Why It Makes Sense to Sell Your House This Holiday Season

If you’re one of the many homeowners thinking about taking your house off the market for the holidays, hang on. You definitely don’t want to miss the great selling opportunity you have right now. Here’s why this month is the optimal time to make sure your house is available for holiday buyers.

The latest Existing Home Sales Report from The National Association of Realtors (NAR) shows the inventory of houses for sale has dropped to an astonishing all-time low. It now sits at a 2.5-month supply at the current sales pace.

Historically, a 6-month supply is necessary for a ‘normal’ or ‘neutral’ market, in which there are enough homes available for active buyers (See graph below):Why It Makes Sense to Sell Your House This Holiday Season | Simplifying The MarketWhen the supply of houses for sale is as low as it is today, it’s much harder for buyers to find homes to purchase. This means competition among purchasers rises and more bidding wars take place, making it essential for buyers to submit very attractive offers.

As this happens, prices rise and sellers are in the best position to negotiate deals that meet their ideal terms. So, if your neighbors decide to remove their listings this season, your house may quickly rise to the top of a holiday buyer’s wish list if you stay on the market.

Today, there are many buyers who are ready, willing, and able to purchase. Record-low mortgage rates and a year filled with unique changes have prompted buyers to think differently about where they live and to take action. The supply of homes for sale is not keeping up with this high demand, making now the optimal time to sell your house.

Bottom Line

Home prices are appreciating in today’s sellers’ market. Making your home available over the next few weeks will give you the most exposure to buyers who will be actively competing against each other to purchase it.

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Are Home Prices Headed Toward Bubble Territory?

Talk of a housing bubble is beginning to crop up as home prices have appreciated at a rapid pace this year. This is understandable since the appreciation of residential real estate is well above historic annual averages. According to the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), annual appreciation since 1991 has averaged 3.8%. Here are the latest 2020 appreciation numbers from three reliable sources:

It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that house appreciation is out of control in today’s market. However, we need to put these numbers into context first.

Inflation and the Comeback from the Housing Crash

Following the housing crash, home values depreciated dramatically from 2007-2011. Values are still recovering from that unusually long period of falling prices. We must also realize that normal inflation has had an impact.

Bill McBride, the founder of the well-respected Calculated Risk blog, recently summed it up this way:

“It has been over fourteen years since the bubble peak. In the Case-Shiller release today, the seasonally adjusted National Index, was reported as being 22.2% above the previous bubble peak. However, in real terms (adjusted for inflation), the National index is still about 2% below the bubble peak…As an example, if a house price was $200,000 in January 2000, the price would be close to $291,000 today adjusted for inflation.”

The COVID Impact on Home Prices

The pandemic caused many households to reconsider whether their current home still fulfills their lifestyle. Many homeowners now want larger yards that are both separate and private.

Their needs on the inside of the home have changed too. People now want home offices, gyms, and living rooms well-suited for video conferencing. Barbara Ballinger, a freelance writer and the author of several books on real estate, recently wrote:

“While homeowners continue to want their outdoor spaces that offer a safe retreat, that appeal has shifted into other parts of the home, coupling comfort with function. In other words, homeowners want amenities for work and leisure, and they plan to enjoy them long after the pandemic.”

At the same time, concerns about the pandemic have caused many homeowners to put their plans to sell on hold. Realtor.com just released their November Monthly Housing Market Trends Report. It explains:

“Nationally, the inventory of homes for sale decreased 39.2% over the past year in November…This amounted to 490,000 fewer homes for sale compared to November of last year.”

More people buying and fewer people selling has caused home prices to escalate. However, with a vaccine on the horizon, more homeowners will be putting their houses on the market. This will better balance supply with demand and slow down the rapid appreciation.

That’s why major organizations in the housing industry are calling for much more moderate home appreciation next year. Here are the most recent forecasts for 2021:

This Is Nothing Like 2006

Finally, let’s put to rest some of the concerns that today’s scenario is anything like what led up to the last housing crash. Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist at the National Association of Realtors (NAR), explains why this is nothing like 2006:

“Such a frenzy of activity, reminiscent of 2006, raises questions about a bubble and the potential for a painful crash. The answer: There’s no comparison. Back in 2006, dubious adjustable-rate mortgages taxed many buyers’ budgets. Some loans didn’t even require income documentation. Today, buyers are taking out 30-year fixed-rate mortgages. Fourteen years ago, there were 3.8 million homes listed for sale, and home builders were putting up about 2 million new units. Now, inventory is only about 1.5 million homes, and home builders are underproducing relative to historical averages.”

Bottom Line

Most aspects of life have been anything but normal in 2020. That includes buying and selling real estate. High demand coupled with restricted supply has caused home prices to appreciate above historic levels. With the end of the health crisis in sight, we will see price appreciation return to more normal levels next year.

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An Honest Look at Unemployment Numbers

Last Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the November Jobs Report. It revealed that, though headed in the right direction, the nation’s job recovery has slowed. The consensus reaction is best exemplified by a quote from Glassdoor Senior Economist, Daniel Zhao:

“We saw positive job gains, but I think the sentiment is largely negative because we know that we’re heading into a dark winter.”

There’s no doubt that millions of households have been – and continue to be -devastated by the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.

We should, however, put the current situation into perspective. Where we currently stand is much better than where most experts thought we would be at this time. Jed Kolko, Chief Economist of Indeed, explained in his State of the Labor Market that, though the situation is not good, we’re doing better than original expectations:

“Though the labor market rebound is incomplete, it has nevertheless surpassed expectations. In May, after payrolls plunged and unemployment spiked, the Wall Street Journal panel of economic forecasters projected unemployment would be over 11% in December 2020 and not fall below 7% until the first half of 2022 — a milestone already passed in October.”

With the announcement that vaccines should be available soon, we’re not far from the most damaged segments of the economy gaining momentum again.

Jeff Sparshott of the Wall Street Journal recently wrote:

“Even with signs of a recent slowdown, the labor-market recovery since this spring has been stronger than most economists expected. Many now project widespread vaccine distribution will eventually help lift the economy further as businesses are allowed to reopen and consumers feel more comfortable traveling, going to the movies.”

Bottom Line

Though millions of Americans are still out of work, the situation was forecasted to be even direr than it is today. Once a vaccine becomes available, the economy should complete its comeback, and so should the labor market.

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How Remote Work Can Power Your Vacation Home Sale

This year, the opportunity to work remotely has increased the demand for vacation homes. Gay Cororaton, Senior Economist and Director of Housing and Commercial Research at the National Association of Realtors (NAR), notes:

“Working from home is a positive factor in demand for vacation homes.”

Buyers are taking advantage of the fact that working from home might be someplace other than their primary residence – at the beach, in the mountains, or somewhere in between. NAR explains:

Sales in vacation-home counties increased 48% on average year over year in the third quarter; overall, 81% of vacation-home counties saw a year-over-year sales increase.”

Is it Time to Sell Your Vacation Home?

If you’ve been thinking about selling your vacation home, putting it on the market now while demand is high might be your best move. Here are two reasons why.

1. Vacation Homes Are Selling Quickly

These homes are not staying in the market for very long. NAR also notes:

In September, 68% of vacation homes sold in less than a month. Historically, about 30% sell that quickly…It’s a pretty amazing uptick compared to past years.”

2. Home Prices Are Rising

With an increase in demand, prices go up. NAR continues:

“In the third quarter, prices in vacation-home counties rose by about 32% year over year. Seventy-nine percent of these counties experienced year-over-year price gains. NAR defines a vacation-home county as one in which seasonal housing accounts for at least 20% of stock.”

If your vacation home is sitting idle, maybe not attracting as many renters as you usually see, or if you simply want to sell it so you can trade up or take it off your worry list, now may be the time. Demand is high, so you’re in the ideal spot to get a stronger return on your investment today.

Bottom Line

Demand is on the rise, so let’s discuss your next steps when it comes to selling your vacation home.

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A New Way to Shop for Homes in a Virtual World

In a year when we’re learning to do so much remotely, homebuying is no exception. From going to work to attending school, grocery shopping, and even seeing our doctors online, digital practices have changed the way we live.

This year, rather than delaying their home purchases, buyers – alongside their trusted real estate professionals – turned to the Internet to do more than just a typical home search. In some cases, they bought homes without even stepping foot inside. Jessica Lautz, Vice President of Demographics and Behavioral Insights at the National Association of Realtors (NAR), says:

“People really didn’t buy houses sight-unseen, traditionally. It’s still not a huge number, but it has gone up, and we have definitely seen that trend accelerate.”

According to NAR, throughout the coronavirus pandemic, one in every 20 homebuyers purchased a house sight-unseen.

How Your Real Estate Agent Will Pave the Way

Today, real estate professionals are using digital practices to help homebuyers and sellers walk through many steps in the process virtually. While following the regulations set forth by the CDC and all local guidelines, this year, agents quickly empowered buyers and sellers with virtual tours, 3D floor plans, high-quality photos, videos, online open houses, and more. For those who had homebuying and selling needs in 2020, trusted advisors made it possible in many markets.

Here’s a graph showing some of the digital options buyers found most helpful in their searches this year, as noted by NAR in the 2020 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers:A New Way to Shop for Homes in a Virtual World | Simplifying The MarketThe report also mentions that buyers this year generally searched for eight weeks. Throughout that search, they viewed a median of 9 homes, but not all of them were seen in-person. Yahoo Finance notes:

Buyers viewed five homes online and four homes in-person during the pandemic, compared to nine homes in-person in 2019, according to NAR. This was the first year NAR asked buyers to specify the number of homes toured virtually.”

In true 2020 fashion, virtual practices helped buyers safely narrow down their top choices, so they didn’t have to unnecessarily walk into more homes than they needed to see throughout the process. Here’s the breakdown by region:A New Way to Shop for Homes in a Virtual World | Simplifying The MarketAt a time when health and safety are top priorities, current technology is making it possible for buyers and sellers to move their real estate plans forward at their own comfort levels, even through a worldwide pandemic. For many, this means buyers no longer have to physically tour every home they want to see, and sellers don’t need to open their doors over and over again throughout the process. Safety can come first, and trusted real estate professionals are here to help.

Bottom Line

If you’re ready to make a move, you may not have to press pause on your plans this season. Let’s connect to determine the safe and effective options to buy or sell a home in our area or wherever you’re looking to move.

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With Home Values Surging, Is it Still Affordable to Buy Right Now?

Housing inventory is at an all-time low. Realtor.com just reported that there are 39% fewer homes for sale today than there were last year. At the same time, buyer demand remains strong. In a recent newsletter, research analyst Ivy Zelman explained:

“Although the headwind of severe supply constraints in most markets has contributed to slight moderation in seasonally-adjusted and year-over-year new pending contract growth for two consecutive months (albeit still growing strongly), the underlying strength of buyer demand, particularly for this time of year, remains apparent.”

Whenever there’s a shortage in the supply of an item that’s in high demand, the price of that item increases. That’s exactly what’s happening in the real estate market right now. As a result, home values are surging.

This is great news if you’re planning to sell your house. On the other hand, as either a first-time or repeat buyer, this may instead seem like troubling news. Purchasers, however, should realize that the price of a house is not as important as the monthly cost. Here’s how it breaks down.

There are several factors that influence the cost of a home. Two of the major ones are:

  1. The price of the home
  2. The mortgage rate at which a buyer can borrow the funds necessary to purchase the home

How do these factors impact affordability?

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) produces a Housing Affordability Index which takes these factors into account and determines an overall affordability score for housing. According to NAR, the index:

“…measures whether or not a typical family earns enough income to qualify for a mortgage loan on a typical home at the national and regional levels based on the most recent price and income data.”

Their methodology states:

“To interpret the indices, a value of 100 means that a family with the median income has exactly enough income to qualify for a mortgage on a median-priced home. An index above 100 signifies that family earning the median income has more than enough income to qualify for a mortgage loan on a median-priced home, assuming a 20 percent down payment.”

So, the higher the index, the more affordable it is to purchase a home. Here’s a graph of the index going back to 1990:With Home Values Surging, Is it Still Affordable to Buy Right Now? | Simplifying The MarketThe blue bar represents today’s affordability. We can see that homes are more affordable now than they were from:

  • 1990 to 2008
  • 2017 to 2018

Buying a home today is just a little less affordable than it was last year, but still very affordable compared to historical housing market trends.

Note: During the housing crash from 2009 to 2015, distressed properties (foreclosures and short sales) dominated the market. Those properties were sold at large discounts not seen before in the housing market.

Why are homes still affordable today?

The number one factor impacting today’s homebuying affordability is record-low mortgage rates. There’s no doubt that prices are on the rise. However, mortgage rates have fallen dramatically. Last week, Freddie Mac announced that the average interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was 2.72%. Last year at this time, the average rate was 3.68%.

If you’re considering purchasing your first home or moving up to the one you’ve always hoped for, it’s important to understand how affordability plays into the overall cost of your home. With that in mind, buying while mortgage rates are as low as they are now may save you quite a bit of money over the life of your home loan.

Bottom Line

At this point, home purchase affordability is still in a historically good place. However, we need to watch price increases going forward. As Mark Fleming, Chief Economist at First American, noted in a recent post:

“Faster nominal house price appreciation can erode, or even eliminate, the boost in affordability from lower mortgage rates, especially if household income growth doesn’t keep up.”

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It Pays to Sell with a Real Estate Agent [INFOGRAPHIC]

It Pays to Sell with a Real Estate Agent [INFOGRAPHIC] | Simplifying The Market

Some Highlights

  • Today, it’s more important than ever to have an expert you trust to guide you as you sell your house.
  • From your safety throughout the process to the complexity of negotiating the deal, you need a professional on your side.
  • Before you decide to take on the challenge of selling your house on your own, let’s connect to discuss your options.

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Chances of Another Foreclosure Crisis? “About Zero Percent.”

There seems to be some concern that the 2020 economic downturn will lead to another foreclosure crisis like the one we experienced after the housing crash a little over a decade ago. However, there’s one major difference this time: a robust forbearance program.

During the housing crash of 2006-2008, many felt homeowners should be forced to pay their mortgages despite the economic hardships they were experiencing. There was no empathy for the challenges those households were facing. In a 2009 Wall Street Journal article titled Is Walking Away From Your Mortgage Immoral?, John Courson, Chief Executive of the Mortgage Bankers Association, was asked to comment on those not paying their mortgage. He famously said:

“What about the message they will send to their family and their kids?”

Courson suggested that people unable to pay their mortgage were bad parents.

What resulted from that lack of empathy? Foreclosures mounted.

This time is different. There was an immediate understanding that homeowners were faced with a challenge not of their own making. The government quickly jumped in with a mortgage forbearance program that relieved the financial burden placed on many households. The program allowed many borrowers to suspend their monthly mortgage payments until their economic condition improved. It was the right thing to do.

What happens when forbearance programs expire?

Some analysts are concerned many homeowners will not be able to make up the back payments once their forbearance plans expire. They’re concerned the situation will lead to an onslaught of foreclosures.

The banks and the government learned from the challenges the country experienced during the housing crash. They don’t want a surge of foreclosures again. For that reason, they’ve put in place alternative ways homeowners can pay back the money owed over an extended period of time.

Another major difference is that, unlike 2006-2008, today’s homeowners are sitting on a record amount of equity. That equity will enable them to sell their houses and walk away with cash instead of going through foreclosure.

Bottom Line

The differences mentioned above will be the reason we’ll avert a surge of foreclosures. As Ivy Zelman, a highly respected thought leader for housing and CEO of Zelman & Associates, said:

“The likelihood of us having a foreclosure crisis again is about zero percent.”

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Homes for Sale Are Rapidly Disappearing

Through all the challenges of 2020, the real estate market has done very well, and purchasers are continuing to take advantage of historically low mortgage rates. Realtor Magazine just explained:

“While winter may be typically a slow season in real estate, economists predict it isn’t likely to happen this year…Low inventories combined with high demand due to record-low mortgage rates is sending buyers to the market in a flurry.”

However, one challenge for the housing industry heading into this winter is the dwindling number of homes available for sale. Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist for the National Association of Realtors (NAR), recently said:

“There is no shortage of hopeful, potential buyers, but inventory is historically low.”

In addition, Danielle Hale, Chief Economist for realtor.com, notes:

“Fewer new sellers coming to market while a greater than usual number of buyers continue to search for a home causes inventory to continue to evaporate.”

One major indicator the industry uses to measure housing supply is the months’ supply of inventory. According to NAR:

“Months’ supply refers to the number of months it would take for the current inventory of homes on the market to sell given the current sales pace.”

Historically, six months of supply is considered a normal real estate market. Going into the pandemic, inventory was already well below this mark. As the year progressed, the supply has was reduced even further. Here is a graph showing this measurement over the last year:Homes for Sale Are Rapidly Disappearing | Simplifying The Market

What does this mean if you’re a buyer?

Be patient during your home search. It may take time to find a home you love. Once you do, be ready to move forward quickly. Get pre-approved for a mortgage, be prepared to make a competitive offer from the start, and understand how the shortage in inventory has led to more bidding wars. Calculate just how far you’re willing to go to secure a home if you truly love it.

What does this mean if you’re a seller?

Realize that, in some ways, you’re in the driver’s seat. When there’s a shortage of an item at the same time there’s a strong demand for it, the seller is in a good position to negotiate. Whether it’s the price, moving date, possible repairs, or anything else, you’ll be able to ask for more from a potential purchaser at a time like this – especially if you have multiple interested buyers. Do not be unreasonable, but understand you probably have the upper hand.

Bottom Line

The housing market will remain strong throughout the winter and heading into the spring. Know what that means for you, whether you’re buying, selling, or doing both.

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Why Working from Home May Spark Your Next Move

If you’ve been working from home this year, chances are you’ve been at it a little longer than you initially expected. Businesses all over the country have figured out how to operate remotely to keep their employees healthy, safe, and productive. For many, it may be carrying into next year, and possibly beyond.

While the pandemic continues, Americans are re-evaluating their homes, floorplans, locations, needs, and more. Some need more space, while others need less. Whether you’re renting or own your home, if remote work is part of your future, you may be thinking about moving, especially while today’s mortgage rates are so low.

A recent study from Upwork notes:

“Anywhere from 14 to 23 million Americans are planning to move as a result of remote work.”

To put this into perspective, last year, 6 million homes were sold in the U.S. This means roughly 2 – 4X as many people are considering moving now, and there’s a direct connection to their ability to work from home.

The same study also notes while 45.3% of people are planning to stay within a 2-hour drive from their current location, 41.5% of the people who are citing working from home as their primary reason for making a move are willing to look for a home more than 4 hours away from where they live now (See graph below):Why Working from Home May Spark Your Next Move | Simplifying The MarketIn some cases, moving a little further away from your current location might mean you can get more home for your money. If you have the opportunity to work remotely, you may have more options available by expanding your search. Upwork also indicates, of those surveyed:

“People are seeking less expensive housing: Altogether, more than half (52.5%) are planning to move to a house that is significantly more affordable than their current home.”

Whether you can eliminate your daily commute to the office, or you simply need more space to work from home, your plans may be changing. If that’s the case, it’s time to connect with a local real estate professional to assess your evolving needs and determine your path together.

Bottom Line

This has been a year of change, and what you need in a home is no exception. Let’s connect today to make sure you have expert guidance on your side to help you find a home that fits your remote work needs.

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