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Minnesota Commercial Real Estate Outlook Shows More Signs of Optimism

Spring 2019 – Minnesota Commercial Real Estate Outlook Shows More Signs of Optimism for the Upcoming Two Years

The May 2019 University of St. Thomas / Minnesota Commercial Real Estate Survey is continuing to show to show changes in the sentiment of our panelists as they look out over the next two years. The biannual survey projects a two-year ahead outlook for Minnesota’s commercial real estate industry and forecasts potential opportunities and challenges affecting all commercial real estate sectors.

As was done with all sixteen of our previous surveys, the same group of 50 commercial real estate industry leaders involved in development, finance, and investment were polled regarding their expectations of near-term future commercial real estate activity. The decisions that these industry leaders are making today will determine what the CRE markets will look like two years from now.

Spring 2019 Results

Observations from May 2019 have recorded several notable changes in the panel’s expectations when compared to the previous survey conducted in Fall 2018. “There is still some concern that we are near the top of the cycle and that overbuilding and increased vacancies may occur in some product types and submarkets.” says Herb Tousley, Director of the Real Estate Programs at the University of St Thomas. “While our composite index for late 2021 remains slightly pessimistic, there are some bright spots worth noting. There is no expectation of a major downturn in the commercial real estate market in the Twin Cities within the next two years. The increase in online shopping, low interest rates, changes in housing trends and the continued redefinition of the office environment will remain major factors in the performance of commercial real estate in the coming two years.”

The panelists are very concerned about the expected increase in the cost of land and building materials and its expected impact on values and expected returns for developers and investors. There was a big change in the index for investor’s return expectations. It increased 9 points moving from a pessimistic level moving to slightly optimistic territory. This is a big change in sentiment since our last survey. It appears that our panel now expects interest rates to remain stable at current low rates. While our respondents are not expecting a major downturn, they are more somewhat concerned about where we are in the market cycle.

Index values greater than 50 represent a more optimistic view of the market over the next two years, with values of less than 50 indicating a more pessimistic view. More detailed information about each of the individual indices may be found below.

The individual indexes are detailed below:

Rent Expectations

The outlook for rental rates is essentially unchanged from our last survey. Market conditions expected in early 2021 are best described by the price for space (rental rates) and the supply of space (occupancy levels). The index for rental rates was 63 compared to 62 six months ago. This means the panel continues to be strongly optimistic in its expection of continued rent growth. The panel’s sentiment is that the economy will continue to grow and that business conditions will continue improve creating more competition for commercial space.


The outlook for occupancy levels continues to be moderately pessimistic moving from 43 to a slightly less pessimistic 45. This indicates the panelist’s belief that occupancy levels and space absorption may not remain at current levels during the next two years. As a great deal of new product continues to be delivered, the panel is beginning to be concerned about the market’s ability to absorb the new space. This is especially noticeable in the multi-family and certain office and industrial segments. It is a continuation of a general trend that began 4 ½ years ago. Businesses expect to continue to grow but they are concentrating on reducing their cost of occupancy by doing more with less space.

Land Price Expectations

The rate of increase in land prices is expected to accelerate. The land price index has decreased (become more pessimistic) in the current survey moving from 46 last December to 40 this spring. Although, the lowest point for the index was recorded at 31 in the fall 2013 survey, a score of 40 for this index indicates increasing concern about the rapid rise of land prices. Since land prices are a major component of project costs, any increase has a great deal of impact. Higher land prices are a hindrance to new development, making it more difficult to obtain financing and adequate returns for investors.

Building Material Price Expectations

There is a continued expectation that increases in the price of building materials will continue to increase. The index for the price of building supplies remains strongly negative, moving from 26 in December 2018 to 32 in May 2019. The panel believes that commodity prices for lumber, concrete, steel and many of the other materials used in construction will continue to increase due to shortages and newly imposed tariffs. Since building materials are a major cost component of any development project any increases in prices will make it difficult to provide adequate returns on future developments.

Return on Investment Expectations

Our panel expects that investors return on investment expectations will remain constant. The index for investor’s return expectations made a big move, increasing from a pessimistic 42 to a slightly optimistic 51. This indicates that investors will be expecting to maintain their expected returns. The consensus among survey respondents indicates that investors will not be seeking higher returns in the next two years due to their expectation of stable interest rates. The panel’s concern remains about market fundamentals over the next two years. Investors will continue to seek out quality investments, but they will be much more diligent about how they price risk, evaluate projects and developer/sponsors when they evaluate potential return when considering their investment options.

Lending Expectations

Equity and loan to value requirements are not expected to increase. The index for the amount of equity required by lenders remained unchanged from our last survey at 41. That recorded level is somewhat pessimistic but, now that appears interest rates have moderated and are expected to stay that way, the panel’s belief that is even if interest rates were to increase moderately credit will still be available for good projects. However, they expect lenders will continue be more risk adverse by tightening their underwriting criteria in the coming two years.






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Real Estate Hall of Fame is Seeking Nominees for 2019

University of St Thomas

Minnesota Real Estate Hall of Fame

Award Criteria

The basic criterion for acceptance into the Hall of Fame is outstanding business performance coupled with a high standard of ethics. Usually the honorees are responsible for successful and/or innovative business activities and have made major life-long contributions to our industry.

– All nominees must be retired from their primary business   or

– Must be at least 65 years of age   or

– Be deceased

Nominations are not limited to University of St Thomas graduates.

Nominees can represent any discipline related to real estate in Minnesota.  The nomination committee is encouraged to nominate candidates from all  disciplines of both commercial and residential real estate.  The committee is encouraged to solicit recommendations from the real estate community and to encourage others from outside the committee to make nominations to insure a wide variety of candidates.

The Selection Committee will consider the following when making their selection of honorees:

  • Business: the nominee has made a significant contribution as a leader in the field of real estate;
  • Nominees are expected to have made a significant impact in their particular area of real estate and be recognized primarily as a person that is an exceptional role model in their discipline.
  • Weight will be given to such accomplishments as starting and building a business, leading an established business to significantly greater achievements, major transactions, and innovative projects.
  • Among the factors to be considered are industry recognitions and accomplishments, being an industry pioneer and/or leader, and recognition by others for achievements.
  • Community: the nominee has had concern for improving his/her community as a business leader
  • Ethics: the nominee has displayed the highest level of ethics in their business practices.

Beyond the criteria noted here, the Selection Committee has the responsibility   and discretionary power to make their determinations from the pool of nominations submitted.

Access the Nomination Form:

Nomination deadline: June 14th 2019

Economics, Home Prices, Housing, Housing Trends, Investment Real Estate, Minneapolis / St. Paul Housing, Real Estate Brokerage, Real Estate Trends, Residential Real Estate, Technology, Twin Cities Real Estate

iBuyers are Changing The Landscape of the Housing Market

April 2019

University of St Thomas Twin Cities Housing Market Update

What is an iBuyer?

An iBuyer is a company, in many cases an institutional investor, that will make an offer on your home within hours (or days) based on a proprietary valuation model. If you choose to accept the offer, you can close the sale in as little as a couple of days. The recent big news in the Twin Cities market is that last Monday Zillow began offering its Zillow Offers service to home sellers in the Twin Cities. The Twin Cities is the 10th metro area in the nation where they are offering this service. In addition to Zillow there are a number of local and national iBuyers here already with a number of new companies on the way.

How is the iBuying process different?

Traditionally, home values are calculated by using recent comparable sales of similar homes in the nearby area. The issue is that no two homes are identical and adjustments need to be made to account for the differences. Some of these adjustments are hard to calculate and can be somewhat subjective. Many of the newer, well capitalized iBuyers use “automated valuation models” or algorithms using computers to process massive amounts of home sales data to arrive at a value. Based on that value and information that home sellers upload about their homes they can close a sale in as little as a few days. There are some iBuyers may require a visual inspection by a local real estate partner.

Is iBuying the apocalypse for traditional agents and brokers?

The short answer is No. Nationally, in 2018, iBuyers accounted for 0.2 percent market share. At this point, even in markets where iBuyers has been operating longer they are only accounting for 3 – 6% of the sales volume. As more home sellers become more familiar and comfortable with the iBuying process that percentage will undoubtably increase. While a few iBuyers work directly with home sellers many of the iBuyer’s business models include working with and paying commissions to local real estate partners. Additionally, local Realtors do have the advantage of local market knowledge and are able to spot emerging neighborhood trends. As an example, look at what happened to the travel industry when technology made travel booking information directly available to individuals. At the time some were saying that it would be the end of travel agents. In reality travel agents have survived, however the industry has consolidated, become more sophisticated and has changed the way it does business.

Should I use an iBuyer?, What is the cost?, What is the Value Proposition?

Sellers are looking for a faster, simpler, less stressful way to sell their home. They want the process to be more efficient. Not all iBuyers offer the same services, some are full service, they want to be able to offer a one stop experience. Their process works like buying a car where you can buy a car, trade in your car, obtain financing and insurance all in one place. Since the larger iBuyers are buying and selling homes all the time, their business model works well taking trade ins. There others in the market who offer varying levels of service including those at the other end of the service spectrum who will only buy your home.

Average commissions using an iBuyer are about 7%, additionally their offer is discounted below fair market value. They expect to make necessary repairs and make a profit when they sell the home. In contrast commissions are about 5% – 6% for traditional sale listings. Sellers need to consider the trade off between convenience and maximum offer price.

The following are situations where a seller may consider using an iBuyer;

  • If the purchase of your next home requires the sale of your current home, you may need access to the equity tied up in your current home. Many Americans can’t quality for two mortgages at the same time meaning they have to sell their current home before they buy the next one. In today’s tight housing market contingent on sale offers are rarely successful.
  • If you can’t or don’t want to do the work to repair or upgrade your property before you sell.
  • If you’re moving to a new city and need to be on the job ASAP, you may not have time to wait for your home to sell
  • You’ve inherited a home you don’t want to own or manage

iBuying can provide a quick cash option but this speed and convenience comes at a price. In many cases a local agent may be able to get you a higher price for your home if you have the time available. Is it worth it? That depends on your priorities and circumstances.

There is more to come

Look for more large iBuying companies to come to town. Much of recent iBuying activity is being driven by multi-billion dollar organizations. In addition to Opendoor, who entered the Twin Cities market last fall, there will be other new arrivals such as Knock, OfferPad and Redfin. With technology advancing at such a rapid rate there will be more concepts and companies entering the market like Ribbon and Eave that work on the other side of the transaction helping buyers compete with cash offers.

Affordable Housing, Appraisal, Economics, Home Prices, Housing, Housing Trends, Industry News, Minneapolis / St. Paul Housing, Real Estate Trends, Residential Real Estate, Residential Real Estate Index, Twin Cities Real Estate

University of St. Thomas Housing Market Analysis for November 2018

Will A Computer Tell You How Much Your House Is Worth?

Lower Mortgage Rates for Energy Efficient Homes?

Market Update – Is the Twin Cities one of the top markets in the country where you should buy this winter?


Will A Computer Tell You How Much Your House Is Worth?

Federal regulators have proposed loosening real-estate appraisal requirements to enable a majority of U.S. homes to be bought and sold without being evaluated by a licensed human appraiser. That potentially opens the door for cheaper, faster, but largely untested property valuations based on computer algorithms.

Appraisals help lenders ensure that the estimated value of the property supports the purchase price and the mortgage amount. An appraisal that is off by a few percent could leave a homeowner owing more than their house is worth or lenders with insufficient collateral to cover defaulted loans.

Will this automated approach work? It is hard to see how an appraisal can be done without a human appraiser involved. There is so much variation in condition and functionally that cannot be assessed by a computer algorithm. There’s still no computer that can see, hear, taste, smell and touch the property. Until that happens appraisals with humans involved will continue be necessary to do accurate appraisals.

Lower Mortgage Rates for Energy-Efficient Homes?

Mortgage guarantors, insurers, underwriters, and security owners have recently observed that home buyers with lower monthly utility costs default less. Do these lower-risk home buyers deserve a lower interest rate? Lenders are starting to consider the idea of offering a lower interest rate for mortgages on energy efficient homes. Energy efficient mortgages (EEMs) encourage energy efficiency by giving buyers a better rate or more borrowing capacity to buy an energy efficient house or to cover the cost of new energy improvements.

There are several types of EEM products in use today; however, adoption remains limited. Developing programs in several states inject capital into traditional mortgage products to “buy down” the interest rate that is charged to borrowers as an incentive to finance energy retrofits. A third structure being tested assumes that the energy savings and reduced exposure to energy costs reduce the risk profile of the loan and on average should lead to better loan performance. The reduced risk justifies a lower interest rate, which in turn improves the loan pricing for borrowers, while leaving underwriting criteria unchanged.

There are now quantitative standards available to measure a home’s efficiency. The HERS Index is the industry standard by which a home’s energy efficiency is measured. The HERS or Home Energy Rating System was developed by RESNET and is the nationally recognized system for inspecting and calculating a home’s energy performance. Certified RESNET Home Energy Raters conduct inspections to verify a home’s energy performance and determine what improvements can be made to increase it. Home buyers will be attracted to buy homes that are not only more efficient, saving utility costs, but also being able to qualify for lower mortgage rates.

November Market Update

According to a recent Zillow report the Twin Cities was one of the top ten markets in the country where it makes the most sense to buy this winter. This ranking is based on an index they developed using the factors below. For potential buyers looking to make a move before rents and mortgage payments rise further, the report indicates our market compares favorably to most other markets in the country.

Here are the three factors that went into the index:

  • The share of price cuts compared to a year ago: (In the Twin Cities the year over year over year actual selling price compared to the asking price has been declining since June indicating that sellers are beginning to cut prices.)
  • Rent appreciation forecast: Metros where rents are expected to rise more over the next year are ranked higher on the index, because they offer the greatest opportunity for buyers to save money by picking up a mortgage rather than continuing to pay rising rents. (Year over year rents in the Twin Cities continue to increase modestly and are expected to continue to do so, although the rate of increase is expected to moderate.)                      
  • Mortgage affordability: Metros that already have bad mortgage affordability will become harder for buyers as mortgage rates rise, so they are prioritized on this index. (Relative to other markets in the country the Twin Cities does not already have “bad” mortgage affordability. In our market mortgage rates have increased and median sale prices continue increase faster than income making mortgage affordability more difficult.)

The median sale price increased .4% between October and November, however the median sale price of homes sold in the Twin Cities has increased by 8.6% in the past year to $266,000. In comparison, the average annual increase for the previous 12 months has been 7.8%.

The number of closed sales decreased .2% between November of 2017 and November of 2018, continuing a trend of decreasing year over year sales that has been observed for 10 of the last 12 months. The combination of the low number of homes available for sale and higher interest rates continues to take its toll on the number of homes sold. The number of pending sales decreased by 5.7% however the number of new listings increased 11.8% compared to the same period last year. The increase in new listings is a hopeful sign that will be more homes available for sale in the coming few months and that the slide in the year over year sales volume will begin to reverse itself.

For more information, visit the Shenehon Center’s complete report for November 2018 at The report is also available for free via email from Tousley at








Home Prices, Housing, Housing Trends, Minneapolis / St. Paul Housing, Real Estate Trends, Residential Real Estate, Twin Cities Real Estate

University of St. Thomas Housing Market Analysis for October 2018

Twin Cities Rents Continue To Increase As The National Average Decreases

Median Home Sale Price Up 8.6%

Number of Homes for Sale – Beginning to Stabilize?


Twin Cities Rents Continue To Increase As The National Average Decreases                    In September, the Zillow national median rent index fell 0.2% year-over-year to $1,440, the first decline recorded since July 2012. However, during the same period the Twin Cities median rent index bucked the national trend, increasing by .5% to $1,638. Despite the addition of a near record number of new rental units the Twin Cities rental market remains one of the tightest in the nation. The outlook for rent growth next year is showing some signs of moderation. The expectation for new apartment supply in some sub-markets will peak as the year comes to a close and then are expected to flatten in 2019. Pockets of increasing supply may persist but demand is expected to remain strong. Any slowdown in rent growth will be good news to renters, putting more spending money in their already stretched pockets. There has been growth in the percentage of renewed leases, as well as a historically low turnover rate. This is a positive sign for apartment owners, as renters are choosing to remain in their units resulting in lower vacancies.

For the first time in six years, the median rent nationwide is slightly less than it was 12 months earlier. In the Twin Cities rents climbed steadily from 2013 through the end of 2017. Since then the rate of growth has moderated considerably. (See the chart above)

October Market Update

The median sale price increased 1.2% between September and October. The year over year median sale price of homes sold in the Twin Cities increased by 8.6% to $265,000. This is the highest year over year increase seen since earlier this year. This rate increase continues to exceed wage growth in the Twin Cities region. While good for sellers, higher median sale prices combined with higher interest rates will continue to make home ownership less affordable for many homebuyers.

The number of closed sales increased 3.8% between October of 2017 and October of 2018, reversing a trend of decreasing year over year sales that has been observed for 8 of the last 12 months. The number of pending sales decreased by 1.4% and the number of new listings decreased 7.8% compared to the same period last year. The combination of higher closed sales volume and the lower number of new listings will continue to put upward pressure on median sale prices in the coming months.

 Number of Homes for Sale – Beginning to Stabilize? 

The number of homes available for sale was down slightly (1.8%) compared to last October. This year 11,758 homes were available compared to 11,978 last year. Over the last four months the number of homes for sale appears to be stabilizing. Although still historically low, the number of double digit year over year decreases that has been observed over most of the last 3 years appears to be moderating.

For more information, visit the Shenehon Center’s complete report for October 2018 at The report is also available for free via email from Tousley at

Best of Real Estate Matters, Commercial Real Estate, Industry News, Minnesota Real Estate Hall of Fame, Twin Cities Real Estate

Tom Holtz, Jim Nelson, and Russ Nelson Inducted into Minnesota Real Estate Hall of Fame

Three new members were inducted into the Minnesota Real Estate Hall of Fame at an awards breakfast this morning: Russ Nelson, an industry groundbreaker who was among the first to exclusively represent tenants; Jim Nelson, who helped spearhead the new US Bank Stadium; and Tom Holtz, a driving force behind industry giant CBRE.

The Minnesota Real Estate Hall of Fame was established in 2010 by the Shenehon Center for Real Estate at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business. Members of the Hall of Fame are chosen for their outstanding business performance, high standards of ethics, and community activities.

The annual event, held at the Golden Valley Golf and Country Club, drew over 200 people including real estate professionals and friends and family members of the inductees. Robert J. Strachota, president of the real estate valuation firm Shenehon Company, acted as emcee and Steve Cramer, president and CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council, was the keynote speaker. The awards were presented by Patrick Ryan, President and CEO of builder/developer Ryan Companies.

After the awards presentation and a brief video about each recipient, the event concluded with Herb Tousley, director of the Shenehon Center, presenting scholarships to five students, the winners of this year’s Boyd Stofer & Ken Stensby Real Estate Student Competition. The competition challenges undergraduate and graduate students to develop a business concept that has potential to become a viable, high-growth business or make a meaningful contribution to existing real estate companies. Scholarship recipients are current UST students Ethan Finger, Issac Kuehn, Charles Bird, Holly Spaeth and Matt Michalski.

About the Inductees

Tom Holtz

For nearly 40 years, Tom Holtz has played a pivotal role in developing CBRE into one of the world’s leading real estate services companies. He is personally credited with approximately $11 billion in investment transactions during a career that has touched every major Twin Cities building.

Holtz’s advice is sought by some of the most successful people in the industry, both in Minnesota and across the country. Colleagues praise his sharp intellect and unwavering ethical barometer. Lifelong friends laud Holtz as a deeply spiritual family man who has dedicated his support and leadership to many local and national organizations, including St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Eden Prairie and Luther Seminary in St. Paul.

Jim Nelson

Known as “the quiet leader that everyone listens to,” Jim Nelson has spent more than half a century in real estate advisory services, finance, and investment. He played a pivotal role in such transformative projects as the Midtown Exchange, the Walker Art Center expansion, and the new US Bank Stadium, and he is a valued counselor to the City of Minneapolis, Hennepin County, the state of Minnesota, and the University of Minnesota, among others.

In addition to being the principal of Eberhardt Advisory, Nelson has served on numerous civic and industry boards, and he helped shape and guide the Mortgage Bankers Association of America. He is often praised for his devoted mentorship of real estate industry leaders across the state and the country.

Russ Nelson

Known for his energy, enthusiasm, and coveted book of connections, Russ Nelson helped shape the skylines of Minneapolis and St. Paul during his 35-year career. He recently retired from real estate and project management firm NTH, one of the first Twin Cities firms to exclusively represent tenants, which he cofounded in 1993.

Nelson is legendary for his devotion to the downtown Minneapolis core, including one of the largest land sales in the city’s history: the five-block StarTribune megadeal that launched the redevelopment of the Downtown East Commons. Just as legendary is his enthusiasm for serving the community, such as his recent role in helping Como Park Zoo and Conservatory’s raise $8 million for its polar bear exhibit and Japanese garden.

 About the Minnesota Real Estate Hall of Fame

The Minnesota Real Estate Hall of Fame honors, preserves and perpetuates the names and outstanding accomplishments of real estate leaders who have made significant contributions in real estate and demonstrated care and concern for improving their communities as business leaders.

Economics, Home Prices, Housing, Housing Trends, Minneapolis / St. Paul Housing, Real Estate Trends, Residential Real Estate, Twin Cities Real Estate

Latest Survey of Twin Cities Home Builders Finds Them Slightly Less Optimistic For 2019

Latest Survey of Twin Cities Home Builders Finds Them Slightly Less Optimistic For 2019

Industry Leaders Have Some Concerns About Higher Interest Rates and Increasing Costs

St. Thomas’ fifth semiannual survey of 30 industry leaders measures sentiment and is designed to be a forecasting tool.

 Leaders in the Twin Cities single-family home-construction industry are generally optimistic about market conditions for the coming year although they have concerns about increasing mortgage rates and higher costs of land and building materials. That’s according to a new survey conducted by the University of St. Thomas Shenehon Center for Real Estate in partnership with the BATC Housing First Minnesota

The Twin Cities Home Builders Survey is patterned after St. Thomas’ Minnesota Commercial Real Estate Survey that began in 2010. The Home Builders Survey polls the same panel of 35 industry leaders semiannually in spring and again the following fall about their expectations for the upcoming year in six key areas of the housing market.

These experts are asked to assign a number of zero to 100 for each of the six questions. A midpoint score of 50 is neutral; scores higher than 50 indicate a more favorable outlook and scores lower than 50 indicate a more pessimistic outlook. “The industry leaders we poll every six months are actively engaged in studying both the demand and supply side of the housing market,” said Herb Tousley, director of real estate programs at the university. “Since they are involved in creating new housing units and adjusting supply-to-demand conditions, these individuals are close to the actual changes taking place in the market.”

“These results align closely with what we are hearing from the market and our members.” Said David Siegel, Executive Director of BATC Housing First Minnesota. “While there is a great need for residential construction in the Twin Cities, there are still several factors holding it back including land prices, the regulatory burden and a shortage of labor.”

Here are the scores for each of the six questions that were asked in our most recent survey:

Housing Starts: 57

This score decreased from 65 in our previous survey to 57, it indicates an expectation that the number of single-family housing starts will begin to slow down in the next 12 months. While still optimistic, home builders are concerned about the impact of rising interest rates and the rapidly increasing cost of building materials.

Price Per Square Foot: 70

This score is still very optimistic, however the drop from 74 to 70 reflects the expectation that the rate of increase will begin to moderate in the next 12 months. It shows the panel’s expectations that home prices will continue to increase at a slightly lower rate. At that level there is a continued belief that sale prices will increase at a rate that will more than offset the expected increases in project costs.

Land prices: 33

While still well into pessimistic territory at 33 this index has increased sharply from our last survey’s score of 23. This could be an indication of our panel’s expectation that the rate of the increase in land prices will moderate. It will be interesting to look at future surveys to see how this plays out. While there may be enough finished lots available, the higher land prices will continue to squeeze profitability.

Availability of finished lots: 53

This index decreased from 60 last December to 53 in our current survey reflecting the panel’s increased concern that there will be an adequate supply of finished lots in 2019. An adequate supply of well-located finished lots is crucial to the health of the home building industry.

Cost of building materials: 31

The outlook for the expected increases in the costs of building materials continues to be a major concern. This index moved from 24 in December 2017 to a slightly less pessimistic score of 31 in current survey. This score is an indication of ongoing concerns by our panelists that much of the gain from increased sale prices and more building starts will be offset by higher costs. These expected increases in costs could depress profitability and could reduce the number of new homes built in 2019.

Mortgage rates: 27

This index has declined slightly to 27 compared to 28 in our last survey. Although interest rates have been rising in 2018 the indication is that the panel continues to expect mortgage rates to increase in the next 12 months. Most panelists are expecting an additional increase of ¼% to ½% within the next year. The affordability issues created by higher rates could put a damper on home-building activity.

More Information

Additional details can be found on the Shenehon Center’s website:





Affordable Housing, Economics, Home Prices, Housing, Housing Trends, Real Estate Trends, Residential Real Estate, Residential Real Estate Index, Twin Cities Real Estate

University of St. Thomas Real Estate Housing Report for September

Home Affordability Being Stressed By Higher Interest Rates, Higher Median Sale Prices And Higher Construction Costs

30-year mortgage rates reached a new high this week at 4.9%. A year ago, at this time 30-year rates were about 4%. A 1% increase rates makes owning a home less
affordable, especially for first time and first move up buyers. When you look at what that difference means a 1% increase would increase the monthly payment of a homebuyer purchasing a median priced house with 5% down by $155.00. In other cases, a potential buyer would have to come up with an additional $15,900 down payment to get to the same $1,250 payment level when rates were at 4%.

Although the median sale price declined 2.25% between August and September, despite the increase in interest rates, the year over year median sale price of homes in the Twin Cities increased by 7.4% to $262,000. A continuing trend of higher median sale prices and higher interest rates will make home affordability more difficult for homebuyers.

The number of closed sales decreased 5.26% between September of 2017 and September of 2018 and the number of pending sales has decreased by 1.4%during the same period. This decrease may be an early sign that the housing market may be starting to cool down returning to a more even balance between
sellers and buyers. The number of new listings has increased by 5.9% compared to a year ago. The number of homes available for sale was down slightly (4%) compared to last September with 12,623 homes available compared to 13,151 last year.

A Perspective on Interest Rates

By recent standards 30-year mortgage rates near 5% seem high. There has been almost a whole generation of younger homebuyers that have experienced an environment of very low interest rates (3% – 4%). While to these younger homebuyers a 5% rate may seem high, it was not that long ago that 5% -7% rates were considered normal. As can be seen in the chart below there have been periods in the past when rates have been much higher. If interest rates
continue to increase toward historical norms we will begin to see major adjustments in the housing market as higher rates impact affordability.

New Home Construction Prices

The gap between new construction prices and existing housing prices continues to widen. The adjoining table shows the national annual increase in sale price and price per square foot between 2015 and 2017. In the Twin Cities September, the median price of new homes sold was $397,383 compared to a median sale price of existing homes was $252,000. Since new homes tend to be
larger it is helpful to compare the price per square foot. The price per square foot for a new house sold in September was $175 per square foot as opposed to $139 per square foot for existing homes. Much of the cost increases for new construction have been driven by higher land costs, higher material costs and higher impac t fees. Building new housing that is affordable to homeowners in the low to median price brackets will continue to be a challenge tosupply the ever increasing need for affordable housing.

For more information, visit the Shenehon Center’s complete report for Sept ember 2018 at The report is also available for free via email from Tousley at

Economics, Government Policy, Home Prices, Housing, Housing Trends, Real Estate Trends, Residential Real Estate, Residential Real Estate Index, Twin Cities Real Estate

Is the Twin Cities Housing Market Really Beginning to Change?

What really drives the need for housing?    

Since the June and July housing numbers have been published there seems to be much more uncertainty about the current state of the housing market. People are beginning to ask questions about the housing market. Is the decrease in sales volume a warning sign? Are we in a bubble? Will there be another housing market correction? One or two months data by themselves doesn’t signal a major change in the direction of the housing market. We will need to look at several more months data to understand more about where the market is headed.

 The number of closed sales were down 12.5% between June and July of this year. However, number of home sales in the Twin Cities was essentially unchanged in July 2018 compared to July 2017. If you look at the overall seasonal pattern for the number of homes sold is following a very similar pattern compared to previous years. Looking at the data for the median sale price, the number of closed sales, and the number of homes available for sale you will notice that the pattern for 2018 is very similar to 2016 and 2017. People have expressed

             Homes Sold YTD 2018 vs. YTD 2017
Jan 2017 2018       +/-
Feb 2805 2787 -18
Mar 2744 2671 -73
Apr 4304 4033 -271
May 4726 4688 -38
Jun 6265 5775 -490
Jul 7527 7160 -367
Aug 6046 6278 232
Total 34417 33392 -1025

concern that the number of sales is declining. When you look at 2018 year to date sales there have been just over 1,000 fewer homes sold this year compared to last year. About half of this amount occurred in May. I think that we are going to need to see a few more months data to understand if this is a long-term change in the market. At this point much of the decrease in the number of homes sold seems to be a result of the continued decrease in the number of homes available for sale. The number of homes available for sale was 12.3% less than last July. Median sale prices continue to increase, up 6.6% year over year compared to July 2017.

What really drives the need for housing?

Many people correctly point to increasing population and job growth as the primary reason. Job growth doesn’t drive housing demand, housing demand responds to job growth. Few people are against job growth, it is considered by many as sign of “progress”. There are many local economic development groups trying to attract new jobs by offering incentives for potential employers. Almost all communities are in favor of job growth but what about the housing needs that are created by this job growth? In many of the communities where people want to live creating more housing translates to more density. The truth be told, many people are in favor of more housing and more affordable housing as long as it not near them. According to recent DEED statistics employment in the Twin Cities metro area in the last 12 months has increased by 30,800 jobs. We have not been creating enough new housing units to keep up with that growth rate. As a result, we have a chronic shortage of homes available for sale, median sale prices are increasing faster than wage growth, a very low vacancy rate for rental housing, and rents that continue rise faster than the cost of living. It’s becoming increasing difficult and expensive to develop and create any type of for sale or rental housing. If we are going to continue to have strong economic growth, then we are going to have to figure out a way to create enough new housing units at all price levels to keep up with the increasing employment growth.

 What about new housing? Why does it take so long? Why is it so expensive?

  •      Lack of entitled land
  •      Difficulty and length of the entitlement process
  •      Excessive impact and local fees
  •      Zoning and bias against density
  •      Inclusionary zoning
  •      Rapidly increasing construction costs
  •      Rapidly increasing land costs

As long as our local economy continues to grow and is creating more jobs these are some of the issues that need to be addressed if we are going to come up with meaningful solutions to our housing market issues.

For more information, visit the Shenehon Center’s complete report for July 2018 at The report is also available for free via email from Tousley at

Affordable Housing, Economics, Home Prices, Housing, Housing Trends, Minneapolis / St. Paul Housing, Residential Real Estate, Residential Real Estate Index, Twin Cities Real Estate

Rising Home Prices Are Creating Wealth For Twin Cities Homeowners

Traditional Median Sale Price Up $82,300 (43.8%) From Low Point in Feb 2012.

Rapidly rising median home sale prices have been a major source of wealth creation for homeowners since the low point in median home sale prices that occurred in February 2012. Since then median home sale prices in the Twin Cities have increased by $82,300, a gain of 43.8%. In April the median home sale price was $266,500 eclipsing the prerecession high water mark of $238,000 observed in July 2007. As has been noted before this rapid rate of increase has been fueled by the historically low availability of homes for sale coupled with improving economic conditions and relatively low mortgage rates. Another positive development is that in February 2012, 61.5% of all the sales in the metro area were distressed sales compared to the 3.3% that was observed this April. The percentage of distressed sales has since returned to pre-crash levels at less than 5%. The wealth creation effect of continued increases in home values will ripple throughout the economy as homeowners will be able use this newly created equity for investments or purchases.









How long will this trend continue?

In the near term a rapid rise in interest/mortgage rates and/or an increase in inflation would begin to make homes in all price ranges less affordable for many potential homebuyers. A decrease in the number of qualified buyers would put a damper on the demand for homes, reducing the upward pressure on home prices. In the short term it appears that neither one of those scenarios is likely to occur. Until that happens expect to see the supply of homes for sale remain very low and annual price increases in the 6% to 8% range. As in the past the current shortage of homes for sale has been most acute in lower to moderately priced homes (See the table below)

                   At What Price Range is the Shortage of Homes for Sale the Greatest?
Price Range % of Homes Available For Sale in April 2018 % of Closed Sales in April 2018 Months Supply
Less than $200,000 13.6% 22.7% 0.9
$200,000 – $399,999 42.4% 57.0% 1.5
$400,000 – $599,999 23.6% 14.0% 3.5
More than $600,000 20.3% 6.1% 6.6
  Median Sale Price $266,500  

Market Summary

 Median sale prices increased 3.3% between March and April ($258,000 to $266,500 respectively). The Twin Cities housing market continues to a show strong year over year gains in sale prices, marking an 8.8% percent annual increase in April 2018. While this is great news for sellers, a continuation of this rate of increase is going to create affordability issues for some potential buyers since this rate of increase is much higher than the growth rate of area income. On the supply side in April 2018 there were only 9,100 homes available for sale, 24% less than the 11,964 that were available in April 2017. A high annual growth rate in median sale prices and historically low supply will continue to dominate the market.

The number of homes sold in April 2018 was 4,664 an increase of 15.5% compared to last month and a decrease of 4.6% compared to April 2017. At the end of April there was a 1.8 months supply of homes available for sale, In comparison in a normal, balanced market there is a 6-month supply. Distressed sales accounted for only 3.3% the recorded home sales in April, similar to percentages observed before the housing market crash in 2007. New listings in April were 7,325, a decrease from the 7,890 recorded in April 2017. The decrease in new listings indicates that the supply of home of homes for sale situation will continue to tight in the near future.

For more information, visit the Shenehon Center’s complete report for April 2018 at The report is also available for free via email at