What neighborhood is the winner in this market?

Masterson.  Formally know by it’s full name, Masterson Station.  While the whole neighborhood has seen values really go up, I think the true winners are the single story homes in the 1000-1350 square foot range.

Many many years ago, half of Masterson was in foreclosure.  That happened to a lot of the newer neighborhoods where the first owners bought at the top of the previous hot market with sketchy no money down loans.

I remember I would often spend ALL day with first time buyers just in Masterson when the market collapsed.  I would schedule 8-10 houses, all just blocks apart.  It would get confusing after a few.  I would find myself saying stuff like “This is the Roxbury plan by Schneider Homes.  It is the same floor plan as the 2nd, 3rd and 6th house we saw earlier, only this one has blue vinyl in the kitchen instead of tan, and it has a deck instead of a patio…..oh, and this one has a fenced back yard too.”  Then my client would say something like “I thought the 2nd and 6th house were the two story houses?”  Then I was like “No, it was the 4th house that was the two story.  It was a Ball Home plan.  The Fairfax is the name I think…..yes, that is it.  The Fairfax is the one I told you about that sometimes has an open loft instead of the 3rd bedroom, and realtors often call that a 3rd bedroom because they know nobody will come see it if they said it was REALLY a 2 bedroom house.”  Then my client would ask “What was the 5th house?  I don’t even remember it!”  I’d reply “The 5th house was the only occupied house we saw today.  The water was on and we both used the restroom.”  Client be like “Oh, I remember now. How do you keep all this straight?”  And I’d be like “It is taking every bit of concentration I have.”

Back then, $125k was like $155k is today.

Then the market improved.  I was amazed these houses were selling around $130k.

Then it got better.  I started seeing a lot of $140k houses a year ago.

Now a decent one is $150k, some are even higher!

That is a huge turn around from half the neighborhood being vacant houses that took 6 months to sell.

 

Best time to be a buyer?

It is right now.

Why?

Real estate is like traffic.  Do you want to be driving on Nicholasville Road at 2:PM or 5:PM?  Timing makes a huge difference.  This might be a bad example because personally, I don’t want to be on Nicholasville Road at ANY time of the day.

At 2:PM there is still a lot of people on the road, but fewer drivers.  By 5:PM, everybody who is going to be on that road IS on that road.

In the market, spring and summer are when there are the most buyers out snatching up houses.  It starts to slow down some about the time school starts.  Then it slows down more around Thanksgiving.  Then it really slows down around Christmas.  Then in January it starts picking up again.

We are in that sweet spot where buyer activity will be slowing down some and we are also seeing a good amount of new listings too.   Later in the year, buyer activity will slow down more, but there won’t be as many houses.  It will be like driving down Nicholasville Road in the middle of the night…..sure, there is no traffic, but that is because nothing except Wal-Mart and a few gas stations are open.

Also, sellers tend to get a little nervous the later in the year it gets.  The Lexington sales graph is like a gentle rolling hill.  It gently rises to it’s peak in the late spring and early summer and settles down in the fall/winter.  Some of the surrounding counties look like Mt. Everest.  Their market is dead, then they have 3 months of steep sales increases, then decrease back down to nearly nothing in the fall and winter.  Most sellers assume fall and winter are bad times to sell and plan accordingly, but it is a non-issue for Fayette Co sellers.

We still are likely to have more buyers than houses in the sub $250k range, so I am definitely not saying that it is going to change to a buyers market, just that you may actually have a chance of buying a house without competing with 5 other offers.  Over $250k with the exception of the most popular neighborhoods, you have a better chance of not getting in multiple offers this time of the year.

So be encouraged if you are a buyer and go get you a house!

How to pick a winner of a house

Okay…..You are buying a house in Lexington Ky.  You are concerned about resale potential because prices keep going up and up.  You don’t want to lose your shirt if you ever need to sell in a cooler market.  What are you to do?

First off, congratulations for thinking of the exit plan.  Any time you make a big financial decision, it is always good to have an exit plan.  Right now with so few listings, people are most concerned about finding a house and often don’t think about this step.

So, here are some things that will help ensure you will be okay in the future.  Be sure to do them in this order too….by the time you have gone through all of these, you should have a house that will be any buyer’s top pick regardless of the market:

1)  Stick with an established neighborhood.  Brand new neighborhoods are nice, but you never know what they will be like once they go through their first round of resales.

2)  Stick to a good location.  Location can really mean a lot of things in real estate.  Pick something that is convenient to somewhere.  Neighborhoods close to Hamburg, UK, downtown, the interstate, parks, big employers,, etc, all have appeal to a variety of people.

3)  Pick a neighborhood with at least average performing schools.  Sure, a lot of buyers really want excellent schools, but most of them seem to be just fine with decent ones.

Now that we have narrowed down the location, lets take a look at what to look for in the house itself:

4)  Pick a house that fits in with other houses in the neighborhood.  You don’t want that split foyer that looks like a half-timbered English cottage in the middle of traditional homes.

5.  Pick a house that is similar in size to most in the neighborhood.  You don’t want that 5000 square foot McMansion surrounded by 1200 square foot starter homes any more than you want to be the smallest house surrounded by bigger ones.

6.  Stick around the middle of the price range for the neighborhood.  The cheapest house in the neighborhood may be disappointing to a buyer who is expecting more.  The most expensive house in the neighborhood will leave a buyer feeling like the neighborhood is a let down.

7.  Go for a lot that is typical for the neighborhood.  It is okay to have a sloping yard if every other house does too.  Remember….nobody ever complains that a yard or driveway is too flat.

8.  As you look at the house, keep in mind that anything that is a big negative to you will also be a big negative to the next buyer.  Half bath riiiight off the kitchen bug you?  Backyard have no privacy?  These are things we called “Deal Breakers” in a slow market.  They will keep somebody from wanting your house when they have a choice of more than a handful of houses.

9.  If the house made it this far, buy it!

 

What was I thinking in 2011?

Every once in a while, I like to look through old blog post drafts that never got published.  Well, today was one of those days.  I wrote what is below on 12/29/2011.  The day after my anniversary.  Now, I have no specific recollection of either day in 2011, but I have been married long enough to know that it makes your wife feel good when you can reference your anniversary date…..so that was for you babe!

A lot has changed in nearly 6 years.  All of today’s first time buyers would be amazed that they could have picked from 50-100 houses in their price range back then.  Today, they may have 4 listings on their preferred side of Lexington in their price range.  I remember spending many full days where I never left Masterson Station because there were soooo many houses for sale.  Buyer’s would get confused.  They couldn’t remember one house from another.  I would say stuff like “This is the same floor plan as the 2nd, 5th and 9th house we saw earlier, only this plan is reversed and the vinyl floor in the kitchen is blue instead of brown.”

I had to laugh when I read the draft below because now I have people looking for deals and there just really aren’t any these days.  Also, today the challenge is finding ANY house for a buyer whereas back then it was about helping people pick the needle in the haystack.  Selling listings today is like shooting fish in a barrel.  In 2011, getting a call from a potential seller made your palms sweat because you weren’t sure it would sell.

Here is what I was thinking about late December in 2011:

 

When I was a kid, that Kenny Roger’s song was popular.  You know, the one that said “You gotta know when to hold ’em.  Know when to fold ’em.  Know when to walk away.  Know when to run.”  It was about gambling, but it could just as well be about being a realtor.

Each deal is different.  The people are different.  The house prices are different.  To get the best deal for a client, you have to be able to analyze a bunch of different factors and figure out how something is likely to go down, then take action.

Several months ago, I wrote an offer for a bank owned property.  It was rather unique. They countered our offer, but it was still way too far outside of anything remotely realistic.  We politely said no thanks.  My investor client and I both thought that the time of year, the market, and the ability of other investors to borrow money meant that there really wasn’t much of a market for this property other than him.  We also suspected that the bank would soon want it off their books.  We knew when to “Hold ’em” basically.

Not too long ago, the bank came back and agreed to our original terms.  We’re still working out details, but I’m pretty pumped that my buyer is about to practically steal this property.  Think I’ll buy that song on iTunes and listen to it on the way to the closing…….or that Tom Petty one that says “The waiting is the hardest part.”

Is building the answer?

A lot of people think that we need to build our way out of the shortage of houses for sale.

I don’t.

The only places left to build in Fayette County are on the edges of town at a time when there is more and more interest in living closer in.  No builder is going to use the little bit of land we have left for anything less than a $173,950 house, which is the base price of the cheapest model Ball Homes will build in Masterson Station.  A quick search on LBAR shows the cheapest actively listed new construction home is $202,900.

I think the problem is affordability for first time buyers.  I have always said that it is the first time buyer who greases the entire real estate market.  They are usually the only group that doesn’t need to sell a house in order to buy.  It is like the bases are loaded and the first time buyer is the one who hits the home run so everybody standing on all those bases gets to move.

A lot of first time buyers are and will continue to look outside of Fayette County.  They will look in Lexington neighborhoods they would not have considered 10 years ago to make their numbers work.   They might even consider a townhouse or condo.

Like my baseball example, the bases are loaded.  The first time buyer is waiting to hit their home run, only there are no balls being thrown.  If more affordable houses come on the market, it will make sellers in all price ranges less worried about finding their next house.  Sellers know they can sell quickly but are worried about finding a house.  Remove that fear and we’ll have more houses for sale.