Low interest rates could be the WORST thing to happen to the market

Yep. I know. It doesn’t make sense at first. How could these incredibly low interest rates possibly be a bad thing? They are a very good thing right now for people buying or refinancing their existing house. The problem is in the future.

Let’s take the average person who has probably refinanced their old mortgage recently. Let’s say they paid $160k for their 1700 square foot home in Masterson Station in 2013. They put 5% down on a conventional loan. Their interest rate was 3.875%, which seemed stupid low at the time since rates had been about 5% just a few years earlier. Their payment, excluding taxes, insurance and PMI, would have been about $714 a month. They decide they want to refi. Their house is now worth about $210k. They owe about $126k on their old mortgage. They get a 3% interest rate and now their payment is about $531. They are saving around $180 per month. They are happy.

Now lets look 5 years out from now. They want to move up to a $300k house. (Let’s keep the value of their current house and the one they want to buy based on today’s values since both should appreciate about the same….it just makes it easier for me to do the math!) They have close to $100k in equity, so they are effectively only going to finance an amount that is about equal to the value of their current house. This is really sounding good. But wait, maybe the interest rates are 5%? If so, their payment will more than double. That’s right. They have close to $100k down and are borrowing an amount equal to the current value of their existing home. Their new payment for principal and interest would be just over $1100 a month. People who need mortgages shop by their mortgage payment. They find out what they can afford per month and then figure out how much house it buys. These people won’t move. They will upgrade their existing house instead.

The same holds true for the people buying a house today. They won’t want to see their mortgage payment double if interest rates go up, so they will stay as long as they can stand it.

This is why, unless interest rates stay very low for a very long time, eventually there will be even fewer houses for sale. This will of course keep prices high since there will be less of a supply and demand will not decrease. We are not building enough new houses and the next generation of buyers will be bigger than previous generations.

So, what’s the take away here? If you can see yourself staying in your current house for 7-10 years, refi now. If you are a buyer, buy a house big enough to stay in for a long time. The last thing you want to do is outgrow your current house in 3-5 years and possibly not be able to afford a larger one.

How do houses go up in value?

Ever wonder HOW prices rise for houses?

Before I got into real estate, I didn’t really think about it. You’d read stuff like the average price went up something like 4.6% last year…I assumed it was like a rising tide and affected every house the same way at the same time.

But it doesn’t work like that. It works more like traffic taking off after a stop light. The first car goes, then the second car see the first car moving and goes, then the third car sees the second car moving and goes, and so on. As much as I wished they would all move at the exact same time, they don’t. And that is exactly how prices go up in real estate.

There are lots of factors impacting value: Supply/demand, location, price range, condition, etc. No surprise here, but when prices are going up, the neighborhoods that are the most desirable and have the least supply go up first. Once there is enough of a price gap between those neighborhoods and the next best neighborhood, the prices of the second best neighborhood start to rise as buyers see a bargain and move in that direction. Then when the prices are up on the second best neighborhood, that does two things: It makes the prices go up on the first choice neighborhood since it is better, and it also drives bargain shoppers to the third best neighborhood. This process ends up going through ALL the neighborhoods in town as long as the market remains hot.

I sold two houses in one particular neighborhood several years ago to some friends wanting to rent them out. I was telling my friends that I thought the prices in the neighborhood were about to go up since there was a big gap between what an identical house was selling for in other neighborhoods. Since I tend to Geek out on this type of stuff, I don’t think they were as into it as I was…..but now their houses are each worth $35-45k more in just a few short years.

So, next time you are stuck in traffic, forgive me if it makes you think of real estate.

Always think about selling in a Buyer’s Market

I am always sad when I see a house sell that has been sitting on the market forever.

Sometimes a house will stay on the market for a long time because the initial listing price was too high, or the house didn’t show well.  Both of those can happen to perfectly good homes.  The reason those don’t sell is because of the seller, not the house.  Often these houses sell once the list price gets reduced into the realm of reality, or the seller does some cosmetic repairs that make it easier for a buyer to want the house.

Any time I show a house like this, my client usually asks me why the house hasn’t sold yet.  If I check the listing history and see that they started out asking a crazy high price and have reduced it, I tell them it is okay to buy it.  If I look through old pictures or see fresh paint, new flooring, etc, I tell them it is okay to buy the house.  Sometimes sellers just need to learn how the market works at the expense of their days on market.

Then there are those houses that don’t sell because of the property itself.  Those are the ones that I advise my clients to not buy.  These houses usually have some odd feature like a crazy floor plan, a poorly done addition, a neighbor whose yard is full of junk or has a dozen dog kennels in their backyard, the house backs to commercial or industrial zoned properties, etc.  These houses eventually sell to somebody who doesn’t mind that particular negative.  Whenever I show one of these houses, I like to tell my client that while they might not mind the negative feature that has kept the house from selling, it will be extremely difficult for them to sell it when it is their turn.   The past 8 years have been a pretty strong Seller’s Market.  If a house took a long time to sell in a hot market, can you imagine how long it would take in a Buyer’s Market?

I have lived through lots of markets.  I have seen seller’s who paid too much in a hot market lose money when they needed to sell.  I have seen people get their dream job and move out of town, only to have to make two mortgage payments until their old house sells.  I have seen people who felt lucky to have gotten their house in multiple offers struggle to sell it in a Buyer’s Market.

I don’t want to see any of my clients go through any of this.  In real estate, you often don’t see the consequences of a mistake until years later when you go to sell.  Helping people avoid this mess is one of the greatest joys of my career.

What is this going to do to the value of my house?

I just had a client who is going to sell and buy with me ask me to forecast the market in the short term.  Here is what I said:
I think that the market and prices will at least remain stable for the next 6-12 months.  All of the unemployment is probably the biggest concern, but a lot of those that have been laid off are renters and not home owners so I am not expecting to see a lot of foreclosures.
Like any market, real estate is about supply and demand.  As long as the ratio of buyers to sellers remains fairly equal, the market will always be strong even if the total number of sales is down.  What we had already been seeing in the pre-coronavirus market is that people are staying longer in their houses.  That is one reason the market has been so strong the past few years….there have just been fewer houses for sale.  In Lexington, we have another issue that plays a big role, which is that we are running out of land to develop.  Lexington cannot simply build new houses to meet the demand like other towns across the country.  Even though the surrounding towns are seeing a construction boom, Lexington will always be the most desirable place to live in the Bluegrass.
There is a lot of refinancing going on.  Usually people stay longer in their houses when they have recently refinanced.  I saw this several years ago when rates had hit a record low at that time.  If rates stay similar to where they are now, it won’t be too bad.  If rates go up past 4%, people would have to pay a lot more for their mortgage than they do now.  If a seller’s house has appreciated a lot and so has the house they want to buy, having more equity from the sale of their old house to carry into the new one doesn’t matter as much if their payment is still going to be a lot higher.  Most people base their decision on the monthly mortgage payment.
I think there will be plenty of buyers in the market for quite a while.  A lot of the older millennials have outgrown their starter homes and will be looking for a house like you have in Chilesburg.  The Gen Z buyers are entering the market now and from what I have read, will be 27% of the population.  These are people that will be buying based on a need, not just because they want to nicer house.  One thing I learned from living through the worst real estate market in history is that first time buyers drive the market.  It’s like a baseball game where the bases are loaded.  Every player standing on a base has a house to sell before they can buy their next one.  The first time buyer comes to bat, hits the ball and because they don’t have a house to sell, everybody on a base gets to move to the next one.
So, in Lexington, I think the limited supply due to people staying in their homes longer, the lack of new construction and the number of young buyer will keep our market strong.
Probably the single greatest threat to all of this would be if we saw crazy inflation and rates skyrocketed like they did in the 80s.  If that happens, the houses over $400k would be much harder to sell.  The cheaper houses should be safe because what will happen is that you will see first time buyers competing with all the buyers for smaller, affordable houses.

5 crazy realtor experiences

Since real estate is slowing down a bit due to, well, you know why, I thought I would tell you about some of my adventures in real estate.

 

WHY I HAD TO WASH MY CAR WHEN I DROPPED OFF THIS CLIENT

I was working with this couple many years ago.  I would meet them at my office and then we would go see houses.  The strangest thing to me was that both of them would always ride in the backseat together.  So there I am up front all alone.  Front passenger seat empty like I am a chauffeur.  One day I picked them up.  The wife wasn’t feeling too good.  We left my office.  As I was coming to the first stop light, I hear the back door open.  She puked.  Since I had not come to a stop yet, the wind blew her uh, discharge, down the side of my car.  They decided to hold off on buying a house after that.  I found out later that they bought with another realtor, probably because she was too embarrassed to see me again.  So I lost a sale and had to wash somebody else’s puke off my car.  Nice.

TALKING THROUGH THE WALLS

My client told me they were going to be a little late.  I had consumed several cups of coffee that morning and really had to use the restroom.  I saw an opportunity since my client would be late.  I went inside the house, right at the time of the appointment.  As I was using the restroom, I hear a voice asking if somebody is in the house.  LOL, it was the seller.  He had not left yet.  He was in the bathroom on the other side of the wall.  He got done and left.  I never saw him.  Heck, I didn’t WANT to see him.  Minutes later my client showed up.

WEARING DIFFERENT SHOES

For a while, I had two of the same pair of sandals.  One was leather and the other was suede.  I kept them both in the hall closet at my house.  On my way to show a house to a client, I put my feet in the closet and put a shoe on each foot.  It wasn’t until I got to the house that I realized that I had on one leather one and one suede sandal.  I no longer buy different types of sandals.

THE TOOTING SHOES

Probably back in about 2009ish, I had a really comfortable pair of sandals that I loved.  The only thing I didn’t love about them is that every once in a while, at what always seemed like the most inopportune time, I would take a step and they would make a tooting (okay, farting) sound.  I think it was the sound of my heel coming off of the sole of the sandal as I walked.  I never knew what to do when this happened.  The first several times I would try to make it do it again, as if somehow that would proof that I didn’t…..you know.  It would never do it twice in a row.  It didn’t take too many of those embarrassing moments before I decided to throw them away and get a new pair.

NO THANKS ON THE COFFEE

When I was a newer agent, I had this great idea to go after for sale by owner listings.  I dropped off hundreds of fliers and only got one response.  I went to the house to meet the lady.  Her dog almost bit me.  She offered me some coffee.  I told her I loved coffee.  It was the most terrible, sour tasting coffee I have ever had.  I think she kept using old grounds to make new coffee.  Well, she of course decided to let me list her house.  When I came back for her to sign the documents (this was before we did it electronically), her dog almost bit me again.  As soon as we sat down, she says “I remembered you said you loved coffee, so I made you a pot.”  To this day she probably wonders how she saw me drink it but emptied a full cup when I left.  It was because I was just putting my lips on the rim of the cup.  We finally sold her house.  I could dedicate an entire post just to that sale.

Honorable mentions are all the times I have gone to closings or shown houses with my zipper down.  I think I once had a T-Shirt on inside out.

I have others of course, but I hope this takes your mind off of the state of the world and puts a smile on your face.