Steven Caporale at home in Eagle Idaho

It seems like I get this reaction once a week from an out-of-state buyer…Buyer: “CNN told me how bad the market is. Can I offer $140,000 on the home listed for $179,900?”.  Me: “I wouldn’t recommend it on this PARTICULAR home” (the one on the market for two hours, built in 2005 with granite in a great neighborhood) .  

So, here are the stats from the IMLS.  I have withheld any of my comments. You come to your own conclusion. 


Total sales for 2011 are 6,299; up 7% over 2010. In July of 2011, we exceeded YTD 2010 sales for the first time in 2011. This is our first year-over-year increase, without influence of the home buyer tax credit, in a few years.  This is our first time crossing the 6,000 homes sold threshold since 2007, or five years ago.

Of our total sales in December… 48% were distressed….up 1% from November 2011. In January 2011, 57% of our sales were distressed. We have seen a mild overall increase in the percentage of sales in distress. In July we were down to 42% overall and have seen the amount increase one or two percent each month.

For homes sold in December, the average number of “Days on Market” was 86. This is essentially unchanged from last month. Down from 90 days last year this time and down from 93 days in January 2011.

Pending sales at the end of December were 691; a decrease of 7.5% from the end of November. This represents the smallest number of pendings in 2011. That is fairly consistent with historical data.  The percentage of pending sales in distress increased 1% from November, totaling 49% overall. This is the highest number of pending sales in distress we’ve had since early spring. Even so, we are now at eight consecutive months below 50%.

At the end of December, we had 20% more sales pending than at the end of December 2010. December median home price held at November levels. Overall median price was $149,300; up 1.2% from December 2010. For all of 2011 our median was down 6.97%.  That is a significant improvement from where we were in January 2011: down 20%.

New Homes median price for December 2011 was $223,739; an 24% increase from December 2010. Year-to-date new homes median is up 15% over 2010 to $237,500.

The number of houses available continues to decrease. At the end of December our total active inventory was 1,991 homes. This is down 9% from November and 25% less than last year at this timeOur inventory has fallen below where we would call the market “in equilibrium”.  We are now in a “shortage”.

At the same time, the percentage of distressed active inventory held steady at 36%. We have been hovering between 33% and 36% since May. We remain well below the 40% levels set last spring….when we were on the increase.

In Ada County we have 4.2 months of inventory on hand…historically this number defines a strong “seller’s market”. The price category in shortest supply is <$119,000 with 2.5 months. In the range of $120,000 to $159,999 we have 3.9 months. All price points up to $400,000 have less than 5 moths supply. We have benefited all year from inventory levels much lower than national average. now, however, we are starting to see some slowdown in sales as the inventory continues to fall.

Based on December sold data, our most desirable price point is $120,000 to $160,000 which made up more than 20% of total sales.

There is no longer any doubt that, in Ada County, we have passed our “low water” point. The challenge to our continued recovery is available product.

Talking with our 2012 President, Kit Fitzgerald, we don’t see new homes construction being able to keep up with the demand, especially as we move toward Spring.

Financing for builders is still extremely difficult to come by.  In Kits words: “Without sticks in the ground, there is no excitement. Without excitement there is no sales growth.”

Sure, we will see median price increase over the next months, but when we get to April and the pent up demand comes roaring out of winter hibernation…then what?

Another thing I learned from Kit…the desires of new home buyers have changed…about the lots they want to build on.  Gone are the days when .13 acre was an acceptable lot size.  Buyers now want .25 or more….and there’s very few of those anywhere in Ada County.

We shall see.  My prediction is get ready to be frustrated if you are underestimating this market.

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