Alaska housing prices last year remained just short of recovering from the global Great Recession that started a decade ago, according to a new report from the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
By 2016, Alaska's average single-family home price was about $3,000 short of the 2006 prerecession high of $327,000, according to the report by state economist Karinne Wiebold. The Lower 48 housing market was hit much harder than Alaska's and has more ground to make up, with the nationwide average price of $234,000 still $31,000 lower than the market peak in 2006.
Statewide, real estate prices were holding up better in Alaska's current state-level recession than Wiebold expected. The Labor Department found average single-family home prices in all the larger markets along the Railbelt, from Fairbanks to Anchorage and the Kenai Peninsula, were up in 2016 compared to 2015. Prices in Juneau were also higher.
"Overall, I was surprised to see how steady the market was considering that in 2015 and 2016 we were in recession," Wiebold said.
Single-family home prices were up by an average of 3 percent to $323,909 statewide, the report said.
Anchorage's housing was the most expensive, with the average price for 2016 at $383,830. Prices in Juneau were slightly lower at $373,046.
The Matanuska-Susitna Borough, just north of the Anchorage Bowl, posted an average price of $283,204. Fairbanks was the most affordable of the state's larger markets at $257,654.
The MLS is a nationwide collection of hundreds of regional databases of listed properties. Realtors use MLS data on a regular basis to keep tabs on the market and provide that data to clients.
The Labor Department draws its sales information from a survey of housing lenders. Wiebold estimates the survey captured 85 to 90 percent of home-related lending activity in the state.
The survey includes for-sale-by-owner properties, but not the cash sales that make up a small percentage of housing transactions.
The MLS does not include for sale by owner data but would capture any listing entered in the system regardless of whether a lender was involved.
Other housing indicators described in the report appeared to show signs of contraction.
Construction of new homes statewide was down in 2016 for the second straight year. There were 2,120 homes built in Alaska last year, comparable to the number built in the late 2000s during the Great Recession, according to the report. More than 2,700 homes were added to the market in 2014.
Sales were also down in 2016. About 6,500 homes sold last year, down 11 percent from 2015.
Interest rates remained near historic lows, which was key in keeping Alaska's foreclosure rates down by allowing homeowners to refinance or sell before having to go into foreclosure, the report said.
But with the Lower 48 economy improving, the Federal Reserve is expected to continue raising interest rates to prevent overheating in the national economy. The increases will eventually affect the mortgage market, making it more expensive to borrow money to buy a home.
The department did not report other housing indicators, including the number of homes listed and the amount of time properties sat on the market.