Got $500k or more? It’s your market

Once a month the local MLS sends out the sales statistics.  Being into numbers, it is always fun to drop a K-Cup in the Keurig and check it out.

I guess the biggest news is that when you compare Fayette Co sales in September 2016 to September 2017, the number of new listings was down 16% and the number of sales were down 13%.   Hard to sell houses when fewer are for sale.

This whole year has been a frenzy.  Agents and buyers are struggling to find houses.  Everybody is talking about what a hot market it is…..but I think the word we use should be tight.  It’s a tight market.

The hot market was last year.  There were more sales in 2016.

January 2017 beat January 2016.  390 sales compared to 318.

Every other month in 2016 saw 40-90 more sales each month.

The fine line between a seller’s market and a buyer’s market has always been which side of 6 months of inventory we are on.  Less than 6 months is a seller’s market.  More than 6 months is a buyer’s market.  In Lexington, it is a seller’s market up to $500k.   It is REALLY a seller’s market under $250k.   Got $500k or more?  It is very much a buyer’s market.  That is why prices on houses in this price range have been pretty flat for several years.  It’s a great time to move into this price range, especially if you are selling something cheaper.

I just finished that cup of coffee, so I guess my closing remarks will be that it is an interesting time to be in real estate.

 

What neighborhood is the winner in this market?

Masterson.  Formally know by it’s full name, Masterson Station.  While the whole neighborhood has seen values really go up, I think the true winners are the single story homes in the 1000-1350 square foot range.

Many many years ago, half of Masterson was in foreclosure.  That happened to a lot of the newer neighborhoods where the first owners bought at the top of the previous hot market with sketchy no money down loans.

I remember I would often spend ALL day with first time buyers just in Masterson when the market collapsed.  I would schedule 8-10 houses, all just blocks apart.  It would get confusing after a few.  I would find myself saying stuff like “This is the Roxbury plan by Schneider Homes.  It is the same floor plan as the 2nd, 3rd and 6th house we saw earlier, only this one has blue vinyl in the kitchen instead of tan, and it has a deck instead of a patio…..oh, and this one has a fenced back yard too.”  Then my client would say something like “I thought the 2nd and 6th house were the two story houses?”  Then I was like “No, it was the 4th house that was the two story.  It was a Ball Home plan.  The Fairfax is the name I think…..yes, that is it.  The Fairfax is the one I told you about that sometimes has an open loft instead of the 3rd bedroom, and realtors often call that a 3rd bedroom because they know nobody will come see it if they said it was REALLY a 2 bedroom house.”  Then my client would ask “What was the 5th house?  I don’t even remember it!”  I’d reply “The 5th house was the only occupied house we saw today.  The water was on and we both used the restroom.”  Client be like “Oh, I remember now. How do you keep all this straight?”  And I’d be like “It is taking every bit of concentration I have.”

Back then, $125k was like $155k is today.

Then the market improved.  I was amazed these houses were selling around $130k.

Then it got better.  I started seeing a lot of $140k houses a year ago.

Now a decent one is $150k, some are even higher!

That is a huge turn around from half the neighborhood being vacant houses that took 6 months to sell.

 

Is building the answer?

A lot of people think that we need to build our way out of the shortage of houses for sale.

I don’t.

The only places left to build in Fayette County are on the edges of town at a time when there is more and more interest in living closer in.  No builder is going to use the little bit of land we have left for anything less than a $173,950 house, which is the base price of the cheapest model Ball Homes will build in Masterson Station.  A quick search on LBAR shows the cheapest actively listed new construction home is $202,900.

I think the problem is affordability for first time buyers.  I have always said that it is the first time buyer who greases the entire real estate market.  They are usually the only group that doesn’t need to sell a house in order to buy.  It is like the bases are loaded and the first time buyer is the one who hits the home run so everybody standing on all those bases gets to move.

A lot of first time buyers are and will continue to look outside of Fayette County.  They will look in Lexington neighborhoods they would not have considered 10 years ago to make their numbers work.   They might even consider a townhouse or condo.

Like my baseball example, the bases are loaded.  The first time buyer is waiting to hit their home run, only there are no balls being thrown.  If more affordable houses come on the market, it will make sellers in all price ranges less worried about finding their next house.  Sellers know they can sell quickly but are worried about finding a house.  Remove that fear and we’ll have more houses for sale.

I thought this was a seller’s market?

It is, but that doesn’t mean all price ranges are super hot right now.

I was doing a market update for a listing I have.  I try to keep my sellers up to date with what has been listed, pending sales, price reductions and closed sales that will become comps for an appraiser.

 

Check out these stats for single family homes in all of Lexington:

$100-150k has 34 listings.

$150-200k has 52 listings.

$200k-250k has 67 listings.
$250k-300k has 64 listings.
$300-350k has 106 listings.
$350k-400k has 68 listings.
$400k-450k has 38 listings.
$400k-500k has 40 listings.
If you’re a buyer in the $100-150k range you better do whatever it takes to get a house, your market is sizzling.
If you’re a seller in the $300-350k range, I would suggest a price reduction because you are not really in a seller’s market at the moment.
Why is this?  Nobody can say conclusively, but my experience is that most sellers in the $100-200k range move up to the $200-300k range.  Most sellers in the $200-300k range move up to the $400k and up range, so that leaves a vacuum in the $300-350k range.

What working with buyers is like now

Working with buyers these days feels like this guy:

You beat the same bushes everyday in search of something for your people.  It is even harder if somebody needs a certain neighborhood or school district.  It is the toughest market I have ever seen for buyers.  It is harder right now to be a buyer than it was to be a seller after the market crashed.  Most houses get multiple offers.  The deciding factor often comes down to something minor like which buyer has a better closing date, or which buyer has stronger financing.  That is about all you have left to differentiate one buyer from another when all the offers are full price.  I recently got 7 offers on a listing.  The top 4 of those offers were the exact same price.  We went with the one that had a local lender I knew.  That was what got that buyer a signed contract.

 

And when you do finally have a house to show your people, this is what it feels like:

When a house that meets your buyer’s criteria hits the market, you get them in it ASAP.  If they like the house enough to make an offer, you rush to make sure you’ve got a current preapproval letter, you find out when the sellers would prefer to close, what their occupancy needs are….anything the sellers want that might help your buyers look more appealing since you know the best offers are going to be similar in price.

Being a buyer’s agent these days is equal parts boredom and excitement…..but it is all very rewarding when you do get your people a home they love.