News You Can Use – Tax Credit, Unemployment, Boulder Housing Market

If you read my blog you know that I will give you the straight scoop – no sales pitch or baloney here! If you dare, read on ….

As long anticipated, the House and Senate have both approved an extension to the homebuyers tax credit of 2009. The credit will now be extended to April 30, 2010. First time homebuyers will get a credit up to $8000 depending on income level, and veteran homebuyers who have been in their home for at least 5 years can receive up to $6500 depending on income level. The original tax credit was set to expire November 30th. Every realtor in the country is now going to be emailing their clients saying “now is the time!” Is it??

This IS good news for homebuyers who want to keep some cash in their pocket after their purchase. The other good news is that interest rates are still at near-record lows. I researched rates in Colorado today and for a $250-299k conventional loan with no points borrowers can get rates between 4.75-5.125% with varying fees. A jumbo in the $500-549k range will be at 4.875-6.4% with varying fees.

The bad news is that unemployment figures continue to be discouraging. At the national level CNN reports that we hit 10.2% in October 2009, the highest level reached since 1983 and indicating 22 straight months of declining employment. Worst case forecasts for the first two quarters of 2010 are in the 10.5% range. Among the hardest hit sector are teens ages 16-19 whose rate rocketed to 27.6% in October. Teens now have to compete with adults for jobs in industries like food service and retail, typically dominated by the teen demographic. Obama has signed a bill allowing the jobless to receive up to an additional 20 weeks of unemployment benefits which is sure to help out many households, even in our relatively stable and affluent Boulder area.

In Colorado we are hovering around a 7.0% unemployment rate. The state’s unemployment figures for October will come out on November 20th. In our immediate area, for September 2009 Boulder County was at 5.5%, Broomfield County was at 6.6% and Weld County was at 7.5%. Some major area employers (IBM, Sun) have announced pending layoffs but it is unclear how many of them will come from our area. And of course our white knight Conoco Phillips is scheduled to bring jobs to our area but the initial build-out of 2012 is suspect, and could be pushed out by a couple years. That’s a chicken we can’t count until it hatches!

The term “jobless recovery” is being thrown about, but how our nation or our local economy can experience a real recovery without putting more people back to work is beyond me.

All that bad news being said, in Boulder (MLS sub-area 1) median home prices remain stable in the low-mid $500k range. Louisville (MLS sub-area 2) median home prices have jumped all over the place, ranging from $310-425k over the course of 2009 so far, coming in at $$324k in October. Longmont is steady in the low $200’s. Superior is a robust market seeing median home prices range from $342k all the way up to $675k! Proximity to transportation, employment, open space, good schools, etc… continue to bolster the Louisville-Superior area’s housing market.

So … to buy or not to buy … Speaking from purely my own opinion if you have some confidence about your employment situation and intend to stay in your house more than 2-3 years then this really IS the time to buy. And that’s honestly not realtor-speak, because I am not one! The late fall-winter selling season typically gives buyers the least amount of inventory to look at, but the most negotiating power. The combination of the tax credit and crazy-low interest rates makes this a perfect storm for you (in a good way). If you have dreams of becoming a fix and flip artist though, think again. Probably too risky given that we don’t know exactly where housing prices are going to go.

If you are a seller, consider putting your home, or keeping your home, on the market this winter. Yes, there are fewer buyers, but those in the market are serious. Relocation buyers (job transfers, life changes, etc…) are still out there too in addition to the local prospects. And your home will look so pretty decorated for the holidays! BUT (and there is always a “but”) these buyers are going to be looking for a deal, if not a steal. If you want top dollar for your home then frankly don’t list it. (And expect to wait until around 2014 to get your price! again, my opinion)

As a seller, if you have some room to negotiate and just want out, then price it fairly given it’s condition, age, and location. Offer a buyer something for “free”, like a view, or landscaping. How do you do this? Price it similar to a recently sold home or another currently listed home that perhaps didn’t have your location backing to open space, or your soothing backyard pond. This way the buyer thinks they are getting a freebie. Let go of that “gotta get” mentality and the ego that compels you to want to get more than your neighbor did for their home. This is not time to worry about stuff like that. I have trained many of my agents on “price positioning” and we are seeing great results.

Stay tuned for more information and insights from Colorado Landmark, Realtors – your Boulder and Front Range experts.

Pam Metzger
Colorado Landmark, Realtors
twitter = @pmcolorado