Sunday, August 1, 2010

If I had a million dollars...

Locally, we hear regularly how affordable St. Louis is compared to the rest of the country. As an agent who has worked with a LOT of relocation clients, I can assure you that our city delivers a lot of bang for the buck compared to most! Are you curious how St. Louis really stacks up compared to other major US cities, like New York, Vegas, San Francisco, Phoenix, and Dallas? Yesterday, an article appeared on that illustrates just that. NOTE: it is quite obvious that the author used only St. Louis City, not county, in his statistics.

What can $1 million buy in today's housing market?

By Paul Toscano,

How much can $1 million buy you in today's real estate market? The answer, of course, varies depending on where you're looking to buy.

Throughout the U.S. housing crisis, home values have fallen sharply and short sales are becoming commonplace. However, many in local real estate markets — from New York and San Francisco to Anchorage and Omaha— are optimistic about a gradual recovery in home prices.

One price range of particular interest is the $1 million market, where affordability and luxury come to a crossroads. In some places, $1 million may buy you a mansion, in others the price will fetch a nice, yet moderate home.

Although these are not typical homes by any means, they provide a good point of reference for spending across the country as well as the health of local economies. For reference, we have also included information on the market for homes priced $1 million or greater, with information from surveyed 19 local markets across the country, gathering examples and individual perspectives on the health of local markets in America.

So, how far can $1 million go in today's real estate market?

New York, New York

$1 million+ market

• Homes for sale: 3,217
• Median size: 2,459 sq ft
• Median time on market: 68 days

In New York, activity has doubled in the first quarter from a year earlier, with 1,195 sales in Q1 2009 compared to 2,384 in Q1 2010, up due to buyers re-entering the market and sellers getting their asking price. Inventories are down nearly 24%, and with increasing demand. Buyers are optimistic of increasing values over time.

Short sales are also occurring in New York, and this is where buyers are getting the best deals, according to Realtors in the area. The current example is a short sale that was originally purchased in January 2008 for $1.45 million.

The outlook is "extremely positive" over the next 12 months, as prices are expected to adjust with high demand and shorter supply.

San Francisco, California

$1 million+ market

• Homes for sale: 597
• Median size: 2,297 sq ft
• Median time on market: 48 days

The San Francisco market has seen an up-tick in buying activity across all price ranges compared to 2009, partly as a result of the federal home buyer tax credit, which expired in April. The market is seeing a "promising" recovery, although prices and activity are still not back to "normalcy."

Entry-level homes currently represent the hottest segment of the market and this strength is expected to continue into 2011, although buyers continue to demand high affordability. Realtors expect the overall market to remain stable, although summer buying is expected to give a clearer outlook on the rest of the year.

Las Vegas, Nevada

$1 million+ market

• Homes for sale: 130
• Median size: 5,947 sq ft
• Median time on market: 94 days

One of the cities hardest-hit by the sub prime crisis, Realtors in Las Vegas report only a flat increase in sales from 2009 to 2010, mostly due to the home buyer tax credit.

Many sales in Las Vegas continue to be short sales, with approximately 80% of homeowners 'underwater', or owe more than their mortgage is worth. Short sales increased from 10% of total sales in January 2009 to 30% of sales in May 2010, and this number could continue to rise.

Supply of homes has dropped from approximately 22,000 in January 2009 to 12,000 in May 2010, with demand dropping at a similar pace. Although there has been a slight increase in prices of late, rising home values are possible in 2011, according to Realtors in the area.


$1 million+ market

• Homes for sale: 74
• Median size: 6,379 sq ft
• Median time on market: 128 days

As in the rest of the country, sales in Anchorage were bolstered by the first time home buyer tax credit, but have slowed significantly since the incentive has expired. As a result, first time buyers dominate the market, while short sales and foreclosures continue to increase.

Realtors in the area remain hopeful that the market will remain stable for the rest of the year and steadily increase over the next 12 months.

St. Louis, Missouri

$1 million+ market

• Homes for sale: 33
• Median size: 7,064 sq ft
• Median time on market: 101 days

Realtors in St. Louis report that the city's central corridor has seen strong performance over the past year, up 23% in May from a year earlier. Although the federal home buyer tax credit increased sales, the opinion is that buyers were simply moving their timetable for purchases forward to take advantage of the program, and that the market will give up some gains.

However, prices look to have stabilized in most price ranges, while residential, non-condo properties are on the market sell 12% faster than they did in 2009.

Phoenix, Arizona

$1 million+ market

• Homes for sale: 342
• Median size: 5,000 sq ft
• Median time on market: 85 days

In one of the harder-hit local markets, Phoenix's $1 million properties offer you much more for the price. In the beginning of 2009, the average price per square foot was around $265, but it has dropped to approximately $229 today. Inventories of million dollar homes has decreased 30% from a year earlier, and analysts say a decrease in overall inventory points towards a stabilized market in the next 12 months.

Buyers in the area are concerned of further market decline and are "extremely price sensitive." However, buyers with the patience to purchase short-sales and foreclosures can gain a great advantage.

Dallas, Texas

$1 million+ market

• Homes for sale: 634
• Median size: 5,361 sq ft
• Median time on market: 93 days

Like many US cities, Dallas has seen an increase in sales and more interested buyers in 2010. One major trend around the city is the purchase of homes that are "move-in ready," instead of homes in need of remodeling. Realtors also report that tougher lending guidelines around jumbo loans have reduced interest in spending additional money to close a purchase with a 20% or greater down payment.

In addition, individuals with "Mean Buyer" syndrome – buyers that have sold and are out to make up for their loss in the buying process – are numerous in Dallas and act to keep prices down.

Despite this, home prices in Dallas are stable and although prices may sink slightly before the end of the year, a surge may be on the horizon by Spring 2011, according to Realtors in the area.

Minneapolis, Minnesota

$1 million+ market

• Homes for sale: 141
• Median size: 4,248 sq ft
• Median time on market: 73 days

In Minneapolis, homes in the $1 million range are approximately 3% of the market. At the current levels, it is estimated that the inventory would be bought out after a period of about 33.7 months.

The local market has been one of the best performing in the country in the past 12 months, recently reporting an 11.6% increase in prices over that period.

Omaha, Nebraska

$1 million+ market

• Homes for sale: 21
• Median size: 5,001 sq ft
• Median time on market: 103 days

Although Realtors in Omaha report "very strong" sales numbers through 2009, the average sale price of homes sold in this period fell by about 15-20%. In addition, as the federal housing stimulus expired, the amount of completed transactions month-over-month dropped by nearly 65%.

Sales in Omaha mostly originated online, as buyers looked for deals and attempted to quickly close deals prior to the expiration of the home buyer tax credit.

Realtors expect the future to remain stable as long as rates remain very low, although many are bracing for the worst, with perceived unknowns in the job market. New loan restrictions and requirements also stand to potentially hinder activity, the Realtors say.

Click HERE for photos of million dollar houses across America.