No one welcomed the global financial upheaval in the wake of the unprecedented downgrade of U.S. credit by S&P. Yet, as bad as it has been for anyone who owns stocks or has a 401(k), the whipsawed stock market - down hundreds of points one day, up the next - could contain unanticipated good news for the Denver-area housing market. The Denver housing market is no way as volatile as the stock market's recent behavior. July Metrolist data shows that the average price of a single family home sold and closed in the metro area was $298,654, up 2.2 percent from June and about a half-percent from July 2010. The Denver housing market is unlikely to see the huge swings in prices that have recently tested the nerves of stock investors.
For one thing, with only 17,583 unsold single family homes, townhomes and condominiums on the market, the inventory is at a 10-year low. That's all the more remarkable when one considers that more than 600,000 people now live in the Front Range than a decade ago. The inventory of single family homes is down 22 percent from July 2010, as people who are not forced to sell are reluctant to compete with the foreclosures and short-sales, which account for about 35 percent of the current market. Yet, demand has not gone away. The number of single family homes placed under contract in July is up almost 11 percent from July 2010 and the number of closings is up 17 percent from a year earlier.
Mortgage rates were expected to rise with the downgrade of the U.S., but instead nose-dived. Some lenders in August were quoting rates of 3.75 percent for 30-year-fixed rate loans. Rates fell because investors dumped stocks and fled to the security of Treasuries. The Federal Reserve has promised to keep rates close to zero until at least mid-2013 so low mortgage rates should be with us for a while. Others have dumped stocks and poured money into gold, but gold is at record highs and some fear it will be the next bubble. An argument can be made that the confluence of world-wide, macro events - and the risk or low-yields associated with other places to put your money - is making buying a home more attractive than ever.
Savvy consumers may decide now is the time to take advantage of historic low mortgage rates and steady home prices, by cashing out some stock chips on the next upswing and using the proceeds for a down payment on the American Dream. Not only will they be able to sleep better at night, but they could do so in a new master bedroom!