Real estate continues to be called the ‘bright spot’ in the current economy, but there’s one thing that may hold the housing market back from achieving its full potential this year: the lack of homes for sale.
Buyers are actively searching for and purchasing homes, looking to capitalize on today’s historically low interest rates, but there just aren’t enough houses for sale to meet that growing need. Sam Khater, Chief Economist at Freddie Mac, explains:
“Mortgage rates have hit another record low due to a late summer slowdown in the economic recovery…These low rates have ignited robust purchase demand activity…However, heading into the fall it will be difficult to sustain the growth momentum in purchases because the lack of supply is already exhibiting a constraint on sales activity.”
According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), right now, unsold inventory sits at a 3-month supply at the current sales pace. To have a balanced market where there are enough homes for sale to meet buyer demand, the market needs inventory for 6 months. Today, we’re nowhere near where that number needs to be. If the trend continues, it will get even harder to find homes to purchase this fall, and that may slow down potential buyers. Danielle Hale, Chief Economist at realtor.com, notes:
“The overall lack of sustained new listings growth could put a dent in fall home sales despite high interest from home shoppers, because new listings are key to home sales.”
The realtor.com Weekly Recovery Report keeps an eye on the number of listings coming into the market (houses available for sale) and the total number of listings staying in the market compared to the previous year (See graph below):Buyers are clearly scooping up homes faster than they’re being put up for sale. The number of total listings (the orange line) continues to decline even as new listings (the blue line) are coming to the market. Why? Javier Vivas, Director of Economic Research at realtor.com, notes:
“The post-pandemic period has brought a record number of homebuyers back into the market, but it’s also failed to bring a consistent number of sellers back. Homes are selling faster, and sales are still on an upward trend, but rapidly disappearing inventory also means more home shoppers are being priced out. If we don’t see material improvement to supply in the next few weeks, we could see the number of transactions begin to dwindle again even as the lineup of buyers continues to grow.”
Does this mean it’s a good time to sell?
Yes. If you’re thinking about selling your house, this fall is a great time to make it happen. There are plenty of buyers looking for homes to purchase because they want to take advantage of low interest rates. Realtors are also reporting an average of 3 offers per house and an increase in bidding wars, meaning the demand is there and the opportunity to sell for the most favorable terms is in your favor as a seller.
If you’re considering selling your house, this is the perfect time to chat with a local real estate professional to see how you can benefit from the market trends in your local area.
If you’re following what’s happening in the current housing market, you’ve seen how the lack of newly constructed homes is a major reason there’s a shortage of housing inventory available to today’s buyers. Another reason is that the inventory of existing homes for sale is shrinking. According to the most recent Existing Home Sales Report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), sales are up 10.8% from the same time last year. That exceeds expectations and is great news.
The troubling news from the report is that the sold inventory is not being replaced. As NAR explained,
“Total housing inventory at the end of December totaled 1.40 million units, down 14.6% from November and 8.5% from one year ago. Unsold inventory sits at a 3.0-month supply at the current sales pace, down from the 3.7-month figure recorded in both November and December 2018. Unsold inventory totals have dropped for seven consecutive months from year-ago levels, taking a toll on home sales.”
The situation was also addressed in a recent Zillow article stating,
“The number of for-sale homes in the U.S. is at its lowest point in at least seven years, and the shortage appears poised to get worse before it gets better.”
Bill McBride of Calculated Risk further noted,
“Inventory always decreases sharply in December as people take their homes off the market for the holidays. However, based on the data I’ve collected, this was the lowest level for inventory in at least three decades (the previous low was 1.43 million in December 1993).”
Why is inventory falling so dramatically? I thought the housing market had softened.
A year ago, that was the case – but the market shifted again. Skylar Olsen, Director of Economic Research at Zillow, explains,
“A year ago, a combination of a government shutdown, stock market slump and mortgage rate spike caused a long-anticipated inventory rise. That supposed boom turned out to be a short-lived mirage as buyers came back into the market and more than erased the inventory gains. As a natural reaction, the recent slowdown in home values looks like it’s set to reverse back to accelerating growth right as we head into home shopping season with demand outpacing supply.”
What does this mean if you’re a homeowner thinking of selling?
Now is a great time to consider putting your home on the market. The competition (number of houses on the market) has not been this low in decades. It’s best not to wait for the inventory (both existing homes and new construction) to increase in the spring, as it always does.
The supply of homes for sale is at a historic low. Buyer demand is surprisingly strong. Now would be a great time to sell.
The year 2020 will be remembered as one of the most challenging times of our lives. A worldwide pandemic, a recession causing historic unemployment, and a level of social unrest perhaps never seen before have all changed the way we live. Only the real estate market seems to be unaffected, as a new forecast projects there may be more homes purchased this year than last year.
As we come to the end of this tumultuous year, we are preparing for perhaps the most contentious presidential election of the century. Today, it is important to look at the impact past presidential election years have had on the real estate market.
Is there typically a drop-off in home sales during a presidential election year?
BTIG, a research and analysis company, looked at new home sales from 1963 through 2019 in their report titled One House, Two House, Red House, Blue House. They noted that in non-presidential years, there is a -9.8% decrease in November compared to October. This is the normal seasonality of the market, with a slowdown in activity that is usually seen in fall and winter. However, it also revealed that in presidential election years, the typical drop increases to -15%. But these sales are not typically lost forever, just delayed until after the election.
Will it matter who is elected?
To some degree, but not in the overall number of home sales. As mentioned above, consumer confidence plays a significant role in the desire to buy a home. How may consumer confidence impact the housing market post-election? The BTIG report covered that as well: “A change in administration might benefit trailing blue county housing dynamics. The re-election of President Trump could continue to propel red county outperformance.” Overall sales should not be impacted in a significant way.
If mortgage rates remain near all-time lows, the economy continues to recover, and unemployment continues to decrease, the real estate market should remain strong up to and past the election.
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You and your agent are going to use everything you’ve learned to seal the deal.
Here’s the dream: Your offer is perfect, you don’t need to negotiate, and you can spend the next few weeks addressing more pressing home-ownership questions, like “Why is it called wainscoting?” and “Do I want a new couch in blush or emerald green?”
And it could happen. Many sellers accept the best offer they receive, and for a variety of reasons.
But sellers are also known to reject offers for a variety of reasons. Or make counteroffers. This is especially likely if you bid low, or when you’re up against multiple competing offers.
If you do receive a counteroffer, it’s up to you to decide whether you want to accept the new contract, negotiate the terms, or walk away.
In cases such as these, look to your agent. He or she is your spirit guide. If you decide you want to negotiate — that is, make a counteroffer to the seller’s counteroffer — your agent will use their negotiating skills to help get you the best deal. This is what agents do every day.
But you’re not just going to sit there. If you understand what negotiating tactics your agent may deploy — they depend on the local market and your position — you can back them up. And cheer them on.
Here are eight rules every buyer should know before they — and their agent — start negotiating:
#1 Act Fast — Like, Now
When you receive a counteroffer, you should respond quickly — ideally within 24 hours. The longer you wait, the more space you leave for another buyer to swoop in and nab the property. Also? If a seller senses hesitation, they may decide to withdraw their counteroffer before you even have a chance to respond.
#2 Raise Your Price (Within Reason)
While you obviously don’t want to overpay for a house, you may have to up the ante — especially if you initially made a lowball offer. Lean on your agent’s expertise to determine how much money you should add to the sales price to make it more enticing to the seller.
Then, through their powers of persuasion, your agent can make the counteroffer look even more attractive by pointing out similarly priced “comps” — recently sold homes in your area that are comparable in terms of square footage and features.
As your agent negotiates, it can feel like things are escalating quickly. It’s stressful. You may feel a sudden urge to do whatever it takes to win.
Before you go overboard, there are two things you must keep in mind:
- You can’t exceed the monetary confines of the pre-approved mortgage you received from your lender.
- You shouldn’t overextend your budget.
Because your counteroffer has to be an amount you’re comfortable spending on a home. You want that new house and to keep living your life. Plus: You’re not out of options yet.
Explore More Topics:
Make an Offer & Negotiate
Buy a Home: Step-by-Step
#3 Increase Your Earnest Money Deposit
Increasing your earnest money deposit (EMD) — the sum of money you put down to prove to the seller you’re serious (i.e., “earnest”) about buying the house — is another way to show the seller you have more skin in the game. A standard EMD is typically 1% to 3% of the sales price of the home. Making a counteroffer with a 3% to 4% deposit could be what you need to persuade the seller to side with you.
#4 Demonstrate Patience About Taking Possession
Depending on the seller’s timetable, changing your proposed possession date — the date you take over the property — could butter them up, too. If the seller wants to stay in the home for a few days after closing, try offering a later possession date. You could also draw up a “rent-back” agreement, meaning the seller pays you rent for staying in the home for a set period of time after the closing date.
#5 Let Go of a Few Contingencies — With Care
Want to give your counteroffer an even bigger boost?
Reduce the number of contingencies you’re asking for. It’s your way of saying, “Hey, look, I have fewer ways to back out,” which gives the seller more reassurance that the deal will close.
But be selective: Some contingencies are too important to give up. A home-inspection contingency — the right to have a home inspection and request repairs — gives you an out if you spot major problems with the home (and protects you from buying a total money pit).
You might waive a termite inspection if you’re in a state where the risk is lower.
But ultimately, waiving contingencies depends on your market, your loan program requirements, your risk tolerance, and the circumstances of the house in question. And if you waive contingencies and then you find a problem, the seller isn’t responsible for fixing it.
#6 Ask for Fewer Concessions
At a mortgage settlement, home buyers have to pay closing costs for taxes, lender’s fees, and title company fees. Closing costs vary by location, but you can expect to shell out between 3% and 4% of the home’s sales price. The seller pays an additional 1% to 3%. (Smart Asset and Nerdwallet have simple calculators you can use to get a rough idea of what your closing costs might be.)
When making an initial offer, you have the option to ask the seller for concessions — a settlement paid in cash to help you offset your share of the closing costs. (This move is less feasible if you’re going up against multiple offers.)
Concessions effectively lower the seller’s net proceeds from the sale. Making a counteroffer that removes the concessions you would have otherwise received at settlement puts cash back in the seller’s pocket — and can improve your bid.
#7 Pick Up the Cost of the Home Warranty
Sometimes sellers offer prospective buyers a home warranty. This is a plan that covers the cost of repairing major home appliances and systems, like the air conditioner or hot water heater, if they break down within a certain period (typically a year after closing).
A basic home warranty costs about $300 to $600 a year, according to Angie’s List. If it seems like waiving the home warranty can sweeten negotiations, but you still want the peace of mind of having one, tell the seller they don’t need to cover it — then buy it yourself.
Just keep in mind, whether you or the seller buy the warranty, you’ll need to pay the service fee (typically between $50 and $100) if something does, indeed, need to be repaired while under warranty.
Also, FYI: A home warranty is entirely separate from homeowners insurance. Homeowners insurance — the security blanket that covers your home’s structure and possessions in the event of a fire, storm, flood, or other accident — is required if you take out a mortgage. It can cost anywhere from $300 to $1,000 per year.
#8 Know When to Walk
When negotiating with a seller, trust your gut — and your agent. If he or she says a deal is bad for you: Listen.
And if you don’t want to make any more trade-offs — and the seller won’t budge — it’s smart to walk. That can be a tough decision to make, and rightfully so! Negotiating is tough. It’s draining.
And losing something you’ve worked hard to get can be disappointing. But don’t worry. There’s a better deal for you out there. And after those strong feelings of frustration pass, you’ll realize: Now I know how to do this.
With the strength of the current housing market growing every day and more Americans returning to work, a faster-than-expected recovery in the housing sector is already well underway. Regardless, many are still asking the question: will we see a wave of foreclosures as a result of the current crisis?
Thankfully, research shows the number of foreclosures is expected to be much lower than what this country experienced during the last recession.
The number of those in active forbearance has been leveling-off over the past month. Of the original 4,208,000 families granted forbearance, only 2,588,000 of these homeowners got an extension. Many homeowners have once again started to pay their mortgages, paid off their homes, or never went delinquent on their payments in the first place. They may have applied for forbearance out of precaution, but never fully acted on it.
The housing market, and homeowners, therefore, are in a much better position than many may think. Much of that has to do with the fact that today’s homeowners have more equity than most realize.
Equity is growing, jobs are returning, and the economy is slowly recovering, so the perfect storm for a wave of foreclosures is not realistically in the housing market forecast.
While our hearts are with anyone who may end up in foreclosure as a result of this crisis, we do know that today’s homeowners have more options than they did 10 years ago. For some, it may mean selling their house and downsizing with that equity, which is a far better outcome than foreclosure.
Homeowners today have many options to avoid foreclosure, and equity is surely helping to keep many afloat. Even if today’s rate of foreclosures doubles, it will still only hit a mark that is more in line with a historically normalized range, a very good sign for homeowners and the housing market.