Friday, March 17, 2006

Slight Sales Decline in Early 2006

I've just posted real estate statistical reports from Alaska MLS Inc. showing market activity through February. I'm watching the data closely this spring for signs of any market slowdown.

It might be a stretch to divine any weakening of market activity from the early data. Closed sales reports for February and January reflect deals that were done late last year. A better early indicator is the number of transactions that were showing as pending at the end of January and February.

This year the pending file is in the low 200's. Last year it went from a little under 300 to just over 300 by February. Two years ago it was about the same as last year. So there have been fewer property sales so far this year.

This has not been accompanied by an increase in the number of homes for sale, however. At this time of year there have always been a little under 600 residential listings in MLS. The inventory stood at 558 at the end of last month this year.

The average sales price topped $310,000 for the first time ever on a year-to-date basis. The average price for last year on one report -- MLS has not yet published comprehensive year-end data -- was $291,013. The February closed sales average $315,751.

That preliminary average sales price for last year is an increase over 2004 of 12.13%.

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

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Your home value: the buzz about Zillow

A web-based home valuation service called has been receiving much buzz around the country. You just type in your address (or anyone else's) and it returns an estimate and maps.

Some of the buzz is coming from fearful real estate agents who wonder if such a tool threatens their business model. (Some go so far as to hope they don't enhance the buzz by using the word Willow in their on-line posts.)

To the extent that their business model is based on being the gatekeeper to real estate data, perhaps it does. For those of us who moved long ago to being the trusted adviser and the interpreter of data, it does not.

Zillow's estimates in Alaska are probably just an extrapolation of property tax data. If you use the Zillow function to ask about comparable sales here, the site replies there are none. After all, there is no law requiring property sales to be reported in public, or to taxing authorities. Mass appraisal techniques lead to assessed values, which are often uneven for individual properties.

Zillow's graphing function in the case of my home produced the amusing assertion that it went up in value since last summer from about $334,000 to $396,000. To the extent that I trust myself as a "trusted real estate advisor" I'd question where this comes from. I would also trust my advice that with only a single garage, the home isn't worth this much now, even though the location is superior and the home is remodeled and well-maintained.

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