Advice as we dig out of a housing shortage

I’m starting to see an interesting thing happen.

We all know that due to the lack of new construction for many years, we have a shortage of houses for sale.

Many people have said the way to solve this is to build our way out of it.

I am starting to see this happen.

In Nicholasville between $200k and $250k, 17 of the 30 houses for sale are new.  In Lexington’s 40509 zip code, there are 104 houses for sale between $300k and $500k.  48 of them are new.  That’s an incredible amount of houses for sale in the Hamburg part of Lexington.  No wonder sales are slowing way down in that price range and I am seeing $10k price reductions left and right.

So what does this do to sales of existing houses?

Most people who buy a new house are only looking at new or newer houses.  If you live in an older existing neighborhood, you are probably in good shape.  Few buyers will seriously consider a 20+ year old house on a bigger lot with mature trees AND a brand new one on a smaller lot with trees shorter than they are.  If you have a house that is less than about 10 years old in this price range, well, you may have a hard time competing with brand new houses.

Any time I have a buyer wanting a newer house in an area with a lot of new construction around them, I always tell them that it might be hard to sell and/or might not appreciate that much until the last new house has sold.  The longer they plan to be there, the better.  If they tell me they may only be there for 2-3 years, I tell them it might be wise to pick another house.

If you are buying in an area with lots of new homes around you, try to pick one that has some unique feature or has a super good lot.  In a neighborhood where most homes aren’t too much different from each other, these small things are the difference between your house selling and always being a buyer’s second choice house.

How to pick your first rental house

The first thing to know is that you want an exit plan.  You want to buy something that will be fairly easy to sell when that time comes.  That is why I usually suggest a single family home in a decent neighborhood.  When you sell it, your buyer pool will be owner-occupant buyers who will happily pay a full retail price.

The second thing to know is that you pick your tenants through them picking your house.  You have a crappy worn out rental, guess what type of tenant is going to be willing to live there?  You make your house one of the nicest ones in it’s price range and you will attract the best qualified tenants out there.  Also, if you have one of the best houses they could ever afford, why would they move?

Here are some things that I think make a house a good pick:

1.  A ranch house.  Who doesn’t like one?  They are suitable for buyers/tenants in all stages of life.  They are easier to paint by yourself since there is no staircase.  You can clean out gutters with a step ladder.  They are just easier to work on period.

2.  A house on a slab.  When the wax ring around the toilet fails and when water gets splashed out of the tub, there is no wood to rot.  Also there is no water to collect under the house and grow mold.

3.  A smaller house.  Fewer people can live in a smaller house.  That means less wear and tear.  While a 2 bedroom house has a little more limited market when you sell, tenants usually don’t care if a house is 2 or 3 bedrooms.

4.  A simple roof line with not much of a pitch.   The fewer ridges and valleys the better.  Not only are they cheaper to replace, there are fewer places to get a leak.

Here are some things I try to avoid:

  1.  Basements.  They all have the potential to leak.
  2.  Sheds.  They are just one more thing to maintain and tenants usually leave you stuff they don’t want when they move out.
  3. Huge yards.  When they get out of control, it takes a lot of time to bring them back.
  4. Big garages.  I’m talking more than a regular two car garage.  Usually tenants who are attracted to a huge garage have a lot of stuff to store or hobbies that need the space.  Either one means you might need a dumpster when they move out.
  5. Fireplaces.  Do you really want somebody starting a fire in your house?

Now a lot of this is based on paying retail.  If you get a great deal on a house with a huge lot or a basement, take it.  A good deal can make up for potential future headaches.

My ideal house would be a smaller ranch on a slab built after 1960.  It would be 2-3 bedroom and have 1-2 baths.  A normal sized, flatter yard for good drainage.  On the lower end, no garage is okay.  If the house is worth more than about $150k, I would want a garage more for resale than to make a tenant happy.

 

 

How real estate really works

Maybe it is because this is the only industry I have been in, but there seems to be a lot of misconceptions about what it takes to get a house sold.

Before I begin, let me tell you how it doesn’t work:

  1.  Open Houses and/or Broker Open Houses.  I will occasionally have sellers ask me about these.  Open houses used to be a non-committal way for the public to see inside a house before the internet.  Today, all you get is neighbors, thieves and buyers so early in their search that they are not yet ready to make any decision….which is why realtors that need work love to do them.  They get to meet unrepresented buyers at your house and hopefully sell them something in the near future.   Broker open houses are for social realtors who want to win a $50 gift card and hang out with their realtor friends at your house.  Same deal as open houses, these worked best before any agent can look online and see if your house is a good fit for their client.
  2. Marketing.  Again, thanks to the internet, exposure is never a problem.  Google your address right now and see how many websites your house is on…even it if isn’t for sale, it will be on tons of sites.  Something like 98% of buyers find their house online.  I guarantee you that those remaining 2% have a realtor who is online looking for them.
  3. Gimmicks.  These are things that agents do to make themselves stand out.  Many years ago it was those QR codes.  That trend didn’t last long.  Today it is the 3-D house.  I mean, most people have a hard time figuring out a 2 dimensional floor plan.   They will soon go away and be replaced with something else.  Companies come up with these things to sell  us realtors to make us feel like we are cutting edge.  There is a house listed in town that has a unicorn and a dinosaur in many of the pictures.  It has been shared many times.  Everybody loves it.  It is a lot of fun.  The house has been on the market for 38 days.  Do you think it is helping to sell the house in a market where houses in it’s price range rarely last 3 days?

There are 3 things to selling a house.  If you do all of them right, your house will sell fast in any market.  How do I know?  I have been doing them for nearly 15 years with great success.  Every day I scroll through the old posts on Facebook I made on the same day over many years.  I was posting about selling houses the first day on the market or getting multiple offers back in 2009 when I joined Facebook.    It was a buyer’s market back then.  Selling fast and for top dollar is common now.  So much so that I don’t even bother to post it when it happens.  Any agent can do it since there are so many more buyers than there are sellers.  It is nothing to brag about these days.

The 3 things that matter are price, condition and presentation.

If the price isn’t right, then no amount of work can make a house sell.  You can post it all over social media, have dedicated websites, have a hot air balloon over the house, have Drake make a video at your house…none of it will matter.  The public thinks exposure will sell an overpriced house.  Trust me, nothing will make an overpriced house sell.  I have tried to do that when I was a newer agent and I see many agents try today.  Usually it doesn’t sell.  The seller thinks it is the realtors fault.  The seller gets a new realtor, who talks the seller into reducing the price a little bit.  It usually sells AFTER the price reduction.

Condition is the next big thing.  Buyers are looking at every house in their price range.  If your house isn’t one of the better ones, it won’t sell.  I often see an average to below average house sit on the market  because there is always a better house for a buyer to pick.  Sometimes these houses sit on the market until late fall or winter when there is no new competition.  I have always said the best time to sell a below average house is in the late fall and winter.  That time of the year is like going to a buffet right before the restaurant closes.  All that is left are the least popular items.  Of course, price trumps everything in real estate.  Often, getting real about the value can make a house sell.  A below average house listed for $200k might be an average house when reduced to $190k, and an above average house at $180k.  You can also improve the condition of your house to make it sell.  I often work with sellers and tell them some small adjustments they can make that will make their house more attractive to buyers.

Presentation is twofold.  The house has to look attractive online to make somebody want to come see it in person, and it has too look as good in person as people imagine it does from what they saw online.  I think the big takeaway here is that the public loses interest quickly.  You want to grab their attention and keep it as they look at all the pictures.  That is why I order the pictures beginning with the most interesting one first.  Whatever the best feature of the house is, that is what I use as the lead picture because I know as soon as people get bored, they stop looking.  You won’t see 14 pictures of the water heater in my listings.  The words in the description are very important too.  I try to use those to tell a buyer what they can’t deduce from the pictures and what isn’t already mentioned in the listing.  If the specs say the house has 4 bedrooms, I see no need to tell the buyer again that it is a 4 bedroom house.  I want to use that space to tell the buyer how the house feels while they are inside.  The goal of the listing is to attract a showing.  You’re not trying to sell the house from the listing, only make somebody want to come see it in person.

So, that is how getting a house sold really works.  Get those 3 things right and it will always sell.  Anything else is just a waste of a seller’s time.

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.

What makes a location good?

Ever wonder what all goes into making a good location?

It’s usually a combination of many things.  The more of these you have, the more appealing it is:

  1.  Proximity to amenities like shopping/entertainment/dining.
  2.  Easy access to work (Think New Circle, Interstate, airport, etc.)
  3.   Good school district.  Even for people who don’t have kids in school, this is important because realtors have convinced everybody it is good for “Resale Value.”
  4.  An absence of major negative things like road noise, smoke stacks, crime, or something smelly like a landfill.

Very few neighborhoods have all of these.  The ones that do have always sold quickly and for top dollar.  They appreciate the fastest in a hot market and depreciate the least in a bad market.

Want to know a few like this?

  1.  Chilesburg-It’s got the top rated schools in the area, two of which are within walking distance.  You can get to two interstate exits easily.  If you want to go to Hamburg, its an easy drive down Todds Road.  If you don’t want Hamburg, go out the Richmond Road side.
  2. Willow Bend-This area has really shot up in value this year.  It’s got some of the best schools on the south end of town, is close to Fayette Mall, Brannon Crossing and The Summit.  Shillito Park is close and it is right off of Man O War.
  3. Beaumont Enclave-This neighborhood has always been popular, mainly because it is the cheapest way to get into the Rosa Parks Elementary/Beaumont Middle/Dumbar High district.  It is a $200-300k neighborhood surrounded by $500k and up houses.  That helps too.  Besides one of the most desirable school districts in town, you have everything Beaumont has too offer, plus a city park and a library.  It is right between New Circle and Man O War, making it easy to get in or out.  It is also a short drive to the airport for traveling executives.

I normally encourage my buyers to pick a neighborhood with as many of these location features as possible since we don’t know what the market will be like when they need to sell.  The first rule in real estate is ALWAYS have an exit plan.