Winning in multiple offers

Two of the three houses I sold last weekend had multiple offers.

I’ve always said that what often wins a house in these situations has nothing to do with price.  It is even more true in today’s market where almost every house sells for full price or slightly above.  I know when I get multiple offers on my listings, it is amazing to see several different buyers all offer roughly the same amount, especially when it is over the list price.

The first one I sold was a for sale by owner townhouse.  I knew the seller probably didn’t know what to do once he got an offer, and probably didn’t know how to determine which buyer was the best.  So, I told him that I would handle everything for him and keep him in the loop on the progress of the sale.  I also pointed out that my buyer had 20% down and was doing a conventional loan. I told him all the things that could go wrong with any sale, and that short of a cash buyer, my well qualified buyer would be the best one to pick.

And he did.

The other one was a hot new listing near Hamburg in the most competitive price range in Lexington.  There were 9 showings the first day on the market.  My buyers needed to roll their closing costs into the offer, so I was a little worried.  I knew the only chance I had of getting this place for my buyers was to find out how to make it easy on the sellers to say yes to us.  I asked the listing agent if the sellers knew where they were moving yet.  If they did not have a house yet, my people could have rented back to them after the closing because they had several months left on a lease.  The sellers have a contract on a house in a surrounding town.  I got their closing date.  I remembered that they had two small kids based on the way two bedrooms were decorated.  No seller who is going to be a buyer likes the idea of moving out of their old house, closing it, closing their new house, and moving in….all in one day.  Especially with kids.

We wrote a strong offer.  I put our closing date the same day that the sellers are closing their new home.  We also offered to let them have their old house for 48 hours after the closing just to make that process easier.

Later that day, the listing agent called me.  She said both offers were practically the same.  So much so that her sellers jokingly asked her if she had told both buyer’s agents what to offer.  They couldn’t decide which offer to pick, so they asked their agent what to do.   She advised them to accept our offer because she thought I was so nice to work with and for my concern in making the process easy for her sellers.  Well, I am a nice guy, but my goal was to get this house for my buyers more than it was to make it nice for the sellers.  That is just what we had to do to make our offer the most attractive.

So, both of my buyers got the house they wanted in multiple offers.  Like I’ve said before, it isn’t always about price.

I thought it was a seller’s market?

It’s been an interesting week.

I wrote an offer on a house in Frankfort that was listed at $159,500.   Looked at the comps.  Thought it was about a $147-152k house.  Seller wouldn’t budge from $156,950.  It’s been on the market for two weeks now, which is a life time in today’s market.  Even at $152k, it will be the most expensive house to ever sell in it’s neighborhood.

I showed a house last night that is listed for $187k.  The exact same model house sold 6 months ago on that same street for $180k.  Sure, lets add 2% or so for appreciation and subtract a bit because that house that already sold had granite and was nicer.  Oh, the house I showed had a 22 year old roof.  The shingles were the 3 tab kind, which usually are good for about 15-20 years.  It needs a new roof like now.  So, this one is overpriced and needs a $7k roof.  That’s a hard pill to swallow for the first time buyers in this price range, which is why it is still on the market.  BTW, in Lexington, a house in this price range would normally get multiple offers, possibly over the list price if the list price were anywhere near realistic.

I showed another house that was super nice, super pricey and only had 2 bedrooms.  I think the listing agent expected lots of offers since most houses under $200k in Lexington go fast.  The agent even put a deadline for submitting offers.  About 20 minutes after that deadline, that statement was removed.  The house is still for sale, so I guess no offers came.

So, we have 3 listings that aren’t selling in the hottest price range in the hottest market ever.

Why?

Price.  Even in a great market, you can only get market value for your house.  Market value is what a ready, willing and able buyer will pay for a house.  You can’t get over market value, which is exactly what these 3 sellers are wanting to do.

I am sure all 3 of these sellers are thinking “But I thought this was a seller’s market??”  It is, but when your price is above market value, most buyers opt to just wait for the next batch of new listings.  Dear sellers of these 3 houses, you are not drunk with power, you are just drunk.

When will there be more houses for sale?

The simplest answer to this is when sellers feel like moving…..so I guess it boils down to what will it take for that to happen?

Many people who have been in their houses for more than 5 years either got a super low interest rate or refinanced to get one.  It is hard to give up something like a 3.5% rate and buy your next house at the top of the market and do a 5% mortgage.  Right now, all that free equity from appreciation isn’t enough to make somebody want to give that up.

But, eventually there will be a tipping point.

Let’s say you bought a house 5 years ago for $200k.  You put down 5% and got a 3.5% rate for 30 years.  The principal and interest part of your loan is about $900 a month.  Flash forward to today.  The house is probably worth $240k.    You owe about $173k on it and have about $67k in equity.

You decide you want to buy a $300k house.  You finance about $235k after you get the equity out of your last house.  You get a 5% rate.  The principal and interest part of your loan is now $1200 a month.

Maybe you don’t want to spend $300 more each month?

What will it take to make you list your old house?

Maybe another $40k equity in your old house?  Assuming rates stay about the same and the price of the $300k house you want appreciates less than the $240k house you have, this $40k is what it will take to keep your payment about the same each month.  It will take about 3 years for that to happen between appreciation and what you are paying down each month in principal.

We all bemoan higher interest rates, but lets keep in mind that the reason we don’t like higher rates is because they make the mortgage payments higher.  People have a certain amount they can/will spend each month on housing.  People will always try to stuff as much house into that payment as they can.  I think the day sellers can move up to a nicer house and not pay that much more will be when we see more for sale signs in yards.

Bluegrass market update & fun with a calculator

I’ve always been a number person.  When I was a kid, my dad gave me a calculator.  I would make pretend budgets, figure out things like compound interest, and do things like type 77345 and flip the calculator upside down to see that I spelled ShELL.

So I guess I am not surprised that I get excited when my local real estate board publishes the statistical info once a month.

It is also nice to see if my own experience is echoing what is happening in the whole market.  It usually is.

For example, I hardly show any houses any more because there is so little for sale.  I used to be out 3-4 nights a week and ALL weekend just showing houses.  Now I may show 4-5 a week and have the same amount of buyer clients……on a busy week.  There just aren’t enough houses to show people, and buyers are making fast decisions because they don’t want to lose a good house while waiting for a great one.

In Fayette Co, sales from Jan 18- April 18 are down 11% from the same period in 2017.  Listing are down 9%.  You’d think a decrease in sales would be bad, but since listings are down by a similar number, it is still a super tight market, especially in the sub $200k range.

All the Bluegrass counties have a big decrease in listings.  Most have an equally big decrease in sales too.  Makes sense.  If there are fewer houses to buy, there will be fewer houses sold.  Unless you are in Scott, Madison or Jessamine Counties.  Those places are the only ones where sales have increased from this same time last year while listings have decreased.  I know, I know.  How can that be?  This is just my gut, but I think those counties had more on the market last year that just sat and didn’t sell.

I also feel like I am spending more time in surrounding counties than I have in a long time.  When I first got into this business, there were a lot of people moving to Jessamine Co in search of a cheaper house.  But then gas prices went crazy and nobody in Fayette County wanted to leave.  Now gas is fairly cheap and people have returned to moving outside of Fayette Co again.  Jessamine County has the tightest market under $180k.  There is literally next to nothing for sale there.

Just this past March, we had a net loss of 61 households in Fayette County.  Scott and Jessamine Counties were the only ones that saw much of a gain in new households.  Yep, Fayette County folks are back at it.

I still play with my calculator a lot.  Only now I’m using it to determine what a house is worth before listing it or making an offer.  Maybe with all this extra time I have from not showing houses every night, I can figure out some new words my calculator will spell?

How to buy when you also have to sell

The market is full of people who know they can sell their old house in a heartbeat, but are worried that they won’t be able to find a house to buy…..so they do nothing.

Here are a few options for you:

IF you absolutely have to make an offer contingent on selling your old house, have the old one ready to list as soon as you make an offer.  The listing agent for the house you want to buy will want to see it on the market ASAP.  Many people focus on finding the right house and have done no prep work on their old house.  They often end up losing their new house.  Any decent agent will counter your offer with what is called a “Kick-out Clause.”  That means that if another buyer comes along without a contingency, you either need to step aside or remove your contingency and buy the house.  If your house isn’t ready to list, or isn’t appealing enough to sell immediately, odds are you will lose your new house.  I know it is tough, but the best thing to do right now is focus on getting your old house ready to sell, THEN go look at houses.  And every client I have in this situation is going to think I am talking to them when they read this, but I am talking to ALL my clients in this situation 🙂

The absolute best thing to do when you need to sell first is to…..just sell first.  Yes, I mean sell your old house and find somewhere to live temporarily.  Will it be fun?  Heck no, but you will get top dollar for your old house and be in the best bargaining position on the new one since no seller today really wants to accept a contingency offer.  If a seller accepts one, it is usually a sign that you are paying waaaay more than the next highest bidder and/or that you have selected a house that is having trouble selling in the hottest market ever.  Neither of those are good.

IF you can buy the new one without having to first sell the old one, then do that.  You know you will sell the old one quickly and it is really nice to be able to get the new one ready before moving in.

But what if you can qualify for the new house without having to sell, but you really want or need your equity from the old one for a down payment?  Easy.  Get a home equity line of credit on your old one and use it for the down payment on the new one.  Sell the old one and pay it off.  It’s a simple way of moving the equity you have from the old house to the new one.