2019 Economic and Housing Forecast

What a year it has been for both the U.S. economy and the national housing market. After several years of above-average economic and home price growth, 2018 marked the start of a slowdown in the residential real estate market. As the year comes to a close, it’s time for me to dust off my crystal ball to see what we can expect in 2019.

The U.S. Economy

Despite the turbulence that the ongoing trade wars with China are causing, I still expect the U.S. economy to have one more year of relatively solid growth before we likely enter a recession in 2020. Yes, it’s the dreaded “R” word, but before you panic, there are some things to bear in mind.

Firstly, any cyclical downturn will not be driven by housing.  Although it is almost impossible to predict exactly what will be the “straw that breaks the camel’s back”, I believe it will likely be caused by one of the following three things: an ongoing trade war, the Federal Reserve raising interest rates too quickly, or excessive corporate debt levels. That said, we still have another year of solid growth ahead of us, so I think it’s more important to focus on 2019 for now.

The U.S. Housing Market

Existing Home Sales

This paper is being written well before the year-end numbers come out, but I expect 2018 home sales will be about 3.5% lower than the prior year. Sales started to slow last spring as we breached affordability limits and more homes came on the market.  In 2019, I anticipate that home sales will rebound modestly and rise by 1.9% to a little over 5.4 million units.

Existing Home Prices

We will likely end 2018 with a median home price of about $260,000 – up 5.4% from 2017.  In 2019 I expect prices to continue rising, but at a slower rate as we move toward a more balanced housing market. I’m forecasting the median home price to increase by 4.4% as rising mortgage rates continue to act as a headwind to home price growth.

New Home Sales

In a somewhat similar manner to existing home sales, new home sales started to slow in the spring of 2018, but the overall trend has been positive since 2011. I expect that to continue in 2019 with sales increasing by 6.9% to 695,000 units – the highest level seen since 2007.

That being said, the level of new construction remains well below the long-term average. Builders continue to struggle with land, labor, and material costs, and this is an issue that is not likely to be solved in 2019. Furthermore, these constraints are forcing developers to primarily build higher-priced homes, which does little to meet the substantial demand by first-time buyers.

Mortgage Rates

In last year’s forecast, I suggested that 5% interest rates would be a 2019 story, not a 2018 story. This prediction has proven accurate with the average 30-year conforming rates measured at 4.87% in November, and highly unlikely to breach the 5% barrier before the end of the year.

In 2019, I expect interest rates to continue trending higher, but we may see periods of modest contraction or levelling.  We will likely end the year with the 30-year fixed rate at around 5.7%, which means that 6% interest rates are more apt to be a 2020 story.

I also believe that non-conforming (or jumbo) rates will remain remarkably competitive. Banks appear to be comfortable with the risk and ultimately, the return, that this product offers, so expect jumbo loan yields to track conforming loans quite closely.

Conclusions

There are still voices out there that seem to suggest the housing market is headed for calamity and that another housing bubble is forming, or in some cases, is already deflating.  In all the data that I review, I just don’t see this happening. Credit quality for new mortgage holders remains very high and the median down payment (as a percentage of home price) is at its highest level since 2004.

That is not to say that there aren’t several markets around the country that are overpriced, but just because a market is overvalued, does not mean that a bubble is in place. It simply means that forward price growth in these markets will be lower to allow income levels to rise sufficiently.

Finally, if there is a big story for 2019, I believe it will be the ongoing resurgence of first-time buyers. While these buyers face challenges regarding student debt and the ability to save for a down payment, they are definitely on the comeback and likely to purchase more homes next year than any other buyer demographic.

Originally published on Inman News.

Posted on January 7, 2019 at 3:30 pm
John Taylor | Category: Economy | Tagged , , ,

Preparing Your Garage for an Electric Car

Electric cars help lower emissions and fuel costs, improve fuel economy, and bolster energy security. And considering the volatility of gas prices—and their general skyward trajectory—electric fuel shows promise as an economic alternative.

But switching to an electric vehicle entails more than new driving habits and a conversation piece with strangers. It’s also a lifestyle update.

From setting up a charging station in the garage to maintaining optimal temperatures therein, check out these useful garage preparation tips to assure your electric vehicle battery is in tip-top shape.

Selecting a Charger: Level 1 vs. Level 2

Unfortunately, charging an electric vehicle might be a tad more involved than charging your smartphone. And unless you own a Tesla Model X, which can travel upwards of 300 miles on one charge, your electric plug-in vehicle could benefit greatly from a home station charger. That said, make sure you familiarize yourself with the two main levels of electric vehicle chargers supplied by home-based charging equipment and most public charging stations.

Level 1 Chargers

A Level 1 cord set charger delivers a standard household current of 110 or 120 volts and comes with most plug-in vehicles upon purchase. It’s outfitted with a three-pronged, household plug at one end that’s connected to a control box by a short cord. A longer 15-to-20-foot cord running from the other side of the box connects directly to the vehicle itself.

  • If time is not of the essence, a Level 1 could be the way to go. But be forewarned: What you get is, more or less, a trickle charge that affords roughly three to five miles per charging hour. For instance, the Nissan Leaf takes around 24 hours to fully charge on a standard 120-volt household outlet.
  • The upside is, Level 1 equipment doesn’t entail an elaborate setup of high-power circuit breakers or dedicated electrical lines, which are required by major appliances like stoves and refrigerators.
  • Because cord sets are portable, plug-in vehicles can be charged virtually anywhere there’s a standard outlet, provided it isn’t a household outlet that’s patched into the same circuit as other demanding appliances—in which case the excess amperage could trip a circuit breaker.

Level 2 Chargers 

If time is of the essence, consider installing a Level 2 charger, which delivers 240 volts and replenishes pure electric vehicles in about three hours—which is about seven to eight times faster than Level 1 equipment. Unlike the simplicity of Level 1 setups, though, Level 2 chargers may warrant the services of a professional due to the rigmarole of electrical codes, equipment setup, and necessary inspections.

  • Level 2 chargers cost anywhere between under $300 to over $1500, the price ultimately depending on cord length and amperage.
  • Level 2 outputs typically range between 16 to 30 amps, but professionals often recommend around 30- to 40-amp systems—an adequate overnight charge for most plug-in electric cars.

Installing a Charging Station

It’s worth mentioning that the “charger” you’re installing is technically referred to as Electric Vehicle Service Equipment (EVSE). This is the wall-mounted box with cord and plug that delivers electricity and functions as a communication and safety unit for the actual charger situated inside the vehicle itself.  The EVSE ensures the battery doesn’t overheat and shuts the charging session down if there’s a short circuit, power surge, or any other type of faulty hardware.

If you’ve opted for a Level 2 ESVE, you’ll likely need to reach out to a professional electrician to wire up equipment and determine where the ESVE should be situated in regards to where your vehicle is parked. Notwithstanding factors like outdated wiring, meters, and breaker panels, updating the garage for your electric ride should actually be pretty straightforward.

For instance, I gave my electrician the specs for a Tesla—a 14-50 NEMA charger that delivers 40 amps at 240 volts. And even though I have an older house, by setting up a dedicated circuit, my electrical panel handled the load without a hitch.

In rare instances, old wiring may need to be replaced. But by and large, the process is fairly easy and uncomplicated. What’s more, the plug itself isn’t any more difficult to install than a standard dryer outlet. For electric vehicle owners, installing a Level 2 ESVE is definitely the way to go.

Cost of Installation

The installation cost generally hinges on the work involved—such as the amount of wire that needs to be run, whether additional or replacement breaker panels are necessary, and the cost of labor in your area. This could vary between just a few hundred dollars to a couple thousand. However, you may be able to snag special rates from your utility company for installing an EVSE, so make sure you inquire.

Thank you to guest author Eric Madia. 

Posted on July 31, 2018 at 3:30 pm
John Taylor | Category: Living | Tagged , , , ,

Gardening Trends for 2018

Outdoor living during the spring and summer months is extremely popular. Months of cold, wet winters are followed by glorious spring colors and warm summer days of vivid blue skies. In this post, we thought that now would be the best time to share some pretty garden trends for 2018.

Wabi-Sabi

Leisure time should be just that: relaxing and rejuvenating. So why labor relentlessly to create and maintain a perfect landscape? Wabi-sabi, is the Japanese art of accepting transience and imperfect beauty. Relax and appreciate nature as it is, with humble imperfections, weeds and all. Recognize (and tell others) that dandelions and clover in untreated lawns are not blights. They are status symbols for ecological horticulture. Consider natural grasses and groundcovers as low-maintenance substitutes for sod. Opt for perennials instead of annuals, let flowers go to seed and give nature license to evolve on her own.

Reclaiming Small Outside Spaces

For many of us these days, space is at a premium and with house prices continually on the rise, more and more people are living in apartment blocks or tiny lots. Garden designers are determined to make even the smallest of spaces useful and attractive, and manufacturers have taken notice. Look for a better choice in planters that slot onto balcony rails. New models will have coverings for protecting plants from cold temperatures so that you can even grow seeds and vegetables on your balcony alongside your flowers.

Self-watering wall planter systems have been improved for 2018 and the hanging macramé plant holder is having a bit of a revival. Add a small patio heater and you have an outside space you can enjoy all year round with minimal effort.

Purple Passion

Pantone’s Ultra Violet is the color of the year. Maybe that’s why you find purple flowers in this year’s plant varieties and garden design. It’s easy to incorporate this color in the garden as there are many flowers and shrubs with this beautiful color. However, there are also several edible purple plants that you can grow. Purple vegetables are not only interesting and pretty, their unique color denote anthocyanins which are very beneficial to your health.

Re-Wilding

This is a style that keeps popping up time and again. However, 2018 has taken the re-wilding trend up another notch. It is still all about working with nature, growing wildflowers and supporting our pollinating insects. Re-wilding means adjusting plant selections to better support local wildlife and growing both seed-producing and berry-bearing plants. However, now it is also about using ‘green’ gardening products, natural solutions to bug and slug killers instead of chemicals and insecticides and using peat-free products.

Alfresco Living

Outdoor entertaining and kitchen areas are tipped to be a key trend for Spring/Summer 2018. We are not talking about a little nook corner just off the kitchen. Alfresco dining spaces are being pushed out into the garden itself and made into a major feature. These dedicated outdoor dining areas are surrounded by in-ground and container plants for that lush feeling. Special flooring, comfy furniture and mood lighting turn it into a little haven. Complete the trend with a sunken fire pit, barbecue or pizza oven and you might never want to leave.

Lighting The Way

Adding lighting to your garden is not a new thing. However, in this age of renewable energy, garden lighting companies are turning away from the more traditional lighting solutions we have seen in the past. The advances in solar energy capture, means that we can light up our gardens in a variety of fun, affordable and better ways. No more changing batteries or wiring up the garden with electricity.

The wide range of lighting methods allows you to create whatever ambience you want. Simple stand-alone lights can mark pathways, either discreetly embedded into the path edges or standing loud and proud along the side. Multi-colored fairy lights can be tangled among the overhead branches of a tree creating dazzling shapes and textures. Solar Mason jars can be hung from above or used as table lighting. Festoon lights can create an ambient glow around any outdoor space creating romantic nooks.

Posted on May 11, 2018 at 3:30 pm
John Taylor | Category: Housing Trends | Tagged , ,

Most Active

Loving young couple looking at dream house.

Here’s a question we sometimes hear…

“What is the most active price range in our market?”

For most of Northern Colorado, the range of $300,000 to $500,000 is far and away the most active (no surprise there). For example, in Fort Collins there are more than three times as many sales in this price range compared to the range of $500,000 to $700,000.

The one exception is Greeley. In Greeley the most active price range is under $300,000. This price range has twice as many sales as the $300,000 to $500,000 range. Why is this true for Greeley and not other places? You guessed it – it’s because the other locations don’t have much inventory under $300,000.

It’s interesting to note that in Fort Collins there are more sales in the $500,000 to $700,000 range than the under $300,000 range. This was not the case even one year ago.

The market is changing right before our eyes.

Posted on April 23, 2018 at 8:33 pm
John Taylor | Category: Northern Colorado Real Estate | Tagged , ,