Things to remember in a slowing market

Yea, the market is slowing down. Everybody knows that. No big deal. That crazy roller coaster market couldn’t last forever and I’m sort of glad really. It will still be a good market for years to come, but it will seem like a let down compared to the last couple of years.

Here are some things to remember as you process the Doom and Gloom news cycle real estate is in at the moment.

  1. The “Average Days on Market” will be going up. Don’t be alarmed. Usually the way that works is that the worst houses that nobody wants stay on the market longer and bring down that average. Also, keep in mind that average is usually for all residential property types in all price ranges. If you have a $350k house, do you really care about what the market is like for a million dollar home? Or a townhouse at any price?
  2. The “Average Sale Price” is another one that can confuse people. An average is just that-it’s an average of all sales. If house sales over $500k slow down a lot, it will drag down the average sale price. This does NOT mean your house is worth less when you read silly headlines that say stuff like “The average sale price dropped by 2% last month.” When rates got super low, I saw more houses selling for $1,000,000 or more than I have ever seen. Now that rates are much higher, I totally expect to see sales at that price point slow way down, bringing down the average sale price.
  3. Values may stay flat after going crazy for the past two years, but prices will still go up. I know this sounds crazy, but hear me out. Let’s say you bought a house a year ago for $400k and we have had 8% inflation since then. Your house needs to sell for $432k today for you to have effectively broken even. That’s because it takes 432,000 of today’s deflated dollars to equal 400,000 of dollars a year ago. In other words, the price of your house has to be higher even if it got zero percent appreciation just because the value of the dollar has eroded. (This is a whole other post, but one reason prices have risen so much over the past year is because we saw massive appreciation and massive inflation. If prices went up 15% and inflation was 8% of that, then that means the real appreciation was 7%.)

I started my career just as the Great Recession began. I saw most houses in our area drop in value by 15-20%. I know to a lot of people, this market seems scary. Trust me, it isn’t. All that’s going to happen is that we have a more balanced market. It will be a good, but not the greatest time in history, to be a seller. It will also be good to be a buyer because you will be able to get a house that should be a stable investment for your future.

What to expect from me for the next 17 years

It feels so strange to think about how real estate has changed over the course of my 17 year career.

Back when I was a newbie, agents hung around the office. We had like 14 phone numbers on our cards and one of them was a fax number. We dressed up….well, others did. I wore shorts year round back then. We licked the back of stamps and mailed people silly stuff like calendars. I did it once but thought it was pointless. All I’ve ever done is Christmas cards.

Then the PDF came along and changed it all. It was so much easier than a fax. There was nothing and I mean NOTHING worse than getting a fax from somebody that was illegible after several rounds of counter offers. Then electronic signature programs made it even better.

The biggest change has been to everything being online and consumer driven. When I got into this, many old school realtors back then didn’t realize that being online meant they were dealing with the public. The MLS had mostly been just for realtors. Before computers, they had books that came out once a week with listings. Since space was limited, you got stuff like “Cute 3/2 on unfin, dining room chandelier does not convey. Lockbox on backdoor.” A lot of realtors were putting that in the marketing remarks still. Also, there was one tiny black and white picture of the outside.

While so much has changed, some things remain the same. At the core, this business is really about people more than about sales or houses. It’s about helping and advising people on something that most people think they know a lot about but don’t really. I often describe my job as “Talking people into good decisions and talking them out of bad ones.”

I’ve probably got at least another 17 years left of my career. The trendy things (like the short lived QR codes) will come and go since the next generation always wants to reinvent the wheel, but I am sure that the core of this business will remain the same. I will be talking people into making good decisions and talking them out of bad ones and I will still be wearing shorts (at least on warm days).

Don’t believe the Chicken Littles in the media

I love YouTubers. Always a good laugh. Always predicting the market is going to crash.

They get a little nugget of data, like that the number of people refinancing their mortgages has dropped and draw the craziest conclusions. Well, when rates were between 2 and 3%, everybody rushed out to refi. Even if the rates had not gone up, eventually everybody who would have refinanced would have done so. That statistic was bound to decrease on it’s own eventually.

My favorite ones are those that predict a major housing crisis. It is just not going to happen, especially in Lexington.

Why?

The number one reason is that Lexington is almost out of land. Lexington cannot grow any more. The surrounding communities will of course grow. Lexington will always be the most desirable town in the Bluegrass and prices will remain higher than anywhere else around us due to that. (FYI-we will see a whole lot more remodeling in the future than we see building in Lexington.)

What else do I see in the near future? A slowing market, mainly due to interest rates and nothing being for sale. Right now everybody is complaining that 5% interest rates are the worst thing to happen to the market. I disagree. While rates being low were nice, it is the low rates that spoiled all of us and are affecting the market right now. We currently act like rates in the 2-3% range were normal and 5% seems excessively high. However, I don’t see prices dropping though. That’s because all those sellers who refinanced their mortgages when rates were under 3% are not going to move until they have a need. We need sellers in the market. When sellers are scarce, that means more demand than supply. People will likely only move when they outgrow their home, lose a job, get transferred, their family grows, Grandma needs to move in, or a divorce. You’re not going to give up a 3% mortgage on a cheaper house to get a 5% mortgage on a more expensive house unless you really need to move.

So, in Lexington at least, we have little room to build more houses, sellers who are less likely to move just because they want a nicer home, and higher interest rates. All of which means less supply at a time when we have Gen Z trying to get their first home and millenials needing to move up.

I guess if I had a YouTube channel, it would be pretty boring because you don’t get much attention by saying prices will remain at least stable and the market will stay slightly tipped in the seller’s favor.

What would it take to crash the real estate market?

A lot of people subscribe to the “What goes up must come down” theory on markets. I don’t. I tend to just use that one when describing gravity.

For real estate, we have only really ever had prices go down twice in the history of tracking such stuff. Once was the Depression which caused ALL markets to go down, and the other was the Great Recession which was largely caused by bad mortgages that were toxic to the stock market. Neither time actually had anything to do with just the real estate market.

Today’s market is probably the healthiest it’s been in a long time. Prices are high due to supply and demand. Sure, low interest rates help but not as much as you would think. People acclimate to interest rates. I remember bragging about getting 6.625% on my first home when all my homeowning friends were over 7%.

When people on Youtube or those who write for the news look at the real estate market, they tend to not look at the whole picture. I am sure you have seen headlines about how all the people in mortgage forbearance would crash the market once they got foreclosed. Didn’t happen. All those people who needed to sell had enough equity to sell and avoid foreclosure. What about all the Baby Boomers who would leave a huge void in the real estate market as they sold their homes and went into retirement homes or to reside on the other side of the Pearly Gates? No mention of the youngest generation of buyers entering the market who would keep the wheels of the whole market greased so everybody can move. Years ago I described this like a baseball game where the bases are loaded. The Player on 1st base wants to run to 2nd. The Player on 2nd base wants to run to 3rd. The Player on 3rd wants to run home. What needs to happen in order to keep all those Players moving? For the Batter to hit a home run. The first time buyers are the most crucial element of the market. Without them, no homeowner can part with their old house in order to move up to their next one.

Everybody knows how Supply and Demand works, right? Let’s apply it to real estate. Most people involved in selling or buying will be doing both. Most sellers are also buying. Most buyers are also selling. That means there is no net gain or loss in the supply/demand ratio regardless of the market. This is why the supply/demand ratio got so bad during the Great Recession-You had so many foreclosures where the previous owner did not reenter the market as a buyer. Other than in such catastrophic times, the only people who are doing one side of a sale are first time buyers or those who have passed away or are going into some form of assisted living. Historically there have been more first time buyers than there are those who are exiting the market permanently. (I am excluding those well off enough to purchase second homes since that is a smaller market and we are not in a big area for that like Florida or any other vacation destination.)

So then, what would it take to tank the real estate market if it has nothing to do with real estate? It would take something terrible to happen with the economy…..meaning something bigger and broader than just the real estate market that is like a Tsunami and wipes out everything in it’s path. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen any time soon!

Should I buy if I know I won’t keep the place for long?

Back when the market was bad, I would always tell people not to buy a house unless they did not know exactly how long they would own it. If they knew they would only be in town for 2-3 years max, my advice was to rent. Same for “Kiddie Condos” too where a parent buys a condo verses renting an apartment or paying for a dorm for 4 years.

Back then the only variable was the housing market. Inflation was flat. Today is a LOT different. The value of the property AND inflation are both variables that are poised to benefit you in this situation. All the major players are predicting both housing prices to continue to rise and inflation to rise in the near future. That’s a double bonus for you and really for anybody buying any asset right now. Buy now at today’s lower price and pay it back with deflated dollars through a mortgage. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Many people seemed to enjoy my last two posts about my weight loss journey. I’m thinking I might include a little bit more stuff that’s going through my mind these days. I’ve gone through a lot of changes and unfortunately I’m now old enough to want to share my experiences and wisdom gained along the way.

Growing up, I always had a lot of anxieties. Sometimes they would be really debilitating. Couple anxiety with a mind that never turns off and it gets worse. I know a lot of people with what is now called high functioning anxiety. I am hoping this helps them.

I think two things helped me out the most.

The first was that I was able to train my mind to separate my perception of reality FROM reality. When I would get anxious about something, I would tell myself “Okay John, this is what you FEEL is happening but this is what is REALLY happening.” It sort of switched my response from being emotional to logical.

Then I realized that most things that make you anxious are either things in the past or the future. We all tend to dwell on either since I sort of feel in general, humans suck at being in the present. If I was anxious about something in the past. Maybe dwelling on some awkward social situation where I worried if I said the wrong thing, I would just try to learn from it and go on, making the next awkward situation easier……because guess what, I can’t undo the past! For future anxiety, I would just try to focus on the present and remind myself again that how I feel about it is totally different than reality and reality always wins. If it was some sort of performance anxiety, I would make whatever I needed to do as basic as possible. That seemed to make it a manageable task. I still do this if I have a super stressful day ahead of me. If I wake up and have to take 3 different clients out to see houses, negotiate a repair list, write an offer, have a closing and otherwise have a crazy busy day, I might just tell myself “All you need to do John is drive around with people and look at houses, make a few calls and do some paperwork.”

I really think like any obstacle in your life, you need to realize YOU can train yourself to control your mind and your responses to things. It isn’t easy and it isn’t quick because you are basically battling yourself. Just slowly do these two thing and you will find your anxiety level decreases.