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.

Negotiating 101

“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”

I think this is good quote for explaining how negotiating works. Some people think negotiating is about getting the other party to do exactly what you want. It isn’t. It would be nice if it worked that way but it doesn’t. The goal of negotiating is to get the other party to bend as much towards your ideal situation as they are willing to go.

In real estate sales, the biggest single item to negotiate is the sale price.

Often a buyer will base their offer amount on the seller’s list price. MISTAKE!

Before you make an offer, you need to first know what the house is worth. That’s where your realtor comes in. Once you know what the house is worth, you make an offer based on its value rather than the seller’s list price. Why? Because if the house was overpriced, you might make an acceptable offer that is still more than what the house is worth.

Here’s a few observations based on my 17 years of experience in every market type ranging from the worst in history to the best in history and everything else in between:

  1. Sellers in our area usually don’t come down a considerable amount from their list price. You are not going to get your offer for 80% of the list price accepted. Even in the worst market ever, this was very rare. Usually if a seller is that motivated, they reflect their motivation in their list price.
  2. If you make a very low offer, most sellers either reject the offer or barely budge from their list price because you have given them a sign that you are going to be difficult to deal with so they leave plenty of room for more negotiating. This basically put you back in the same place you started so it is counter productive.
  3. The most common method of negotiating is the old “Meet you in the middle” routine. I often see a buyer make an offer for say $10k less than list price hoping to get the house for $5k less than the list price. Common also is when you come down to the last round of negotiating and somebody says “Let’s split the difference.” While this is common, it is very uncreative.
  4. You can lose a house while waiting for a seller to respond. I have seen this numerous times where a buyer will make a low offer, drag out negotiating over multiple days, then all the sudden another buyer makes a much better offer and your next communication from the seller’s realtor is that the house is no longer available. You typically want to make an offer that will either be accepted immediately or maybe where the seller counters once and you accept it. If the house is nice enough for you to have picked it among all the competing listings, then odds are another buyer has come to the same conclusion that it is currently the best house on the market in that price range.

So, here is my advise on getting your house and getting it at a favorable price:

  1. Realize that the person who wins the last battle usually thinks they won the whole war. I usually try to reverse engineer a counter offer so the other party can come back with exactly the number I was hoping they would. When they do, they feel like they won the war of negotiating, but I really just let them win the last battle.
  2. Know what it is worth and make an offer either for that amount or slightly less. Remember the goal is get the seller to tell you the least they will take for the house. Before the market got so crazy the past few years, the average list to sale price was about 97-98%. I might make an offer 1-3% less that the house is worth. If they counter for anything less than the full price, guess what, you’re getting the house for less than it is worth. Sometimes the seller just accepts it. If that happens, great, you STILL got the house for less than it is worth.
  3. And speaking of winning, don’t get too caught up in the game. Save that for a trip to Vegas at at blackjack table. Your goal here is to get the one house that you felt was superior to any other house you have seen. If you get it and get it at a fair price, quit trying to make that horse drink more water.

19 0ffers and $40k over list-Fun getting the most for my seller

It’s been an exciting past few days.

This story begins one rainy Friday when I was on my way to a Radwood Car Show in Cleveland with my son. I got a text from a repeat client who I have become friends with. She tells me that her mother is going in assisted living and she wants me to sell her mother’s house.

After a few months, the house was ready to list. Unfortunately the market had really started to cool off since we first discussed the sale.

Full disclosure here…..I don’t think any realtor right now really knows how to price a house unless there are good comparable sales from the past 8 weeks. We usually look back 6 months for comparable sales. Six months ago the market was on fire. That market doesn’t exist today. Gone. Interest rates have nearly doubled. We are all, if we were to be honest with ourselves and the public, shooting from the hip on pricing right now. The market has changed so fast that we lack good data on pricing from this “New” market.

Since the absolute worst thing you can do in any market is to overprice a house, I suggested we put it on at a number I was 100% sure we could get and also expect multiple offers. That number was $185k. I was really hoping we might get multiple offers and I could drive the price up to maybe $200k but I didn’t tell this to my friend.

One investor heard about the upcoming listing and contacted me. I let him and his realtor show it the day before it hit the market. I told them that we wanted to expose the house to the market before deciding. They of course wrote a full price offer and wanted an immediate response. I told my seller that I was sure we could duplicate that offer from anybody since it was nothing special. She agreed.

I put the listing on the market very late Friday night. Immediately it started getting showing requests. By 9:AM the next morning, more than a dozen showings were scheduled. I spent all day Saturday, Sunday and Monday texting and talking to the 72 agents who had scheduled showings on this house. It was overwhelming.

Once the offers started coming it, I went to work on pushing the price up. With every new offer we got, I told the realtor if there was another offer with better terms for price, inspection type, financing type and closing date. The goal is to create the ideal terms for your seller by getting one buyer to change something on their offer so you can use that for leverage to get another buyer to change something.

We ended up with 19 offers. We had two cash ones that were very close (especially after I nudged each one of them to go higher to be competitive.) I think one of them figured out I was using their offer to push the other one up higher, and then come back to push them up again. This agent send me a Confidentiality Agreement. That is where one of the terms of their offer is that you can’t disclose any of their offer terms to anybody else. I won’t violate my integrity. In addition to experience, all I have to offer people is trust. I felt like both would go a little higher. What to do? How could I squeeze a little more money out of them for my elderly seller who needed it to live on? I decided to tell each of those two buyers they had the best offers and to send me their highest and best offer. They had one shot. The seller would pick the best one. This move ended up getting about another $4k for the seller.

In the end, the house sold for $225,750. Just over $40k more than the list price.

How the market is changing

This is hard to believe, but I am busier with buyers than I have been all year. Buyers are out there shopping. Many listings I have shown have another showing taking place as I arrive or one coming in as soon as I am locking the door on my way out. There is a lot of activity. I think buyers are excited to have choices now. They seem excited to get to see so many houses. I showed 6 houses yesterday to one buyer. Six months ago I would shown a buyer one house. If they didn’t buy it, we would wait patiently until the next one came on the market.

Buyers seem to be pushing back a little on price. Only a few I have shown have gotten multiple offers. Also, out of maybe 14 or so houses I have shown in the past 3 days to 3 different buyers, only two of them have sold before I could show them to my clients. Six months ago, that number would have been much higher.

It’s going to be a weird rest of the year I think. It has changed so fast. We will have sellers who aren’t living in reality and think they get to call the shots. There will be realtors who also are stuck in the old market and not realize they need to hone their negotiating skills. There will be buyer’s who think it’s a Black Friday sale and want to offer 80% of the list price. This is when having a good realtor who knows what is going on in real time really helps!

Real estate market-No monster under the bed

Quit reading everything about the housing market……well, maybe except for this post.

There is soooo much doom and gloom in the news out there regarding the market. It’s all written to grab your attention. It’s mostly accurate data just misinterpreted by people who are journalists and not actually in real estate. If you want to know how not to end a sentence in a prepositional phrase, ask a writer. You want to know about the real estate market, ask a realtor.

It drives me crazy how much the news impacts people’s decisions. There are so many people out there right now afraid to buy a house or afraid they should sell their house before the market crashes. I totally get that there is an investment side to homeownership. It is typically somebody’s largest asset and those who own their homes tend to have a higher net worth than those who rent.

But, there is another side and that is the fact that you have to pay to live somewhere. If you rent, somebody owns where you live. If you sell to beat any crash, you will still have to pay to live somewhere.

Since you’ve gotta pay to live somewhere and you’ve gotta have somewhere to live, I have always thought that the best time to buy a house is as soon as you can afford it and your life is stable enough where you expect to live there for at least several years. Possible fluctuating values and interest rates don’t matter as much when viewed against throwing money away in rent. If prices were to dip a little, the money you lose will likely be less than all the rent you would have paid over the same timeline. If rates go down, you can refinance your mortgage. If you currently own and home and are happy living there and it serves it purpose well, then stay put until it doesn’t.

The real estate market is just like any other market. It moves like the waves on a beach. It is always going back and forth. Sometimes the tide comes in, sometimes it goes out. It never stays the same for long and nobody should expect that. You can’t control the timing of the market but you CAN control your time in the market.