Always think about selling in a Buyer’s Market

I am always sad when I see a house sell that has been sitting on the market forever.

Sometimes a house will stay on the market for a long time because the initial listing price was too high, or the house didn’t show well.  Both of those can happen to perfectly good homes.  The reason those don’t sell is because of the seller, not the house.  Often these houses sell once the list price gets reduced into the realm of reality, or the seller does some cosmetic repairs that make it easier for a buyer to want the house.

Any time I show a house like this, my client usually asks me why the house hasn’t sold yet.  If I check the listing history and see that they started out asking a crazy high price and have reduced it, I tell them it is okay to buy it.  If I look through old pictures or see fresh paint, new flooring, etc, I tell them it is okay to buy the house.  Sometimes sellers just need to learn how the market works at the expense of their days on market.

Then there are those houses that don’t sell because of the property itself.  Those are the ones that I advise my clients to not buy.  These houses usually have some odd feature like a crazy floor plan, a poorly done addition, a neighbor whose yard is full of junk or has a dozen dog kennels in their backyard, the house backs to commercial or industrial zoned properties, etc.  These houses eventually sell to somebody who doesn’t mind that particular negative.  Whenever I show one of these houses, I like to tell my client that while they might not mind the negative feature that has kept the house from selling, it will be extremely difficult for them to sell it when it is their turn.   The past 8 years have been a pretty strong Seller’s Market.  If a house took a long time to sell in a hot market, can you imagine how long it would take in a Buyer’s Market?

I have lived through lots of markets.  I have seen seller’s who paid too much in a hot market lose money when they needed to sell.  I have seen people get their dream job and move out of town, only to have to make two mortgage payments until their old house sells.  I have seen people who felt lucky to have gotten their house in multiple offers struggle to sell it in a Buyer’s Market.

I don’t want to see any of my clients go through any of this.  In real estate, you often don’t see the consequences of a mistake until years later when you go to sell.  Helping people avoid this mess is one of the greatest joys of my career.

The riskiest house to buy

What is the type of house that is the riskiest to buy?

 

(I’ll pause to give you a minute to think.)

 

I bet you didn’t come up with a brand new house as an answer, did you?

Now, new homes are built every day all around the country.    Most of the time everything goes well.  Probably like 98% of the time, but there are some risks involved that I always like to check out before a client decides to build a house.  So, why is new construction risky?

  1.  You don’t know what the neighborhood is going to look like until it is done.  Ever drive down Wilson-Downing and see that one street with about 12 houses that are much bigger than the rest of Belleau Woods?  Those were the first houses in what was going to be a neighborhood similar to Hartland.  Until interest rates shot through the roof in the early 80s and the only thing that was selling were small homes.   The people who bought their new houses on that street didn’t get what they expected.
  2. You don’t know what the value is going to be after you build.   A brand new sale is a unique sale.  It is never going to be brand new again.  It will be a “Used” house for each subsequent sale.  That is why when I have a client who builds, I like to look at the sales of other “Used” homes in the neighborhood so I can tell them what to expect.
  3. You don’t know what the builder is like.  Building is like most industries where 99% of them are good honest hard working people.  The rest are the ones that bring their whole industry down.  Many many years ago, there was a custom builder who was flying first class to see every UK basketball game, using his customer’s money to live large instead of you know, building their house.  He got arrested because he was telling banks that houses were nearly done so he could get more drawls from the construction loan.  There were a few houses that were still vacant lots.  This is why I like to check out my client’s builder to see if I think he is going to take their money and run.  Usually a long track record of building homes and a good reputation goes a long way with me.  I get nervous when the builder has only been around for a short time.

These are just a few things that pop in my mind when a client says they want to build.  Like I said, most of the time you never have these issues, but I think it is always a good idea for you to have your own realtor involved.

Which builder would I pick?

Before I spill on which builder, let’s establish the criteria:  Priced between $200k and $400k and brand new.

Ok, you ready for it?

To keep me out of a lawsuit, lets just say it is the big one in town.  Four letters.  You know the one.

I can already feel the tension in the air.  It is because I get it all the time when people ask me who to use and I suggest this builder.

Sure, everybody in town knows somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody who has had a bad experience with this builder……but nobody ever knows “That” person first hand.  I own 3 of their houses myself and have sold 60 of them of all ages.

It has been my personal and professional experience that they build as good of a home as anybody.  Am I saying they are perfect?  No.  I am just saying that after selling new homes built by other builders and selling hundreds of “Used” homes built by other builders,  their homes seem to have fewer issues caused by the construction of the home.

Any house is something with thousands of pieces assembled by lots of different trades that has to withstand both time and mother nature.   Things go wrong with them.

I think one reason this builder has so many detractors is just because of their scale.  If you have build maybe 25,000 homes in the Bluegrass and 5% of those people had a bad experience, that is a lot of people.  If you are a smaller builder who has maybe built 100 homes in the Bluegrass, that same 5% complaint rate is only 5 people.

All I know is that if I were wanting a new home in the $200-400k range, I would rather go with a builder whose 50 year old houses are still standing verses somebody without much of a history.

Advice as we dig out of a housing shortage

I’m starting to see an interesting thing happen.

We all know that due to the lack of new construction for many years, we have a shortage of houses for sale.

Many people have said the way to solve this is to build our way out of it.

I am starting to see this happen.

In Nicholasville between $200k and $250k, 17 of the 30 houses for sale are new.  In Lexington’s 40509 zip code, there are 104 houses for sale between $300k and $500k.  48 of them are new.  That’s an incredible amount of houses for sale in the Hamburg part of Lexington.  No wonder sales are slowing way down in that price range and I am seeing $10k price reductions left and right.

So what does this do to sales of existing houses?

Most people who buy a new house are only looking at new or newer houses.  If you live in an older existing neighborhood, you are probably in good shape.  Few buyers will seriously consider a 20+ year old house on a bigger lot with mature trees AND a brand new one on a smaller lot with trees shorter than they are.  If you have a house that is less than about 10 years old in this price range, well, you may have a hard time competing with brand new houses.

Any time I have a buyer wanting a newer house in an area with a lot of new construction around them, I always tell them that it might be hard to sell and/or might not appreciate that much until the last new house has sold.  The longer they plan to be there, the better.  If they tell me they may only be there for 2-3 years, I tell them it might be wise to pick another house.

If you are buying in an area with lots of new homes around you, try to pick one that has some unique feature or has a super good lot.  In a neighborhood where most homes aren’t too much different from each other, these small things are the difference between your house selling and always being a buyer’s second choice house.

Yard signs are dinosaurs

I often don’t even bother to put a for sale sign in a yard any more.

I just don’t see the need.

I’ve been doing this for a long time and I have never sold my client’s house to somebody who called from a sign in the yard.

I was one of the first agents to put “Call or text” on my signs when texting became the primary way of communicating.

You know what kind of calls I got?

“How much is that house?”

“How big is that house?”

“How many bedrooms does it have?”

I would answer the questions and it became very clear that it was not what the buyer was wanting.  THAT is why they did not see it online.

When you drive by a house that is listed for $300k and your budget is only $250k, that is the reason it did not come up in any of your online searches.

When you drive by a house that is 3 bedrooms and you want a 5 bedroom house, that is the reason it did not come up in any of your online searches.

Same thing for the school district, where the laundry room is, how big the lot is, etc.

Everybody is online all the time looking at houses.  There is search criteria that gets entered and they see every house available that meets that criteria.  There is no such filter when calling/texting on a sign in a yard while driving by.

So, I think the yard sign serves no purpose other than making it so other realtors don’t have to look for the house number.

What are buyers doing instead of driving around neighborhoods hoping to see a for sale sign?  They are on their GPS enabled phones.  They tap an icon to let an app know where they are and it shows every house for sale around them.  No need for a yard sign.  They have all the listing info at their finger tips, including my phone number.