celebrates 30 years of Santa Fe Community College and showcases the amazing work produced by the Art + Design and Liberal Arts programs. Work on display includes photography, prints, paintings, drawings, fashion design, woodworking, collage, mixed media, book arts and poetry.

 

The opening will be Thursday, April 10th from 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm and the show runs through July 31st.  SFCC is located at 6401 Richards Avenue.

In Santa Fe, the Community College offers an incredible array of classes, programs and events. 

 

*Click here to visit the SFCC website

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

The readers at Conde Nast Traveler are at it again, this time choosing their favorite destination spas.  Santa Fe’s Ten Thousand Waves is #4.*

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As one reader said:  “There is no way you can leave Ten Thousand Waves without feeling a sense of peace and relaxation.”

In Santa Fe, after work or play, a special place to relax. 

*Click here to see the full list

I’m sending a special alert! Interest rates at their all-time low this year!

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

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I’m sending a special alert.  The stock market has dropped on concerns about China’s economy and the situation in Ukraine, resulting in interest rates at their all-time low this year!

Take advantage for refis and purchases with the following – these Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) are good for Jumbos too:

  • 30 Year Loan (This is a 10 Year Adjustable Rate Mortgage [ARM] – rate fixed first ten years, adjustable last 20 years.)
    3.75% 1pt APR 3.79
    4.00% 0pt APR 4.03
    (Years 11-30 can adjust no more than +2% a year with a max of +5% for the life of the loan)
  • 30 Year Fixed Rate Loan
    APRs low 4′s WOW!
  • 20 Year Fixed Rate Loan
    APRs low 4′s WOW!
  • 15 Year Fixed Rate Loan
    APRs low to mid 3′s WOW!
  • 7/1 ARM (Rate fixed for 7 years, adjustable last 23 years.)
    APRs low to mid 3′s WOW!

Even if your current loan is in the mid 4′s a refinance can work in the equation above, and it’s a great time to move to 20 year and 15 year fixed rate loans too!

Perfect Ski Day – Love Santa Fe

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

It’s felt like spring recently, but the storm last weekend brought welcome snow to the mountains.  Ski season is still going strong, and the addition of natural snow makes it that much better.  Thesantafe.org website posted their plans for a perfect ski day – and we think it’s worth sharing*

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You can fill in your favorites, but this is a fun list to explore.  Even if the ski hill is not your natural habitat, there’s plenty to do in Santa Fe in the winter. 

Skier, snowboarder, shopper or lounger – Santa Fe’s the place for winter fun! 

*Click here for the full description of the day.

Housing Gains Predicted for 2014

Saturday, March 1st, 2014

More modest gains are likely this year, according to the most recent Kiplinger Letter forecast. The national average of appreciation in home values is up 4 percent-4.5 percent, compared with a gain over 11 percent in 2013.

The top stated reason for this increase is rising mortgage rates, will increase by 5 percent or so for 30-year fixed rate loans by the end of the year. Another possible is that fewer investors are offering all-cash deals, with bargain prices and interest rates fading away.

“Building will get a bump this year with just over 1 million new houses started in 2014, the first time starts have passed the 1 million mark since 2007,” says Kiplinger Letter’s Associate Editor Gillian White. “Sales of new homes will also be a bright spot, with 16 percent growth this year, just shy of 2013’s substantial performance.”

Another prediction: More existing homes will go up for sale, as price hikes pull homeowners out from mortgages that are underwater, making them more willing to sell. Sales will climb by 4 percent, but inventory won’t be as tight.

The Kiplinger letter forecasts that new-home building will accelerate again, helping to offset the construction drought of 2008-2012. Keep an eye out for housing starts this year to climb by 15 percent and top 1 million for the first time since 2007.

Affordability, though declining, is still better than the historical norm: A median-price home costing 20 percent of household income. In 2013, it took just 15 percent of income to buy an equivalent home. When mortgage rates rise to 5 percent, it will cost 17 percent of income.

“More moderate growth this year is not necessarily bad news, it signals a more sustainable, long-term growth trajectory that will help quell fears that another bubble is arising,” says White. “Rising rates will also be helpful in some cases, cooling overly hot markets, where cheap rates and high demand sparked outsized price spikes.”

The Santa Fe Residential Market: Climbing slowly back to prosperity

Thursday, February 27th, 2014
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Santa Fe Growth

The hikes and falls and spasms that describe various moments in the real-estate industry during the last five years make market analyses and predictions in “the old days” seem like child’s play. It’s no wonder that experienced professionals like Cate Adams (in the Santa Fe office of Sotheby’s International Realty) find themselves relying on one simple statement when asked why Santa Fe is taking so long to recover from the crash: “I don’t know.”

The fourth-quarter report from the Santa Fe Association of Realtors says both sales volume and home prices “were broadly higher across the nation, while foreclosure loads, the number of homes for sale and the number of days it took to sell a home were all much lower. Multiple-offer situations became commonplace again and prices in many areas rallied to multi-year hghs.”

Rising home prices based on stronger demand would signal recovery in this market, but that’s not yet happening in Santa Fe. “I see an improvement in the attitude of buyers and their confidence in the market, but there’s really very little improvement in pricing,” Adams said. “Prices are staying flat.”

A year or two ago, many brokers said their clients were waiting for the market to hit the bottom, not wanting to buy if prices were going to sink more. That refrain is much less common today. “That’s right. Nobody’s talking about it anymore; everybody’s talking about the improvement in numbers,” Adams said. “Sales are up, prices are not. Everybody’s saying that across the board. Why is Santa Fe so slow to recover? I don’t know. We were obviously very much affected by the real-estate bubble, if there was such a thing.”

As home sales began to fall off in many U.S. markets — after the subprime mortgage crisis and the September 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers, AIG, and other investment firms — some began to worry that Santa Fe’s “bubble” was about to burst as most obviously happened in Phoenix, Las Vegas, Nev., and other municipalities that had seen dramatic housing-industry spikes.

“Our market is not nearly as large as Phoenix and Las Vegas,” Adams responded. “We have a much smaller buyer pool, and we have a very specific appeal, which is why we all live here. And I’m not sure we would want to get back to 2005/2006. The market was artificially inflated by the bad-mortgage issues. There was a bit of a frenzy, too, as prices continued to spiral upward: a frenzy to get into the market, which unfortunately too many people are paying for now.

“I think the issue of why prices aren’t increasing commensurate with sales is that we have to look at price points, not the market as a whole. Looking at the overall median prices and average prices in Santa Fe doesn’t really tell you that much.”

Another window into Santa Fe’s real estate scene is the construction business. Builders have not responded to the idea of a healthier market; this is evident in the low numbers of building permits issued recently by the city of Santa Fe and Santa Fe County.

Adams said it is an unfortunate reality that home prices have dropped and the cost of building materials has gone up. “That is a significant factor in new construction. Also, the banks are much more careful” than they were before about financing homebuilding and homebuying.

Her husband, owner of Ron Adams Construction, has compensated — as have most other builders — by focusing more on remodeling jobs. “There’s a wonderful market for remodeling in Santa Fe,” she said.

Cate Adams is optimistic about 2014. “Actually 2013 was a great year for me — not what I would have called great in 2007, but I was busy the entire time and successful in getting things closed, which had been an issue.”

That’s a positive sign, that buyers are deciding to complete the process, and that banks are permitting it.

“It’s a complicated issue,” Adams said about Santa Fe’s recovery. “We can look at the statistics and talk about what we believe is going on, but that’s about it.”

It’s always fun to look at stats and try to figure everything out. Here are a few highlights from Santa Fe County Real Estate 2000-2013, a report released recently by Barker Realty:

  • Real estate sales have increased the last four consecutive years;
  • 2013 was the first year since 2009 that realized price stabilization, or slight increases, in every segment; and
  • The number of luxury sales ($1 million and up) in 2013 was over 100, the first time that number has been surpassed since 2008.

According to Barker figures, residential sales decreased by 47 percent from the 2005 high of 2,290 sales to just 1,213 in 2009, the year after the onset of the recession; home sales had climbed back up to 1,767 last year. The shift in sales of land parcels was even more dramatic: an 80 percent drop (658 to 133) from 2005 to 2009, and the activity level increased only to 195 sales in 2013.

In his blog, Realtor Alan Ball (Keller Williams Realty) recently wrote that 2013 “came out a bit better than 2012, but only in small increments. The fact that we had positive numbers is not to be missed, but they were not big numbers and the improvements were in single digits.

“ ‘Increase in annual unit sales for Santa Fe residential real estate,’ said the headline. How much of an increase? For unit sales, it was 7 percent,” Ball wrote. “This is considered a good number for most. Some might wish to see a double-digit increase, as has taken place in other markets. But Santa Fe is just a tortoise compared to the hare of Phoenix or Denver. Our increases are steady and historically have built a solid foundation for future growth rather than race up and down the course setting higher and lower records every few years.

“A growth in home sales is a sign that some sellers were finally able to get beyond the burden of owning a home that they formerly could not sell. And since very few new homes are being built, the inventory that did sell had a very high percentage of existing homes.”

What to expect for 2014? “The real estate experts all agree that interest rates will climb, which will certainly keep a lid on our ongoing market recovery,” Ball continued. “The pressure for newly built housing will increase as the ‘quality’ homes in the existing inventory continue to sell. The best ones sell first, you know. And land sales and spec building will still be virtually dormant as mortgage lenders are still hanging back and builders still are nursing wounds from recent market conditions.”

Santa Fe 2013 Home Stats

David Dougherty, Dougherty Real Estate, is principally involved in the commercial real estate realm. That’s been all about “musical chairs” lately, he said, “people moving around Santa Fe because of better prices and better locations, but I wouldn’t say the market is healthy because there’s no new demand. Part of the problem is that there is a lot of really aged product out there that is becoming obsolescent. In the historic district it’s going to take enormous amounts of money to either remodel it or refurbish it, or it just has to be torn down. It can be two or three times more expensive to refurbish than to tear down and rebuild.”

Also in the Dougherty firm are brokers Clara Dougherty, Jennifer Tomes, and Warren Thompson, who concentrate on the residential segment of the market. About that, David said he has a theory: “We are dependent on other markets and always have been. It takes the other markets improving over a period of time

and a development of comfort there before people can sell their homes in Chicago or L.A. and find that Santa Fe is a real bargain. That’s how we started in the 1990s, particularly the California buyers who were selling their houses for terrific amounts of money and seeing Santa Fe as a wonderful bargain. I’m slightly optimistic that as those markets improve we will see improvement here.”

At present, inventory is just under 2,000 homes on the market in the Santa Fe area (down from about 3,300 before the crash). “From what I’m hearing from our agents, it seems to me that the very good stuff has been bought up and now we’re getting to where finding quality product — well-designed, well-built homes — is a little more difficult.”

Santa Fe’s draw — hinging on the climate, the unique architecture, the intermingling of three cultures, the art market, The Santa Fe Opera, and other factors — is a powerful constant. There are few negatives, but one of them that has become more significant in recent drought times is the impact of forest fires: definitely bad publicity for people thinking about buying in Santa Fe. “Yeah, if we have another bad fire season, all bets are off,” Dougherty said. “The reason a lot of people come here is the beautiful blue skies and clean air, and fires just eliminate all that.”

Asked for his outlook for 2014, he said he is not optimistic about the commercial real-estate market. “In the residential, I’m cautiously optimistic that those buyers in other markets will perceive our value and become more serious buyers.”

The lookie-loo phenomenon — people going out to look at houses with no real intention of buying, basically making a hobby out of it — appears to be subsiding.

“I do think the lookers got a little spoiled in 2009, 2010 and 2011 in that they would go out to look at houses thinking the market was still going down so they weren’t that serious. I do think we’ve reached the bottom, but some potential buyers aren’t convinced. They’re still thinking, ‘It’s overpriced. I’ll wait a while for it to come down.’ But I think those days are gone.”

By Paul Weideman