Hybrid housing market not for the squeamish

real estate trendsA “hybrid” housing market is has a little bit of everything. There are the multiple offers and escalation clauses, as well as the homes that sit idle for days (both could be on the very same block!); buyers willing to pay more than list and those offering less. The result is frustration among buyers and sellers who are disappointed by not having their expectations met; and even a few real estate agents are losing their cool. What is becoming increasingly apparent is that the current housing market is not for the squeamish!

Although few home owners are venturing to list their homes, those who do may be seeking a premium price; most likely due to the optimism permeating the air. Furthermore some are expecting the prize of getting multiple offers with escalation clauses. Owners of homes that do not sell within the first week of listing are anxiously wondering, “Why hasn’t my house sold yet?”

The flip side is that although home buyers are plentiful (compared to the current home inventory), there still seems to be many home buyers who seek to buy a home at a 5%+ discount. Unlike the “bargain hunter,” many of these home buyers are more concerned with future home resale (which may be indicative of a lack of confidence in the future housing market).

Pressure on home buyers and sellers is likely originating from reports of bubble activity pockets that seems to be popping up, and recent home price indices that indicate increasing national average home prices. Regardless, there appears to be a lack of symmetry among home sales as well as a lack of consistency among home buyers and sellers.

So if you’re planning a home sale or purchase, what are you to make of this? You should understand that national home price indices are comprised of multiple regions, and much of the national home price increase is due to regions that had the highest home price declines over the last six years, as well as a few pockets of very hot activity (unlike the home price climb during 2004-2006, which was mostly due to high confidence in the housing market, easy credit, and a much different economy). Likewise, the Metro DC region is microcosm of the national picture, such that it is comprised of a number of counties that realized double digit home price decreases, as well as a few pockets of hot activity.

To add some perspective to local market trends, the average days-on-market of a home in Montgomery County is roughly 60 days (depending on the source). Additionally, Montgomery County single family home data compiled by the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors® (gcaar.com) indicated that median and average single family home price decreased year over year for the last three consecutive months. And while the number of homes listed continues to decline, the number of pending home sales (homes under contract) has also declined in March year over year, as well as year to date.

Getting into the market requires solid data, a strategy, and an open mind. If you’re selling: consult with your agent about recent neighborhood prices; and stay informed of all activity, as it could be your cue to decisions made on the sale. If you’re buying: in addition to discussing comp data, you should consult with your agent about a strategy to deal with competition from other home buyers.

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