How did the Denver market do in 2006?

Well, it all depends on which index you're looking at . . .

The statistic used most often to gauge the market is "average home price." According to that index, home prices in Denver rose 2% -- from $305,000 to $313,000. That increase, however, was not spread equally across all neighborhoods. There were high increases in neighborhoods like University Park (26%) and Cherry Creek (23%), while other neighborhoods took a dive. (Swansea down 17%, Barnum West down 13%, Clayton down 12%).

The problem with calculating average home price is that the figure can be skewed if bigger or more inherently "expensive" homes are sold in one year that another. That fact might be skewing some of these higher-appreciating neighborhoods, because they're the areas where smaller houses, inexpensive homes are being scraped and replaced by larger, "take up every inch of the lot", pricier homes. It's not that the same house has actually appreciated 26%, it's the there are now larger homes being sold that command a higher price and are skewing the average up. (Which makes me feel a lot better. I sold a condo in Cherry Creek two years ago, and I'd have a pretty hard time believing it could have appreciated 23% since then!)

And, on the low end, you have the issue of foreclosures. In Swansea, 81% of the homes sold were foreclosures. In University Park, only 5% were. Foreclosures generally sell for less than similar homes being sold by their owner occupants. Unfortunately, those foreclosures DO drive down the prices in their respective neighborhoods.

The index I prefer to use comes from the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight. They use federally held or insured mortgages (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) to track repeat sales of the same properties. That way they are actually gauging the appreciation of individual properties, instead of just tracking averages for an area. The disadvantage to OFHEO's numbers is that they only track single family homes, and only those financed by conventional loans (loan amounts of $417,000 or less, last I checked). But still, I think it's a more accurate number.

According to OFHEO, the Denver market appreciated 1.09% from 1st quarter 2006 to 1st quarter 2007. They don't break numbers out by neighborhood, so I can't get more specific than that. They do say that the Denver metro area is 221st out of 285 markets tracked. The better news is that over the past five years, we've appreciated 14.78%.

Looking wider, housing prices in Colorado as a whole appreciated 3.30%, which makes us 38th out of 50 states (51 if you count the District of Columbia, which they do.) Over the past five years, Colorado has appreciated 21.15%.

So, any way you look at it, the market has been basically flat for the past year. Some neighborhoods are doing better than others, but all in all we're flat.

The best news is that my anecdotal reports about an energized market this spring seem to be confirmed by the facts. Average sales price in Denver as of mid-April was $330,000, which is a big jump over the $313,000 on December 31st. Again, big houses selling while smaller houses languish could skew the numbers somewhat, but I'm not going to argue too much with good news!