What’s a first time buyer to do today?

You’ve probably read all the articles saying how much more per month the average house payment is today with the increase in interest rates. I have too.

While I don’t dispute their findings, I don’t really find them helpful. Yes, had somebody bought the same house sooner, they could have had a cheaper mortgage payment. Those rates don’t exist anymore. Why not tell first time buyers what they should do rather than making them focus on the wrong thing.

Let me tell you the biggest way these higher rates are costing you. If you are sitting on the sidelines, holding out for a year or so before re-entering the market, you’re paying a steep price in a lot of ways:

  1. You are not building equity.
  2. You are not getting the tax deductions homeowners get.
  3. You are not making money from the rising value of your home.
  4. You are deferring the date when you will have whatever home you own paid off.

All of that seems to me to be much more costly than paying a few hundred extra bucks a month to own a home. If you don’t have the extra money that today’s mortgage would be, I suggest buying a cheaper house. Buy what you can afford. Owning any home is a better investment than renting.

I have always said the best time to buy a house was yesterday and that the second best time is today. That is because homeownership is the best way to create wealth for the average person. It’s more than just owning where you live. It is about investing in yourself. You do that by leveraging time. The sooner you start, the sooner the benefits begin and the quicker they compound.

Things to remember in a slowing market

Yea, the market is slowing down. Everybody knows that. No big deal. That crazy roller coaster market couldn’t last forever and I’m sort of glad really. It will still be a good market for years to come, but it will seem like a let down compared to the last couple of years.

Here are some things to remember as you process the Doom and Gloom news cycle real estate is in at the moment.

  1. The “Average Days on Market” will be going up. Don’t be alarmed. Usually the way that works is that the worst houses that nobody wants stay on the market longer and bring down that average. Also, keep in mind that average is usually for all residential property types in all price ranges. If you have a $350k house, do you really care about what the market is like for a million dollar home? Or a townhouse at any price?
  2. The “Average Sale Price” is another one that can confuse people. An average is just that-it’s an average of all sales. If house sales over $500k slow down a lot, it will drag down the average sale price. This does NOT mean your house is worth less when you read silly headlines that say stuff like “The average sale price dropped by 2% last month.” When rates got super low, I saw more houses selling for $1,000,000 or more than I have ever seen. Now that rates are much higher, I totally expect to see sales at that price point slow way down, bringing down the average sale price.
  3. Values may stay flat after going crazy for the past two years, but prices will still go up. I know this sounds crazy, but hear me out. Let’s say you bought a house a year ago for $400k and we have had 8% inflation since then. Your house needs to sell for $432k today for you to have effectively broken even. That’s because it takes 432,000 of today’s deflated dollars to equal 400,000 of dollars a year ago. In other words, the price of your house has to be higher even if it got zero percent appreciation just because the value of the dollar has eroded. (This is a whole other post, but one reason prices have risen so much over the past year is because we saw massive appreciation and massive inflation. If prices went up 15% and inflation was 8% of that, then that means the real appreciation was 7%.)

I started my career just as the Great Recession began. I saw most houses in our area drop in value by 15-20%. I know to a lot of people, this market seems scary. Trust me, it isn’t. All that’s going to happen is that we have a more balanced market. It will be a good, but not the greatest time in history, to be a seller. It will also be good to be a buyer because you will be able to get a house that should be a stable investment for your future.

Why now is the best time to buy all year

At the risk of sounding like the stereotypical realtor who is always saying that now is the best time to buy, it really is the best time to be a buyer since before COVID hit.

Why? Lots of reasons but the biggest single reason is that we are seeing more listings hit the market at a time when most everybody who was going to buy a house in 2021 has already done so. If the market were a restaurant, picture that time when you walk into a very popular place that is hard to get into at noon, but you have arrived at 12:45 and there is plenty of seating.

This won’t last long though, which is why I think now is a great time.

I put on a new listing for $185k last week. We had tons of showings, some interested buyers, but only one full price offer. That hasn’t happened all year. One of the agents that showed it gave me some feedback. She said that her buyer opted to buy another house that was closer to her grandparents whom she took care of. I read that and I was a little shocked. It was the first time in the past two years I have seen where a buyer had a choice between two houses. Lately the choice has been the one house on the market or waiting for the next new listing.

The week before that, I put 3 new listings on the market. Granted all sold the first day, but two of them sold for slightly less that the list price and only got one offer.

I think the market will remain strong for years to come. It might not be the frenzy we have seen but there is no doubt we will have more buyers than sellers for quite some time. We will see what next spring brings. That is usually when we see prices got up the most. That is why I think between now and late winter might be the best shot you have for getting a house!

Is it a good time to buy?

This is a question I get asked a lot these days. People are worried about a housing crash and they dread the process of finding a home. It is not a fun time to be a buyer for sure!

My response usually is “Today is a better time to be a buyer than tomorrow will be, but it isn’t as good as it was yesterday.” Prices are going up every day between the whole supply/demand thing and inflation. I don’t see an end in sight short of some major economic crisis that creates a lot of unemployment and/or skyrocketing interest rates. (And keep in mind that we DID just have a major unemployment situation in 2020 due to COVID.) Even if either happens, there will be more buyers than sellers since people will simply decide not to move from their current home, which will create an even more out of balance supply/demand situation.

All this is pretty wild compared to 6-7 years ago. Back in 2014 I bought a rental house that had been on the market for more than 6 months. I was the only buyer and I offered much less than the list price and the seller was happy to accept it. I just sold that house for more than twice what I paid for it. Granted I did paint it, put new carpet in the bedrooms and replaced 3-4 windows over all those years.

So, if you are on the fence about entering the market, I say go for it. Sure, you will pay top dollar. You will probably have to bend over backwards to get a seller to even consider your offer. You might lose a few houses along the way. But what is the alternative? Keep renting? With all this inflation we are seeing, your rent is soon going to go up. And it will always keep going up. Meanwhile, the principal and interest part of your mortgage payment will always stay the same. All that can change in your payment is the property taxes and insurance amounts you pay.

When is the best time to be a buyer or seller?

One of the first things I do every day is look at ALL the new listings, look at ALL the price reductions, look at ALL the new pending sales, and look at ALL of the new closed sales.

Want to know some things I have noticed over the years?

In the spring, the number of houses selling quickly is higher than any other time of year.  More buyers are out.  There are usually fewer listings early in spring since most sellers want those first few warm weekends to work on curb appeal.

In the summer, we start seeing more new listings.  Sales remain strong.  Overpriced houses get overlooked.

In the fall, we see fewer new listings.  The frenzy slows down.  There are fewer multiple offers and fewer houses sell the first day or two on the market.  In an appreciating market, I also see houses that have been on the market for a long time begin to sell.  Why does this happen?  They were the overpriced listings in the spring and summer.  With prices going up, they have appreciated into their list price and now are competitive with newer listings.  Also, in an appreciating market, most sellers get greedy.  They want what their house is worth PLUS $5-10k.  Yesterday’s overpriced listing looks really good to a buyer compared to a brand new overpriced listing.

In the winter there are far fewer new listings but this is the best time to be a buyer.  Most sellers have been beat into submission by the buyers of prior seasons and are the most realistic they will ever be.  For a seller, the benefit is that your competition is typically just the other listings that are left over from spring and summer.  You stand a better chance of catching a buyer.

So, when is the best time to be a seller or be a buyer?

If you are a picky buyer looking for something specific, spring and summer because you will have more choices.

If you are a buyer who isn’t too picky, then fall and winter may get you the best price.

If you are a seller with a house that has been a buyer’s second or third choice all spring and summer, then your best bet is the fall and winter.  The reason your house never made it to be somebody’s first choice was because there was always a new listing that lured the buyers away from your house.

If you are a seller with a nice house and are willing to price it appropriately, then you will sell quickly any time of the year.  Your house will always be somebody’s first choice.