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Low Mortgage Rates, Low Prices – So Where Are The Buyers?

There’s very little debate over the fact that this is a “Buyer’s” Market” right now.  The thing is that this time around it’s a little different than in past market cycles.  There are plenty of homes to choose from, prices are low (still declining in many areas) and interest are as ever.

By all rights, there should be lots and lots of people buying houses right now.  There aren’t!  There are buyers and they are buying houses but not at the pace that the market conditions should justify.

Why not?

Here’s a short video that may be helpful in understanding part of the reason.

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Will “Shadow Inventory” Drive Home Prices Further Down?

First to start with a disclaimer: Even if the opinions and predictions in this article are 100% accurate – it does NOT mean you can’t buy or sell a home.  It just means you have to work with a Realtor who is staying on top of the dynamics in the market place.    It’s always been my feeling, in all walks of life, that most bad outcomes are the results of  “flying blind”.

———————–

We all keep waiting for the  market to hit bottom and then rebound.  That may not happen for a while – a long while according to an article from Amy Hoaks of Market Watch.

Most of the theory and forecasting in this article come from a presentation that Stan Humphries, Chief Economist from Zillow.com gave to the National Association of Realtor Estate Editors (an 80 year old organization of Real Estate Journalists) in Austin Texas earlier this month.

SUPPLY ‘N DEMAND

The gist of the forecast is, always, about inventory.  Remember the Real Estate Market runs on the very basics of Business 101 – Supply And Demand.   When inventory is down, prices go up and vice versa.

There is much data to support that inventory is going to continue to go up dramatically over the next 18 – 24 months.  Humphries proejcts than even light of the slight up-tick in the national median home sale price – there are two large sources of inventory that likely will hit the streets soon.

SHADOW INVENTORY

The first is “shadow inventory”. These are homes that banks are currently holding but have not yet put on the active market. In addition there are a lot of homeowners who have not yet been foreclosed upon but likely will be. They are way behind on payments, or they are trying to handle a loan modification, which is still difficult for them to make payments.  There doesn’t seem to be an accurate number for this but the consensus is that it’s a big one.

SIDELINED SELLERS

According to Humprhies the other large group – which he estimate to be as many as 5 million homes – are people who have been putting off selling their homes for the last couple of years as they have waited for the market.  Due the plethora of “signs” that the economy is improving slowly, many of these homeowners will put their houses on the market because they really need to move, for whatever reason.

No one really knows what’s going to happen but I think it’s important to stay as informed as possible so you can make contingency plans to handle whatever is coming.

Here is the link to Hoak’s article.

——

Rick Schwartz,   REALTOR

Homes for sale in Danbury, Bethel, Brookfield, Newtown, New Fairfield, New Milford, Ridgefield and Redding CT.

It is NOT a Good Time To Buy A House!

IT’S A GREAT TIME TO BUY —  OHHHHMMMMM

IT’S A GREAT TIME TO BUY— OHHHHMMMMM

To quote one my heroes, Simon Cowell,  “I don’t mean to be rude but….” SHUT UP ALREADY!

Yes prices are low!  Yes Interesting Rates are historically low!  Yes there’s a ton of housing inventory!

So let me qualify my opening about why everyone should not be jumping on the bandwagon and grabbing up some of the low-priced inventory with the low-interest rates.

It goes back to something that has been mercilessly pounded into our collective consciousness over the last 50 years.

REAL ESTATE IS A GREAT INVESTMENT!!!!

For many years, this was true.  In fact if you search through my blog archives you’ll find that I have taken my turn at chanting the mantra. If I were a politician, I might be called a flip flopper.

Right now – it’s NOT a great investment.  Sure we’d all love to silently hope that the RE Market is going to “cycle back to normalcy” tomorrow – or next month, or next year.  Another Cowelism – “If I’m being honest..”  there really aren’t any indicators that home prices are going to “bounce back” anytime soon.

Of course no one really knows exactly what the future brings and I’m by no means an economist but I continually read just about everything that’s out there on this subject and nothing has convinced me that you can buy a house now and watch your investment grow.

One of the things that makes me believe this has to do with the next “wave of foreclosures” that is coming in the next 9 – 18 months.

So, if that’s the case, you might ask, why did I just spend several hundred dollars and renew my Realtor’s License?

Fact is, there are people who should and will be buying homes and with the market as complex and dynamic as it is right now, those people need a guide like me who knows the ins and the outs so they can make it all the way from their current home to the next as gracefully and smoothly as possible.

So who is it that should be buying?

Glad you asked.

There is only one valid reason to be buying a home right now – if you are looking for a new place to live and plan on staying there for some time. For those people it’s a great time to buy for all the reasons above (low price, low interest tons of inventory).

So what I’m suggesting is this: Be honest with yourself. If you need a new place to live in Connecticut – give me shout and I WILL  help you find it.   If you are thinking that you should buy a house because conventional wisdom has been drilled and drilled that it’s a good investment, you may want consider buying gold.

It IS a Buyer’s Market.  That merely means that there are more sellers than there are buyer’s – it’s just supply and demand. It doesn’t mean that everyone should be buying just to buy.  If you need a house, you can get a great value – a REALLY great value – but think about the house as place to live, not as a way to make money.

Right now in Northern Fairfield County, CT there are more than 2000 Single Family Homes and Condominiums listed for sale.  They range in price from the low $100,000’s to more than $8,000,000.   So there are a lot of options.  If you have a valid reason to purchase one, I’d be excited and delighted to help you sort it all out.

———-

Rick Schwartz,   REALTOR

Homes for sale in Danbury, Bethel, Brookfield, Newtown, New Fairfield, New Milford, Ridgefield and Redding CT.

How Much Should Rising Interest Rates Influence Home Buyers?

Some of the most common questions that get asked of most Realtors are

  • Will Housing Prices continue to go down?
  • Will the appraised value of my house continue to fall?
  • Are interest rates going to stay low?

Fact is, none of us know if appraised values of houses will continue to fall or if interest rates will go up or if the market has bottomed out.

In today’s NY Times, Nelson Schwartz (no relation) did a column entitled  “Consumers in U.S. Face the End of an Era of Cheap Credit. He talks about how we as American have spent the last 30 years or so watching interest rates basically trend downward. While there certainly have been fluctuations, let’s face it, rates, in all areas of credit have significantly lower than they were in the 1970s

I can remember buying my first home in 1979.  We had a variable rate mortgage that started out at 10.5% and had the potential to go up as much as a point per year.  The lender magnanimously capped the loan so that it would never exceed 17%.   We sold that house a few years later – the rate had climbed to around 13%.

This was the norm and we didn’t really think of it as a bad thing – it was just the way it was.

Today – we’re in a huge crisis, part of which is based on the fact that some variable loans have climbed from 5%  ALL THE WAY UP to 9% or so.

Needless to say, our attitudes about interest rates have changed. Mr. Schwartz indicates that many economists are saying these days are over.   Rates have “nowhere to go but up.”

For the last 3 years mortgage rates have gone up and down between the low 5% and the mid 4% range.   At the same time home buyers have been hesitating to buy homes because they are waiting for home prices to “bottom out”.

As of right now, in most markets, home prices are still dropping a bit, so this “wait and see ” attitude is still prevalent among potential buyers.   As a Realtor, I have a number of clients who have been looking at homes with me for more than a year – or more than two years.

Here’s the thing – if you “do the math”  rising interest rates might offset any continued drop in prices.  Here’s an example.

If you were to buy a home today for $250,000 and put $25,000 down you’d be borrowing $225,000. If that loan is for 30 years at current rates of around 5% your principal an interest payments will be $1207 per month.

If you hesitate on your purchase and wait 9 months, the house might indeed go down in price.  Let’s say it drops another 5% and the you can buy the house for $237,500.   If you put the same $25,000  down, your loan would be for $212,500.   If rates go up by just 1 point – to around 6%, your monthly principal and interest will be $1308.

So – in the end, you be buying at a lower price, but paying $100 more per month – and that additional amount is not adding to your equity – it’s all in interest.

Add to that the fact that if you wait and you also have a house to sell, your home will also likely drop another 5% in price.

So – in the end, you will not only not save money by waiting – you’ll actually be paying more – maybe considerably more.

Now – no one really knows what’s going to happen.  Prices could stabilize and interest rates could drop.  It’s all about educating your self on the market conditions and making the best decision you can.

Rick Schwartz,   REALTOR

Homes for sale in Danbury, Bethel, Brookfield, Newtown, New Fairfield, New Milford, Ridgefield and Redding CT.

A Real Estate Carol: Ghosts of Prices Past, Present and Yet May Be!

January 1, 2010 1 comment

THE FOLLOWING IS BASICALLY TRUE, EXCEPT FOR THE PART THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN YET

THE NAMES HAVE BEEN CHANGED

THE NUMBERS ARE ALL ACCURATE

REALITY

John and Mary decided in the fall of 2006 to move.  The house they were in was old, and had too many steps for John’s aging knees.  They did some fixin’ up and put the place on the market in early 2007.

One of their neighbors who had a similar house two doors down had sold in the summer of 2006 and received $430K.

Their Realtor told them that prices had dropped a little in their market and they should list it at $425 and be prepared to come down a bit.  Mary and John were concerned by this.  They felt that their house was at least as nice as the neighbor’s and that they did not think they should take “a loss”.

The Realtor, who knew that they had bought the house about 10 years earlier for $325, didn’t seem to agree that if they sold for $420 it should be counted as a loss.  In fact, she said, if you sold for $420, you’d be making a considerable profit.

Mary said “But if we had sold last summer we would have gotten more!”

The Realtor said “But you didn’t sell last summer?”

Mary: “Well, should we wait until prices come back up?”

Realtor: “I can only answer that if you can tell me when they will go up?”

Mary and John:  “HMMMmmmmmm

So Mary and John listed the house for $425 and in about 45 days sold it for $415.

They bought a new house in a different town about 20 miles away.  It was actually a bigger place but because it was a little farther out from the big city, the market was priced lower.  They bought it for $375.

With only a very small mortgage left on their original house, they were able to put $300 down on the new house and mortgage $75

As we move into 2010, home prices have NOT rebounded, in fact, they’ve continued to drop.  The home they bought in 2007 is now valued at $300 based on recent sales in their new neighborhood.

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ALTERNATE REALITY

Mary said “But if we had sold last summer we would have gotten more!”

The Realtor said “But you didn’t sell last summer?”

Mary: “Well, should we wait until prices come back up?”

Realtor: “I can only answer that if you can tell me when they will go up?”

Mary and John: “HMMMmmmmmm”

So Mary and John held on to their house, waiting until the market came back.  As of the beginning of 2010 it had not, in fact, prices continued to drop.

In January of 2010 John had had it with the stairs.  He told Mary they needed to sell now – even if they had to give the place away.

So they called their Realtor who, after doing a Market Analysis, told them that their home should bring between $330 and $340.

They listed it at $349 and after 45 days sold it for $340

After looking around they found a new home in another town (the same home in the first part of the story).  They purchased it for $305.

Since they had a very small mortgage on the house they sold, they were able to put $235 down and had a mortgage of $70.

——————————

So – if you put aside unimportant things like sale price and market value – at the end of the day,  in both scenarios John and Mary leveraged the equity in their home to buy another home that they liked better – and they ended up with virtually the same situation – with one exception. In the second scenario, they stayed in the house they didn’t like for three additional years.

WHAT IF…….

The whole thing was just starting now.

  • What if you have a home that no longer fits your needs?
  • What if you decide not to sell it because you are waiting for prices to come back up?
  • What if prices don’t rise, and you stay where you are for years?
  • What if, after that time, you make a move and end up with essentially the same financial situation?

Of course, as in any good space-time continuum story, the future is unwritten. Just ask good old Ebeneezer and he’ll tell you  The Ghost of What Will Be, is actually The Ghost of What MAY Be. Prices could go up or down dramatically in the next three years.

The point, I guess, of my little fable is that if prices go up or down on the house you want to sell, they will likely go up or down proportionately on the house you want to buy – so if you want to make a move, what is it you gain by waiting?

Just some food for thought.

God Bless Us Everyone!

Ugliest House Principle – Will it help you build equity faster?

September 24, 2009 Leave a comment

A little background before we start on the subject of ugly houses.

Real Estate Markets are very, very local – so this article is based on recent experiences with clients who are buying homes in Danbury, buying homes in Bethel, buying homes in Brookfield and buying homes in New Milford.

Our MLS system in Greater Fairfield County, CT, showed 11 homes the other day with price increases.  There were many more than that where the prices are being reduced so I can’t conclude that we are now in an appreciating market but…. although they are a bit confusing there some signs out there that we may be climbing out of the bottom.

The challenge for sellers over the last few years has been coming to grips with the fact that their home isn’t worth what they would like it to be. Soon, the real challenge may be for buyers.

WAITING FOR THE PERFECT STORM – PERFECT PRICE, RATE AND HOUSE

The challenge for buyers recently, has been that they don’t want to buy until we are “AT THE BOTTOM”.  Many people, who need to move for a variety of reasons, don’t want to buy a house until they are sure that it will not continue to fall in value.

People are staying in their existing homes or apartments much longer they would probably like to because they only want to buy when their new house is going to appreciate.

IT ALL DEPENDS ON YOUR PRIORITIES

It’s all about individual preference, I suppose.  Shereen and I bought our condo in June of 2007.

It is now September, 2009 and the value of our home is down roughly 14%.   While we’d certainly like it if the value had gone up, we can’t even begin to express how much happier we are living where we do, than living where we were. It’s a much nicer, newer, bigger place and we are loving it.  Had we held out for the bottom, we’d still be living where we were – all stressed out, waiting to move until the market changed.

In the end, if we’d put off our move until today, more than 2 years later, we’d probably have sold for 15% less than we did, so we’d have spent 2 more years wanting to move and we wouldn’t have made out any better financially.

HOW WILL WE KNOW WHEN WE HIT BOTTOM

My loyal Blogosphere fans have heard me talk about “the bottom” before, specifically that we are not going to know where it is until we can see it in our rear-view mirrors.

Having said that there are many who are saying that homes in the Danbury, Brookfield, Bethel area, might just be at the bottom. The challenge with hitting the bottom, is that the turning of the market is not going to be clear cut.  It will be a series of little dips, climbs, more dips and then a steady, if slow climb.

SO – IF THE MARKET IS HEADED UP, WHAT IS THE FASTEST WAY TO GAIN EQUITY WHEN YOU BUY?

Finally – back to the topic at hand.

Lately, I’ve had a number of buyer clients who have asked me about the “Ugliest Home Principle”.    In Real Estate Lingo we call this the Principle of Progression.  The counter to it is the Principle of Regression. Here’s what they mean in simple terms.

The Principle of Progression says if you have the most modestly valued home in a neighborhood of higher priced homes, your value will move closer to the value of the higher priced homes.  In a down market, your home will drop more slowly and in an up market your home will rise more quickly.

The Principle of Regression says that if you have the highest valued home in a neighborhood of lower priced homes, your value will move closer to the more modestly priced homes.  In a down market your home will drop more quickly and in an up market your home will rise more slowly.

Before we talk about the actual financial wisdom of this, you first need to answer to yourself the following two questions.

  1. When you find this ugly, small, low value home, willl it suit your life needs in terms of size, bathrooms, bedrooms, location etc.?
  2. Will you be happy living in the ugliest, smallest, lowest value home in the neighborhood?

If you can honestly answer “YES”,  then let’s look at the principles themselves and consider if they hold true.

DO THESE PRINCIPLES ACTUALLY WORK?

The answer is that they both Progression and Regression do work – but there are a couple of caveats.

First – they work best with a new home.  If there is a neighborhood of 3000SF, 4BR 2.5 Bath Colonials on 1.5 acres and you build a 1500SF Hi-Ranch with 3BR  1.5 baths on .35 acreage, your house will likely appreciate faster than if you built the same one in a neighborhood of other modest hi-ranches.

If the neighborhood has been around for 20 years and are looking to buy that 1500SF Hi-Ranch that was built 15 years ago, you have to keep in mind  most of the Progression has already happened.  Remember, the value of the modest home gets “closer” to the value of the higher-priced homes but it they’ll never be equal. It doesn’t keep going up forever.

Secondly, let’s assume that the “ugly” home is only 5 years old and the value has gone up – here’s the catch.  The person selling the home also knows about this principle and guess what – HE wants to take the increased equity. This is not a secret plan that only you know about. So you’re not going to “trick” the seller into selling below market value and then magically gain the value from Progression.

WHY ARE YOU BUYING A NEW HOME IN THE FIRST PLACE?

As a Realtor this is the question I always ask my buyer clients to consider carefully before deciding what home to buy?

Most often, people are moving to accommodate some change in lifestyle.

  • Moving up for a growing family
  • Downsizing after empty nest syndrome kicks in
  • New job – new commute
  • Moving into a town that suits you better

or a hundred other reasons.  The thing is you have to keep those reasons in mind. If you are choosing a house for lifestyle reasons but overlay that reason with wanting to buy a house that is going to gain equity the fastest, you will have to compromise somewhere.  You can’t serve two masters and get what you want.

Pick the investment avenue or pick the lifestyle avenue and move in the direction that you think is most important to you. After narrowing down the choices, you can compare the short list in terms of the “other master” and see how close you can come.

Be true and honest with yourself about why you want to move and let your Realtor help you find the home that suits your personal needs.

Realtor Expectations – Part One: THE LISTING AGENT

NOTE:  This is a pretty long post but worth reading – print it out.

With so many Realtors to choose from, this is intended to help you look at some of the things you might want to clarify with an agent when selecting the one to sell your house.  Realtors, like any group of people, have many different styles, work ethics, and philosophies.

There are a lot of homes on the market today – some sell, some don’t.   Working with the right Realtor can definitely have an impact on which group your home falls in to.

Every Realtor should have the same objective when listing your home.   The objective, put simply, is this: To help you sell for the highest possible price, in the shortest amount of time, with the least amount of inconvenience for you.

This  objective should be the basis for everything else in the Realtor’s Strategy:  Highest – Shortest – Least  or HSL.

Every plan and every action should be geared towards one of those three components.

PRICING: A Realtor’s first responsibility to you is to help you decide the right asking price.

You agent should perform a detailed analysis for you of your local market, including sold properties, active listings, properties that did not sell, as well as information on how many homes have sold in your areas recently and the pricing trends.

Once you know the right price, it is the responsibility of the Realtor to advise you not to overprice your house.   Why  you should not overprice your home is covered in THIS POST.  The subject at hand today is that your Realtor should not be telling you what you want to hear. Brutal honesty should gets high marks.

The tendency for many sellers is to ask about listing above market value for  “a while” and then lower it if doesn’t sell.  Doing this is rarely in the best interest of the seller and usually ends up with months of anxiety and ultimately nets the seller less money for their home.  Look for a Realtor who will stand by his analysis and work with you towards HSL.  It may be the path of least resistance for a Realtor to simply go along with the client on this issue – but it may not be the best thing for the client.

MARKETING: I’ve heard it said that no one “sells” a house, people look at at and choose to buy it.  If that’s true then the key to finding that buyer is to get as many people to look at the house as possible.  Not everyone that views your home is going to want to buy it – that’s OK.  You only need one buyer.  The odds of finding that buyer are greatly increased by the Realtor’s ability to generate interest.    Ask your Realtor for his Marketing Plan.  What are the specifics thing he’ll be doing.  What will be done in the first few days, the first week, the second week.  What will be done on an ongoing basis.

How will he be promoting the home to the other Realtors in the area?   Remember, it’s the other Realtors who have the buyers.  So  while advertising your home to consumers is important, it is equally important to know the specifics of how your Realtor will be communicating with the other area Realtors – or even Realtors not in your area.  Your buyer may live  down the street or thousands of miles away.  In our area of Northern Fairfield county, there are multitudes of folks who move across the state line from NY.  How will your Realtor approach the NY Realtors with information about your listing?

Part of  the marketing plan includes preparing your home for showings.  This may include staging advice, which again calls for brutal honesty.  For certain homes, it might be appropriate to bring in a professional home stager, but  even without that there will be things that your Realtor will likely notice that will make your house more appealing to buyers.  Again, what you want here is for the Realtor to look beyond saying what’s comfortable – he needs to point out anything he notices to you that will help reach the prime objective.

In addition your Realtor should make a point of preparing marketing materials for your home that will point out “the high points” to visitors.  Remember – neither you nor your Realtor will likely be present during showings and the buyer’s Realtor does not know as much about your home as you or your own Realtor.  “Call outs” which are small signs can be placed throughout the house to draw attention to certain features.  If there’s a cedar closet for example, buyers will only see it if they open and look inside – so a small sign on the outside of the closet can help.

There are a variety of other materials that can be placed in the house, co-located with the agent sign-in sheets.  Property and subdivision maps, neighborhood information and transportation options are just a few.

FEEDBACK: Ask yourself how often you want updates from your Realtor about  “what’s going on”.   Will your Realtor provide weekly written summaries of all showings and re-showings of your house?   What is the Realtor’s plan for following up with the agents who bring buyers for showings?   With today’s electronic key boxes, your Realtor can have the capability of knowing very quickly what other Realtors showed your home.  Does he have a systematic plan to get feedback and follow up with them?

NEGOTIATION: Your Realtor should have a negotiation strategy which he goes over with you before the house is ever shown.  While he will bring you all offers and you will ultimately decide,  he should be discussing likely contingencies and options with you.  When an offer comes in, it begins a series of fast paced back and forth telephone conversations that should lead you to a successful sale. If you’ve discussed the strategy in advance, you’ll be prepared for and can come up with well thought out positions on things such as:

  • What will you do if you get a full priced offer on the first day of the listing – before you’ve had an open house?
  • What are your options if you get multiple offers?
  • How should you respond to “lowball” offers?
  • What if you get an offer form someone who has a healthy down-payment but needs an extended closing date?

None of these things should be surprises if and when they come up.

POST SALE: Once an offer is accepted, the primary point of contact will likely be your attorney but that, by no means, says that your Realtor’s responsibility is over.  Your agent should be prepared to follow up with all the various parties to make sure that everyone else is doing everything they are supposed to.  There is an old adage among sales people  that applies here:   “A salesperson’s job begins when the buyer says yes”.   Everything that happened prior to your finding a buyer will mean nothing if the deal falls through.  There are many things over which you or your Realtor have no control, but he can stay informed and at least try to avert any one of the many things that can go wrong.

SUMMARY: Generally speaking, you should choose someone you feel comfortable with but that comfort should come from you knowing that your Realtor has a plan which involved more than taking the listing and waiting for the buyers to come.