Home Buying · home selling · Uncategorized

I had other plans for this week’s post…

Next week I’ll give you another neighborhood profile – I’m excited about my small town series, and I have one I love and plan to talk about, but this week I’m going to beat a dead horse a bit and talk some more about what is happening in the real estate market in the Twin Cities metro area. I don’t usually do “market update” posts or videos on my YouTube channel, but the fact of the matter is that right now I’m actively helping 6 buyers try to navigate this market and I want to share a bit of how we look at the market and measure it and then also show you what that means for the Twin Cities right now.

I swear … it was this big!

I feel like anecdotal evidence about how many offers a listing gets, how fast something sells or how far over list price the offers are is shocking at times or maybe sounds like a fish tale that we like to tell – “the big one that got away” kind of thing. Stories are great and interesting, but in this post I want to talk about DATA. Weee! Exciting!

Not exciting? Well, I disagree. I think this tells a very clear story and because it looks at the entire market and then breaks it down by price it might tell the story in a way that makes sense in a different way to more people. This is the WHY behind the HOW that I’ve talked about before when I’ve done videos/posts about making the best offer.

How DATA tells you if it is a buyer or a seller’s market: Meet the “Absorption Rate”

These are my words, not something from a real estate dictionary somewhere.

When we look at a market and try to decide who it favors we look at the number of active listings available in a 30 day period and then look at the sales. It’s a ratio. But the way that I think is easiest to visualize this ratio is as the “absorption rate”. This rate shows us how long it would take for ALL houses actively listed to be sold if NO OTHER homes were put on the market during that time.

We are measuring time in months for this exercise, and the magic number of months where REALTORS feel that the market is in balance is 5 (not set in stone, some argue for 6 months etc). This means that when it would take 5 months for every home to be sold should no other homes be listed, the market does not favor either a buyer OR a seller.

Any number smaller than 5 indicates a sellers market. The smaller the number the more it favors sellers. This works in the converse as well, the LARGER the number over 5 the more the market favors buyers.

What is the Twin Cities absorption rate today?

Emphasis on TODAY because this rate changes seasonally and with market forces – I’ll talk a bit about what those are too.

The current absorption rate for the Twin Cities metro is 0.86. LESS than one month’s supply of homes. Very much in the favor of the seller. And it is not getting better – in the past 6 weeks the rate has consistently decreased from 1.32 the first week of January to where we are today.

The last half of 2020 was a crazy market, due to Covid hitting in spring and the uncertainty that brought with it there was a lull in what would typically be the busy spring market, but once everyone got their bearings it was off to the races and it never really slowed, even during the holidays. Add extremely low interest rates into the mix (under 3% for a pretty extended stretch), and a bubble of Gen Y aging into home ownership and bumping up what was already high demand from buyers, and things have just not cooled at all. All of this to say we sold a LOT of homes last year and possibly ate into what would have been inventory for this year. January 2021 started with 38% FEWER listings than we had in January 2020.

Supply continues to drop, particularly in the under $300K price range where new listings are down 15% YTD. The over all market YTD has 6.9% fewer listings. If you’ve taken any economics classes at all you’ll know that price is a function of supply and demand. We have low supply and high demand and that is pushing prices higher as people bid against each other for homes.

Absorption rate by price point

The best way to show this is to give you a screen shot of the table that we looked at in our data meeting this week. I love this table because it breaks it out by general price points and you can see the trend over the past 9-10 months for each. You’ll notice that higher price points have slightly looser markets because there are fewer buyers that can manage those budgets. I do think that the $500-$1M may need to be broken up a bit because at $500K there is still a quite a large bubble of buyers that are able to enter the market and compete for homes at that price. There may be a break closer to the mid $600’s where the ratio gets closer to 1.4, but I think $500 is still quite competitive.

credit to Tim Sipprell who pulled this together for our office
baby data geek

So, that is the data geek light version of the market at this point in time in the Twin Cities. An opportunity again for me to encourage you to be as prepared as you possibly can be before you enter the fray. You really need to be in the best position possible if you want to land at the top of the heap when you get into this market.

Let me know if you have questions… 🙂

Uncategorized

The hard truth…

I did a video about winning as a buyer in a seller’s market last summer. I thought it was bad then. I was right, but I was wrong. I really didn’t conceive of how much harder things would get for buyers and I have all of my fingers and toes crossed hoping that it gets easier soon for buyers – I represent a LOT of them and it can be really hard to keep trying and not succeeding.

The only way that it will get easier is if more people decide to put their homes on the market. If you have been thinking about listing your home – now is the time! You may not even need to show it.

New construction is an option for people that want to buy, but at the same time demand for that is very high as well and they will be happy to take a contract now and begin to dig… in September, October or later.

Right now you have something like a 65% chance of NOT having your offer accepted right now. And that is if you’re in a GOOD position and well qualified and throw everything you have at it.

It’s come to this.

At our team meeting today we were talking about this subject and people are saying things like “37 offers”, “25 offers”, on a single listing in a couple of days. How can you possibly win in a situation like that? Sellers are looking at a spreadsheet of offers – what will make YOURS stand out in this crowd? List price isn’t going to do it.

Someone in my office said that one of the questions they now ask every buyer is “what can you bring to the table that no one else can? What will make YOU stand out?” At a certain point you can’t throw any more money at the problem and you have to get creative.

Examples that she gave of things that made sellers select their offer over others were tickets to a Packers game, a weekend at their cabin, etc.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

I know this ridiculous on some level, like … this should be about getting a fair price and good terms for a home. It should not be the Hunger Games. But it IS the Hunger Games. If you understand this going in, you may have a shot at winning instead of making offer after offer and NOT winning, growing discouraged and frustrated and possibly homeless in the process.

The seller holds all the cards.

Price

When you make an offer on a property there will be several things that you’ll have to decide on, and I’ll give you a list of the fundamentals but you have to go beyond that. In a balanced market or in a buyers market you would not have to throw absolutely everything at the wall to see what actually sticks, but we are in a market that is so firmly in the seller’s favor that you have to ask yourself “what am I NOT willing to do to get this property?”

In this market, the price is not the price. The price is the floor. If you find a magical property with no other offers you may be able to get away with list price. When I think I have found one of these I STILL encourage an escalation clause that will bump my buyer’s offer over the net price of the next highest offer in the event that one (or more) come in between when we submit it and when they evaluate the offer.

So understand what the maximum amount of money you are willing to pay for a property and then put that number in there and know that if you do not get the property you did AS MUCH as you could price-wise, and price is the number one consideration, but it isn’t everything!

Earnest money

In Minnesota, it is normal and typical to give 1% of purchase price for earnest money. In this market you want to demonstrate seriousness by giving MORE. You can pick a lump sum, or decide on a percentage. In normal circumstances this is refundable if the purchase agreement is cancelled because it doesn’t meet a contingency – inspection or financing or something else.

Some clients are designating an amount as NON-REFUNDABLE.

Financing

There is no offer without a pre-approval from a reputable bank. Not a pre-qualification – a pre-approval! Without some sort of statement that you can execute on the contract your offer will be placed directly into the trash bin.

The MOST desired form of financing is CONVENTIONAL. The reason for this is that there are no FHA or VA appraisers that may find inspection issues with a home. It’s one less potential hurdle to a successful closing.

Conventional financing has some misconceptions – many people think that means that you have to have 20% down. You do NOT have to have a 20% downpayment to get conventional financing. Talk to a loan officer about what your options are.

Speaking of downpayment, having a large one available is also a bonus. It shows financial health and stability and again gives the seller a feeling of comfort that the sale will actually close.

Not everyone can do it, but if you can, a cash deal carries weight! It’s one less contingency that has to be cleared before the transaction can close. If you do have the means, you will include proof of funds with your offer in the form of a statement or a screen shot of an account with the relevant account numbers removed from the image.

Close Date

Sometimes this is an important criteria for a seller, and if you have the flexibility to be able to meet that sate, it is certainly a factor.

Written statement

A purchase agreement has an option to indicate that the lender will supply a written statement to the seller that the loan is basically approved and ready to go. Having this in your offer is another thing that the listing agent will be looking for, not having that is a point of weakness.

Inspection

This is a biggie.

Inspection periods are being reduced to very short time periods – 3 to 5 days instead of what was typically 10 as recently as one year go.

Buyers are waiving inspection, OR putting in writing that they will not ask for any repairs under x$ in value. You’re taking that risk either mostly or entirely off the seller. I would be selective on the homes that I chose to do this on if it were me buying. Some homes give a relative sense of comfort, while others you walk into and just feel that there is work that probably needs to be done. If the surface isn’t good, the subsurface likely isn’t much better.

A question to ask yourself when considering inspections and their value to you as a home buyer is to think about what information they give you and what would make you walk away from the home?

Home inspections can give you a certain amount of information, but even they are not a guarantee that the home will be problem free. It’s a status check. Do the appliances work they way they should, do the mechanicals? How is the roof? Is there anything frightening about the electrical? The inspector is looking for health and safety concerns.

If the inspector found that the the electrical needed a $1000 fix, would you walk away or would it take more than that?

If they find that the dishwasher works but is on it’s last legs and needs replacing soon, would that be enough? (If so, you’re probably not buying the right property).

I’m saying this because if you waive inspection and find a $1000 or a $5000 fix after you move in, will you still be happy you bought the home or will you regret your purchase?

If it means that you will not get the home if you’re in competition with someone that removes this contingency are you ok with that?

Appraisal

Because list price is basically the floor right now, sellers are getting large sums of money over asking price and that raises questions about meeting appraisal value if the home is being financed.

In the past, buyers and sellers would either meet somewhere in the middle or the seller may reduce their price, that is no longer the case.

Now buyers need to give a guarantee that they can make up the difference in cash if the appraisal comes in low. This is one reason why a high down payment is important, if it comes down to it, the amount financed can be higher and that money can be used to make up the difference on the appraisal.

Many of my sales in the past year have had appraisals waived by the bank because they can see that the value of the home is there by looking at neighborhood statistics, but if the other sales don’t support this an appraisal will still happen.

On listings, I have provided appraisers with copies of back-up offers that support the price that the buyers are getting. We work together to make sure that important information is shared.

Common Interest Community Recision Period

In Minnesota, if you’re buying a into a neighborhood that has an HOA, you are entitled to a 10 day right of recision period from the point at which you have received the last HOA document. On a recent offer the agent came back and said that not only did they want inspection waived but they wanted it in writing that the right of recision on the docs would be reduced to 3 days instead of 10.

Closing Costs

In a BUYER’S market, we often ask for a seller to contribute to the buyer’s closing costs. That is a NO right now, the only way it could exist at all is to raise the offer price to cover that difference. In fact, on a listing that I had the BUYER paid the SELLER’S government closing fees. No one had ever heard of this before and now I’m seeing agents mention it all the time.

Home Warranty

This one… well, a home warranty is a 500-700 dollars, it’s not something that you’ll want to ask a seller for at this point. One thing you can do is purchase one of your own.

So! That is the hard truth about buying in this market. Are you ready to get in the mix? Or better yet – thinking of selling? Now is the time – YOU dictate the terms.

Home Buying · Uncategorized

Getting a win in a seller’s market…

oh my gosh… being a buyer right now is like being thrown into the Gladiator pit. It. Is TOUGH. During our team meeting the other day agents that have been at this for many many years are saying that this is the roughest market for buyers that they have EVER seen.

I thought it was crazy last summer. And then I think everyone kind of held their breath and hoped that one “positive” of having a pandemic may be a bit more balance in the housing market. It has not happened.

So, if you want to buy a home in the Twin Cities metro, there are things you need to know and understand up front before you innocently walk into the pit thinking you can take your time, or not be prepared, or ask for seller concessions. Just for fun I’m going to post some screen shots of a discussion we recently had on our office facebook group – a bunch of agents discussing what it’s like representing buyers right now. Hold onto your hats! Horror stories coming!

So what is a buyer to do? Well, I am going to tell you!

  1. FINANCES. The most important thing you can do is to be pre-approved for a loan. Know what you can afford and have proof in the form of a letter that you can attach to a purchase agreement. In addition to this, know that a conventional loan with a decent downpayment or a cash offer are far more attractive to sellers than an FHA loan or another that puts requirements on the seller and indicates that credit may not be as clean as it could be.
  2. SPEED. Do not use one of the big search engines to find a home. Zillow and others are notoriously inaccurate and will not have updated info available in a timely manner. Your agent will set up a search that reflects exactly what YOU want and can set it to send the listings to you immediately. Speed is very important! If you can be the first one to see a listing (or have your agent see it and do a virtual showing as I often do) and put in your offer you are far better off than coming in to a multiple offer situation.
  3. CLEAN. Have as few contingencies as possible. What is a contingency? Well, it’s any barrier to closing the deal. If you have another home to sell, have to get approved for financing, want the home to pass an inspection, etc. Your best bet is to have your financing ready, be able to perform on the purchase of the home without needing to sell, and make your inspection contingency as light as possible. If there are contingencies related to selling a home, you MUST have a contract on that home already and a close date to add to the contract.
  4. CLOSING COSTS. the best approach is to plan to pay them and not ask for seller contribution OR ask for very little, possibly with the sale price elevated to account for it, essentially rolling them into the mortgage. The big catch here is that you’ll pay interest on them over time and the house needs to appraise for the amount you offer if you’re getting a loan.
  5. SKIN IN THE GAME. Earnest money. Here in MN we typically do 1% of the sale price as earnest money. Earnest money is your good faith deposit on a home. If you increase the size of this deposit it shows that you are more serious about the property, and some are even stipulating that all or part will be non-refundable to the buyer for a home that is particularly desirable and in multiple offers. It shows a seriousness about the offer and is a tempting carrot for the seller to know they will get at least X$.
  6. INSPECTION. Make your inspection period shorter if possible. Typical has been 10 days and I really work to still get that for my clients because I work with a lot of relocation clients and traveling to MN or arranging for inspection remedy long distance can be a challenge. That said, sellers want to have a good idea if a deal will go through or if they should take the next offer as quickly as possible so that they do not have wasted days on market without the potential to sell to someone else.
  7. INSPECTION PART II. Request only health and safety remedies. If things are functioning but not brand new, that is acceptable. No house is perfect. EVERY house has flaws, even brand spanking new ones. One of the best favors you can do for yourself is to get the inspection as early in the inspection period as possible. This is important for a couple of reasons: 1.) if the house doesn’t come near to passing inspection in your opinion, you can exit the transaction and be on to the next one as soon as possible and 2.) if you request remedies, there is time to work with the seller on it and not be forced into a corner. What I mean is that if you get an inspection on the last day of the period and require remedies (fixes), if the seller doesn’t respond to that request by the end of the period your options are to a.) accept the original agreement as written (no fixes) OR b.) cancel the agreement entirely. In this market that favors sellers 100% because they likely have another offer waiting and are fine with a cancellation.
  8. MOVE IN DATE. From a risk perspective, you always want to take possession of the home at closing. However, your best option for getting to that point is knowing what the preferred closing date is for the seller if you have any wiggle room at all. Many of them are being cast into the same pit to find a home and may need some extra time to do so, knowing their preferences up front may sweeten the deal for them because having that uncertainty may be worth more than money.
  9. *LETTER. This one can be a tipping point or make no difference whatsoever. If you write a letter to the seller telling them why you love their home and neighborhood and how you look forward to caring for it and enjoying it in the way that they have. Avoid mentioning anything to do with protected groups and focus on what you love about the house and area and what made you pick that home. Most people have some emotional attachment to their home and want to feel that they are passing it on to someone who will care for it.