CLARK COUNTY HOUSING
Highest/Lowest Appreciation Areas
You won’t read this in the paper.
The RMLS stats for November are in. Let’s get started.
In the past 12 months the average price of a home in Clark County has risen 18%. This means a buyer that purchased a home one year ago for $350,000 with 3% down ($10,500) now has a home worth $413,000 leaving the owner with more than a 500% return on investment before selling. As values go up quickly so does the required down payment. Down payment is the greatest obstacle to buying for first time home buyers. Buying the first home, any home even if it is not the “dream” home, is the first step to overcoming this vicious cycle. This is how first time home buyers get to their dream home and eliminate the down payment problem.
Do renters need another reason to buy?
If you can not find the right home for your needs, buy anything now so as to preserve your ability to buy once you do find the right home. Otherwise appreciation will price you out of the market.
Areas with Highest Demand?
In December 2021 the Clark County buyer activity levels were 74% lower than the high in May, largely due to the holidays. The number of listings have also correspondingly fallen leaving inventories just as tight as ever. But what I find especially interesting is how different areas in the County have fared over 2021.
Let’s talk about marketing times and average selling prices. Some areas in Clark County started out the year with very long marketing times and ended the year with short marketing times while other areas have experienced the opposite. Some areas have remained steady all year long. The RMLS provides relevant data for many areas of Clark County. Here are some highlights.
The downtown Vancouver area is unique. The general perception is this area has high demand. But oddly enough during the first half of 2021 this area experienced an average marketing time of 44 days. This is the highest in the County next to Yacolt at 44 days and Brush Prairie at 85 days (which I suspect is a goof in the stats). Fortunately by the end of the year (November) downtown marketing time recovered and dropped to 10 days.
Such high downtown marketing times for the first half of the year may have been triggered by something. Only something very unusual could explain this. Could the Vancouver and Portland riots in the first half of the year been the cause? As I recall there was also an incident or two involving the police blocking off some downtown areas while in pursuit. These are the best explanations I have heard so far. What do you think? Any suggestions?
Whatever this event was that caused such high marketing time, I suspect the downtown sales prices may also have suffered. NW and SW Heights areas appreciated at 15% and 23% respectively for 2021, well above downtown’s 10%. I would have expected downtown to be in a similar range. Compare this to the average County wide appreciation of 18% for 2021. Again, it seems likely a unique event caused this data in the first half for downtown.
Some areas of Clark County saw unusually large decreases in demand over the year. The following areas saw marketing time more than triple from early 2021 to November. Areas like Orchards (5 to 21 days), 5 Corners (6 to 23 days), Fishers Landing (4 to 28 days) and Battle Ground (8 to 27 days). But the slowdown occurred late enough in 2021 to have a minimal effect on the sales price. These same areas experienced an average price increase of 24%,15%, 27% and 24% respectively. In fact Fishers Landing had the highest appreciation rate in the County at 27%.
Some areas in Clark County were relatively weak all year long.Yacolt demand remained relatively low all year hovering in the 40-44 days on-the-market range most of the time. La Center was in the 30 to 40 day range most of the year. But these two areas experienced very different appreciation rates. Yacolt appreciated at only 5% (second lowest in the County) while La Center appreciated at 18%.
The lowest appreciation area in Clark County was Cascade Park at 3%. This is difficult to explain. Marketing time ranged from 8 to 20 days through the year.
Market times as high as 44 days may seem comparatively high but they are actually low compared to 2017. In 2017 we were in a more neutral market with market times ranging from 45 to 60 days. Going back just a few more years in 2012 when the market was favoring buyers, market times ranged from 115 days to 140 days on average. Those earlier market numbers help one to appreciate the market today.
On average, the market time for Clark County this year ran around 16 days in the first half and ended at 24 days in November reflecting a general slowing through the holiday season.
Top 10 Areas of Highest Appreciation
Fishers Landing 27%
Battle Ground 24%
SW Heights 23%
NE Heights 22%
E Heights 21%
N. Hazel Dell 21%
N. Salmon Creek20%
N. Felida 20%
Top 5 Areas of Lowest Appreciation
Cascade Park 3%
E. Orchards 9%
Lincoln/H. Dell 11%
County wide average appreciation was at 18%
Despite large drops in the number of buyers looking for homes ( a 74% drop from the May high of about 4800 per week) as 2021 came to an end, the number of homes for sale dropped correspondingly leaving buyers with little inventory to choose from. The big question is, can we expect buyers to come roaring back early next year as they typically do and have done for the last several years? I do not know that answer as yet but I can predict we will see sellers move slowly for the first 4 months in putting their homes on the market. This expected behavior will surely create an ideal time to sell from January through April. How ideal will depend on if large numbers of buyers are still waiting to purchase a home. If there are still lots of buyers then they will make their presence known right out of the gate in the first weeks of January. If there is not a huge pool of buyers who have delayed buying because of the holiday season then we will see a slowing housing market in 2022. We will know what to expect by the end of January. I can let you know in the February report.
Interest rates do affect buyers. If rates rise quickly then we will see a rapid drop in the number of buyers. According to the Next Advisor (click to view the article) in partnership with Time, most experts are predicting interest rates to rise in 2022 about ½%. These predictions are conservative in my view and if correct will not slow our strong buyer’s market significantly.
- When you buy, be aware of the general rule. Homes along the freeway corridor with faster and easier access to Portland will come with a premium and have a higher rate of appreciation. Yacolt has always been a great place to buy at discounted prices. So it seems reasonable that home appreciation is below the average Clark County home. However, I expect this condition to change as electric cars become more practical, working remotely grows more frequent and internet access improves.
- Continuing with Takeaway #1, in times of a changing and slowing housing market the more remote locations will be the first to see the slowdown. So the first sign of a slowing market will show up at the remote locations and gradually work their way toward the downtown areas. This is likely to be the case as interest rates rise more than 2%. The ½% predicted rise for 2022 is not going to affect the housing market much.
- Along the same lines, the last area to experience a general slowdown is the downtown area, barring an outside occurrence such as what I think happened to downtown Vancouver during the first half of 2021. It is safe to assume that future disturbances in the Vancouver and Portland areas will continue to affect downtown home values. (See my comment on Ridgefield below.)S
- I suspect the general close-in areas to downtown all generally see over time about the same appreciation rates over time. An area that is high one year will slow relatively to other areas intown the next year. In other words, Fisher’s Landing may be the highest area for home appreciation in 2021 but in 2022 it will likely not be the highest.
- Ridgefield homes appreciated in 2021 at 14%. This is 4% below the County average. Ridgefield is undergoing some major long term improvements. Roadway beautifications, overpasses at train tracks allowing for improved safety and the elimination of the train whistles, carefully planned growth of retail and commercial areas and preserving the quaint small town feel of the core downtown area. I expect Ridgefield to see relatively higher home appreciation rates over the next few years. 30 years ago downtown Vancouver was not a popular destination. That has changed. I expect Ridgefield to follow that same path and is a good place to invest in rental homes.
I welcome calls about the housing market.