I thought it was a seller’s market?

It’s been an interesting week.

I wrote an offer on a house in Frankfort that was listed at $159,500.   Looked at the comps.  Thought it was about a $147-152k house.  Seller wouldn’t budge from $156,950.  It’s been on the market for two weeks now, which is a life time in today’s market.  Even at $152k, it will be the most expensive house to ever sell in it’s neighborhood.

I showed a house last night that is listed for $187k.  The exact same model house sold 6 months ago on that same street for $180k.  Sure, lets add 2% or so for appreciation and subtract a bit because that house that already sold had granite and was nicer.  Oh, the house I showed had a 22 year old roof.  The shingles were the 3 tab kind, which usually are good for about 15-20 years.  It needs a new roof like now.  So, this one is overpriced and needs a $7k roof.  That’s a hard pill to swallow for the first time buyers in this price range, which is why it is still on the market.  BTW, in Lexington, a house in this price range would normally get multiple offers, possibly over the list price if the list price were anywhere near realistic.

I showed another house that was super nice, super pricey and only had 2 bedrooms.  I think the listing agent expected lots of offers since most houses under $200k in Lexington go fast.  The agent even put a deadline for submitting offers.  About 20 minutes after that deadline, that statement was removed.  The house is still for sale, so I guess no offers came.

So, we have 3 listings that aren’t selling in the hottest price range in the hottest market ever.

Why?

Price.  Even in a great market, you can only get market value for your house.  Market value is what a ready, willing and able buyer will pay for a house.  You can’t get over market value, which is exactly what these 3 sellers are wanting to do.

I am sure all 3 of these sellers are thinking “But I thought this was a seller’s market??”  It is, but when your price is above market value, most buyers opt to just wait for the next batch of new listings.  Dear sellers of these 3 houses, you are not drunk with power, you are just drunk.

Bluegrass market update & fun with a calculator

I’ve always been a number person.  When I was a kid, my dad gave me a calculator.  I would make pretend budgets, figure out things like compound interest, and do things like type 77345 and flip the calculator upside down to see that I spelled ShELL.

So I guess I am not surprised that I get excited when my local real estate board publishes the statistical info once a month.

It is also nice to see if my own experience is echoing what is happening in the whole market.  It usually is.

For example, I hardly show any houses any more because there is so little for sale.  I used to be out 3-4 nights a week and ALL weekend just showing houses.  Now I may show 4-5 a week and have the same amount of buyer clients……on a busy week.  There just aren’t enough houses to show people, and buyers are making fast decisions because they don’t want to lose a good house while waiting for a great one.

In Fayette Co, sales from Jan 18- April 18 are down 11% from the same period in 2017.  Listing are down 9%.  You’d think a decrease in sales would be bad, but since listings are down by a similar number, it is still a super tight market, especially in the sub $200k range.

All the Bluegrass counties have a big decrease in listings.  Most have an equally big decrease in sales too.  Makes sense.  If there are fewer houses to buy, there will be fewer houses sold.  Unless you are in Scott, Madison or Jessamine Counties.  Those places are the only ones where sales have increased from this same time last year while listings have decreased.  I know, I know.  How can that be?  This is just my gut, but I think those counties had more on the market last year that just sat and didn’t sell.

I also feel like I am spending more time in surrounding counties than I have in a long time.  When I first got into this business, there were a lot of people moving to Jessamine Co in search of a cheaper house.  But then gas prices went crazy and nobody in Fayette County wanted to leave.  Now gas is fairly cheap and people have returned to moving outside of Fayette Co again.  Jessamine County has the tightest market under $180k.  There is literally next to nothing for sale there.

Just this past March, we had a net loss of 61 households in Fayette County.  Scott and Jessamine Counties were the only ones that saw much of a gain in new households.  Yep, Fayette County folks are back at it.

I still play with my calculator a lot.  Only now I’m using it to determine what a house is worth before listing it or making an offer.  Maybe with all this extra time I have from not showing houses every night, I can figure out some new words my calculator will spell?

It’s like the most boring baseball game ever

I have always said that first time buyers grease the real estate market.  Not that I’ve played much baseball since I was a kid, but I always pictured the market this way:  The bases are loaded with people who needed to buy and sell, then a first time buyer hits a home run and lets everybody else move.  Being the person who didn’t have anything to sell kept the market moving.

That wonderful analogy that I have been using my entire career doesn’t work any more.

First time buyers are struggling to get a house.  The person on first base can’t find their second base house, the second base person can’t find their third base house, etc.  They know selling their old house will be easy, but they dread the thought of being a buyer right now.  So they stay put….and that first time buyer keeps striking out.

Now that I think about it, being a realtor feels just like when I went on a 7th grade field trip to see the Reds play.  There was a lot of waiting for something to happen, and then a brief moment of excitement.  That is how the market is today.  A lot of waiting.  A lot of checking for new listings.  A lot of networking to find houses not on the market yet.  Then when a house that meets your buyer’s criteria hits the market, a lot of excitement.

How I won in multiple offers

I was working with a client for several months who was buying in Nicholasville.  The market there is even worse than it is in Lexington for a sub $200k buyer since there are only about 8 neighborhoods to choose from.

A great house came on the market.  I scheduled a showing.

I just knew this would be the one.  I checked out the recent sales in the neighborhood to get an idea about what this house was worth.  I even prepared all the docs my buyer would need to sign so we would be ready to go.  All I needed to do was fill in the offer price and have her sign it from her phone.

We looked at the house.  It was a winner.  I call to tell the listing agent that I just sent an offer and was told that there was already one offer on the table and another one was coming.

We revised our offer to be slightly over the list price.  I asked all my usual questions that can help with getting an offer accepted……When would the seller like to close?  Do they need delayed possession?  Would they like the inspection type where the buyer either takes it or leaves it after the inspection?  Other than price, what would the seller’s ideal offer be?

The seller didn’t need anything special, so I knew this one would come down just to price.

A few hours later I get a call telling me that the third offer arrived and it had an escalation clause.  That made me pretty nervous.

I tell my buyer this and suggest we also do an escalation clause.  I tell her that the default setting for most agents is to offer $1000 more than the highest offer, so we better do more.  Otherwise all we would accomplish was knocking out the third buyer.

She agreed to a number we discussed and that she would pay that much higher than any offer up to certain price.  The list price was $192,900 and all the offers were higher than that.

I was a nervous wreck all day.  I really wanted to see my buyer get this house.  It was perfect for her and she had been waiting so long to get a house.

Finally, I get the call that she won the house.  Turns out all the offers were $194k, and the other offeror’s escalation clause was the predictable $1000 that I suspected.

It was sort of funny for me because it was the first time I had ever called to tell a buyer they had just bought a house and they didn’t yet know what they were paying for it.  I tried to make her guess, you know, like she was a contestant on The Price is Right, but she was so anxious that she said “JUST TELL ME THE PRICE!!”

 

Do this if you never want your house to sell

I showed a pretty nice house last night that is going to be very hard for the listing agent to sell.

It was one of the lower prices for a huge house on a gorgeous lot in a very desirable neighborhood.

You’d think that would be enough in any market, yet alone one starved for listings.

This is what it was like seeing the house.  You walk up to a freshly painted facade with recently mowed grass and fresh mulch.  You are feeling good about it.  You go inside.  The foyer is nice.  It is a little strange that you can’t see any rooms from the foyer, but not the end of the world.

You go towards the left and see the dining room.  Wall paper from the 90s.  You go into the kitchen next.  Red wall paper from the 90s.  You go into a really nice sunroom.  What do you see?  Murals painted on the walls.  You go back through all those rooms and then you enter the great room, which was super nice.  Then you see a bedroom.  Ok.  Then you see a bathroom that not only has wall paper, but wall paper boarders on the ceilings and top of the walls, as if they were making crown molding.  The shower curtain is heavy, like the dress Scarlett made in Gone with the Wind.  Then you enter the living room which is set up as an office and has way too much furniture in it.

Heading upstairs, you notice that all the bedrooms are painted a different color.  The basement is pretty normal.

The sellers furniture was nice, but they probably bought all of it when the house was new in the early 90s.  I am not bashing anybody’s stuff because my own house is probably the most boringly decorated house in the whole world, but I am not trying to sell it.  I would need to stage my own house if I were selling because my stuff would make my house feel as dated as this one did.  All of my furniture is stuff my parents gave me and that my wife and I put together from a box.  I’m just not into decorating……maybe that is why I can always see the house past the decor.

It sort of made me sad because I could picture the house vacant and with a coat of fresh paint.  It was nice.  Sure, the house would have still been a little outdated since it was about 25 years old, but it wasn’t terrible at all and typical for the neighborhood.

There was a stack of realtor cards on the table in the foyer.  That means all those people in addition to my buyers said “No” to this house.

What sellers never realize is that a buyer will walk through their entire house in about 20 minutes.  Having too much furniture in a room may suit the sellers needs, but it makes the rooms feel smaller to the buyer.  It is also hard to see the room past the furniture.  I always say that when you live in a house, the room exists to show off your decor.  When you are selling, the decor should show off the room.  Also, colors make a big difference.  A seller may be in one room of their house for a while and then go to another.  The buyer, when walking through the entire house, gets sensory overload if every room is drastically different.  A uniform color can also help when the house has a choppy floor plan too.

I am sure all the feedback on this listing has been that it needs too much work.  If this were my house, I would remove as much furniture as I could stand.  I would put a fresh coat of neutral paint everywhere.  People ask me all the time what is the biggest bang for the buck.  I always say fresh paint.  Nothing makes as big of an impact as fresh paint.

With all the wall paper gone, most of the dated furniture out, and a coat of fresh paint, the house would feel so much better.  The 25 year old finishes were neutral enough that buyers would find them acceptable in the absence of the 25 year old furniture and wall paper.

When I go to sell my current house, I am taking my own advice since my place is very similar to this one.