I read a lot of news about real estate. It is always a little funny to me to see what people who are not realtors have to say about the market. There are two things that I have read this week that have me rolling my eyes.
The first one is the headlines about how the number of sales have been declining. Gee, that’s just what happens when there are so few houses for sale. This does NOT mean that buyers are deciding not to buy a house. It means that they can’t get a house.
The other one is that it seems there is a projection that we should have more houses for sale later this year than we have in a long time. That would be great but let me tell you what it doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean that prices are going to drop. They might stabilize prices a bit but when a hot new listing in Lexington can easily get 15 offers, we would need 15 times the listings for a balanced market. There is going to be more buyers than houses for a while.
A lot of the people who are fantasizing about what that market might look like are not old enough to have lived through the housing crash during The Great Recession. Back then we had more houses for sale than ever and do you know what? The best houses still sold fast and often in multiple offers. Do you know why? It is because everybody wants the best house in their price range. We could triple the number of houses for sale today and it wouldn’t change much. What would happen would be that the best houses sell fast and for top dollar while every other house languishes on the market. This flood of new inventory does not mean that every buyer will be able to get their ideal home.
Everybody knows how crazy the real estate market is right now. Everybody I meet wants to talk about it. Everybody assumes every realtor is crazy busy right now. We are not. The reason is because you need houses to be on the market in order to sell one.
It’s super easy being the listing realtor right now. You put a house on the market and have a busy couple of days getting offers, then it is over. Being a buyer’s agent these days is a lot about waiting for a house to come on the market, then rushing out to see it. I used to show houses 3 nights a week and all day long every weekend when it was a Buyer’s market. I think the last house I showed was mid last week. Back then, people would look at 20-30 houses before making a decision. Today a lot of people are viewing 3-4 houses and picking one. I have sold many where the buyer bought the first house they saw. I’ve got plenty of buyers. Some of them are looking for a very specific home in a specific school district or neighborhood. I have worked with one of them for about a year and only shown them 6-7 houses. That’s because so few houses have hit the market in their price range and in the neighborhoods that will work for them.
So being a realtor right now is a lot of waiting. Waiting for sellers to get their homes ready to list. Waiting for the right house for your buyer…….waiting for something interesting to happen so you can blog about it.
Everybody knows that it is the craziest seller’s market ever.
Everybody knows houses are selling for over the list price.
What a seller does with this information is often all wrong. Sellers think they need to price their house as high as they can to get the most out of it. That is totally wrong today.
Today the list price is really just an opener, similar to an auction. Imagine if you went to an auction and the auctioneer began with the number that would be the same as the sale price at the end of the auction? How many bidders would you have? Maybe one? Maybe none? This is effectively what a seller does when they start too high.
I showed a house a few days ago that was listed for $185k, which is pretty high for what it was. There was a line of people waiting to get in to see it. This morning I got an email from the listing agent that they had “An” offer. A few days on the market and they get one offer from all those showings. Had they started at something more reasonable like $175k, they might have ended up at $185k or more. Why? Because buyers are used to going over the asking price these days. When you start at the number they would be willing to pay, they assume they would need to go over that to get the house and are not willing to do so. To a buyer, a list price of $185k means expect to pay $190-195k or more.
The best strategy today is to price the house in line with the most recent comps and create a multiple offer situation. The only way to take advantage of the buyer frenzy is to have two or more people trying to outbid each other for your house. Pricing it high and only having one buyer would be just like going to an auction where there is only one bidder in the room. This is why the success of an auction depends on having maximum exposure for a brief period and then setting a deadline for the sale.
I listed a manufactured home in a tiny town in northern Scott County on 15 acres last week. I have had it in my pipeline for close to a year so I have been watching the market in the area for a while. Prices have gone up quite a bit, but lately similar properties have all been listed for about $160k.
So we got pictures and put it on for $160k. I fully expected it to sell for a little more since the market value is no longer determined by recent sales. It is determined by how desperate the buyer is.
Turns out they get more desperate every day.
We got 8 offers. 10 actually but two were for a financing type that did not do manufactured homes so we can’t really count those.
One offer was $155k. I always laugh at those buyers and scratch my head. What rock have they been hiding under that they and their realtor don’t know that practically every house in multiple offers goes for at least list price.
Five of the offers had escalation clauses. That is where the buyer pretty much says they will pay so much more than any other offer up to a certain price.
I got one offer for $200k. My mind was blown. No escalation clause. Just a flat $200k.
This gave me the chance to tell the buyer’s agents with the escalation clauses that they might want to up their amount if their buyer really wanted the house.
Fortunately one buyer whose offer had some better secondary terms raised their escalation clause to be $200k. I have seen where people throw out some high number on an escalation clause to get their offer noticed but they have no intention of every going that high. I called that buyer’s agent to confirm they were legitimately willing to go that high. They were. They got the house for $200k. Next step is to convince the appraiser it is worth that.
This is a question I get asked a lot these days. People are worried about a housing crash and they dread the process of finding a home. It is not a fun time to be a buyer for sure!
My response usually is “Today is a better time to be a buyer than tomorrow will be, but it isn’t as good as it was yesterday.” Prices are going up every day between the whole supply/demand thing and inflation. I don’t see an end in sight short of some major economic crisis that creates a lot of unemployment and/or skyrocketing interest rates. (And keep in mind that we DID just have a major unemployment situation in 2020 due to COVID.) Even if either happens, there will be more buyers than sellers since people will simply decide not to move from their current home, which will create an even more out of balance supply/demand situation.
All this is pretty wild compared to 6-7 years ago. Back in 2014 I bought a rental house that had been on the market for more than 6 months. I was the only buyer and I offered much less than the list price and the seller was happy to accept it. I just sold that house for more than twice what I paid for it. Granted I did paint it, put new carpet in the bedrooms and replaced 3-4 windows over all those years.
So, if you are on the fence about entering the market, I say go for it. Sure, you will pay top dollar. You will probably have to bend over backwards to get a seller to even consider your offer. You might lose a few houses along the way. But what is the alternative? Keep renting? With all this inflation we are seeing, your rent is soon going to go up. And it will always keep going up. Meanwhile, the principal and interest part of your mortgage payment will always stay the same. All that can change in your payment is the property taxes and insurance amounts you pay.