Alaska Real Estate Market Trends & Analysis


The Alaska real estate market hasn’t been able to follow the same trajectory as the rest of the contiguous United States. Whereas the majority of the country has seen approximately seven consecutive years of improvement since the depths of The Great Recession, Alaska’s economy experienced an additional setback. Due largely, in part, to statewide job losses (particularly in the oil industry), Alaska’s economy entered into a subsequent recession at a time when the rest of the country was prospering.

As a result, the state experienced net migration losses for the better part of the last decade. Consequently, real estate in Alaska has lagged behind the national average for several years. Despite recent obstacles, however, Alaska appears to be recovering, and the real estate market is no exception. Income growth has resumed and the housing market is starting to heat up. Now, the real estate market in Alaska is starting to look like the national market in 2012, when prices began their historic run.

The Top Alaska Real Estate Markets


While the best real estate market in Alaska is up for debate, here’s a list of the cities investors may want to pay special considerations to:

  • Anchorage

  • Fairbanks

  • Juneau

  • Wasilla

  • Sitka

  • Ketchikan

Alaska Real Estate Fees & Regulations

Real Estate

Closing Conducted by: Title Companies, Lenders, Private Escrow Companies
Conveyance: Warranty Deed

Foreclosure Procedure

Primary Foreclosure Method: Non-Judicial
Process Period: 3 - 4 months
Notice of Sale: Trustee
Redemption Period: None

Taxes

Income Tax: None
Corporate Tax: 0 - 9.4%
Sales Tax: None
Estate Tax: No
Inheritance Tax: No
Median Property Tax: 1.04%
Property Taxes by County: http://www.tax-rates.org/alaska/property-tax#Counties

Average Transactional Costs

Closing Cost: $2,897
Transfer Fee: No Fees
Origination Fee: $2,195.00

Overview

  • Median Home Value: $318,000

  • 1-Year Appreciation Rate: +2.8%

  • Median Rent Price: $1,695

  • Price-To-Rent Ratio: 15.63

  • Average Days On Market: 75

  • Unemployment Rate: 6.3% (latest estimate by the Bureau Of Labor Statistics)

  • Population: 737,438 (latest estimate by the U.S. Census Bureau)

  • Median Household Income: $76,114 (latest estimate by the U.S. Census Bureau)

Median Home Prices In Alaska


Real estate in Alaska hasn’t had the luxury of riding nearly seven consecutive years of appreciation rates like its contiguous counterparts. That’s not to say prices haven’t increased exponentially since the end of The Great Recession, but rather that the Alaska real estate market ran into a few obstacles along the way. Whereas the majority of markets across the continental United States saw consistent increases in prices for the better part of a decade, the Alaska real estate market experienced a subsequent recession that actually saw prices drop on a few occasions, which begs the question: What is the average cost of a home in Alaska? Are houses cheap in Alaska? Despite recent turbulence, prices in our northernmost state are actually higher than the national average.

The median home value in the Alaska real estate market now rests at approximately $318,000. About seven years ago (August 2012), when the first signs of a recovery surfaced, real estate in Alaska had a slightly more modest price tag: $277,000. Since then, median home values in Alaska increased 14.8% to get to where they are today. To put things into perspective, the median home value in the United States increased approximately 53.0% over the same period.

While median home values across the United States are starting to taper their increases, Alaska has seen its rate of appreciation increase, relative to national trends. Since the beginning of 2019, median home values in the United States have increased at a rate of 1.5%. Over the same period of time, however, real estate in Alaska increased 3.2%, or more than twice as fast as the rest of the country. More importantly, however, there’s nothing to suggest the trend won’t continue. As the rest of the country faces slower appreciation rates for the foreseeable future, Alaska’s improving economy should increase home prices at a faster rate than the U.S. average.

Were it not for suffering a few significant setbacks, real estate in Alaska may have been more of a commodity today. Nonetheless, the Alaska real estate market appears to have finally generated the momentum it needs to catch up to the rest of the country. In fact, many are convinced the entire state of Alaska is about to experience the same housing boom the rest of the country saw in 2012. There’s a very good chance the Alaska real estate market outpaces national trends in an attempt to make up for lost time.

Median Rent Prices In Alaska


Despite recent improvements to the local economy, Alaska’s latest recession can still be felt throughout the local housing industry. While things are better now than in years past, the housing industry in Alaska has further to go than other markets. In fact, nowhere else was the latest downturn more evident in Alaska than in the rental market. As recently as the third quarter of 2019, the state of Alaska saw rents decline in the face of rising vacancies. According to Alaska Economic Trends, a monthly magazine released by the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the latest “increase in vacancies continues a three-year trend that has pushed the overall vacancy rate to a 10-year high of 8.6 percent.” There’s no doubt about it: Alaska’s most recent recession hurt the rental market. Now, even as Alaska continues to strengthen its economy, net migration losses remain a threat to the rental market. As more and more people leave the state to seek opportunities elsewhere, the vacancy rate continues to rise.

Not surprisingly, it costs the most to rent a house in Alaska’s biggest city: Anchorage. “Three-bedroom homes are the most common size for house rentals, and they were the most expensive in Anchorage at $2,011 per month,” according to Alaska Economic Trends. Two-bedroom apartments demanded the most rent in Kodiak, where the adjusted rate reached $1,371 per month.

The rental market in Alaska has seen vacancy rates increase across the board. Anchorage, for example, is used to a vacancy rate between 3% and 4%, but currently boasts a rate somewhere in the neighborhood of 5.2%. Nonetheless, the unique distribution of renters and landlords saw vacancy rates vary dramatically from city to city. Contrary to the state-wide trend, three locations actually saw a decline in vacancy rates: Sitka, Ketchikan, and the Valdez-Cordova Census Area.

The rise in vacancy rates is attributed, almost entirely, to Alaska’s declining labor force. More and more people are looking to other states for job opportunities. According to the October edition of Alaska Economic Trends, “Alaska’s labor force peaked in November 2011 at 366,844 people, meaning that many Alaskans 16 or older were employed or looking for a job. As of July 2019, the labor force had shrunk to 351,410.” In less than a decade, the Alaskan economy lost more than 15,400 workers, which doesn’t bode well for the rental market.

Alaska Foreclosure Trends & Statistics


According to RealtyTrac, a real estate information company and an online marketplace specializing in distressed properties, the Alaskan housing market has very few foreclosures. In fact, a mere one in every 3,896 properties in Alaska currently falls under one of today’s three most common distressed labels: default, auction and bank owned. The distribution of distressed properties should serve as a reminder that Alaska’s latest recession wasn’t nearly as bad as the one that crippled the economy in the ‘80s, when foreclosure rates exceeded 10%.

Consequently, today’s economy is in a much better position. Thanks, in large part, to 11 consecutive months of over-the-year job gains and six consecutive quarters of wage increases, real estate in Alaska is now less susceptible to foreclosure activity. Only the District of Columbia, for that matter, saw a larger decrease in month-over-month foreclosure activity. “In August, the number of properties that received a foreclosure filing in AK was 30% lower than the previous month and 59% lower than the same time last year,” according to data provided by RealtyTrac.

It is worth noting, however, that while foreclosure activity is on the decline, it is not entirely omitted from several of Alaska’s biggest counties. The locations with the highest distribution of foreclosures are as follows:

  • Matanuska-Susitna (1 in every 1,604)

  • Anchorage (1 in every 2,692)

  • Kodiak Island (1 in every 5,373)

  • Valdez-Cordova (1 in every 6,169)

  • Kenai Peninsula (1 in every 7,754)

Real Estate Investing In Alaska


It is true: the Alaska real estate market has seen better days. The latest recession has suppressed many of today’s most important indicators: prices, activity and demand—just to name a few. It is worth noting, however, that the entire Alaskan economy appears ready to turn a corner. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has grown for 10 consecutive quarters, wages have increased, foreclosures have declined, and job growth remains stable. That’s not to say that the state doesn’t exhibit any economic concerns at all, but rather that its economy has begun to improve. Things are unequivocally better off today than they were just a few short years ago, which bodes well for everyone participating in the housing industry, and Alaska real estate investors are no exception.

Alaska’s strengthening economy should simultaneously improve net migration and the prospects of buyers and renters. If for nothing else, Alaskan residents have more of a reason than ever to find a new place to buy or rent. Demand should increase, and well-positioned real estate investors in Alaska should reap the rewards. In fact, many are convinced the Alaska real estate market currently bears a resemblance to the national housing market in 2012, right before prices began to appreciate at a historical pace.

Alaska real estate investors looking to capitalize on discounted properties should spend the majority of their time browsing auction sites to locate potential deals. If for nothing else, 71.3% of Alaska’s distressed homes are either up for auction, or will be sometime in the near future. At that rate, auction homes may represent the best opportunity to secure a discounted property. As their names suggest, auction homes are placed up for auction and sold to the highest bidder. In an attempt to recoup losses, the loan originators are often willing to part ways with auction homes for a discount, which bodes well for investors looking to retain profit margins. The remaining 28.2% of distressed properties in Alaska are bank owned, which suggests the assets failed to sell at auction. That said, bank-owned homes represent yet another opportunity for real estate investors in Alaska to secure a home below market value.

Not unlike everywhere else, real estate investing in Alaska is a numbers game; the more leads investors have to choose from, the more likely they are to secure a deal. Therefore, investors in Alaska looking to secure deals below market value should pay special considerations to auctions and bank-owned homes—in that order.

Alaska Housing Market Predictions


Predicting the housing market without any degree of error is a fool’s errand, even in a state with the positive momentum Alaska has managed to generate; there’s always going to be at least a slight margin of error. Nonetheless, it is good practice to make well-informed, educated guesses. Maintaining a pulse on where the market currently rests, and where it’s going, will help real estate investors in Alaska maintain an edge over the competition. With that in mind, here are some of the Alaska housing market projections I feel are more likely to pan out:

  • Median home values will appreciate faster than the national average: Since the beginning of 2019, median home values in Alaska have outpaced the national average. Thanks to improving economic conditions, and what looks like might be the start of a new housing cycle, the entire state of Alaska should see an acceleration in home price appreciation. In fact, many are convinced Alaska closely resembles that national housing market in 2012, right before prices began seven consecutive years of appreciation.

  • Supply and demand will continue to shape the real estate landscape: Real estate in Alaska is currently in the middle of a unique predicament: More people are leaving the state as a result of the latest recession, but the strengthening economy has improved job growth. As a result, the Alaska real estate market has seen a drop in demand. However, as the economy grows, more people should return to the market and boost real estate activity. It’s only a matter of time until people realize Alaska has gotten its feet back under it and start to migrate back. Once that happens, the real estate market should take off.

  • Net migration will stabilize: As recently as 2018, Alaska real estate trends had been hampered by six consecutive years of net migration losses. More people have moved out of Alaska than people who have moved to Alaska. As a result, the housing industry hasn’t been able to realize its potential. That said, improving economic conditions should begin to stabilize migration patterns, stimulating housing activity across the state.


Alaska real estate trends aren’t set in stone, but they can give great insight into what may transpire in the near future. At the very least, they are a good tool to use for minding due diligence. Only those that can anticipate AK real estate market trends with a high level of accuracy will stand a better chance at realizing success.

Alaska Real Estate Market Summary


The Alaska real estate market has faced more adversity than just about any other market in the country. While the rest of the continental United States has seen its confidence in the real estate market grow for the better part of a decade, real estate in Alaska experienced quite a significant setback approximately four years ago in the form of a subsequent recession. It wasn’t until the beginning of 2019 that real estate market trends in Alaska started to instill confidence in residents. Thanks, in large part, to simultaneous increases in job opportunities and wages (primarily in the oil industry), many housing indicators are simply better off today than they were at the end of 2018. All things considered, Alaska appears poised to mimic the same recovery witnessed across the entire country in 2012. Everything appears to be in place for the Alaskan housing market to sustain growth for the foreseeable future.

Sources:



http://labor.alaska.gov/trends/sep19.pdf
https://www.zillow.com/ak/home-values/
https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/AK
https://www.bls.gov/regions/west/alaska.htm#eag
http://laborstats.alaska.gov/trends/aug19art1.pdf

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