Published in Anchorage Daily News on 11.15.2023
On November 13, 2023, there were only 83 single-family homes for sale in Anchorage between $400,000-$600,000 which is considered the ‘missing middle’ in our local housing market. That number in itself is shocking for a population of 291,000. But even more shocking is that of the 83 homes, 35 or 41% were over forty-three years old. And only 25 of the 83 were less than twenty years old. In total, just over 52% of our housing stock was built in the l970’s and l980’s. So, HOW Old Is Too OLD?
A recent real estate column in the New York Times identified a Boise, Idaho home as built in l935; a Swansboro, N.C. home built in l906 and New Castle, Del. a Townhouse built in l824. Suddenly, the HUD homes along 15th street; the pilot cottages along the Park Strip don’t seem nearly as old. Anchorage is really a new community created in 1914 as the headquarters of the Alaska Railroad running north to Fairbanks and was incorporated on Nov. 3, 1920.
With the shortage of new housing at a historic low of 185 housing units permitted during the past nine months, buyers and investors need to rethink what is truly old. In human terms if 70 is the new 60, how old is too old when it comes to housing? Maintaining and preserving a home’s living space is expensive. Remodeling costs more on a price per-square-foot basis than any new construction. A bathroom is the most expensive small space in a home. Many older bathrooms have damage due to rot often in the floor, under the tub or in the walls. A kitchen redo can cost upward of $30,000 without a six-burner Viking stove and cabinets from Lowe’s. High cost of remodels is driven, in large part, by building code changes, such as a need for an upgraded electrical panel. And don’t be fooled by a handyman’s low price. Any remodel costing more than $10,000 needs to be performed by a currently licensed, bonded, and insured general contractor. And that includes hot water heaters which are suppose to be permitted and inspected by the MOA.
Yet, despite our aging inventory, the average sold price in the last six months was $493,136, and even more telling was that the homes sold for 100.6% of the most recently listed price. Due to a lack of construction, buyers are forced into buying an aging product. Older homes do have advantages with larger lots, mature landscaping and an opportunity for home improvement. That’s the catch, however. Buyers need to have extra cash when purchasing an older home. Cold weather and record breaking snow may mean a new water heater, leaking roofs, falling trees and branches. Most older homes are not built to five-star energy efficient standards which means increased costs for gas and electricity. Flat or low-pitched roofs may need to be shoveled.—more than once! In general, the upkeep of an older home means more unexpected maintenance and less energy efficient resulting in higher utility bills.
But buyers don’t have much choice in Anchorage. A brand new home, if you can find one, is at least 35% more expensive when comparing market value to resale. And new homes mean installation of window coverings, landscaping, appliances and IT connections and almost always a smaller lot unless you can afford a million-dollar plus purchase on the hillside. So, bottom line, we all need to
rethink how old is too old.