I have a buyer who's trying to decide between Thornton and the northwest Denver Highlands area. Well, he's actually pretty well decided, but I did some research anyway, to demonstrate that all real estate is TRULY local, right down to the neighborhood. I checked sold statistics for each area over the past 12 months. What I found was fascinating.
Let's start with Thornton, a suburb north of town. I have other buyers under contract up there, and I've been amazed at how much house one can buy up there for around $200,000. No wonder. Prices have come down significantly. Over the past 12 months, the average home price in Thornton has decreased 7.7%, while the median price is down 5%.
Meanwhile, in the Highlands neighborhood, the average price is UP 17%, while the median is up 16%.
Of course, it's important to keep in mind that there is a lot of scraping going on in the Highlands neighborhood, which can skew the price statistics. If you scrape a $100,000 house and erect a $750,000 house in its place, the average sold price in the neighborhood is going to skyrocket, but it won't reflect the increase in value of the individual homes. So, since my buyer is looking in the 200K price range anyway, I searched the Highlands for sold properties under 300K, to eliminate the "scrape effect." And I still found that the average sold price was up 1.3%, while the median was up a whopping 14.3%.
So, what's a buyer to do? Well, if he needs a lot of house for the money, and plans to stay a while, and wants to take advantage of recent price drops, he might want to look at Thornton. However, if he's buying with resale in mind (and wants a very cute, charming area) he might want to stay in northwest Denver, knowing that it has held its value even in a declining market.
This kind of knowledge is important, not just for buyers, but for seller, and for everyone who owns a home or who follows the market. So often we hear news reports that say "Home values in Denver dropped x% over the past year" or even "Home values nationally dropped x%", and we automatically think "Well, what's x% of the value of my house? That must be how much value it has lost."
But it doesn't work that way. Not only are different cities appreciating and depreciating at different rates, but so are neighborhoods within those cities. Often values can shift fairly dramatically within a block or two. Even though a metro area (like Denver) may be depreciating, neighborhoods within that metro area can be appreciating -- sometimes significantly.
Location, location, location.