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!

I took my own real estate advice and bought a car

I’ve been wanting to get another car for a while now. Anybody that knows me knoooooows I am a very sensible, practical guy in all aspects of my life other than when it comes to cars.

This year was probably my worst. I mean, I should probably make a YouTube channel about the stupid decisions I make when it comes to cars. I don’t keep them long. I spend a lot of money fixing them up then get bored and sell them for cheap.

I sold a newer Porsche that just didn’t do it for me anymore. I was thinking of getting one of two BMWs since BMWs are my all time favorite cars. One was practically new. The other was an older one. I tend to like older cars better so I went with the older one. After doing some modifications on the car, the engine blew up. It was worth nothing. Meanwhile, used car prices have been going crazy. The other car that was on my radar earlier this year was now worth at least $10k MORE! I really wish I had just bought that car back then. I would have saved the money wasted on the one that blew up and also saved on the other one too…..but no, I took the most foolish route because for some reason I throw out all logic when it comes to cars.

All of this has been really upsetting to me. I mean, I wish I had just bought earlier. I don’t like the current prices of the car I now want. They are hard to find. I don’t even know if now is a good time to buy since who knows what the market will be like next year. Will prices go up? Will they go down??

Then it dawned on me.

I was doing the same thing a lot of home buyers are doing, which was just being paralyzed with confusion and being mad that I should have done something sooner and can’t seem to get what I want now.

What do I tell my buyers who are in this same place? I tell them yes, you could have or should have bought sooner but you can’t go back in time. Yes, it is a frustrating market but it is the only market there is. Yes, prices could go up or down but in addition to usual market issues like supply/demand and interest rates, we now have inflation to think about. Let’s say prices drop. If you have a mortgage, you are paying that loan back with deflated dollars due to inflation so it’s sort of like you are also paying less and less over time. If prices go up, you are also still paying back that loan with deflated dollars so you are coming out ahead.

So, for the first time in my life, I have taken my own expert advice and pulled the trigger on a 2020 BMW M2 in my favorite BMW color, Alpine White. (Sorry for the picture. The dealer is putting on new tires and getting the car cleaned up for me so I don’t have it yet……which feels even more like buying a house since I have to wait to actually get possession of it!)

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!

Does location matter any more?

I guess a lot of people think being a realtor is about opening doors and cashing checks. I guess there are a lot of realtors who think the same so that is probably the source of the perception.

You don’t need me to help you pick a pretty house. You don’t need me to be there to tell you what you like or dislike about a house. You don’t need me to find houses for you. You don’t need me to walk into the only room with a chandelier and announce it is the dining room. You don’t really even need me at all…….unless you view spending the most money you have ever spent as an investment that you know you will sell someday and want to maximize the return. Oh, I guess you also need me to make sure you don’t pay too much since you won’t really know if you overpaid until you go to sell it.

So here is a quick lesson on how I go about helping people pick a neighborhood. We have all heard that real estate is about location. It is, but I don’t think people really know what that means. I normally break down neighborhoods into 4 categories:

The “A” Neighborhood-These neighborhoods are the ones people know and love for a variety of reasons. Some might be close to something desirable, some might have a lot of charm, some might have lower crime. Almost all “A” neighborhoods have a good performing school district. These are the ones that people know by name. These are also the ones that will always be easy to sell in even a bad market.

The “B” Neighbhorhood-Is like the “A” but may not be as well rounded. It’s popular, but often viewed as an alternative to another “A” neighborhood that is close by.

The “C” Neighborhood-This is one that no buyer has ever mentioned as somewhere they would love to live. It is just average in everyway. Nothing really is wrong with it. Nothing is really great about it either. It is just a neighborhood full of houses.

The “D” Neighborhood-These are like the opposite of the “A” neighborhood. These are neighborhoods where 16 years worth of buyers have told me they DON’T want to live. It is often because of high crime in or around the neighborhood or due to a combination of poorly performing schools. Let’s face it, if buyer’s are telling their realtors they don’t want to live in specific neighborhoods, there’s your sign that it isn’t the best investment.

Why does this make any difference if you’ve found a pretty house you like in your budget? Shouldn’t you be happy just to have found a house in this crazy market? Isn’t finding a house in a less than popular neighborhood better than not finding a house at all? The answer to all of this is that it doesn’t matter at all when you buy the house. It matters a lot when you decide it is time to move on and you want to sell it.

Right now, let’s say there are 100 buyers in the market. There are 20 houses in each of my categories for sale. That means there are 80 houses for 100 buyers. Oh no! That means all 80 sell for at least full price in multiple offers the first day on the market.

But markets change. I am no doomsday person. I don’t think the market is going to crash. It will however, over time, swing back and forth between being a buyer’s market and a seller’s market.

This is what it looks like in a buyer’s market: There are 80 buyers in the market. There are 100 houses for sale, 25 in each of my 4 categories. How do you think this pans out? The “A” neighborhood houses sell first, then the “B” neighborhood houses, then the…….well, you get it. When there are more houses for sale than there are buyers, buyers get pickier. Buyers can’t be picky in today’s seller’s market but they will be able to again. I am sure of that.

My first house was in a “D” neighborhood. I was in my mid 20s and didn’t know anything. Like a lot of first time buyers, I was focused on just finding a house I liked. As I improved my house, I would look out my window and realize that I had no control over my whole neighborhood. Many of the houses around me were owned by investors. There was some crime. I loved the house but not the neighborhood. I sold it for about what I had in it, which meant I didn’t have a lot of equity to carry over to the next house. That is another reason to always pick a winning neighborhood. You will use the equity you’ve built in your old house as your down payment on your next house. You want to maximize that.

So do yourself a favor and always pick the best neighborhood in your price range.