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.

Real estate predictions for 2029

Just gonna jump right into this:

Gen Z will have a harder time getting a house than the Millennials did.    They are the biggest generation ever.  They will be entering the real estate market at about the time Millennials are selling their starter homes.  Great news if you own a 1300 square foot house in Masterson.  Times will be tough for them, but they will keep the market going strong.  Every seller of a starter home needs a first time buyer so they can move up.  That first time buyer is the oil that lubricates the whole market.

The Millennials will be moving up to their 4 bedroom houses on a cul de sac in a good school district because that is just a natural progression once you start a family.  This is great news for Gen X sellers who will be downsizing to medium sized houses in upscale neighborhoods.

What makes me think all this?  It’s not really crystal ball as much as it is history.  Everything I just described happens with every generation.  You buy a smaller house you eventually outgrow, you move up at least once to the house you raise your family in, then you downsize.

So what does all this look like for Lexington?  More gentrification as it becomes expensive to live anywhere in Fayette County.  I know it sounds unheard of, but the neighborhoods that nobody wants to live in like Cardinal Valley and Winburn may become the budget choice as similar neighborhoods with better locations become too expensive.  I know it sounds crazy, but when I was in high school, people didn’t want to live in Kenwick and now those houses equal Chevy Chase for price per square foot……yesterday’s bad neighborhood can easily become a tomorrow’s good location.  Plus, it isn’t like we are ever going to see brand new starter homes ever again.  All that can be done is update/remodel existing houses.  The people that flip houses need some margin to do this so they will buy distressed houses in whatever neighborhoods are affordable, just like they are doing now in downtown, Melrose, The Meadows and all those streets that begin with D around Pasta Garage.

Before long, I don’t think there will be any new construction in Lexington.  We are already filling in every spot big enough to stick a short row of townhouses.   This means that being in Fayette County will be even more expensive, and people will go to surrounding towns like Nicholasville and Georgetown even more.  One day, people will discover that Winchester is only 15 minutes from Hamburg and the interstate passes right through it.  I’ve never understood why more people don’t move to Winchester?

Remodeling will be hot too.  With not much new construction, people will start remodeling existing houses more and more.

Sort of some majorly huge economic melt down, I think housing is going to be strong for quite some time.

 

Something I wish sellers understood

It happens a lot with sellers.

They have a house that isn’t getting much attention from buyers.  It could be due to price, an odd feature of the house, the time of year, competition from new construction, or anything really.  They get a lot of showings and all of the feedback is the same, resulting in no offers.

Then all of the sudden they start getting more and more showings.  Buyers seem more interested in the house than they have been, but still no offers.

The seller finds this time exciting.  They are thinking “Wow, with all these new showings and better feedback, surely my house is about to sell!!!!!

Sellers assume this will last forever but it is a temporary thing.  It lasts until other sellers with better houses put their homes on the market.

And here is the lesson to be learned:  The market changes every time a house sells and every time there is a new listing.  Once the best house in it’s price range sells, it makes every other house look just a little bit better.  That is why your house that hasn’t been that interesting to buyers is all the sudden on their radar.  Once a new listing hits the market, it has to fit into the hierarchy of all the houses available.   If you have one of the better houses for sale, then a house better than your house hits the market, it makes buyers less interested in your house.

When you find the market has it’s eye on your house and you still haven’t gotten any offers, the best thing to do is reduce the price while you have the attention.  If you wait, most likely what is going to happen is the market will move on to other houses and you will be right back where you were.

Is it time?

I’ve been saying for several years that people don’t have much of a reason to move.

Yeah, everybody knows they can sell their house fast but where would they go?  Everybody knows their house is worth a lot more than it was a few years ago but so is the house they’d want to buy.   And then there are the interest rates.  It is sort of hard to think about giving up your 3.25-3.75% rate and signing off on a new loan at 4.25-4.5%….even though I remember bragging about my 6.5% rate on my first house when all my friends were paying 7.25%.

Rates are back under 4% now.

I am thinking that we might start seeing more houses come on the market as people move on to bigger and better things.  If there is one thing I know about real estate in America, it is that we all love to move to a bigger and/or better home.  I mean, as soon as the economy picked up after the Great Recession, we flipped from a Buyer’s Market to a Seller’s Market overnight as people felt comfortable to buy the home they had been wanting for a while.

If that happens in the next few months, the headlines will read that it is a seller’s market fueled by the threat of a recession, but you and I will know the real reason.  It’s the rates.

How to pick your first rental house

The first thing to know is that you want an exit plan.  You want to buy something that will be fairly easy to sell when that time comes.  That is why I usually suggest a single family home in a decent neighborhood.  When you sell it, your buyer pool will be owner-occupant buyers who will happily pay a full retail price.

The second thing to know is that you pick your tenants through them picking your house.  You have a crappy worn out rental, guess what type of tenant is going to be willing to live there?  You make your house one of the nicest ones in it’s price range and you will attract the best qualified tenants out there.  Also, if you have one of the best houses they could ever afford, why would they move?

Here are some things that I think make a house a good pick:

1.  A ranch house.  Who doesn’t like one?  They are suitable for buyers/tenants in all stages of life.  They are easier to paint by yourself since there is no staircase.  You can clean out gutters with a step ladder.  They are just easier to work on period.

2.  A house on a slab.  When the wax ring around the toilet fails and when water gets splashed out of the tub, there is no wood to rot.  Also there is no water to collect under the house and grow mold.

3.  A smaller house.  Fewer people can live in a smaller house.  That means less wear and tear.  While a 2 bedroom house has a little more limited market when you sell, tenants usually don’t care if a house is 2 or 3 bedrooms.

4.  A simple roof line with not much of a pitch.   The fewer ridges and valleys the better.  Not only are they cheaper to replace, there are fewer places to get a leak.

Here are some things I try to avoid:

  1.  Basements.  They all have the potential to leak.
  2.  Sheds.  They are just one more thing to maintain and tenants usually leave you stuff they don’t want when they move out.
  3. Huge yards.  When they get out of control, it takes a lot of time to bring them back.
  4. Big garages.  I’m talking more than a regular two car garage.  Usually tenants who are attracted to a huge garage have a lot of stuff to store or hobbies that need the space.  Either one means you might need a dumpster when they move out.
  5. Fireplaces.  Do you really want somebody starting a fire in your house?

Now a lot of this is based on paying retail.  If you get a great deal on a house with a huge lot or a basement, take it.  A good deal can make up for potential future headaches.

My ideal house would be a smaller ranch on a slab built after 1960.  It would be 2-3 bedroom and have 1-2 baths.  A normal sized, flatter yard for good drainage.  On the lower end, no garage is okay.  If the house is worth more than about $150k, I would want a garage more for resale than to make a tenant happy.