Are we seeing another bubble in the Twin Cities housing
market? Not this time, says St. Thomas’ monthly analysis
With median sale prices hitting a record high in June, is the Twin Cities housing market experiencing the kind of bubble we saw back in June 2006? According to a monthly analysis conducted by the Shenehon Center for Real Estate at the University of St. Thomas’ Opus College of Business, the short answer is no. The median sale price of homes sold in the 13-county Twin Cities region reached $242,000 in June. That tops the previous high-water mark of $238,000 set in June 2006. On top of that, the 7,110 homes sold in June was another record high.
Each month the St. Thomas center tracks the median price for three types of sales: nondistressed or traditional; foreclosures; and short sales (when a home is sold for less than the outstanding mortgage balance). In addition, it looks for trends in the market and creates a monthly composite index score by tracking nine data elements for those three types of sales.
Herb Tousley, director of real estate programs at the university, said the reasons for the current run up in housing prices are much different than the conditions that led to the run up in values in the mid-2000s followed by the subsequent crash. “Before 2008, lending standards were very lax,” he said. “Little to no down payments were required since everyone believed that home prices would always keep going up. There were many low-documentation or ‘no-doc’ loans that were made to people who were not qualified, resulting in high numbers of foreclosures and short sales. “Additionally, overbuilding, speculation, and excessive flipping of homes were major contributors to the housing market crises of 2008. “Today, mortgages are only being made to qualified buyers, home flipping has returned to normal levels, and overbuilding is not a problem. The current run up in home prices can be attributed to market fundamentals. There is a shortage of homes for sale and a historically high level of demand fueled by low interest rates and an improving economy. “One concern is the affordability issue; that occurs when home prices rise faster than family income. When this occurs over an extended period of time it becomes more difficult for families to afford to purchase a home due to higher required down payments and higher monthly payments,” Tousley said.
It has taken 10 years for the median sale price of a Twin Cities home to recover to its previous peak level. Where do we go from here?
Number of sales: In 2015 there were just over 56,000 homes sold in the Twin Cities. Tousley predicts that the second half of 2016 should continue to see a high sales volume. Look for a total of about 58,000 homes sold in 2016.
Median sale price: In most years, the peak median sale price occurs in June. Maybe not this year. With the low number of homes for sale and continued low interest rates, Tousley feels that median sales prices should be at or above record levels in July and possibly August before tapering off in September. At the end of the year, look for an annual increase in the median sale price of 5 percent to 6 percent, with the median sale price settling in the low $230,000 range.
One reason for the higher median selling price recently is because the percentage of distressed sales – foreclosures and short sales – has finally returned to pre-crash levels. In June, only 5 percent of home sales were distressed. Before 2007, the level of distressed sales was in the 3 percent to five percent range. But during the recession, and especially from 2008 to 2013, the level of distressed sales was in the 40 percent to 60 percent range. Since the median price of distressed homes is considerably lower than nondistressed homes, when there are fewer distressed homes sold the overall median selling price goes up.
In addition to robust home sales, the Twin Cities is seeing more remodeling and more new homes being built. In 2015, the Twin Cities saw the construction of 4,680 new single-family homes. So far this year single-family “starts” are up about 15 percent. “Look for a 2016 year-end total of 5,300 to 5,500,” Tousley said. That would make 2016 the best year for new-home construction since before the recession.
Meanwhile, the Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity, calculated by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, estimates that this year the growth in home improvement and repair spending will reach 8 percent, well above the average of 4.9 percent. Tousley said there are two main reasons for the increase.
First, because of the shortage of homes for sale, many potential homeowners are opting to stay where they are and enlarge or remodel their existing homes.
Second, rising home prices and the current “seller’s market” is encouraging some homeowners to upgrade or remodel their home in anticipation of listing it for sale.
“In either case,” Tousley said, “it is good news for remodeling contractors in our area. Many are booked ahead with work well into the fall.”
The St. Thomas indexes.
Here are the Shenehon Center’s monthly composite index scores for June 2016. The index, which tracks nine data elements for the three types of sales (traditional, short sales and foreclosures), started in January 2005. For that month, the center gave each of the three indexes a value of 1,000.
The June 2016 index score for traditional sales was 1,188, up 2.1 percent from May 2016 and up 6.3 percent from June 2015.
The June 2016 index score for short sales was 1,010, up 2.8 percent from May 2016 and up 4.2 percent from June 2015.
The June 2016 index score for foreclosures was 875, up 1.86 from May 2016 and up 7.86 from June 2015.
The score for traditional sales hit record highs in May and June. “It is a result of a continuing tight supply situation and high sales activity indicating the ongoing health a resurgence of the Twin Cities housing market,” Tousley said in Shenehon Center’s June report.