Winning in multiple offers

Two of the three houses I sold last weekend had multiple offers.

I’ve always said that what often wins a house in these situations has nothing to do with price.  It is even more true in today’s market where almost every house sells for full price or slightly above.  I know when I get multiple offers on my listings, it is amazing to see several different buyers all offer roughly the same amount, especially when it is over the list price.

The first one I sold was a for sale by owner townhouse.  I knew the seller probably didn’t know what to do once he got an offer, and probably didn’t know how to determine which buyer was the best.  So, I told him that I would handle everything for him and keep him in the loop on the progress of the sale.  I also pointed out that my buyer had 20% down and was doing a conventional loan. I told him all the things that could go wrong with any sale, and that short of a cash buyer, my well qualified buyer would be the best one to pick.

And he did.

The other one was a hot new listing near Hamburg in the most competitive price range in Lexington.  There were 9 showings the first day on the market.  My buyers needed to roll their closing costs into the offer, so I was a little worried.  I knew the only chance I had of getting this place for my buyers was to find out how to make it easy on the sellers to say yes to us.  I asked the listing agent if the sellers knew where they were moving yet.  If they did not have a house yet, my people could have rented back to them after the closing because they had several months left on a lease.  The sellers have a contract on a house in a surrounding town.  I got their closing date.  I remembered that they had two small kids based on the way two bedrooms were decorated.  No seller who is going to be a buyer likes the idea of moving out of their old house, closing it, closing their new house, and moving in….all in one day.  Especially with kids.

We wrote a strong offer.  I put our closing date the same day that the sellers are closing their new home.  We also offered to let them have their old house for 48 hours after the closing just to make that process easier.

Later that day, the listing agent called me.  She said both offers were practically the same.  So much so that her sellers jokingly asked her if she had told both buyer’s agents what to offer.  They couldn’t decide which offer to pick, so they asked their agent what to do.   She advised them to accept our offer because she thought I was so nice to work with and for my concern in making the process easy for her sellers.  Well, I am a nice guy, but my goal was to get this house for my buyers more than it was to make it nice for the sellers.  That is just what we had to do to make our offer the most attractive.

So, both of my buyers got the house they wanted in multiple offers.  Like I’ve said before, it isn’t always about price.

Bluegrass market update & fun with a calculator

I’ve always been a number person.  When I was a kid, my dad gave me a calculator.  I would make pretend budgets, figure out things like compound interest, and do things like type 77345 and flip the calculator upside down to see that I spelled ShELL.

So I guess I am not surprised that I get excited when my local real estate board publishes the statistical info once a month.

It is also nice to see if my own experience is echoing what is happening in the whole market.  It usually is.

For example, I hardly show any houses any more because there is so little for sale.  I used to be out 3-4 nights a week and ALL weekend just showing houses.  Now I may show 4-5 a week and have the same amount of buyer clients……on a busy week.  There just aren’t enough houses to show people, and buyers are making fast decisions because they don’t want to lose a good house while waiting for a great one.

In Fayette Co, sales from Jan 18- April 18 are down 11% from the same period in 2017.  Listing are down 9%.  You’d think a decrease in sales would be bad, but since listings are down by a similar number, it is still a super tight market, especially in the sub $200k range.

All the Bluegrass counties have a big decrease in listings.  Most have an equally big decrease in sales too.  Makes sense.  If there are fewer houses to buy, there will be fewer houses sold.  Unless you are in Scott, Madison or Jessamine Counties.  Those places are the only ones where sales have increased from this same time last year while listings have decreased.  I know, I know.  How can that be?  This is just my gut, but I think those counties had more on the market last year that just sat and didn’t sell.

I also feel like I am spending more time in surrounding counties than I have in a long time.  When I first got into this business, there were a lot of people moving to Jessamine Co in search of a cheaper house.  But then gas prices went crazy and nobody in Fayette County wanted to leave.  Now gas is fairly cheap and people have returned to moving outside of Fayette Co again.  Jessamine County has the tightest market under $180k.  There is literally next to nothing for sale there.

Just this past March, we had a net loss of 61 households in Fayette County.  Scott and Jessamine Counties were the only ones that saw much of a gain in new households.  Yep, Fayette County folks are back at it.

I still play with my calculator a lot.  Only now I’m using it to determine what a house is worth before listing it or making an offer.  Maybe with all this extra time I have from not showing houses every night, I can figure out some new words my calculator will spell?

How to buy when you also have to sell

The market is full of people who know they can sell their old house in a heartbeat, but are worried that they won’t be able to find a house to buy…..so they do nothing.

Here are a few options for you:

IF you absolutely have to make an offer contingent on selling your old house, have the old one ready to list as soon as you make an offer.  The listing agent for the house you want to buy will want to see it on the market ASAP.  Many people focus on finding the right house and have done no prep work on their old house.  They often end up losing their new house.  Any decent agent will counter your offer with what is called a “Kick-out Clause.”  That means that if another buyer comes along without a contingency, you either need to step aside or remove your contingency and buy the house.  If your house isn’t ready to list, or isn’t appealing enough to sell immediately, odds are you will lose your new house.  I know it is tough, but the best thing to do right now is focus on getting your old house ready to sell, THEN go look at houses.  And every client I have in this situation is going to think I am talking to them when they read this, but I am talking to ALL my clients in this situation 🙂

The absolute best thing to do when you need to sell first is to…..just sell first.  Yes, I mean sell your old house and find somewhere to live temporarily.  Will it be fun?  Heck no, but you will get top dollar for your old house and be in the best bargaining position on the new one since no seller today really wants to accept a contingency offer.  If a seller accepts one, it is usually a sign that you are paying waaaay more than the next highest bidder and/or that you have selected a house that is having trouble selling in the hottest market ever.  Neither of those are good.

IF you can buy the new one without having to first sell the old one, then do that.  You know you will sell the old one quickly and it is really nice to be able to get the new one ready before moving in.

But what if you can qualify for the new house without having to sell, but you really want or need your equity from the old one for a down payment?  Easy.  Get a home equity line of credit on your old one and use it for the down payment on the new one.  Sell the old one and pay it off.  It’s a simple way of moving the equity you have from the old house to the new one.

What does this do to my property value?

I get asked that question a lot.

Believe it or not, most of the things we worry about don’t really have all that much effect on the value of a house….so no need to rush out of the neighborhood when there is a big change coming.

A friend of mine was upset because the city made part of his huge backyard into a retention basin to solve flooding issues.  He was worried that it would make his house worth less.

I told him that his backyard is so big, losing this space didn’t have any impact on how he or future buyers would use it.  There was still plenty of room for a pool, swing set, firepit or any outdoor thing people want in their backyard.  I told him that about the only person who might not buy his house now would be somebody who wanted to build a huge garage in that space.

I think part of what is hard for owners to realize is that the person buying your house when you sell won’t have the “Before” picture in their head of how it used to be.  Only the current owner will know what the good old days were like.

I had a friend say that Ball Homes building on the opposite side of the fairway from Greenbrier would hurt the property values.  I told her that while the view of a wooded hillside was preferable to seeing a new neighborhood, it was still nice to have a beautiful fairway to separate them, so it would not have any impact on value.  Only the current owners who remember the wooded hillside will ever know the difference.  The next buyers will say “Wow, look how pretty the golf course is” and how nice it is to have so much space behind your house in Lexington.

Then there are threats of new development.  Andover Hills and Andover Forest residents are afraid that if the foreclosed golf course fell into the hands of developers that their property values would plummet.  The residents of Squire Oak are concerned what several houses, townhouses and 3 story apartment buildings on the property along Armstrong Mill owned by Overbrook Farms would do to them.

There is no need to consider selling if you live in those neighborhoods.  Sure, it would be nicer to have less traffic, fewer homes, not lose the green space if you are lucky enough to back up to it…..but it will not have much impact, if any,  on property values.  Plus, Lexington is only going to become more dense.  We should all get used to it.  I often see houses with terrible lots sell for practically the same amount as houses with average lots.  There are several houses that back to New Circle Road, the interstate, a shopping center, a light industrial area.  They usually sell for within 1-2% of what the houses with average lots do.

This might be the time to discuss the difference between property values and desirability.  A house that used to back to a farm and now backs to a 3 story apartment complex had a prime lot and now has a below average lot.  The value might not change much at all, especially in a sellers market.  What it does do is make the house less desirable.  That just means it might take more showings before catching a buyer in a slower market.  Corner lots or houses on the main drag through their neighborhood experience this already but nobody notices.

Want to know something funny?  YOU have the most control over your own property value.  A clean, updated house that is move in ready will always sell for top dollar regardless of the market and what is around it.

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.