Real estate market mending here if inventory rises and rates stay in line
January 12, 2013
Real estate, on the mend in Carson City last year, will continue an upward trend here this year if a Goldilocks market can keep the bears away. People involved in various ways with capital city real estate say they expect a good 2013, but know a Goldilocks scenario depends on the mix — the porridge, if you will — being neither too hot nor too cold. Housing inventory, mortgage interest rates and lending rules are involved.Inventory on the lean side helps, but either too lean or too flush might slow recovery. Housing stocks here are lean now.Regarding mortgages and interest rates, national consumer-lender rules just announced could help or hurt, yet that must play out over time. Rates, however, are low and a plus currently.Consensus among local real estate agents, lenders and others observing the market is that a good year is probable and many address the inventory matter head-on.Coldwell Banker Select’s Kathy Tatro said “2013 will be better” than 2012 in part because lean housing stock will help as prices rise and more prospective sellers list homes.“There’s less inventory, so the sellers are in a better position to sell,” Tatro said. “Foreclosures are going to come back on the market, but they’re going to trickle in. I’m very optimistic.”Realty Executives’ Katie Bawden and Coldwell Banker Select’s Bob Fredlund also were upbeat, the former saying “it’s going to be a great year” but recovery still takes time, the latter citing new construction.“Hopefully,” said Bawden, “prices increase and we get more inventory.” She also threw in a comment about interest rates, calling them “quite amazing compared to what we’ve seen in the past.” Rates for qualified home buyers seeking 30-year mortgages are in the 3 percent range. Fredlund, who handles houses and commercial properties, said residential inventory is down and a dozen homes are under construction or about to be in Silver Oak. “So that’s really great,” he said, adding — as he disclosed he represents the builder and seller — that housing construction means jobs.Fredlund also said “things are looking good” in commercial real estate. “I see a lot of people who are starting to lease up spaces,” he said, and some who are even doing deals.But Sue Sessions of Realty Executives, who also handles both residential and commercial, sounded less enthusiastic about the commercial aspect. She said there still is a lot of vacant space in the city and she has a commercial property of her own in Minden she is trying to rent or sell. Despite the optimism regarding the residential market here, there still are cautionary concerns.“I really think 2013 is going to be a little better than we had in 2012,” said Mike Enright of Valley Realty & Management, but small inventory now and prospects for too much housing later trouble him.He said if banks dump massive housing holdings in the aftermath of foreclosures from the Great Recession, that is his “only caveat,” and a concern that gives him pause.“This year in the business,” Enright said, “I’m scared.” Though such a glut eventually may come, he didn’t necessarily predict it this year. His immediate view is that currently half, or even less than 50 percent, of the normal number of multiple listings exist for winter. He also cited state law that slowed foreclosures. He said Carson City Clerk/Recorder Alan Glover recorded 150 of them just before the law took effect a year ago October, 10 in the month after it took effect. Sessions, who said she had a good 2012 and expects a good 2013, agrees with her Realty Executives colleague, Bawden, that a robust market will require time.Not only is there little inventory, she said, but “buyers have to be squeaky clean” to get a mortgage now.Rob McFadden, a lender with PrimeLending, a PlainsCapital Co. with offices downtown, didn’t disagree, but said buyers with good credit can get loans just as they could five years ago. He said mortgage rates are great, noting a $200,000 loan at 3.375 percent for 30 years means an $884 monthly payment, which compares with $1,199 at 6 percent in the years before housing tanked.“I think it’s good,” McFadden said of this year’s local housing market. McFadden said new consumer and bank rules on lending issued Thursday by the national Consumer Financial Protection Bureau might add to lenders’ regulatory burdens, which already are considerable, but he wasn’t prepared to say how they would impact the local market.He said current industry standards call for a 45-percent debt-to-asset ratio and was interested in the consumer bureau’s rules along those lines. Reports are the bureau limits debt to 43 percent of a borrowers’ pre-tax income. Lending institutions would have safe harbor legal protection if they follow the new rules, according to reports, which may help lift uncertainty. PBS Newshour elicited that from the bureau head. Richard Cordray was asked why lenders were supportive.“I think what they like is, there’s certainty here,” he said. Carson City is a local market affected some by both regional and national real estate trends. Professor Elliott Parker, chairman of the University of Nevada, Reno, Economics Department was asked if the Northern Nevada market is coming back.“I think so,” he said, saying it has “turned the corner” in the past six months. But he added his own cautious note: “As they say in Texas, ‘God willin’ and the creek don’t rise.’” Signs Carson City is emerging from the housing swoon mirror those regional and national signals that things are healing many places, but housing market heaven isn’t around the corner.Trulia Chief Economist Jed Kolko says the national supply of homes has fallen 43 percent, fueling bidding wars in some markets, but for housing to recover fully the inventory needs to expand again.“The sharp decline in inventory was a necessary correction to the over-supply of homes after the bubble,” Kolko, also Trulia chief of analytics, told usnews.com. “But now inventory is below normal levels and holding back sales, particularly in California and the rest of the West.”Trulia, a San Francisco-based online real estate information firm, last year went public after a seven-year run as a private firm. At year’s end, it provided an overview of the Carson City residential market.Trulia said the average price per square foot in Nevada’s capital city was $225, an increase of 132 percent compared with the same period a year earlier. Citing another metric, Trulia said the median sales price for Carson City homes from Sept. 12 to Nov. 12, 2012 was $150,000, based on 87 home sales, a boost in the median price of 8.9 percent.But the number of home sales had decreased 70 percent, according to Trulia, which might reflect dwindling inventory and an unwillingness by sellers to part with homes for amounts offered.Another Trulia metric regarding Carson City showed the average listing price for homes was more than $250,000 around Christmas.