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.

When will there be more houses for sale?

The simplest answer to this is when sellers feel like moving…..so I guess it boils down to what will it take for that to happen?

Many people who have been in their houses for more than 5 years either got a super low interest rate or refinanced to get one.  It is hard to give up something like a 3.5% rate and buy your next house at the top of the market and do a 5% mortgage.  Right now, all that free equity from appreciation isn’t enough to make somebody want to give that up.

But, eventually there will be a tipping point.

Let’s say you bought a house 5 years ago for $200k.  You put down 5% and got a 3.5% rate for 30 years.  The principal and interest part of your loan is about $900 a month.  Flash forward to today.  The house is probably worth $240k.    You owe about $173k on it and have about $67k in equity.

You decide you want to buy a $300k house.  You finance about $235k after you get the equity out of your last house.  You get a 5% rate.  The principal and interest part of your loan is now $1200 a month.

Maybe you don’t want to spend $300 more each month?

What will it take to make you list your old house?

Maybe another $40k equity in your old house?  Assuming rates stay about the same and the price of the $300k house you want appreciates less than the $240k house you have, this $40k is what it will take to keep your payment about the same each month.  It will take about 3 years for that to happen between appreciation and what you are paying down each month in principal.

We all bemoan higher interest rates, but lets keep in mind that the reason we don’t like higher rates is because they make the mortgage payments higher.  People have a certain amount they can/will spend each month on housing.  People will always try to stuff as much house into that payment as they can.  I think the day sellers can move up to a nicer house and not pay that much more will be when we see more for sale signs in yards.

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.

Best way to get top dollar for your house

I don’t really know how to say this without upsetting some of my realtor friends, but most of the current marketing trends are just hype.

Many agents are doing weekday open houses.  Like a Tuesday or Thursday from 5-7.  Often the house sells before the open house……and if the listing had hit the market that day, that is the exact time buyers would be scheduling their showing anyway.

Many agents are doing these “Coming Soon” listings.  After making everybody wait to see it, the house sells the first day on the market for full price.  Imagine that.  Just like every other new listing that is priced appropriately.

Some say that these are the best ways to expose the listing to a market that is already hungry for new listings, and at a time when there is a shortage of houses for sale.

Here is what I say is the absolute positively BEST way to know you got top dollar:

You put the house on the market late on a Friday.  Why?  So the listing gets fed to zillow and all the other real estate sites in enough time to get on every buyer’s radar but is too late to be shown that night.  Why again?  Because more people are available to look at a house on the weekend than they are during the week.  Why do you want that?  Because you want every buyer to not only see your house, but to also see every other buyer flocking to your house.  Nothing motivates a buyer more than seeing people coming and going during their viewing.

You show the house all weekend.

And this is where the rubber meets the road.  You tell all the agents that the seller is not making a decision until Sunday evening and to submit their client’s highest and best offer.  That gives time for the house to be seen by every interested buyer.  More interested buyers means more offers.  More offers means a better price and/or terms.

 

 

It was fun to be me this week

I kind of like the crazy days.

It’s been a busy week for me.  I’ve sold 3 houses, have 9 pending sales, and have been out with several new buyers.

This time of year always reminds me of that scene in Bambi where all the animals come out on the first day of spring.  I’m meeting new people and seeing old friends.  The days are getting longer and I am close to being back in shorts.

 

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Many of my past clients are calling to say they are thinking of moving.  Several of my past clients and friends have referred their friends or family to me.

I had one especially busy day this week.

I had to show a new construction home to a friend who has used me 3 times so far.  There was not a lockbox on the model home, so I had to find another model home with the same key, then return that key after the showing.

Then I had to rush to Winchester to see a house a friend and past client may sell.  It was out in the country in a beautiful setting.  I took my little M Roadster.  Back roads from Masterson Station to deep in Clark Co.  Lots of fun.

The whole time I was at that house, my phone was going crazy with texts and calls.  One was an agent telling me she was sending an offer on a listing of mine.  I already had an offer so I had to tell the other agent we were getting a new offer.

I check my email before pulling out of their driveway.  17 emails.  One was a new client who was referred to me from her daughter, who has used me a couple of times.  They were ready to make an offer on a house I had shown them in Clark Co the day before.

It was already well past dinner time and I had to get some work done, so I did the only thing that made sense.  I got a pizza and ate it in my car while I returned calls, texts, and emails.

 

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I’ve never eaten pizza in the dark, nor in such a small car.  All I can say is that I am glad the interior is black and I was wearing a red shirt.

I got home, wrote the offer for the Clark Co property, worked on the offers for my new listing, and finally got done about 10:PM.

This weekend looks pretty calm since I crammed about 3 days worth of work into that one day.  Saturday is Cars and Coffee, then Sunday I am going for a long drive in the country with some other car enthusiast friends.

The busy days make the not so busy days even better.

Glad it is almost spring!