We all see home prices rising in most parts of the country. In fact some parts of the country have seen prices surpass the high points that were seen before the housing crisis. This rise in market prices has caused many people to worry about another housing crisis and rethinking whether they should buy any real estate right now. I personally am still buying houses and I will continue to buy houses going forward. This article is an explanation of my limited view of our national economy based on my local economy. I am by no means an expert and please feel free to chime in if I am missing something or got something drastically wrong!
My current market
I am in located in Northern Colorado and our market appears to be very similar to the national market. The median price in Greeley Colorado is about $180,000 and our prices have increased about 20% over the last two or three years. The price increases have made it harder to buy houses as cheap as I would like too, but even though I have to buy houses for more money now, I can also sell and rent them for more money as well. In fact our rental market is going crazy with rents increasing 20% as well and vacancies extremely low. I am still making just as much money on my fix and flips as I was two years ago and I am making just as much on my new rental property purchases as well.
Why is our market appreciating so much?
In my market we have almost no inventory; last year we had 1,500 homes for sale and now we have 300. The law of supply and demand has pushed prices up, especially in the lower end of our market. In the past it was not uncommon to see homes for sale for under $50,000 in the low end and now it is hard to find anything below $100,000. There simply are not enough lower priced homes for the current buyer demand. That demand is continuing to push prices higher.
Why is our inventory so low?
For seven years there was no new construction in our area. Our market was fueled with REO and short sale inventory and that inventory was priced much lower than any new homes that could be built. The inventory kept coming and our prices slowly decreased as well. Then someone turned off the faucet and the REO and short sale inventory dried up. All the sudden there is very little REO inventory and people have to resort to buying fair market sales, but there has been no new building while the population has been increasing every year. People still want houses, but there are not enough houses in our area to meet demand.
Can new construction meet the demand?
Building in our area has taken off lately. Builders are filling up the vacant lots that were left in subdivisions when the housing crisis started. There is a lot of new construction in our area, but prices start at about $200,000 for a new house. The construction can’t come close to the median price or the lower end demand. I think the new homes can ease the housing shortage in some segments of the market, but we still have huge demand in the lower end and with little inventory.
What the future holds?
I only know my market, I don’t have the time to study every state in the US and learn their market statistics. I am guessing many markets are similar to my market from what I hear from other investors and agents across the country. I can’t possibly see how our market will see another huge decrease in prices unless a huge wave of REOs hit or the national economy tanks. Unfortunately I can’t predict those scenarios, but I have high doubts that we will ever see prices drop down to 2008 levels again. As for other markets in the US I think it could go either way. I see crazy prices in areas like California again and California always seems to have extreme ups and downs ever since I was a child. Could some markets see a huge decrease again? Probably, but I don’t think the entire US will see huge decreases anytime soon.
What if the population cannot afford the cost of housing?
This is the part that I am struggling with. If the average person cannot afford the average house and rental rates are skyrocketing; how can prices keep going up? To me it seems inflation may be the answer to allow people to afford higher priced homes. We have had very low inflation rates recently due to the poor economy and maybe inflation will help balance the housing market with the economy. That is unless the cost of houses rise right along with inflation. I am in no way an economic expert and this is a very simply observation on my part.
How will inflation affect the real estate investor?
The great thing about real estate is if you already own property; inflation is not a bad thing. Your rents and values will most likely increase and your payments stay the same. The downside is it is more expensive to buy property, but if the rents are rising as well; you should still be able to make the same amount of money as you did with a lower priced property. That is why I continue to buy properties and I am not worried about rising prices. I also can’t predict the future, I can only do the best I can right now with things I can control. If I keep buying rentals below market value that cash flow and keep buying fix and flips that have plenty of room for profit and sell them quick, I think I will be just fine.