Connie Yoshimura

INSIDE REAL ESTATE: Lack of inventory has kept Anchorage housing prices stable

Despite the past five years of Alaska’s negative migration, the Anchorage residential market has remained relatively unscathed but whether or not that resiliency will continue into 2018 is the question that is on everyone’s mind.

According to an Alaska Trends March 2018 article, Alaska has the highest population turnover of any state, including both inbound and outbound, with typically 40,000 to 50,000 moving in each direction.

INSIDE REAL ESTATE: Do your homework before buying lot

Alaskans love their land. And we have lots of land as the largest physical state in the nation with more than 663,300 square miles, but the amount of fully private land is less than 1 percent because 99 percent of Alaska’s land is owned by the government or Native corporations.

INSIDE REAL ESTATE: Time to buy with interest rates set to keep rising

One year ago this month the Veterans’ Affairs 30-year fixed mortgage rate was 3.75. Today, that rate is 4.5 percent.

Similar increases have occurred with all mortgage programs. A 15-year fixed conventional rate was 3.5 percent and today’s rate is 4.125. The popular Federal Housing Administration 30-year fixed rate has jumped from 3.75 percent to 4.5 percent.

With less than 10 percent down, FHA loans now also require mortgage insurance for the entire 30-year life of the loan whereas previously it was cancelled after five years and 78 percent loan-to-value.

INSIDE REAL ESTATE: The good, and not-so-good of 2017 in Anchorage building

The good news from the Municipality of Anchorage building safety activity report for 2017 is the total number of housing units increased from 341 in 2016 to 460.

The not-so-good news for potential homebuyers is that the increase comes from multi-family and duplex permits. Single-family permits had an increase of only six units. Clearly, Anchorage is trending towards more urban and higher density housing while the marketplace is still seeking the affordable single family home.

INSIDE REAL ESTATE: Commercial real estate outlook not so rosy in Anchorage

Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, has forecasted a national 2.5 percent increase in office rent, a 4 percent increase for industrial properties and a 2 percent increase in retail for 2018.

Here in Alaska, our commercial real estate forecast doesn’t look quite so rosy, according to the recent presentation at the Building Owners and Managers Association lunch by Mark Filipenko of Bond Filipenko Commercial Properties LLC.

INSIDE REAL ESTATE: Unique factors still impacting Alaska housing market

Before we can predict the future of Alaska’s housing market, we need to remind ourselves about some of the unique factors affecting our market.

One dominant factor is that 75 percent of Alaska’s housing was built between 1970 and 1990. A home built in l970 is now 48 years old — way past its functional and cosmetic life. Even one built in l990 is now 18 years old with ineffective energy standards.

INSIDE REAL ESTATE: Foreign homebuyers have cash to spend in Alaska

As can be expected, top destinations for foreign homebuyers are the sunshine states of Florida, California, Texas and Arizona.

However, in a little heralded survey in 2015, published by the National Association of Realtors, Alaska ranked number No. 6 as a destination for foreign homebuyers. More recent surveys have dropped Anchorage and Alaska out of the top 20 but the survey reminded me of my first encounter with a foreign homebuyer back in 1984.

INSIDE REAL ESTATE: Let’s talk about lots

Mark Twain said it best, “Buy land because they don’ t make any more of it.”

That still rings true to this day except for Dubai where they are creating islands in the ocean for high rise development. But, back here in Anchorage, buyers are frustrated even trying to find a lot on which to build a new home.

INSIDE REAL ESTATE: Alaska housing agency should build on mission

Congratulations to the Alaska Housing Finance Corp. for being one of the best-managed public housing agencies in the nation. Established 45 years ago to provide “Alaskans access to safe, quality, affordable housing,” its mission is perhaps more important today than ever before.

INSIDE REAL ESTATE: The cost of regulation on housing starts

During a recent presentation in Anchorage, Robert Deitz, chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders, reaffirmed several trends in housing, construction and land development that Anchorage has been experiencing the past few years.

The most startling is that regulatory costs continue to rise — up 29 percent over the last five years. The increase of costs on a single-family include the total effect of building codes, land use, environmental and other rules.

INSIDE REAL ESTATE: Changes proposed for accessory dwelling units

On Oct. 2, the Planning and Zoning Commission will hear a request from the Anchorage Assembly amending the Municipal Code for accessory dwelling units.

It is one of the many attempts by the MOA to help fix Anchorage’s affordable housing crisis by adding new housing units as the number of new housing has remained at historic lows for the past few years, with 2017 being no exception.

INSIDE REAL ESTATE: Single-family starts down in Anchorage

Anchorage single-family building permits still lag behind last year’s with a total of only 95 new homes permitted through June 2017 compared to 106 in 2016.

However, the good news is a total of 300 new housing units have been permitted compared to 208 in 2016 thanks to a big boost in multi-family development earlier this year.

Overall, however, total new construction activity at $282.6 million is down $10 million, which is only a 5 percent drop from 2016, a surprisingly low dip. Commercial construction continues to outpace residential by almost 30 percent.

INSIDE REAL ESTATE: What does $700K buy in Anchorage?

Anchorage has had 16 homes sell so far this year with an original list price between $700,000 and $850,000. There are also six pending sales and currently nine homes for sale in this price range.

One Downtown home that sold was built in 1939 and a bluff home sold that was built in 1975. However, half of the pending and sold homes have been built since 2000. The more recently built homes vary in price per square foot between $185 and $337, depending on location and style with ranches being the most expensive and homes with basements the least expensive per square foot.

INSIDE REAL ESTATE: A new option for homebuyers

The Alaska Housing Financing Corp. has a little-known new grant program for single-family homebuyers called the “Closing Cost Assistance Program.” Available only through First National Bank Alaska and Mt. McKinley Bank in Fairbanks, it offers up to a 4 percent grant (yes, grant, not loan) to homebuyers with a credit score of 660 and above.

INSIDE REAL ESTATE: Alaska rental vacancies hit five-year high

According to the annual Alaska Rental Market Survey, vacancy rates crept up in 2017 to 5.08 percent in Anchorage, which is almost identical to the national average.

Fairbanks, Kenai Peninsula Borough and Wrangell-Petersburg all have vacancy rates double Anchorage’s and have for the past several years. Valdez-Cordova and the Juneau Borough have the lowest vacancy rates with 4.55 percent and 5.68 percent respectively.

INSIDE REAL ESTATE: Breaking down myths about what homebuyers want

If homebuilders are wondering what type of housing they should build in 2017 and beyond, all they have to do is read the recently published book by the National Association of Home Builders. The 124 pages with 156 pages of addendums is a blueprint of home buyers’ wants and needs in all age groups and income categories.

So let’s get started with breaking some myths. Despite planners’ and developers’ love of higher density, single-family homes remain the preferred choice for buyers of all incomes. Nearly 70 percent of moderate-income buyers like suburban communities.

INSIDE REAL ESTATE: Rents, prices, foreclosures still stable

The Department of Labor and Work Force Development has confirmed in their May report what real estate professionals have been saying all along: “a reduced supply of housing has created stability in both the for sale and for rent housing market.”

Statewide, only 2,120 new residential units were built in Alaska 2016 — one of the four lowest permit years since 1993. The report called out new housing construction as “tepid at best” in 2016 and said it represented a 12.5 percent decline from the year before.

INSIDE REAL ESTATE: Remarkable stability in Anchorage housing market

The first four months of this year have demonstrated a remarkable stability in the Anchorage housing market due to a continued lack of single-family inventory.

The Multiple Listing Service tracks listing and sales data from thirteen geographical areas from Turnagain Arm to Peters Creek and each one has had a decline of single family homes for sale.

INSIDE REAL ESTATE: A step toward affordability in Anchorage

Working its way through the public process is a new land use concept that if passed by the Anchorage Assembly would allow for fee simple ownership of attached or detached homes on multi-family zoned land.

Already vetted and passed by the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Platting Board, Assembly approval is the final step in what should help to bypass the cumbersome financing requirements for condos.

INSIDE REAL ESTATE: Anchorage commercial permits up in 1Q

The Municipality of Anchorage has reported that the total value for all categories of building permits in the first quarter of 2017 has increased by $15.26 million when compared to the first quarter of 2016.

This increase is directly related to commercial permits rather than residential permits, which remain at historic low levels.

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