Why 6-7% interest rates won’t crash our market

If you’re like me, all you are reading in the news is how the skyrocketing interest rates are affecting the real estate market. Headlines say stuff like how the rate has nearly doubled, how sales have decreased, some even are saying the market is going to crash.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

Youtubers and journalists need something exciting to get your attention. If you saw a headline or video that pretty much said everything is going to be okay, would you be interested?

I think part of this drama is also that you have people whose data is correct but how they use it is wrong, or their data doesn’t give much of a historic comparison.

Affordability seems to be the main topic today. These people are talking about how much more a mortgage payment would be today compared to the all time low we saw last year……DUH! Short term thinking I say.

Here is why I don’t think a 6 or even 7% interest rate is going to do much more than curb unsustainable appreciation and slow down people moving just because they feel like moving. To begin with, people will always have changing needs for housing. Families will grow, there will be divorces, marriages, job transfers, job losses and all the other lifestlye/life cycle changes.

But here are the main reasons I am not worried: The Debt-to-Income ratio and longer term history.

Let me take you back to the early 2000s. The real estate market was crazy. Houses were selling fast in multiple offers. Prices were going up like crazy. Know what the interest rate was back then? Barely under 6%. And back in the late 90s when the market was also booming, it was about 7.5%.

A house in the Bluegrass that was worth about $250k back in 2004ish would be worth about $425k today. The principal and interest portion of your loan at 6% on a conventional loan with 5% down would have been $1423 back then and $2420 today. Yeah, that sounds like a lot more. It is, but let’s keep going here.

So the real difference between then and now with property taxes and insurance included would be about $1200 a month. To qualify for the mortgage on that $250k house back then would require an annual income of about $73k. Today that house would be worth about $425k and would need about $126k in income. The median household income has gone up 80% over that time according to the census. The value of that same house has not gone up quite as much.

So there you have it. I think if the market has historically been very good in the past during times when rates were higher than they are today, and since household income has pretty much grown congruent to home values in the Bluegrass, we will weather this period very well.

Then why is the market so slow right now? Simple. People are in shock and upset that rates went up so fast. Once they realize they can’t go back in time, they will move forward with their plans. I predict that (short of a major economic crisis that pulls down EVERYTHING) buyers will be out in force next spring. Prices will remain stable. It will be a good market. It won’t be a market that you’ll read headlines about because remember, you only see real estate in the headlines when things are exceptionally good or exceptionally bad.

How every Buyer picks their house

I often get a Buyer who gives me a very long detailed list of all the features they want in a house. It’s usually things like how many bedrooms, bathrooms, what type of floor plan, what type of kitchen cabinets or flooring they must have.

Then they buy something totally different from what they described?

Why is that?

It is because people pick the home they ultimately purchase based on how they feel while inside a house. It’s the vibe the house gives them. It is an emotional decision.

When I work with a Buyer, I try to notice how they respond to a house. Did they tell me it was too dark inside? Did they think the yard was too bare and needed more trees? Was the backyard not private enough? Did they not like the floor plan and why? Or did they even care about any of this?

These are the type of things people use when making their decision. If a Buyer feels groovy inside the house, they can overlook items such as not having a pantry, not having the flooring they prefer, or if it is missing one of those specific features they said they could not live without. In houses they feel good about, they say things like “We could always change the counter tops later.”

All of which is why I try to create that vibe when I list a house. Buyers also respond to colors, decor, cleanliness and clutter. You can have the most amazing house but if you have wild paint choices, it is going to be harder to sell. Why is that? Truth be told, few of us have vision. We ALL think we do but trust me, there have been so many times where I have told a Buyer that all a house needs is a fresh coat of their choice of paint and they don’t see it. Or I’ll say imagine this house with the flooring you want and they can’t see it. Or maybe I’ll say “Those cabinets could be painted and that mauve counter top could easily be replaced.” And even worse is a cluttered or dirty house. Nobody can imagine what it would look like in better shape.

So the lesson here for Sellers is that you need to make your house feel a certain way for a Buyer to fall in love with it. Another important thing to keep in mind is that people who totally fall in love with your house will pay the most since it is an emotional response and not a logical one.

How can a Seller do this?

The most crucial and obvious ones are to declutter and clean. Not to your standards but to the Buyer’s standards. Then think about how your house looks. Think about how Buyers will tour your house. Ever been in a Builder’s model home? Next time you go in one, notice that there is just enough furniture to make the space feel good. You want your furnishings to compliment the space, not fill it. You will notice that the furniture often has narrow legs and you can see more of the floor. Seeing more of the floor always makes a space feel larger. There is thought about how people will walk around a space. You don’t want to block parts of the room off with furniture nor do you want to make pathways seem narrow. Those things create the vibe that the house is small. Buyers get that same vibe from this as you do when you’re stuck in a traffic jam.

Something else you do NOT want to do is have Buyers leaving the showing with a To-Do list of repairs. If you have unfinished projects, finish them. If you have a stain on your ceiling from a repaired leak, paint it. Buyers will respond to those things logically instead of emotionally. They begin to think about what it would cost to repair it, and they usually estimate high. You want your buyer to leave your house thinking only about how wonderful their lives will be in your house and how they need to rush home and sign an offer.

Good time to buy rental property?

I get asked this quite a bit. Some people want a long term rental and some are interested in airbnb-ing a property.

Here is the one single thing to know when considering any type of rental: There is no good or bad time. The numbers work or they don’t. If the numbers don’t work it, they don’t work even if it is a Buyer’s Market. If the numbers work, then you buy regardless of what the market is like.

What do I mean by this? Long story short, the house has to support itself without you having to throw in your own money every month. That is called cash flow. Positive cash flow means the house supports itself. It covers your mortgage, taxes, property insurance, maintenance and has at least a little left over for a profit. Negative cash flow is when the expenses exceed the rent.

Now, what about Long Term Rental verses Short Term Rental? I personally think Short Term Rentals are risky right now. I know, I know…..Many of you have made good money with your Airbnbs the past couple of years. I do not dispute that. My concern is that this trendy investment option will get oversaturated AND slow down drastically during tougher economic times. It is much more volatile than long term rentals. If you want a shot at huge returns and can stomach volatility, it’s easier to invest in stocks. So what I tell people when they ask me if they should get an Airbnb is to do it only IF they want to invest in real estate in general. If you do, then you can switch between short and long term rental as demand swings. Move your furniture out and you’ve got a long term rental. Best of both worlds for you.

Hey First Time Buyers-Here is how to pick a house

It wasn’t all that long ago that the typical buyer’s choice was between the one house on the market in their price range and no house at all.

We are now back to a much more normal market. Today’s buyer has the luxury of picking the best house among all that are on the market.

This post is mainly aimed at first time buyers, but holds true for any buyer really……its time for a refresher course on how to pick the right house and why!

To most of us, our home is our biggest asset. It’s how we build wealth. It’s where we live. It’s an expression of ourselves.

It can also be a noose around our necks if we need to sell in a tough market.

I got my real estate license in 2005. Many people who had used another realtor to buy their home would call me to sell it for them in the middle of the worst market in history. Back then I wondered why some of them chose the house they did. After seeing the frenzy of having no inventory for the past couple of years, I now see that their choice was the loser home they purchased or no home at all.

Back quickly to why the first time buyer needs to get it right. Most first time buyers are younger. Younger people tend to meet somebody and marry, start a family, climb the corporate ladder, accept a job somewhere else, etc. This means first time buyers typically don’t stay in their homes as long as they will for their subsequent homes. Also, the equity you have when you sell your first home will be used to buy your next home. You want to pick a house that will always be another buyer’s top choice because it will be easy to sell and will net you the most equity to apply towards your next home.

So let’s look at The LEXpert’s Guide to Picking a Home:

  1. NEVER compromise the lot. Things like a very steep driveway, the backyard with the Eiffel Tower looking electrical thing, a backyard that sharply slopes up or down hill, a house that backs to stuff like apartments/commercial/busy roads are big negatives. Try to find a fairly flat lot whose size seems normal or better than average for the neighborhood.
  2. NEVER compromise location. Within every price range, there are preferred choices for neighborhoods. Most of the time the preferences are for things like having shopping/dining/retail/parks close by, school district ratings, crime ratings. Try to pick one of the more desirable neighborhoods.
  3. NEVER buy the house that doesn’t somewhat conform to the other houses in the neighborhood. Buyer’s are usually looking at other houses in your neighborhood and know what is typical. If your house is lacking in something that is considered typical for your neighborhood, it can keep it from selling.

I could go on and on for days but I have found that these top 3 items will eliminate about half the houses on the market.

Why does it matter? Shouldn’t I just pick the house I like best? Because when a buyer has choices, they get pretty picky. If two identical houses are for sale for the same price and one has a steep driveway, which one are you picking? If two identical house are for sale for the same price and one backs up to the interstate, which one are you picking?

I know it is tough to do when your goal is finding a place you love, but think about that day when you need to sell it.

What’s a first time buyer to do today?

You’ve probably read all the articles saying how much more per month the average house payment is today with the increase in interest rates. I have too.

While I don’t dispute their findings, I don’t really find them helpful. Yes, had somebody bought the same house sooner, they could have had a cheaper mortgage payment. Those rates don’t exist anymore. Why not tell first time buyers what they should do rather than making them focus on the wrong thing.

Let me tell you the biggest way these higher rates are costing you. If you are sitting on the sidelines, holding out for a year or so before re-entering the market, you’re paying a steep price in a lot of ways:

  1. You are not building equity.
  2. You are not getting the tax deductions homeowners get.
  3. You are not making money from the rising value of your home.
  4. You are deferring the date when you will have whatever home you own paid off.

All of that seems to me to be much more costly than paying a few hundred extra bucks a month to own a home. If you don’t have the extra money that today’s mortgage would be, I suggest buying a cheaper house. Buy what you can afford. Owning any home is a better investment than renting.

I have always said the best time to buy a house was yesterday and that the second best time is today. That is because homeownership is the best way to create wealth for the average person. It’s more than just owning where you live. It is about investing in yourself. You do that by leveraging time. The sooner you start, the sooner the benefits begin and the quicker they compound.