Nailed it! See how my predictions turned out

I’ll try to remain humble here, but I called exactly what is happening in the market today.

I have always said there will always be a market. There will always be demand. Some times the demand will be pent up with people sitting on the sidelines, but they are there, waiting to feel comfortable about making a move. (Typically these people wait until enough other people dive in and effectively end up jumping into a hot market, which is what they were hoping to avoid.)

I have been saying for months that I thought the market could still be very good with interest rates around 6% or less because historically, the past several super hot markets we have seen in our area had those rates and adjusted to average income, real estate values in our area are similar. I’ve said that rates over 7% won’t last forever. I’ve also been saying for years that once rates start going up again, people would be reluctant to give up their super low rates which would create a shortage of listings and would keep prices stable regardless of the market conditions.

I’ve suggested people buy real estate as soon as they are able regardless of the rate since you can always refinance when/if rates go down but you can’t go back in time to get yesterday’s home prices.

And now you know what stories are making the headlines? That mortgage applications are up recently due to rates dropping below 6%. That refinancing applications are up too. That rates are down. That prices aren’t really dropping in areas that didn’t see crazy stupid price increases.

I am seeing all this myself with my clients. I had two listings that went on the market right around Thanksgiving. One of them was modestly priced, totally updated and in a desirable neighborhood. I really thought it would go fast even though that time of year is usually slow. It hardly got any showings, which is very strange. Then once rates went down we had 5-6 showings in a matter of days and it sold. When I go to show listings to my buyers lately, most of the time there is another realtor showing the house when I arrive or one that shows up as I am leaving, sometimes both!

Time to resume your 2020 plans?

COVID sure changed the real estate market. Everybody knows that. For a while everybody was stuck at home and wanting home offices and separate rooms for things like exercising. Rates got so low that everybody decided to move up the property ladder. A lot of people realized life is short and went in a new direction.

I knew things would eventually stabilize and get back to normal.

The one thing I didn’t realize was that there were a lot of people who had plans for 2020 that were put on hold during COVID. Job searches, marriages, starting families…..and moving. These people are now feeling comfortable enough to resume the plans they had early in 2020. I’ve had several people reach out to me lately who are going to make some major changes in their lives this year.

I am sort of amazed that I didn’t see this coming. I guess like everybody I was so focused on all the changes due directly to COVID that I didn’t even think about those whose plans were interrupted.

Many other realtors I have talked to have said their pipelines are filling up for the year.

I think the 2023 real estate market may surprise us with how well it turns out.

How the market works when there is inventory

Now that we are back to having some inventory in our real estate market, I thought it would be a great time for a refresher on how the market works when there are actually houses for sale.

The recent past has shown that any house will sell fast when there are more buyers than sellers. When your choice is between whatever house in your price range hits the market or hoping the next one is better, people usually make an offer on the one for sale that day.

We are back to a normal market where Buyers have choices and this is how they make their decisions.

Simply put, they pick the best house on the market. Usually this is a house that is priced realistically, that is move in ready and is in the most desirable neighborhood within the Buyer’s price range. Then there is their second, third, fourth and so on choice.

Once that #1 pick house sells, then the #2 pick house becomes the top choice. Once the #2 house sells, then the 3rd pick becomes their 2nd choice. Once the…..well, you get how this works I am sure.

Sometimes what happens though is that a brand new listing hits the market and changes the ranking. If you have the #2 house and are excited to be the next house to sell, a house hitting the market that is better than your house means you will stay at #2 on any Buyer’s list. Sometimes winter is a good time to sell a house that has been the #2 or #3 house because we tend to see fewer new listings. Eventually your house rises to become the best choice in its price range.

The goal of you and your realtor is to make your house as competitive as possible so it ranks high on the list of Buyers. Sometimes it is as simple as rearranging furniture, doing a little updating, doing a few repairs that have been noticed during showings, or even a price reduction.

While we are discussing inventory here, I want you to know that in the coming months you will see headlines about the “Average days on Market” rising. Any time you have inventory, this will happen. It doesn’t mean that every house is harder to sell. There are still plenty of houses selling fast and even getting multiple offers. Those are all the #1 choice houses, the ones everybody wants. All the houses that are further down the list will stay on the market longer, waiting for price reductions or some other change to be made which will eventually lead to a sale. In the meanwhile, those houses will dilute the average days on the market statistics.

What happens when first time buyers can’t afford to buy?

I had lunch with a good friend who is also a realtor earlier this week. He started a discussion about statistics for our local area. That got me doing some digging on my own.

I saw something interesting. Sort of scary really.

Now, I am comparing October of 2021 to October of 2022 here. October of 2021 was a crazy time when about every house was selling immediately and often for well over the list price.

Want to guess which price range is seeing the biggest decline in both closed and pending sales since rates rapidly went up? The sub $200k price point. Want to know which price range saw the least decline? Over $500k.

Pretty much all the stats show the first time homebuyer price range hit the hardest. You would think during a period of high interest rates, the more expensive houses would struggle to sell, wouldn’t you? From what I have read about the last time we dealt with inflation in the early 1980s, it was very hard to sell an expensive house back then. That’s why you don’t see many big, nice houses that were built during that time but you see tons of smaller starter homes.

We need these first time buyers. They are the ones that push the rest of the market since they have nothing to sell before they can buy. Think of it like a baseball game where the bases are loaded. The person on 1st base can’t move to 2nd base until the batter swings and hits the ball. The person on 3rd and 4th base are also stuck there until that batter hits the ball. The first time homebuyer is who we rely on to hit a home run since every other buyer is also a seller who has to breakup with their old house in order to move to their next one.

Historically, it has always been easier to sell a more affordable home than to sell a more expensive one. Statistically, it is easier to sell a more expensive house today than a more affordable one.

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.