Advice as we dig out of a housing shortage

I’m starting to see an interesting thing happen.

We all know that due to the lack of new construction for many years, we have a shortage of houses for sale.

Many people have said the way to solve this is to build our way out of it.

I am starting to see this happen.

In Nicholasville between $200k and $250k, 17 of the 30 houses for sale are new.  In Lexington’s 40509 zip code, there are 104 houses for sale between $300k and $500k.  48 of them are new.  That’s an incredible amount of houses for sale in the Hamburg part of Lexington.  No wonder sales are slowing way down in that price range and I am seeing $10k price reductions left and right.

So what does this do to sales of existing houses?

Most people who buy a new house are only looking at new or newer houses.  If you live in an older existing neighborhood, you are probably in good shape.  Few buyers will seriously consider a 20+ year old house on a bigger lot with mature trees AND a brand new one on a smaller lot with trees shorter than they are.  If you have a house that is less than about 10 years old in this price range, well, you may have a hard time competing with brand new houses.

Any time I have a buyer wanting a newer house in an area with a lot of new construction around them, I always tell them that it might be hard to sell and/or might not appreciate that much until the last new house has sold.  The longer they plan to be there, the better.  If they tell me they may only be there for 2-3 years, I tell them it might be wise to pick another house.

If you are buying in an area with lots of new homes around you, try to pick one that has some unique feature or has a super good lot.  In a neighborhood where most homes aren’t too much different from each other, these small things are the difference between your house selling and always being a buyer’s second choice house.

Masterson Station: A legit part of Lexington

I’ve got a long history with Masterson Station.

Long before I was The LEXpert, I was a one man lawn care operation.  I had a few customers out there in the mid 90s.  Masterson Station ended one house past Gateway Park.  My wife and I would go see the new model homes by builders such as PSC and Barlow Homes.  We would marvel at the trendy finishes like green counter tops and pickled cabinets that were sort of a pinkish white.

Back then, Masterson Station seemed so far out that you felt like you were half way to Frankfort.  I remember thinking “Who would want to live this far out of town?”  I said the same thing about Hartland back in the mid 80s.  I had always lived inside New Circle back then, so I was one of those people who thought the “Real” Lexington was just inside New Circle Road and anything outside the circle didn’t count.

Since then, Masterson Station has grown and grown and keeps growing.  It is Lexington’s largest neighborhood and has had non stop construction for about 25 years.

At lot has changed.  To begin with,  nobody calls it Masterson Station any more.  It’s just Masterson now.   I’ve changed a lot too.  Instead of pulling a trailer full of lawn equipment, I am working inside the houses now and own a house in the neighborhood.  I just got an accepted offer on the 41st house I have sold in this area.

It used to be that you picked Masterson because you could get the same house for cheaper than anywhere else in town.  It was a good value.  As it grew and people didn’t view it as some random neighborhood hung out of the west end of Fayette County, the price difference became less and less.  Today the same 1300 square foot home in Masterson sells for maybe $10k less than an identical house in one of the top neighborhoods on the south end of town.

As it grew, a new elementary school was built in the neighborhood.  Then Citation Road was built, which was really great.  The new road helped with traffic flow and all the sudden, made sense of the way the neighborhood developed over the past couple of decades.

I have always said that all the whole Masterson area  needs is some commercial development and it would become a part of town people pick because they like it, not just because its a good value.  I drove through the area last night and the gas station/convenience store on Leestown Road is now open.  Meijer owns a big corner on Citation.  I am starting to see more development along Citation too.

Congrats Masterson.  You’re all grown up and we’re glad you’re a legit part of Lexington.

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.

But it appraised for….

I sold a house a few days ago.  The listing agent told me that it appraised for $25k more than the list price.

Which begs the question:  Why didn’t it sell for that?

Because there is a big difference between market value and appraised value.

Market value is what the house is worth to a buyer.  Appraised value is a way to spend $375 and still not really know the market value.  The main purpose of an appraisal is to justify the purchase price to a lender.

Lots of things affect market value, such as floor plan, decor, features, view, lot size, odors, etc.

An appraiser doesn’t care about any of that.  I mean, they aren’t buying the place so it is all about comparing data to them.  Square footage, condition and what has sold in the area recently are what drives appraised value.  Appraised value is often more about the area the house is in than it is about the subject house.  I’ll also mention that in an appreciating market, appraisals are often incorrect because the data they use is recent history.  In other words, the current appraised value is based on the past.  Market value is always in real time.

Which leads me to this house that I sold.

The area around the house has homes that are 20 years old to brand new.  Values are all over the place.  The brand new houses that are the same size as the one I sold go for $50-75k more than what my client paid.  The same size house in the nicest section of the area is a lot more too.  By comparing my client’s new house to the more expensive and brand new houses, I can see how the appraisal was more than $25k higher than the actual sale price.

How did I help my client determine what the house was worth?  I excluded the more expensive houses up the road.  I excluded the brand new homes since that is a unique sale-they are only new once.  I looked at similar sized houses. I looked at the finishes of each house.  Did they have hardwood?  What were the appliances like?  What was the backyard like?  I looked at all the pictures of every comparable recent sale.  Then I thought about it.  I made adjustments for size and condition just like an appraiser, but I also thought about it through the eyes of a buyer.  I then told her what I thought the house was worth and she made an offer.

 

THE most perfect deal ever

Sometimes things just work out perfectly.

I had a client/friend send me a family that ended up buying a new house that was not finished yet.  They had a house to sell in Cumberland Hills.  The new house was at the foundation stage when they bought it and we had nooooo idea when it would be ready.

I had another client/friend send me their sister and brother in law.  They wanted to be close to their family in Cumberland Hills.  The only obstacle they had was that they were locked into a lease for several months.

Back when I was a kid, there was a commercial for Reese Cups where somebody was aimlessly walking down the street eating a chocolate bar.  Around the corner, another person was walking down the street eating peanut butter.  They run into each other at the corner.  One says “Hey, you got your chocolate in my peanut butter!”  The other says “Hey, you got your peanut butter in my chocolate!”  They each take a bite and realize what a wonderful thing just happened.

The buyers and I looked at a few houses.  The houses were nice, but nothing great.  The market in this price range moves so fast that some sold before they could decide if they wanted to make an offer or not.

I arranged a time for the buyers to see the sellers house.  They liked it.  We negotiated the terms.  Sold.

My seller probably sold it for a little less than they could have, but they had a buyer who was in a position to wait until their new house was complete before closing.  That kept my seller from having to potentially move twice and gave them the peace of mind that their old house was sold.  The buyer was using a lender I know, so that made it feel even more secure.

My buyers got the house for a little less than it’s full market potential and did not have to compete with other buyers, which is a real luxury in this market.  They also were able, of course, to buy a house on the same street as some family members.

It was very satisfying to be a part of making this work so well for both of my clients.  Everybody got what they needed out of the deal.

I think I’ll go eat a Reese Cup now.