Saturday, December 17, 2005

Residential sales prices up 11.5% year-to-date

MLS reports for November show an 11.5% average reported sales price for the first 11 months of this year, compared with all of 2004. The monthly reports show November sales at $297,163, down from the monthly reported sales that peaked at $305,530 for August.

This may not reflect an overall market decline, however, because higher-cost new construction jobs were probably part of the mix to a greater degree at the end of the summer. At this time of year one would expect to see more resale properties. There is also a certain amount of discounting that happens now by owners who want to get a property sold and not carry it through the winter.

However, there has not been a pattern in past years of values peaking in late summer, followed by general price declines on a monthly basis in the fall.

For full property searches, virtual tours and many other Anchorage real estate resources, visit The site includes the detailed reports of market data referred to in this post.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Anchorage at 90

"Changing Fast, with More to Come" is the title of a terrific report from the University of Alaska Institute for Social and Economic Research. I've noticed a revitalization of this research arm at the university since Fran Ulmer recently took over after her unsuccessful run for Governor.

The report looks closely at the 1990 census data and extracts a profile of the city and its changing demographic profile. Its conclusion begins:

"Anchorage at 90 looks surprisingly like other U.S. cities, given how recently it was still a frontier town. It has an aging white population, a young and diverse minority population, and a growing number of residents over 65. Many of its minorities, single mothers, and older people living alone are clustered at or near poverty levels. Fast growth in housing prices is prompting many residents, especially families, to move outside the core city and creating a burgeoning commuter population."

Download the full report from the link in the first paragraph.

For full property searches, virtual tours and many other Anchorage real estate resources, visit

Monday, October 31, 2005

Oh, no, HE'S BACK!!

The latest is that HE'S BACK! Last night I looked out the window before going out with the terriers for "last pee's and wee's and night-night treats" (always have to, given the number of predators I live with here) and THERE HE WAS, CHOWING DOWN IN MY GARDEN!

Enough already! This is not a porcupine hotel, motel, or Royal Fork restaurant!

Now he knows where he thinks he lives so as I run out (with terriers locked up) with a pole to make him ball up so I can catch him, and garbage can in hand. He races (didn't know they could go that fast) under the shed. So back we are, my wife and I, with the same eviction routine with the fully-extended window washing pole and rake. Fortunately after not too much effort the silly creature runs out from under the shed right into the garbage can that's lying on its side waiting for him.

Now this time it's off to the thousands of acres of state park up a long twisting road about five miles away. "Find yourself somebody else to freeload off of!" he's told.

It's "three strikes and you're out" around here. Next time he gets shot. My wife says porcupine belly is good eating.

For full property searches, virtual tours and many other Anchorage real estate resources, visit

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Evicting the tenant from Hell

This is sort of real estate story. File it under landlord-tenant relations.

Anyone who has been a landlord dreads the occasional tenant from Hell. One such moved in on me yesterday.

A pocupine trapped under one's shed, and two terriers, is not a happy combination. After a quick trip to the vet to get facefuls of quills removed, I returned to evict my unwelcome tenant.

How do you chase out a pocupine from under a shed that's 15 feet long and only about six inches above the ground? Like the vet said, when I asked him how he managed to neuter such a creature for the Alaska Zoo, you do it "very carefully".

A pocupine when challenged just rolls itself into a ball. But with the window-washing pole extended full-lengeth it was possible to shove and prod him to the the other end of the shed. Then running around the building with a rake, quickly before he moved farther back under, I dragged him out into the yard.

There he crouched in a ball. Silly creature. I just plopped a garbage can over him. Then I shoved the lid under the can and righted the now closed can, safely covered over. Lastly, it was down the road to show him off to the neighbor children, who then trooped after me to our neighboring 50 area undeveloped tract where we could let him go.

For full property searches, virtual tours and many other Anchorage real estate resources, visit

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Anchorage homes more affordable, says national study

Coldwell Banker has done an "apples-to-apples" study of housing values since the late 1980's. The Home Price Comparison Index calculates what the same house is worth in different markets. This year's study ranks 319 US markets. Anchorage ranks #170, about in the middle. The index rates a typical middle-management 2200 sq.ft. 4 bedroom 2.5 bath house that has a family room and double garage. At $305,107 this Anchorage home is only 76% of the cost of the US Average home of this type, however.

This is a useful study for anyone who plans a move from or to another community. E-mail me, for the full study.

For full property searches, virtual tours and many other Anchorage real estate resources, visit

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Buying from an institutional owner -- you need fortitude!

"It takes fortitude," said Anchorage Opera's former director when I told him I wanted to see the entire Ring cycle by Wagner.

The same can be said of you if you want to buy a property from an institutional owner. These include bank foreclosures and homes taken into inventory by relocation companies.

I get the assignment to market these properties on a regular basis. So I see what buyers go through when they develop an interest in them.

It's frustrating for these buyers who are used to dealing with live sellers in our market. They expect an answer right away, and don't want to mess around with lots of paperwork.

It just doesn't work that way with institutional owners. They can take days to answer. I've got one deal in the works now where the owner, for understandable reasons, was nearly a month answering the offer.

The paperwork can be impressive. On the one hand, institutional owners usually give out an Alaska disclosure form that says they don't know doodely about the property. At the same time, as their representative I may have accumulated lots of stuff, like the entire file of public records on the well and septic systems, for instance. Part of the purchase process involves the necessity to review and sign for all this information.

There is almost always a seemingly baffling multi-page form from the institutional owner that sets forth their own rules of the transaction. It's in the nature of a counter offer and you need to read the fine print: there may, for instance, be a daily penalty for not closing on time.

These contract provisions may vary from local practices. You can try to negotiate away something that simply doesn't work for you, but understand that these clauses are written for use all over the country. The people who handle the process are usually busy asset managers and relocation company counselors. They are often not inclined to cater to your individual preferences in Alaska.

It takes fortitude. On one property I've marketed this month we sold it twice and never got it all together because in both cases the buyers got mad when they didn't get an answer right away and they walked away. Too bad for them: on the third go-around I had four offers and somebody who was more patient is getting a pretty good deal.

That's the end benefit of buying this type of property. With a little care -- and competent professional assistance -- you can come up with some pretty good deals. Unlike a private seller, an institutional owner has no motivation to hold a property indefinitely. It's for sure in a "must sell" mode.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Termination and Default -- What's the difference?

A new purchase and sale agreement has come in use in the Alaska market this year. It makes many improvements. One such improvement answers questions that always come up when the buyer or seller don't do something the contract calls for.

The new agreement frequently uses the word "terminate". For instance, if the seller fails to accept the offer by the day and time the buyer states in the offer, the offer terminates. If the offer has been agreed to and the buyer fails to produce a letter from the lender that verifies the buyer's qualifications, the agreement terminates. If the buyer and seller fail to agree on a buyer's or a lender's repair requests by the stated date, the agreement terminates.

Nobody has to do or sign anything when an agreement terminates. The deal is off and the buyer's earnest money gets refunded.

Default is a different matter. The rules are different for buyer and seller.

A buyer is in default if he or she fails to tell the seller that the lender won't meet the agreed date for granting a loan commitment. A buyer is in default if after obtaining a commitment he or she doesn't close.

A seller might be in default if the seller doesn't close without good cause.

If a buyer is in default the seller gets the earnest money. By contract the buyer and seller agree that this is the entire remedy for a buyer's default. The seller can't pursue a claim for other damages, or get a court order requiring the buyer to close.

By contrast, if a seller is in default, a buyer would have the right to seek specific performance.

For full property searches, virtual tours and many other Anchorage real estate resources, visit

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Anchorage home and condo values surge 10%

Alaska MLS Inc., (where I was Past President last year) published its annual statistics yesterday. These numbers are widely-quoted because of the size of the database and reliability of information furnished by real estate licensee members statewide. The complete reports can be reviewed from this link.

How much did Anchorage houses go up last year? The MLS report for 3328 reported sales of new and existing homes in 2004 was 10.13%. This closely matches the Assessor's recent report of tax values increasing by 11%. The average closed sale price was $259,883, the first time in history that the average Anchorage home price has topped a quarter million.

The average number of days-on-market was 46, beating the previous low record of 49 in 2002 and only the second time in ten years that homes have sold in less than 50 days. These market-time data includes new construction, which often gets listed when the builder pulls a permit, or even at the design state. Isolating resale homes produces a market time of 34 days, again a 10-year record.

Anchorage home price appreciation has made $300,000 homes worth $400,000 in about 4-5 years. I think of "nicer, more costly" homes starting at $400,000 now. Of all existing home sales in 2000, only 1.6% sold for more than $400,000. By last year, 8.4%, 224 homes sold above that level. From 39 "high-end" sales in 2000 to 224 in 2004 is almost a six-fold increase! The difference in new construction is more pronounced: in 2000 only one in 18 new homes cost over $400,000. By last year one out of every five new homes (not including condos) cost that much.

New condos seem to have hit a value plateau. The surge of site condo building began in 2001 when the number of units quadrupled to the mid-400 level per year. Average prices rose as much as 10.7%, in 2003. Then last year the average price held steady, a 1.3% drop, actually. Meanwhile, existing condo values continue to rise at over 10% per year for over 900 sales per year, including last year's 989 sales, a new record total, with appreciation at 10.1%.

For full property searches, virtual tours and many other Anchorage real estate resources, visit

Sunday, February 13, 2005

AEDC Predicts Continued Economic Growth

The AEDC economic forecast for 2005 is for a tenth year of continued growth. The headline prediction is for 2100 new jobs. This 1.5% increase does not include 2000 additional Army personnel who are moving here this summer. You can get a copy of the excellent and comprehensive report from AEDC at their site, on this page.

For full property searches, virtual tours and many other Anchorage real estate resources, visit

Big Transfer of Wealth Coming

Boomer will transfer $14 billion in wealth in the next 14 year, according to the chief economist for Stewart Title. Ted Jones was a luncheon speaker for a real estate audience last week. He said if inheritance taxes were just 25% the revenue would pay off the entire federal deficit!

Most of this wealth currently exists in the form of conservative investments and liquid funds. How much will be reinvested in real estate as baby boomers acquire more property and diversify their holdings?

For full property searches, virtual tours and many other Anchorage real estate resources, visit

What is that Dripping in my House?!!

These past few weeks have been an acid test for roof systems. This question about dripping came from a client who was about to have me put her house on the market and leave the state for good. Instead, she has had to put off her plans and deal with these drips into her living room.

What's all this dripping? It's condensation. Through much of late January temperatures hovered at zero and below. If a roof system isn't ventilated and insulated well, the dew point occurs somewhere in the insulation layer, or under the roof deck. Moisture from the house gets up in the roof cavity and doesn't get out. Ice forms there instead. Then when a sudden thaw happens, like this past week, all that ice melts and finds its way back into the house.

When my client asked a roofing company to diagnose her problem they told her they were getting similar calls from all over town last week.

There's a variety of fixes, some simple and some are a big project. At the most extreme, it is sometimes necessary to remove the entire roof deck. The contractor builds up the roof trusses to create a ventilated cavity above the insulation where it formerly closed.

For full property searches, virtual tours and many other Anchorage real estate resources, visit

Beating the Competition for a Home

It can get very competitive when a nice home is on the market and priced right. I had an out-of-town client who got caught up in competing offers this past week. His was the only offer on the table when I presented it to the licensee for the seller at 5 PM on Wednesday. By the next morning there were two other offers and one more that was said to be coming. We were given until 5 PM that next day, Thursday, to make our "best and final" offer.

The property had sold for $10,000 more than it was listed for just a few weeks earlier. The deal didn't close on settlement day because the buyer failed to get his anticipated job. Now the question became: were we the only ones who had heard that story? If we were, perhaps offering a little above the list price might be enough. If others had that information, at least one of them could be expected to offer at that higher level. On a home in the mid-$400,000 range, $10,000 one way or another might not seem like a big deal to someone.

My client was leaning toward running with the listed price. I counseled bumping it $1500. I was honestly not all that optimistic, and was pleasantly surprised to learn the next day that my folks were the top offer, "but not by much," according to the seller's representative.

For full property searches, virtual tours and many other Anchorage real estate resources, visit

Monday, January 24, 2005

Anchorage New Home Construction Down 16%

New home permits issued by the Muncipality of Anchorage for 2004 dropped by 15.7% from the average of the previous four years. The permit valuation of all residential and commercial permit activity dropped 10.6% compared with 2003.

Single family home permits and duplexes totaled 1028 units for 2004, compared with 1309 for the prior year, a one-year decrease of 21.5%. The 2000-2003 four-year average was 1220 units. Site condos are mostly configured as duplexes and count in that total.

Meanwhile, in outlying areas like Eagle River, where only a land use permit is required, the past two years have seen a 38% increase in permits compared with the three prior years. Considering the land shortage in the Anchorage bowl, it makes sense that more homes are being built a little farther away.

The four-year average for multifamily units is 336, bolstered in part by the high of 622 units in 2003. Last year's total was 552, a one-year drop of 11.3%. Notwithstanding that one-year decline it's clear that apartments are under construction at a fair clip: in the last two years apartments were built at a rate this is double the average of the prior three years.

When you consider the economic activity associated with all residential and commercial building permit activity, however, the reports show an increase. The value of all permits last year was $649.4 million, 6.3% above the average of the previous four years.

These statistical report are found on the Municipality's web site at this address.

For full property searches, virtual tours and many other Anchorage real estate resources, visit

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Foreclosure Challenges

A buyer client liked a property they saw today and wanted to make an offer. When I spoke with the licensee representing the seller I learned the property is in foreclosure. It is due to go to foreclosure sale sooner than any sale would close. Most lenders will agree to postpone a sale if they will get proceeds sufficient to be paid off, including interest in arrears and foreclosure costs. Sometimes they will even take a "short payoff" instead of running further costs of foreclosure and marketing.

In the case of today's client, there is another buyer whose offer was accepted before we saw the property, so we are waiting in the wings. If they can't make that other offer work then we might jump in.

The Anchorage real estate market is so strong that it's unusual for a loan to go through foreclosure. There's usually enough equity through market appreciation that a seller in economic straights can sell the property and get clear. When foreclosures do occur, however, I am often hired by the asset managers to market the properties: I have two of them now, one on Division St. and a duplex coming up on 13th. As soon as I hear about one coming up I put it on my web site, Anchorage Real Estate:

For full property searches, virtual tours and many other Anchorage real estate resources, visit

Friday, January 21, 2005

Breakfast Meeting: Property Tax Assessments

I had breakfast with Larry Norene today. He and I served on the old Board of Equalization. Larry has an interesting take on the new exemption that gives owner-occupants a 10% discount off their assessed valuation, to a maximum of $20,000. Larry points out that the actual tax savings is not as much as you would think. This is because when assessed values are reduced by these discounts, the mill rates will go up so that enough revenue is collected to fund the budget.

By the way, you have to apply for the discount, so don't throw out the mailer you received this week. The Assessor's staff will be checking all applications against Permanent Fund records. Whether this is a good use of their time is debatable, so one has to wonder if this is perhaps a false savings.

For full property searches, virtual tours and many other Anchorage real estate resources, visit

Welcome to the Anchorage Real Estate blog

Welcome to the Anchorage real estate information blog. I've established this service as an easy way to post current real estate information of general interest. I'll include some thoughts on "best practices" for buying and selling. You are welcome to participate.

For full property searches, virtual tours and many other Anchorage real estate resources, visit