That’s what I call doing open houses on weekends. That’s about the only time buyers have to look at homes. The rest of the week they’re busy working one, two, maybe even three jobs so that they can qualify to purchase a new home. I work the street because I get to know firsthand what buyers are looking for in a home. It’s better than relying on the internet or even local MLS statistics to tell me what they want. And what I can tell you is that all buyers, with rare exception, are looking for a detached single family home on their own fee simple lot. Anything less than that for 75% of home buyers is a compromise based on financial constraints. The remaining 25%, including seniors, aging boomers, snowbirds and the occasional millennial, are willing to purchase a maintenance free condo, but even then they would prefer first floor living with a backyard even if is only 20 x 10 square feet. People willing to live in stacked units, going down an interior corridor to get to their front door, are almost always renters. And, in Alaska, everyone wants a garage and lots of sun.
Unfortunately, our building and zoning codes don’t always mesh with what home buyers want. We need housing of all types but the idea that you can develop multi-family housing to solve our lack of inventory ignores what buyers really want. For many buyers, frustrated with Anchorage’s lack of new and affordable single family homes, a trip to the valley seems like a reasonable compromise. According to MLS statistics, there were 287 single family homes built in the valley last year compared to the MOA’s 185. The average price of the new home was $355,619. Here in Anchorage, the average price of a new home permit was $430,551 which does not include the cost of the lot.
Anchorage needs to find some solutions or they will continue to lose residents to the valley. According to the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, part of Anchorage’s net population loss of approximately 5,912 residents since 2013, were residents who moved to the Valley which has grown by 18% since 2010.
One viable solution is to change single lot coverage ratios and make them more in keeping not only with other communities in the lower 48 but here in Alaska as well. The minimum lot size for single family homes in most communities is between 4,000 to 6,000 square feet but even more important than the size of the lot is the maximum lot coverage ratios. Keep in mind, what buyers really want a backyard for the kids and dog. Take a look at the following chart to see how other communities address single-family lot coverage ratios on their single family homesites.