Tag Archives: seasonal market

Taking Stock

Continuing the discussion…

TakingStockAfter a busy year, all is quiet on the real estate front. The market’s been moving at a more languid pace for at least a month now. And it’s doubtful that this weekend’s ritual orgy of mind-numbing football and tryptophan-laced turkey is going to significantly alter the pattern. Or inspire a lot more of you to run out at halftime and buy a house.

It may be the busiest weekend of the year for Best Buy and Macy’s. But as far as real estate sales go …not so much. We won’t see crowded lines of people camping out at new listings, stampeding open houses or pepper-spraying each other to be first in line to present offers. (That’s reserved for the spring isn’t it? Just kidding about the pepper spray folks.)

So time to take a breath. Take stock of where the market’s at. And perhaps more importantly, take a good look at where your own goals are relative to the market–at-large.

It may be time to rethink your assumptions. Review your options. Weigh your priorities. Consider what you may be willing to compromise on, for the greater good.

Let’s start with all those buyers-in-waiting out there. Earnest homeseekers who finally succumbed to extreme buyer-fatigue after the summer and decided to put their searches on hold for the rest of the year.  Buyers who worked long and hard to find something, but for a variety of reasons, weren’t quite able to pull it off

Taking stock of things is precisely what these buyers in the coming year are going to have to do. Because there’s going to be the same frustrating lack of new inventory, reasonable housing stock and quality listings that characterized 2014.

The Sentinel article on November 17 highlighted a few pertinent statistics in this regard. There were 404 active single family listings at the start of November. The fewest for any November in 18 years (think 1996!)  The number of active listings each month has now been lower than the same calendar month the previous year for 44 of the past 45 months!

By my count there were 325 active listings left in SC County this past Wednesday. A third of them priced at more than a million.  Not exactly music to the ears of an average buyer, with a median income, trying to qualify for a loan.

Bottom line: If you head into next year’s market without examining and tweaking your approach,  you may find yourself coming up short again.  Next week: Let’s explore a few ideas for shaking up your search.

The Shadow Knows

What was that tag line  we used to see on posters promoting Rasta bands at the Catalyst way back when?   All Killer – No Filler?

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could channel a little more of that sentiment (and mojo) into the real estate inventory these days.  Seems like no matter how many times a day you and I and I go onto the MLS to check for new listings or download search engine e mails…nothing much new “of value” comes on. Just the same old same old.

Tired inventory.  Picked-over inventory.  Stale-inventory.  A warmed-over re-hash of all the stuff that didn’t sell last year.  Including a strange menagerie of distress properties.  Dubious short sales you can never be sure of and a smattering of REOs banks are pinching out of their systems…starting with the worst first.

The sum total?  An uninspiring catalogue of places.  Most of which aren’t qualified enough to move anyone anywhere.  As in: Move buyers in. And move sellers out.

(Quick disclaimer:  Individual Sellers, don’t get bent out of shape here. I’m talking about everyone else’s listing except yours.)

I guess we could say it’s All Filler…Very Little Killer in real estate land right now.  Not many killer views, killer yards, killer locations.   Or to lower our epxectations just a little… not many plain old, modest, middle of the road killer houses packaged up in nice presentations at reasonable price points. Specially right there in the sweet spot between $600k and $800k.  I don’t know about you…but it’s killin’ me.

Most Agents understand.  They’ve got clients calling too. Buyers ready to buy.  Or who think they are.  Buyers becoming increasingly frustrated with a market that doesn’t seem to offer anything up that fits their needs or price range.  And by extension, Buyers frustrated with their own Agents, who become more suspect each week when they fail to turn over enough rocks or the “right” rocks to uncover that special hidden gem waiting out there. Somewhere.

The same Buyers who don’t understand why it is so hard to buy in  (what keeps getting sledge-hammered into our heads as) the Perfect Buyers Market.  Is it safe to say this isn’t a Perfect Buyers Market?

There are certainly incredible interest rates. Prices have certainly come down a long way.  Those are two of the defining characteristics of a Buyers Market.  What’s missing?   Great places that people actually want to buy.  I think some people call it supply.  Or maybe “effective supply” would be a better term.

I keep having the same deja-vu experience.  Clients who’ve been looking forever, pouring over the on-line pictures of homes for sale, who keep calling and asking to see places they forgot they already saw a year ago.  Houses that didn’t work then and aren’t going to work after another 365 days on market and a minimal price change.   I call this  “Deja Viewing”. Stare at the MLS long enough and homes start repeating themselves over and over.

So when’s this slow tortuous drip of new properties coming on going to end?  When do the floodgates open? I feel like a kid staring at the classroom clock.  Waiting for recess from a hard lesson. The minute hand isn’t moving. The fabric of time is frozen.

Thursday was Groundhog Day and another shadow appeared again this year.  Was it just the shadow of a huge shadow inventory?  Or was it also the shadowy logic of would-be sellers planning to hold out putting their places on the market for as long as they can.

Either way, looks like the winter of our buyers’ discontent is going to last at least another six weeks.  If we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot that is – by kicking the groundhog down the road even further…

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WAITING FOR GOOD DOUGH

Tis the season. But specially this year. Specially this market. Specially now. A lot of you Sellers are either pulling it off or holding it back – aren’t you? You are waiting for good dough. Better dough. In fact a lot better dough than the measly bucks you’ve seen getting tossed around the marketplace lately. ( Can you believe what they actually sold that bank-owned property down the street for!!!!??)

The question is: When exactly are you waiting for? And how long are you prepared to wait?

The traditional answer this time of year is almost always: “We’re going to wait until next spring.” And that phrase “next spring” usually assumes the vague persona of some mythical place in time and space. Somewhere far away. Over the next hill. Beyond the current valley of the shadow. Where the flowers are blooming. Where the grass is a lot greener and so is the money.

There are only nineteen shopping days left until Christmas but I suspect that means a whole lot more when it comes to the fast-selling inventory of flat screen TV’s and some of those new techie little apps for your I Phone than it does for local Sellers who have slightly higher ticket items known as homes for sale. We are reminded constantly by the the hyped up stats that more homes are selling this year than last year, when we honestly feared the economy was going to collapse like a house of cards. But that’s not much consolation if your house isn’t one of the ones that has sold.

The pressure to buy that arises around those Dionysian revels designed for shop-aholics -like Black Friday and Cyber Monday – doesn’t translate well to erstwhile home buyers who we suspect must be out there somewhere hovering on the radar but who don’t seem to feel any kind of biological imperative to show up any time soon and own a new home by the end of the year.

If there was a sense of urgency, the extension of the first time buyers tax credit through next June, has lessened it. Ditto for the extension of the conforming jumbo loan limit. The time horizon got moved back. Not forward like the ubiquitous Cash for Clunkers. Plenty of people may be over at Kohls right now looking for a new set of dish towels but they simply aren’t going to be getting up at 4 o’clock in the morning to wait in line for tomorrow’s open house on the average $900,000 listing.

So a number of you who have been on the market for a little while, or even a longer while than a little while, are temporarily raising the white flag, calling a cease flyer and deciding to take a vacation from what seems like the full time vocation of trying to show and sell your home. A sign of the times that signs are coming down.

It’s been a double edged sword lately, hasn’t it? On one hand, you hate getting up every morning for another day of living in a listing. Making sure everything is ship-shape. Cleaned and preened. Nicely pressed and all addressed up and ready to go at a moment’s notice.

What’s worse is, when you keep doing it and not enough of those moments of notice ever come? What if you keep staging a party at your house and no one shows?

It’s confusing. You hate the fact that no one is coming. But you love the fact that no one is coming. It is easier when no one comes. It is less hassle. You can let down your guard. Relax and lower your hopes and expectations.

And then…all of a sudden…like a rude noise that wakes you up out of a peaceful slumber, the phone rings and someone wants to see your home. Simultaneously you are thrilled to have a showing and horrified that you didn’t put away all the groceries or take out the trash.

You want to cancel the showing. But you can’t cancel it. You want to move but you don’t want to move anymore. You really do want to sell your house. But you hate selling your house.

It was all so much easier back in the day, when everything sold in two weeks with multiple offers. Escrows got done in 30 days or less and it was all over so fast you didn’t have time to think. We could use a lot more of that. Less time to think about it that is.

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