Tokens of appreciation

The good news: Across the nation, home prices are rebounding.

The bad news: They still have far to go to get to the standards set before the recession.

Single-family home prices rose 1.8 percent nationally from the first quarter to the second quarter of 2012, according to an August press release from the Federal Housing Finance Agency, or FHFA. The seasonally adjusted index of home purchases is calculated from sales information from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages.

Closer to home, prices are rising at about that same rate, which is pretty good news considering that Boulder Valley home prices came nowhere near losing as much value as did those in some parts of the nation.

“Although some housing markets (nationally) are still facing significant challenges, house prices were quite strong in most areas in the second quarter,” said Andrew Leventis, FHFA principal economist. “The strong appreciation may partially reflect fewer homes sold in distress, but declining mortgage rates and a modest supply of homes available for sale likely account for most of the price increase.”

That also is what local experts are seeing in the Boulder Valley.

Much of the price appreciation is being seen in states where the greatest loss in home value occurred, with Colorado being a possible exception. Arizona saw the greatest gain in the FHFA index, followed by Idaho, Florida, Michigan, Arkansas, Utah, North Dakota, Hawaii, Colorado and California.

Of those 10 states, only Colorado and Arkansas have less than double-digit losses in home values over a five-year period, reporting losses of 3.24 and 5 percent, respectively. In comparison, Arizona and Florida have shown more than a 40 percent loss of home value during that five-year period.

Nationally, the index only has rebounded to 2004 levels, according to FHFA data — but Colorado appears to be much closer to 2008 levels.

For the second quarter of 2012, Colorado homes saw a 4.83 increase in value. The Boulder area saw a 1.47 percent increase, which was preceded by a 2.26 percent increase in the first quarter, according to the FHFA data. That seems in line with data from the Boulder Area Realtors Association, or BARA, which showed strong rebounds in cities that previously had posted some loss.

According the BARA data, Lafayette showed the most significant increase at 10.4 percent; Broomfield posted a 4.9 percent rise; Erie, 4.3 percent; Longmont, 3.5 percent; and Louisville, 3.3 percent. Boulder and Superior posted declines of 0.9 percent and 6.8 percent, respectively.

BARA spokesman Ken Hotard said the Boulder Valley and most of Colorado never went through the speculative increases that hit other parts of the nation, such as Arizona and Florida, so subsequently there was never a crash in prices that came with the onset of the 2008 recession.

“The pricing never really got affected one way or the other. The pricing reductions that occurred were at the higher end, and that happened a couple years ago,” Hotard said.

“What we did see was a significant decrease in volume, and a significant increase in sales of lower-priced homes.”

That may be particularly true in the city of Boulder, said Boulder real-estate broker David Scott, illustrating why a price index may show a decrease where much of the market actually is fairly strong.

“There are all kinds of ways to cut the data. The problem is they don’t show you all the underlying data,” Scott said. In the Boulder Valley, homes priced below $600,000 are showing significant gains, he said, while the market for homes priced at more than $600,000 is significantly weaker.

“The luxury market in Boulder is not very strong above the $1.2 million mark,” he said.

“The truth is there’s still downward pressure on upper-level market — not at the point of listing, but at the point of sale.”

In resort areas, Scott said that Aspen appears to be leading the parade in terms of price recovery, although he hasn’t seen people flocking back to all the resort areas to buy second homes.

Hotard noted that the various niche markets in Colorado make for interesting study, given that the state has some very rural areas, the resort locations and everything in between.

“I think Denver, in particular, has seen a relatively strong rebound,” Hotard said.

“One of the things I do see in play in Colorado is (that) even though we do not see significant job creation, we have seen significant family formation — people moving to Colorado. It has kept some of that demand in play.”


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