Bluegrass market update & fun with a calculator

I’ve always been a number person.  When I was a kid, my dad gave me a calculator.  I would make pretend budgets, figure out things like compound interest, and do things like type 77345 and flip the calculator upside down to see that I spelled ShELL.

So I guess I am not surprised that I get excited when my local real estate board publishes the statistical info once a month.

It is also nice to see if my own experience is echoing what is happening in the whole market.  It usually is.

For example, I hardly show any houses any more because there is so little for sale.  I used to be out 3-4 nights a week and ALL weekend just showing houses.  Now I may show 4-5 a week and have the same amount of buyer clients……on a busy week.  There just aren’t enough houses to show people, and buyers are making fast decisions because they don’t want to lose a good house while waiting for a great one.

In Fayette Co, sales from Jan 18- April 18 are down 11% from the same period in 2017.  Listing are down 9%.  You’d think a decrease in sales would be bad, but since listings are down by a similar number, it is still a super tight market, especially in the sub $200k range.

All the Bluegrass counties have a big decrease in listings.  Most have an equally big decrease in sales too.  Makes sense.  If there are fewer houses to buy, there will be fewer houses sold.  Unless you are in Scott, Madison or Jessamine Counties.  Those places are the only ones where sales have increased from this same time last year while listings have decreased.  I know, I know.  How can that be?  This is just my gut, but I think those counties had more on the market last year that just sat and didn’t sell.

I also feel like I am spending more time in surrounding counties than I have in a long time.  When I first got into this business, there were a lot of people moving to Jessamine Co in search of a cheaper house.  But then gas prices went crazy and nobody in Fayette County wanted to leave.  Now gas is fairly cheap and people have returned to moving outside of Fayette Co again.  Jessamine County has the tightest market under $180k.  There is literally next to nothing for sale there.

Just this past March, we had a net loss of 61 households in Fayette County.  Scott and Jessamine Counties were the only ones that saw much of a gain in new households.  Yep, Fayette County folks are back at it.

I still play with my calculator a lot.  Only now I’m using it to determine what a house is worth before listing it or making an offer.  Maybe with all this extra time I have from not showing houses every night, I can figure out some new words my calculator will spell?

It’s like the most boring baseball game ever

I have always said that first time buyers grease the real estate market.  Not that I’ve played much baseball since I was a kid, but I always pictured the market this way:  The bases are loaded with people who needed to buy and sell, then a first time buyer hits a home run and lets everybody else move.  Being the person who didn’t have anything to sell kept the market moving.

That wonderful analogy that I have been using my entire career doesn’t work any more.

First time buyers are struggling to get a house.  The person on first base can’t find their second base house, the second base person can’t find their third base house, etc.  They know selling their old house will be easy, but they dread the thought of being a buyer right now.  So they stay put….and that first time buyer keeps striking out.

Now that I think about it, being a realtor feels just like when I went on a 7th grade field trip to see the Reds play.  There was a lot of waiting for something to happen, and then a brief moment of excitement.  That is how the market is today.  A lot of waiting.  A lot of checking for new listings.  A lot of networking to find houses not on the market yet.  Then when a house that meets your buyer’s criteria hits the market, a lot of excitement.

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.

Where are you going to find anything better for that price?

I remember the day.

I was in a two week class for new agents.  One of those days the topic was CMAs.  That stands for Comparative Market Analysis.  It was how to figure out what a house is worth based on recent sales of similar houses.

Long story short, you start with the subject house.  If a comparable recent sale was better than the subject house, you deducted money from that sale price.  If the comparable recent sale was inferior, you added money to the sale price.  In the end, you had a bunch of debits and credits for the differences that you either subtracted or added to the sale price of the recent sales….. and then you know what the subject house is worth in comparison to the recent sales.

Very logical.  This is how it has been done for years.  This is how appraisers do it too.

In that class, one of the other newbie realtors asked how it was done before CMAs became the standard.  The teacher said that you just guessed a value.

I sort of feel like we are back to the guessing days now.

I’ve seen recently remodeled houses sell for up to 50% more than what the second highest sale price was in the neighborhood.  Granted, a remodeled house SHOULD sell for more than the average house, but not by 50%.

I sold a house for $160k.  The comps pointed to it being worth about $143k.  We got several offers between $137k and $143k…..then we got one for $160k.  That is $17k MORE than the second highest offer.  Those buyers were desperate.  They had lost several bidding wars and were not going to lose again.

There’s definitely been a shift in how we calculate value, and it appears that it has less to do with logically analyzing recent sales and more to do with it being a tight market.  Something I hear buyers and agents say a lot these days is “Where are you going to find anything better for that price?”  So, value is now determined by availability, just like the lobster prices at a restaurant.  A good day on the water might end up with lower lobster prices.  The very next day the fishermen aren’t as lucky and you pay more for the exact same dinner.  That is sort of scary to me because what happens when the market slows a little and there are more houses for sale?

 

 

 

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.