Buyer’s market home selling

Buyer's Market
Home Selling Mistakes (infographic from floridarealtors.org)

As winter approaches, many home sellers will be contemplating their next move after their homes have not sold.  It is likely that a volatile housing market awaits home sellers during the first half of 2018.  If you’re planning to list your home, you should have a selling plan that is able to adjust to market conditions quickly.  In other words, know about home selling in a buyer’s market.

The good news for home sellers is that this year’s home sale prices continue to climb, as the September 26th 20-city composite of the S&P Corelogic Case Shiller National Home Price Index (spindices.com) revealed.  The national index during July increased 5.8 percent compared to the same period last year, while the Washington DC area realized a 3.3 percent year over year gain.  However, there is expectation home sale prices may moderate or even slightly decrease in the first quarter of 2018 because of Fed policy and other market forces.

David M. Blitzer, Managing Director and Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices stated in the release:

“While home prices continue to rise, other housing indicators may be leveling off. Sales of both new and existing homes have slipped since last March. The Builders Sentiment Index published by the National Association of Home Builders also leveled off after March. Automobiles are the second largest consumer purchase most people make after houses. Auto sales peaked last November and have been flat to slightly lower since. The housing market will face two contradicting challenges during the rest of 2017 and into 2018. First, rebuilding following hurricanes across Texas, Florida and other parts of the south will lead to further supply pressures. Second, the Fed’s recent move to shrink its balance sheet could push mortgage rates upward.”

Of course, home sale price indices only show sale prices for homes that sell.  And while home sale prices are increasing back to record levels in many areas, the volume of homes sold during 2017 so far is disappointing.  According to a September 20th NAR news release (realtor.nar), August’s existing home sales dropped 1.7 percent.  The Pending Home Sale Index for August dropped 2.6 percent, which made the NAR revise their 2017 home sale forecast to be “slightly below the pace set in 2016.”  Home sale volume in the first quarter of 2018 may also lag due to continued lack of inventory and anticipated increasing mortgage interest rates.  Lawrence Yun, cheif NAR economist, quipped

“The supply and affordability headwinds would have likely held sales growth just a tad above last year, but coupled with the temporary effects from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, sales in 2017 now appear will fall slightly below last year…The good news is that nearly all of the missed closings for the remainder of the year will likely show up in 2018, with existing sales forecast to rise 6.9 percent.”

Since these are August sales figures from the NAR, it is an unfortunate truth that August sales were not really affected by hurricanes. Mostly because hurricane Harvey hit Texas the very last days of August and Irma hit Florida in September. The main affects of the hurricanes disruption to existing home sales will be seen in September’s statistics. And “missed closings” is a euphemism for phantom closings, because they don’t really exist. So, with regard to sliding home sales, you should take Yun’s “headwinds” of supply and affordability very seriously.

Home selling in 2018, a buyer’s market?

Home sellers positioning themselves solely on this year’s home sale prices may be in for a rude awakening next year.  Sellers may feel as if the market is getting soft, however that may change the latter half of 2018 as home prices moderate.  Sellers will need to be reasonable.  They will need to have awareness of many factors besides home sale prices, including existing home sales volume and neighborhood sale trends.  Including home selling in a buyer’s market.

If you’re planning to sell your home, you will need to play to your audience (home buyers), and listen to their feedback.  Know how to sell in 2018.  Prepare your home before listing it in the MLS by repairing deferred maintenance and possibly making updates.  Home buyers have a track record of paying more for a home that has been totally renovated.  However, if you don’t completely repair and/or update your home, be prepared to lower your sale price.

Be flexible to quickly adjust to the market.  Feedback is highly important to get other’s perspectives about your home.  However, take Realtor feedback with a grain of salt.  Instead, have your agent collect buyer feedback at open houses. Home buyers tend to be more honest when giving feedback, and it can be especially helpful in a buyer’s market.  If the consensus is that the price is too high, the price may actually be too high.  If buyers are turned off by the condition and/or curb appeal of the home, consider making repairs or lowering price to reflect the condition.  If they are focused on your décor, consider hiring a professional stager to make the home more appealing.

Rather than a soft market, we are experiencing the struggle for a balanced market due to an inventory shortage and sharply decreasing affordability.  The last year and a half has been all about the home seller.  However, 2018 will be about the home buyer.  Home selling in a volatile or buyer’s market can be challenging. If you’re planning a sale, be realistic about your home’s condition and value. Over pricing your home from the start can make your home languish on the market, which could get you a much lower price if it sells.

Copyright© Dan Krell
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Gonzo home sales and prices

gonzo home sales and prices
Gonzo Home Sales and Prices? NAR Housing Expectations 2017 infographic (from realtor.org)

Everyone seems to be excited about this week’s Case-Shiller home price numbers reported for February.  Even the title of the April 25th press release sounded a little giddy: “The S&P Corelogic Case-Shiller National Home Price NSA Index Sets Fourth Consecutive All-Time High” (spindices.com).  Yes, the Case-Shiller 10-city and 20-city composite indices are close to the 2007 level.  But before you become intoxicated by reports of gonzo home sales and prices and run off to sell your home, here’s more to the story.

Gonzo home sales and prices

Gonzo home sales and prices depend on the market.  According to the recent Case-Shiller release, Seattle, Portland, and Dallas topped the charts with annual index gains of 12.2 percent, 9.7 percent, and 8.8 percent respectively.  Not surprisingly, Seattle and Portland have been the hottest real estate markets over the past year.  Tampa’s and Cleveland’s housing markets are at the opposite end of the spectrum with decreases of -0.5 percent, -0.3 percent during February; while Miami’s home price index was unchanged.  Washington DC reported an annual gain of 4.1 percent, with a 0.2% gain reported in February.

David M. Blitzer, Managing Director and Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices stated:

“There are still relatively few existing homes listed for sale and the small 3.8 month supply is supporting the recent price increases. Housing affordability has declined since 2012 as the pressure of higher prices has been a larger factor than stable to lower mortgage rates.

Housing’s strength and home building are important contributors to the economic recovery. Housing starts bottomed in March 2009 and, with a few bumps, have advanced over the last eight years. New home construction is now close to a normal pace of about 1.2 million units annually, of which around 800,000 are single family homes. Most housing rebounds following a recession only last for a year or so. The notable exception was the boom that set the stage for the bubble. Housing starts bottomed in 1991, drove through the 2000-2001 recession, and peaked in 2005 after a 14-year run.”

Gonzo home sales and prices are dependent on local real estate.  It’s true, housing inventory is lacking.  At a time when homes should be coming to market for the spring season, the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors Montgomery County single family statistics for March 2017 indicated that there were -1.8 percent less new listings compared to the same time last year.  And the total number of active homes for sale are -16.4 percent less than the same time last year.  Although June is usually the peak time for home sales and prices in our area, home sales increased 17.9 percent month over month, and is 11.7 percent higher than the same time last year; while average home sale prices increased less than 1 percent (gcaar.com)!

Holy shades of 2005, Batman!

Housing stats sound eerily like those before the housing bubble crash.  But this market is different in many respects.  Consider that housing speculation is not as prevalent as it was at that time; homes are not being flipped in a matter of days in most areas.  And home buyers are more sophisticated and savvy than they were in 2005; home buyers are more demanding, as well as sensitive to home condition and price.

Yes, it’s true that house values are increasing.  Yes, home sales are breaking records.  But not all homes sell.  You should realize that that home sale stats includes data of homes that sell.  Homes that don’t sell are not included in the numbers of closings, nor are they included in home sale prices.

Homes that don’t sell tend to be overpriced for the home’s condition, or neighborhood.  Sometimes, the physical location of the house is not ideal; for example, situated next to train tracks.  If you’re selling your home this year, don’t get greedy.  Get a professional opinion on pricing your home correctly; over priced homes tend to not sell quickly, or not at all.

Pricing your home may not be as easy as you think.  Empirical research has confirmed that there are many variables that affect sales price.  Factors that impact home sale price include the home’s location, condition, amenities, and market timing.

If you want to sell your home quickly and capitalize on home sale trends: consider repairing deferred maintenance issues, making updates, and don’t take home buyers for granted.  When making repairs and updates, don’t go for the cheapest quote because it will likely show.  Also, make sure your contractors are licensed.

Home buyers are just as savvy as you, so any attempt to deceive will backfire and hurt your sale.  Focus on broadening your home’s appeal.  Consider making your home turnkey, since most home buyers are looking for a home they can move right in and without making immediate repairs and updates.

For a guide on a successful home sale, take a look at “The magic of 4 to sell a home

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Greedy home seller tips

Don't be a greedy home seller
Pricing Strategy for a Home Sale (infographic from forsalebyowner.com)

When there is a buzz about home sellers being greedy, you know home sales are doing well.  So, not surprisingly, along with last year’s record home sales came the reports of greedy home sellers.  Are you a greedy home seller?  Or are you adjusting to a market where home prices are increasing?

Greed has developed a bad rap.  Surely there is an evolutionary basis for greed.  Many believe that early hominids promoted personal and group survival by being “greedy” (although disputed by some).  Those who hoarded food, so as to have more than enough, lived through difficult winters and droughts. During times of financial prosperity, greed is looked upon favorably.  However, in the aftermath of a recession, greed is thought of as the basis for fiscal calamity.  Immortalized in Gordon Geckko’s famous “greed is good” speech in the 1987 movie Wall Street, “greed” is a cinematic vehicle to show the fine line between a healthy desire to prosper and a corrupt drive to have more than enough.

Avoid being viewed as a greedy home seller by creating a realistic pricing strategy.  Creating a pricing strategy is an art and a science.  When selling a home, you have to determine the list price.  There are many factors to consider besides recent neighborhood sales, such as condition of your home, sales trends, mortgage interest rates, economic trends, etc.  Like other home sellers, you fall into a conundrum.  If you price your home too high, then it will limit potential home buyers who visit.  However, if you price your home too low to increase home buyer interest, you may not get the price you want.

Contrary to some assertions that a home’s list price doesn’t play a role in the sale, there is evidence to suggest that it really does matter.  Lu Han and William C. Strange determined that a lower list price does increase home buyer visits – but only to a point (What is the Role of the Asking Price for a House? University of Toronto, Rotman School of Management; 2012).  They concluded that there is a point at which the home price is perceived to attract too much buyer competition, which may turn off other home buyers.  Furthermore, their data shows that there is a negative relationship between a list price and the number of home buyers: meaning that the higher the list price relative to the neighborhood, the lower number of home buyer visits, and vice-versa.

If you fear being a greedy home seller by asking for a high price for your home, there is research to suggest that you’ll let go of the greed in order to make a deal.  A 2013 study by Nuno T. Magessi and Luis Antunes looked at how the emotions of fear and greed compete internally (Agent’s fear monitors the spread of greed in a social network; Proceedings of the 11th European Workshop on Multi‐Agent Systems EUMAS, 12-13).  They concluded that greed is mitigated by the fear of loss within the confines of a social network.  When applied to a home sale, the fear of not selling a home competes with the impulse to hold out for the high price.  Deducing further, there is a need to fit within one’s social network by trying to sell a home for the most money, and yet avoid the stigma of a failed home sale.

Don’t be a greedy home seller. RealtorMag described three common home seller mistakes in a 2015 post (3 Mistakes Sellers Often Make; realtormag.realtor.org; April 12, 2015).  Included were “Not being honest with the home’s history,” “Not making a better home presentation,” and “Being unrealistic about the home’s value.”  About unrealistic home value, it was said:

“…Despite tight inventories of homes for-sale in many markets, sellers still need to be careful not to get too greedy with their list price, say real estate professionals…Home owners tend to get a much lower price when they overprice a home at the onset and then drop the price several times. The longer the home lingers on a market, the more likely it will receive a deeper discount…”

If your home doesn’t sell, you must examine your pricing strategy.  Was the price realistic, or were you too greedy?

Copyright © Dan Krell
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Home sale timing – sell for more

home sale timing
Timing the home sale (infographic from smartzip.com)

Everyone wants to know the future, especially when it comes to the home sale timing.  Home sellers and buyers want to predict home prices.  Home sellers want to know the best time to sell.  While Home buyers want to know if they’re getting a good price.  And apparently there may be a fairly reliable predictor to home prices, however it’s not what you think it is.

Several empirical studies have attempted to provide a methodology for predicting the housing market (home sale timing).  Of course there is the familiar of forecasting real estate through divorce and premarital agreements.  Back in 2013, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyer (AAML.org) issued a press release citing the increase of prenuptial agreements as sign of the improving economy.  The increase in prenuptial agreements meant that people felt there was value in their assets.  And this was meant to be a good sign in for housing market.

Of course there was also a spike in divorces that year, leading some to believe this to also be a good sign that people felt better about the economy because of their willingness to begin anew.  But as University of Maryland sociologist Philip N. Cohen pointed out in his November 2015 blog post (Divorce rate plunge continues; familyinequality.wordpress.com) the increased divorce activity of 2013 was a just a recession related “bump” and in actuality the divorce rate decreased in 2014.

Then there was predicting housing through internet search data, which sounds more like fortune-telling than research to be honest.  However, Beracha and Wintoki (Forecasting Residential Real Estate Price Changes from Online Search Activity; The Journal of Real Estate Research 35.3 (2013): 283-312.) concluded that, indeed, you can gauge regional housing trends through specific keyword search volume.  Given this method, I used Google Trends to look up the keyword “home for sale” for the Washington DC metro region – and it is bound to become a hot market in the next six months (maybe a Presidential election has something to do with that?).

But a better indicator of where home prices will go may be the availability of credit.  Most would argue that mortgage lending is a matter of housing demand.  However, a working paper by Manuel Adelino, Antoinette Schoar, and Felipe Severino (Credit Supply and House Prices: Evidence from Mortgage Market Segmentation; February 19, 2014) concluded that “easy credit supply leads to an increase in house prices.”  They contend that higher conforming loan limits and low interest rates benefit home sellers in the form of higher sale prices.

Adelino, Schoar, and Severino’s premise can be witnessed in hindsight as the pre-recession housing boom seemed to be fueled on easy credit.  As credit became increasingly available, home value appreciation took off.  Likewise, housing stabilized and home values appreciated post-recession as home lending requirements loosened.

Of course, many associate easy credit policies with recessions, and even the Great Depression.  However, it’s not necessarily the easy credit that precipitates the recession – but rather it’s the tightening of creditStephen Gandel (This is When You’ll Know it’s Time to Panic About a Recession; fortune.com; March 8,2016) said it succinctly, “Tightening credit doesn’t always lead to a recession. But every recession starts with that.

One may infer from Adelino, Schoar, and Severino’s research that a home seller can gauge their home sale price based on the lending environment.  Lower interest rates and loose credit points to a higher sale price.  However, tightening credit policies may point to flat or even lower home prices.

Copyright © Dan Krell

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Get top dollar for your home

Get top dollar for your home
Get top dollar for your home (infographic from LJHooker.com)

The guarantee of “Getting top dollar for your home” is a theme in many real estate ads, as well as being promised by many agents.  Of course the goal of every home owner is to  get top dollar is the goal for every home seller!  But why is this meme still prominent, and is it still meaningful?

What does “get top dollar” mean anyway?  Getting top dollar on your sale may be relative to other home sales during the same period.  Market conditions and timing are variables that may dictate your sales price; home sale prices are lower when home buyer demand wanes, as well as sales that occur during winter months.  However, other influences on sale price include your home’s physical location and condition.  For example, homes that sit on (or are in close proximity) to a main thoroughfare typically sell for less; as well as houses with deferred maintenance and a lack of updates.

Is “getting top dollar” just about listing at a high price?  The key to a successful sale is pricing your home correctly.  Proper pricing includes analyzing your local market, and comparing your home to the most recent neighborhood sales that are most similar to your home in style, size, age, and condition.  Also, looking at market trends in three and six month segments will determine a seasonal effect.

How can you tell if your home sold for top dollar?  Certainly if your house sells for more than others in the neighborhood, you might think you got “top dollar.”  But if your neighbor sells immediately after you and sells for more; your claim to getting top dollar is now in jeopardy.  There is also the home sale price conundrum: If your house sells fast with multiple offers, you might think that the list price was too low; However, if you price your home too high, you risk over pricing such that the house might languish on the market and miss the window of opportunity.

Maybe the promise of “getting top dollar” is just a marketing ploy by real estate agents to get your listing.  A top complaint by home sellers is that their agent misled them; often citing the promise of a high sales price, only to be coerced into reducing and/or accepting a lower price at a later time.  Regrettably, there are real estate agents who resort to questionable sales tactics to get business; and unfortunately, they learn these tactics from real estate trainers, and/or develop them on their own and share with other agents.

Maybe “getting top dollar” for your house is a metaphor for being satisfied.  Although you might think you could be satisfied with just selling for a high price; customer satisfaction includes other factors too, including level of service.  It has been determined that many consumers are less interested in hiring agents whose focus is about being “#1;” rather, consumers want to be treated as if they are “#1.”

Maybe “getting top dollar” is about your bottom line.  Consider that many home buyers in today’s market are seeking “turnkey” homes, where they won’t have to worry about immediate maintenance issues – and some are willing to pay “top dollar” for such a home.  Be honest about your home’s location, condition and features.  Making some modifications can increase the sales price, however at a cost.  A cost-benefit analysis of pre-listing repairs and updates may help you decide on the projects that will add to your sales net.

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