Of all the emerging trends, this is my favorite

I’m as tired of talking about COVID as anybody else in the world, but I’ve got to bring it up because it has fueled two trends in the real estate market. One is that everybody is moving up the real estate ladder due to low interest rates and the boost in equity the market has given them. I am seeing far more sales over $1,000,000 in the past year. Some of these buyers are wanting to get into their favorite neighborhood and a lot of them are wanting a place in the country.

The other trend is scaling back. Many people just want a more simple life and/or are into the F.I.R.E. movement…..meaning Financial Independence Retire Early.

I’ve been wanting to scale things back myself the past few years…….including myself since I was so overweight. Here’s my story. I think sitting around the house during the lockdown got me thinking about it more.

I grew up in the 80s. I’m a Gen Xer. I wanted the American Dream just like everybody does. I never considered myself all that materialistic. I knew stuff wasn’t going to make you happy if you were not already happy. I viewed stuff as icing on the cake of life. I have had a good life. I married when I was young and still am happily married 30 years later. I had great kids who I love in a way they will never know until they become parents. Life was and still is good. I thought stuff would make it better. As my real estate career took off, I got the chance to do a lot of things I couldn’t before, some of them I never thought I would do. I took nice vacations. I had a big house in a prestigious neighborhood (that was very outdated because I hate remodeling a house while living in it.) I was able to collect cars and waste a fortune on them. I was able to write 5 digit checks to one of my favorite charities.

The more stuff I had though, the more stress I had. Stuff needs your attention. Stuff needs maintenance. I started realizing that this stuff I thought would be fun to have was actually making my life worse. My friends would tell me to hire people to take care of my stuff for me. While that saves the time of doing it yourself, telling somebody what to do and then checking that they did it still takes a little time and mental energy.

As I was considering upgrading my Porsche 911 S to a 911 GT3, I realized that better stuff wasn’t the answer. Why? Better stuff is still stuff. Remember, stuff needs your attention. Stuff needs maintenance. So, I jumped off that train and decided that I only wanted stuff in my life if it made my life better. I still have far too many cars and I think it is time to let a couple of them go even though I really enjoy them. I just think my life would be better with less since good stuff is still stuff.

Those are the two trends I am personally seeing with my clients. Most of them want to get the biggest and best house they can afford and others are wanting less house than they have had. I’ve personally done both so I get the appeal of each one. It’s fun working with both of these type of buyers since they are both getting what they want.

What would it take to crash the real estate market?

A lot of people subscribe to the “What goes up must come down” theory on markets. I don’t. I tend to just use that one when describing gravity.

For real estate, we have only really ever had prices go down twice in the history of tracking such stuff. Once was the Depression which caused ALL markets to go down, and the other was the Great Recession which was largely caused by bad mortgages that were toxic to the stock market. Neither time actually had anything to do with just the real estate market.

Today’s market is probably the healthiest it’s been in a long time. Prices are high due to supply and demand. Sure, low interest rates help but not as much as you would think. People acclimate to interest rates. I remember bragging about getting 6.625% on my first home when all my homeowning friends were over 7%.

When people on Youtube or those who write for the news look at the real estate market, they tend to not look at the whole picture. I am sure you have seen headlines about how all the people in mortgage forbearance would crash the market once they got foreclosed. Didn’t happen. All those people who needed to sell had enough equity to sell and avoid foreclosure. What about all the Baby Boomers who would leave a huge void in the real estate market as they sold their homes and went into retirement homes or to reside on the other side of the Pearly Gates? No mention of the youngest generation of buyers entering the market who would keep the wheels of the whole market greased so everybody can move. Years ago I described this like a baseball game where the bases are loaded. The Player on 1st base wants to run to 2nd. The Player on 2nd base wants to run to 3rd. The Player on 3rd wants to run home. What needs to happen in order to keep all those Players moving? For the Batter to hit a home run. The first time buyers are the most crucial element of the market. Without them, no homeowner can part with their old house in order to move up to their next one.

Everybody knows how Supply and Demand works, right? Let’s apply it to real estate. Most people involved in selling or buying will be doing both. Most sellers are also buying. Most buyers are also selling. That means there is no net gain or loss in the supply/demand ratio regardless of the market. This is why the supply/demand ratio got so bad during the Great Recession-You had so many foreclosures where the previous owner did not reenter the market as a buyer. Other than in such catastrophic times, the only people who are doing one side of a sale are first time buyers or those who have passed away or are going into some form of assisted living. Historically there have been more first time buyers than there are those who are exiting the market permanently. (I am excluding those well off enough to purchase second homes since that is a smaller market and we are not in a big area for that like Florida or any other vacation destination.)

So then, what would it take to tank the real estate market if it has nothing to do with real estate? It would take something terrible to happen with the economy…..meaning something bigger and broader than just the real estate market that is like a Tsunami and wipes out everything in it’s path. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen any time soon!

Should I buy if I know I won’t keep the place for long?

Back when the market was bad, I would always tell people not to buy a house unless they did not know exactly how long they would own it. If they knew they would only be in town for 2-3 years max, my advice was to rent. Same for “Kiddie Condos” too where a parent buys a condo verses renting an apartment or paying for a dorm for 4 years.

Back then the only variable was the housing market. Inflation was flat. Today is a LOT different. The value of the property AND inflation are both variables that are poised to benefit you in this situation. All the major players are predicting both housing prices to continue to rise and inflation to rise in the near future. That’s a double bonus for you and really for anybody buying any asset right now. Buy now at today’s lower price and pay it back with deflated dollars through a mortgage. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Many people seemed to enjoy my last two posts about my weight loss journey. I’m thinking I might include a little bit more stuff that’s going through my mind these days. I’ve gone through a lot of changes and unfortunately I’m now old enough to want to share my experiences and wisdom gained along the way.

Growing up, I always had a lot of anxieties. Sometimes they would be really debilitating. Couple anxiety with a mind that never turns off and it gets worse. I know a lot of people with what is now called high functioning anxiety. I am hoping this helps them.

I think two things helped me out the most.

The first was that I was able to train my mind to separate my perception of reality FROM reality. When I would get anxious about something, I would tell myself “Okay John, this is what you FEEL is happening but this is what is REALLY happening.” It sort of switched my response from being emotional to logical.

Then I realized that most things that make you anxious are either things in the past or the future. We all tend to dwell on either since I sort of feel in general, humans suck at being in the present. If I was anxious about something in the past. Maybe dwelling on some awkward social situation where I worried if I said the wrong thing, I would just try to learn from it and go on, making the next awkward situation easier……because guess what, I can’t undo the past! For future anxiety, I would just try to focus on the present and remind myself again that how I feel about it is totally different than reality and reality always wins. If it was some sort of performance anxiety, I would make whatever I needed to do as basic as possible. That seemed to make it a manageable task. I still do this if I have a super stressful day ahead of me. If I wake up and have to take 3 different clients out to see houses, negotiate a repair list, write an offer, have a closing and otherwise have a crazy busy day, I might just tell myself “All you need to do John is drive around with people and look at houses, make a few calls and do some paperwork.”

I really think like any obstacle in your life, you need to realize YOU can train yourself to control your mind and your responses to things. It isn’t easy and it isn’t quick because you are basically battling yourself. Just slowly do these two thing and you will find your anxiety level decreases.

Here’s why you’re not winning in multiple offers

Some offers are better than others. Some people think it is all about who makes the highest offer but there are other things to take into consideration.

Here is the hierarchy of offers:

  1. Cash offer.
  2. Conventional loan with large down payment.
  3. Conventional loan with smaller down payment.
  4. FHA/VA loans. (Because the appraiser for these loan types does a minor assessment of the house. If the condition does not meet minimum standards set out for each loan type, the Seller HAS to do the repairs in order for the Buyer to get their loan.)
  5. Any loan with down payment assistance where there are two loans that have to go through two different underwriting guidelines.

Then there is the offer amount:

  1. Offer over list price.
  2. Offer list price.
  3. Offer less than list price.

Then there is the home inspection. Three choices there:

  1. No home inspection at all.
  2. Buyer does home inspection but won’t ask for repairs. Will either accept the house or walk away.
  3. Buyer wants to negotiate repairs with Seller.

Then there is the appriasal:

  1. Buyer will cover any possible gap between sale price and appraised value in cash.
  2. Buyer won’t cover any possible gap between sale price and appraised value in cash.

Then there is the Buyer’s lender:

  1. Buyer will use a local lender that every realtor knows does a good job.
  2. Buyer will use a non-local mortgage company.
  3. Buyer will use a local lender that every realtor knows preapproves any buyer with a pulse.
  4. Buyer will use a bank that begins with the letter C that everybody knows will be difficult to work with and that it is unlikely to close on time.

Then there is the closing date and when the buyer can move in the house:

  1. Buyer’s realtor found out when Sellers want to close and put that date on the offer.
  2. Buyer’s realtor doesn’t know to ask this and that it can really help make their client’s offer more attractive.

Then there are contingencies:

  1. Buyer has no contingencies.
  2. Buyer needs to close their old house first in order to buy the new one.
  3. Buyer needs to sell their old house first in order to buy the new one, meaning it currently may not be on the market and definitely doesn’t have a contract on it.

Then there are closing costs:

  1. Buyer will pay their own closing costs.
  2. Buyer needs Seller to pay some of their closing costs.
  3. Buyer needs Seller to pay all of their closing costs.

What are your numbers? If you are a 1 in all of these, go out and make your offer. You will probably get the house. If you are a low number in any of these, best of luck. If you are the bottom of any or all of these, then you are wasting your time. Sorry, but you are. You are not going to get a house making an offer less than list price with an FHA loan, wanting to negotiate repairs with the Seller and needing to close or sell your old house.

Now that you know all the things a listing realtor is thinking about when they process all the offers, do what you can to make your offer the best it can possibly be. If you are doing a conventional loan and think you are going up against other cash offers, maybe waive the home inspection and offer to let the seller stay in the house briefly after the closing? If you have to close on your old house to buy, make your offer the highest one they get (realize too that moving twice costs money and it might be cheaper to pay the most for a house verses paying to move twice, live somewhere temporarily and then look for another house which will have gone up in value while you wait.)

When I moved in 2012, I was up against 4 other offers. Two of them were cash. That was unheard of back then but common today. I knew I couldn’t compete with cash so I went a little over the list price, waived the home inspection and offered to let the Sellers rent back from me until they found their new house. This was appealing to them since they had not found their new house yet.

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!