DENVER — By nearly any measure, this city is booming. The unemployment rate is below 3 percent. There is so much construction that a local newspaper started a “crane watch” feature. Seemingly every week brings headlines about companies bringing high-paying jobs to the area.
Yet, Denver’s once-soaring housing market has run into turbulence. Sales and construction activity have slowed in recent months. Houses that would once have drawn a frenzy of offers are sitting on the market for days or weeks. Selling prices are rising more slowly, and asking prices are being slashed to attract buyers.
Similar slowdowns have hit New York, Seattle and even San Francisco, cities that until recently ranked among the nation’s hottest housing markets. The specifics vary, but economists, real estate agents and home builders say the core issue is the same: Home buyers are reaching a breaking point after years of breakneck price increases that far exceeded income gains.
“The local economy is still fantastic, all the fundamentals are there, but obviously wages are not keeping pace,” said Steve Danyliw, a Denver realtor. “As the market continues to move up, buyers are being pushed out.”
Rachel Sandoval is one of them. An elementary schoolteacher in the Denver Public Schools, Ms. Sandoval earns about $50,000 a year, enough to afford a condominium or a modest house in most markets. But not in Denver, where the median sales price for all homes was $410,000 in August, and where even condos routinely top $300,000 — a price Ms. Sandoval calls “not even close to feasible.” She said she was scoping out jobs in Texas, where houses are cheaper and pay is higher, and considering leaving teaching in search of a higher salary.
For now, Ms. Sandoval, 41, is sharing a one-bathroom rental house with two roommates, a nurse and an adjunct professor. The three stick to a strict schedule to make sure they can all get to work on time.
“We are professionals, we have degrees,” Ms. Sandoval said. “This was not the plan.”
Nationwide, sales of previously owned homes fell 1.5 percent in Augustfrom a year earlier, according to the National Association of Realtors. Residential building permits were down 5.5 percent over the past year, according to the Department of Commerce. Many economists say the housing market may have turned into a drag on the gross domestic product.
The recent slowdown, however, is unlikely to give would-be buyers like Ms. Sandoval much relief. Prices in Denver are still up 8 percent over the past year, according to the S&P Case-Shiller index. That’s cool compared to the double-digit gains of a couple years ago, but well ahead of the 6 percent increase in average hourly earnings over the same period. Rising interest rates have also made buying homes more expensive.
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