By some counts, there were fewer homes on the market in Anchorage this summer than any year since 2005.
There were approximately 850 homes for sale in August, and data from the Alaska Multiple Listing Service shows a steady decline in the city’s residential active listing inventory. Homes sell, on average, for more than $353,000 each. Pointing to shrinking stock, high prices and growing demand, local housing groups have called the situation a crisis. Yet one neighborhood seems to buck the trend. In Mountain View, streets still bristle with for-sale signs, prices are lower than almost everywhere else and homes can stay on the market for months. There’s property for sale on most blocks—and it’s been that way for years.
Is Anchorage’s current housing crunch big enough to change the face of the neighborhood?
Not yet, according to one recent competitive market analysis. While Hillside homes currently sell in anywhere from five to 35 days, homes on the opposite side of town can stay on the market for nine times as long, according to Tanya Strom with Real Estate Brokers of Alaska. A house in Mountain View might take more than 60 days to sell, Strom says.
The neighborhood has a stigma that’s hard to shake, and housing problems throughout Anchorage have yet to drive buyers into one of the most affordable areas in town.
Willie Brown grew up in Mountain View. Now he sells homes there, working as an agent with Jack White Real Estate. Moving houses in the neighborhood has always been difficult, he says, and he doesn’t believe the recent citywide housing crunch will do much to change it. At first. If it continues over time, he believes the lack of housing in other parts of Anchorage may prompt younger, first-time homebuyers to move into Mountain View in growing numbers.
The neighborhood didn’t always have the reputation it does today.
When Kevin Elfrink first came to town in the mid-‘70s, the neighborhood was visibly different, chock full of its signature small single-family homes and large new apartment complexes.
That was back when Mountain View Drive was a bustling commercial corridor, right about the time the trans-Alaska pipeline brought an influx of construction and oilfield workers to the area. The neighborhood began to grow and change. So did perceptions of the neighborhood, followed by the real estate market.
“Mountain View’s been a tough sell for a long time now,” said Elfrink, who now works for Globe Real Estate. “Just a low income neighborhood, I guess. People don’t want to live there.”
But every cloud has a silver lining. Buyers can often find better cash returns in the neighborhood, the realtor said. Mountain View’s older single-family homes can come with bigger maintenance needs—and lower prices than most other neighborhoods in town. Some Anchorage realtors believe those prices could ultimately help change long-held stigmas about the area.
“Mountain View is fast becoming a better part of Anchorage, if you will,” said Rod Rodriguez, an agent with RE/MAX Dynamic Properties.
The vacancy rate remains relatively high, according to statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau. Home prices remain relatively low. Rodriguez says he’s listed homes with average monthly mortgage payments below $700. Some developers and lenders offer incentives for moving into Mountain View, the realtor said, and older homes with smaller footprints go for much less than bigger, newer single-family homes in more recently developed neighborhoods around Anchorage.
According to a housing market analysis published by the McDowell Group and ECONorthwest in 2012, there’s strong demand for single-family homes in Anchorage. A telephone survey of more than 800 area residents found the majority would prefer to own their own house, and the market analysis found a growing need for small, affordable single-family homes—like many of those for sale in Mountain View.
Meanwhile, increased home ownership in the neighborhood could help change perceptions about the area, Rodriguez said. But it’s a slow process.
One example: A new, five-star energy rated home for sale on Peterkin Avenue has been on the market for nearly two years. Monthly loan payments for the three-bedroom home total less than the average price for a two-bedroom apartment elsewhere in town, yet the house has yet to be sold, Rodriguez said.
“It’s just the perception that Mountain View is gunshots in the middle of the night, police sirens, what have you,” Rodriguez said. “And that’s not the case all the time.”
So far, Anchorage’s housing crunch has yet to prompt a market swing in one of the municipality’s most stigmatized neighborhoods. If conditions persist, though, maybe perceptions—and the local housing scene—could change.
Strom, who’s currently selling a home on North Bunn Street, says money makes the difference, and a shift could happen sooner rather than later. If Anchorage’s housing crunch continues, Mountain View may be in for yet another transformation.
“Markets change all the time,” Strom said.