The real reason why sales are down

I’m seeing a lot of news articles with accurate data.  My issue is that I think most are drawing the wrong conclusions.

Most seem to want to make you think the sky is falling in real estate because sales are down.

You know who needs to care about the number of sales?  Appraisers, realtors, mortgage people.  Those of us who make money on each transaction.

As a buyer and/or seller, the number of sales isn’t really important to you.  What you care about is supply and demand-the ratio of buyers to sellers in the market.  If there are 3 buyers in the market and only 2 listings, then we have a seller’s market.

I am seeing a lot of articles stating that sales were down in November of 2018 versus November of 2017.  Of course they were.  It happens every election year.  The market pauses until we see which set of morons we will be stuck with.

The ones that really bug me are the ones that say the affordability crisis will hold the market back.  I think they have it backwards.

Sure, we have an affordability issue.  Many people can’t afford to buy a house with rising prices and interest rates.  All I know is that every house under $200k in this town seems to go very quickly, which allows that seller to buy up to their next house and that seller to buy up to their next house and so on.

Back when the market was terrible, I said that it was like a baseball game where the bases are loaded.  The seller on first base needed a buyer without a contingency to buy their house so they could buy the 2nd base seller’s house, who could buy the 3rd base seller’s house.  The first time buyer needed to hit a home run and push all those sales through.

Back then a buyer had a ton of choices for their next home.  The issue was selling their old one.

Today, no buyer really has a huge selection of houses.

For that reason, I think our current market is the opposite.  There are a ton of first time buyers eager to hit a home run and push all those deals through, but what is happening is that the person on 3rd base doesn’t like home plate and has decided to just stand there until they feel like running.

The buyers with the most selection are the people buying their pinnacle home.  The one they stay in forever until they begin to downsize.  These are mostly Gen Xers.  They are in their 3rd base home, which is probably a fairly large home in the $250-350k range.  They want to move up to the $400-600k range, where there are plenty of houses for sale.

Their only problem is that most are just tarted up versions of their current house.  These buyers aren’t getting a better house, a bigger house, or a bigger yard.  They are just getting prettier finishes.  They find the houses in this price range, well, boring.  And we have a TON of them for sale.

So what do these Gen X buyers do?  They wait for the right house to hit the market.  Since they already have a nice house, they are in no hurry.  Because they aren’t in a hurry, that means the people looking to buy their house are in the same position….all the way down to that first time buyer eager to bid their heart out on their first home.

And, that is where we are today.  Sellers wanting to sell but not finding anything they want to buy.

Why buy a house when you can rent?

Now that the market is becoming balanced, I am seeing a lot of articles predicting doom and gloom for real estate.  I get it, nobody wants to read an article that says “The real estate market is about to become boring because it will neither be a seller’s market nor a buyer’s market”.  They’ve got to go to an extreme to get and keep your attention.  I am seeing lots of articles telling people that their home is not an investment.  I’ve even seen some articles suggesting people continue to rent and get into the stock market instead of buying a home.

Which might be good advice if you were going to live in your car, or with your parents the rest of your life.  Sure, you might come out ahead over the long haul, but the reality is you will have to pay to live somewhere, may as well pay to live in your own house.

Why did I want to buy my first house as soon as I could save the down payment?

I used to mow lawns for a lot of elderly people.  I would always enjoy them telling me what they paid for their houses 30-40 years ago and what their mortgage payment was.  I had one little old lady who told me her mortgage was $163 a month and some months it was hard to pay it.

When it was new, her house might have rented for about the same amount.  Do you think rent prices have gone up since the mid 1960s?  Meanwhile, that little old lady paid $163 a month until the house was paid off. (Okay, I am sure her property taxes and insurance went up, but not by that much.)  And when she made her last $163 payment, do you know what she did the next month?  Nothing.  There were no more payments to make (Okay again, she would still have taxes and insurance to pay but both of those expenses would be FAR less than what the house would rent for at that time.)

Let’s take a look at what happens when this little old lady moves out of her house.  She pays a real estate commission and gets to keep the rest because there is no mortgage.

What if she had rented a house that whole time and moved?  She would have paid off the house for the landlord and had nothing to show for it.

I think owning your home is the best decision you can make.

5 things all sellers should know

There are a lot of misconceptions about how selling your house works.  I think a lot of that is because we agents don’t take the time to explain things.  Nobody really understands what we do and I think just like math homework, we should “Show our work.”

So, here are the answers to the most typical questions/comments I get from sellers:

  1.  Don’t we need a lot of wiggle room between the list price and what we think the sale price will be?  No, especially in Fayette Co.  Most agents price their listings close to the market value.  Outside of Fayette County, it is more common to have more wiggle room.  If you have a $230k house that you list for $250k so you have room to negotiate and most sellers are pricing closer to market value, buyers will not be expecting you to have so much wiggle room.  They will be comparing your $230k house with other homes listed for $250k and your house will not be appealing to them.
  2. If my houses sells quickly, does that mean we sold it for too cheap?  Not at all.  Often that means that you had one of the best houses available in your price range.  Even when the market was terrible, it was common for the best houses to sell quickly.  The value of your house and how long it took to find a buyer are not related.  The value of your house is determined by what a buyer will pay.  We figure that out by examining the sales in your area to see what buyer’s have recently been willing to pay.  We are in a time where there are more buyers than there are sellers.  It is pretty typical for most houses to sell quickly.
  3. My house has been on the market for a while and not sold, I think you should do more to advertise it.  If a house isn’t selling, it is due to the price or the condtion of the house.  Very rarely, especially in a seller’s market, do I see a house not sell due to the marketing.  Sure, there is a difference between a good presentation and bad, but let’s face it, when there are more buyers than sellers, buyers will come see a poorly presented house just like they will one that was presented well.  Also, exposure is never an issue these days.  Once a agent puts the house on the local MLS, it is automatically fed to Zillow, Trulia, realtor.com and every other site with listings.  Within 24 hours of your house hitting the market, you can google your address and see pages of websites it is on.  Often when I have had somebody tell me this, I will look on zillow and see that hundreds of people have viewed the listing.  I will also remind them that none of the buyer’s who have come to see their house made an offer.  The big question is why did none of them buy the house?  Price and/or condition.  All an agent can do is attract somebody to the front door.  Once they go inside, the house has to do the rest.  Being a Realtor isn’t about making somebody buy a house they don’t want.  It is about making your house appealing enough for somebody to buy.
  4. I don’t want to paint my house because I don’t know what color my buyer will want.  I often hear this from sellers after I have suggested they paint due to the house needing it or because they have wild colors that I think will turn off most buyers.  Fresh paint is THE biggest return on investment when selling.  Buyer’s don’t have vision.  Just watch HGTV and you will notice that.  People walk into a house before the renovation and just can’t visualize what it is going to look like at the end of the show.  Let’s say it will cost $3k to paint your house.  Odds are it is going to sell for $5k less if you don’t.  The color you pick is whatever is trendy at the moment because everybody likes it.
  5. The list price you suggest is too low.  My house has________________.  It is common for sellers to want to add value for the features their house has that other houses in the area do not.  You have a covered patio and the others houses don’t.  It adds value.  You have granite counter tops and other houses don’t.  They add value.  But, determining value is done by comparing your house to others that have sold in your area.  Agents and appraisers make adjustments for how your house is better or worse than the houses that have sold.  Sellers tend to not realize when those “Other” houses are better than their own house, and we need to make adjustments for that too.  Think of it like balancing your checkbook.  You’ve got deposits and debits.  Once you’ve added and subtracted those, you know your balance.

 

 

Why rising rates won’t stop the market

Rates just hit 5%.  They haven’t been that high in many years.

It sounds like the sky is falling but it is not.

Many first time buyers are freaked out over this since they got used to lower rates.

When I bought my first house, I bragged to my friends that I was getting a 6.5% rate.  I locked as soon as they fell from 6.625%.  Most of my friends who had owned their houses for a few years had rates over 7%.

Several years later, I refinanced my third house when rates dropped to 5%.  I could not believe at that time how low that rate seemed.  I currently have a 3.375% rate on that house.

I’ve watched rates go up and down.  The market change from a seller’s market to a buyer’s market to a seller’s market.  If there is one thing I have learned is that the market keeps going.  There are always first time buyers.  There are always people getting transferred, married, divorced, retiring, and running out of space.  Those things will always happen.  The market is really about life and all the stages and events of it.

Something else I have noticed is that the market tends to pause when there is a big change, whether that change is interest rates, rising prices, dropping prices, etc.  It’s like we say “Now isn’t a good time to do this because it is different that it was.”  Then life happens, we get used to the “New” normal and we buy and/or sell.

We are in one of those times now.  Mortgage applications are down slightly, sales are down slightly.  We are entering what is believed to become a balanced market, meaning the number of buyers will be about the same as the number of sellers.  This won’t last too long because like I said, people will get used to 5%.  It will become the new normal.  The market will go on just as life goes on.