This article was written by Aubray Erhardt for the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors (MAAR) website. It can be read in its original setting here.
With the spring market officially underway, both buyer and seller activity rose in March 2016 compared to last March. Buyers signed 5,861 new purchase agreements, pushing pending sales up a respectable 12.6 percent. Would-be sellers were still concerned about their ability to secure their next property in this competitive environment, so new listings only increased 0.5 percent. Hence, supply levels remained near 13-year lows. Compared to last March, inventory levels fell 20.6 percent to 11,893 active properties. Prices continued their disciplined trek back towards levels last seen 10 years ago. The median sales price rose 5.7 percent from last March to land at $222,000. Median list price, by contrast, has already reached and exceeded its previous record, perhaps an indication that the median sales price could do the same this year.
Buyers came out swinging with strong offers in March. Sellers accepted offers closer to their list price, as the percent of original list price received at sale was up to 96.7 percent. Homes tended to sell in less time, with cumulative days on market declining 17.5 percent to 85 days. Months supply of inventory fell 28.6 percent to 2.5 months—the third lowest figure on record going back to 2003. Generally, five to six months of supply is considered a balanced market. While the metropolitan area as a whole is favoring sellers, not all areas, segments or price points necessarily reflect that.
“Between new loan applications and anecdotal evidence, we knew this spring would be another big one for buyers,” said Judy Shields, Minneapolis Area Association of REALTORS® (MAAR) President. “The small gain in seller activity was nice, but it falls well short of the supply levels needed to sustain the demand we’re seeing. That should be motivating for sellers, but it’s still important to understand that your home needs to be priced right.”
It’s also useful to assess specific area and segment performance, since no single property spans the entire metro area nor all market segments and price points. The percentage of sales that were foreclosure or short sale fell to 13.4 percent while traditional pending sales rose 16.2 percent. Single-family homes continued to dominate sales volume, even though townhomes had the strongest increase in closed sales compared to last March, followed by condos. Previously-owned sales had a stronger performance than new construction. Sales activity in the $200,000 and below range declined 13.8 percent while sales activity between $200,000 and $300,000 rose 10.5 percent and activity above $300,000 rose 3.4 percent. Cities with the highest median home price include North Oaks, Orono, Edina, Plymouth, Chanhassen and Minnetonka.
The national unemployment rate ticked up to 5.0 percent in March—reflecting more confident job-hunters actively seeking work. The most recent wage data is also encouraging—a positive factor that could offset declining affordability brought on by rising prices. Locally, the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics figures show the Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington metropolitan area was among the top eight metros with the lowest unemployment rate. The 30-year fixed mortgage rate is about 3.7 percent compared to a long-term average of about 8.0 percent. Rates took a surprising dive after the Federal Reserve announced the first hike last year. Nevertheless, marginally higher rates are expected in 2016.
“Serious buyers should be prepared to make their strongest offer right up front this spring,” said Cotty Lowry, MAAR President-Elect. “Traffic at open houses is as strong as I can recall, which makes additional options on the supply side of the equation that much more critical.”
Today’s real estate market is in the middle of the spring selling season, and many homes are receiving multiple offers very quickly. So how can you gain an advantage when the home you want has multiple offers? Here are six strategies that will give you an edge in a bidding war.
First and foremost, ask your real estate agent for advice! Good agents have knowledge of the market and selling season that can help you make an informed decision.
Sometimes, it’s best to play it safe and give the sellers what they’re asking for, either regarding price, closing deadlines, or both. Renegotiating prices too aggressively after an inspection can be a deal breaker, so ask your agent for their advice!
It’s not just enough to know for yourself that you can afford a home; you need to be able to prove it to others, too. Assembling a robust financial package is a key step in buying any home, but it is especially important when multiple offers are pending. Getting pre-approved for a loan will show that your finances are secure, and getting approval from an underwriter can lend extra credibility to your offer. If possible, pay cash!
If the home is being sold by a bank, it often sells to the first offer that comes in. But speed is important when you’re buying from the homeowners as well: it shows you are serious, and can create momentum in your favor before other offers come in. Once you’ve made your offer, go further! Include a copy of the earnest money check, and include a history of your agent’s deal timelines to show that the process will go quickly.
If you offer too low and get out-bid, you don’t want to regret that the offer you submitted wasn’t the best you could do. Conversely, you don’t want to over-bid with an offer that you might regret later. This is why it’s important to know the home’s condition and consider the current market value so you know when it’s best to walk away. It’s also a good reason to search for homes priced below your absolute maximum price limit, because you can counter-offer with confidence if you find yourself in a bidding war.
Nobody wins every bidding war! Take what you learn from a loss and add it to your bag of tricks for the next time.
The 2016 real estate market is in full force! Last week, Wendy conducted the first of many buyer/seller seminars for 2016, this time at Thomson Reuters. Coming up next is Hamline, and later comes 191 and 196 school districts. If you are wanting to offer a free educational home buyer or seller seminar to your employees in the Twin Cities, contact Wendy here. Wendy would be happy to educate them on what to expect this year, and how to make their move a success!
The differences between buying and renting are massive. According to the Federal Reserve, a typical homeowner’s net worth was $195,400, while that of renter’s was $5,400. The data reflects 2013 and the next survey of household finances, which is conducted every three years, will be out in 2016. Based on what has happened since 2013 and projecting a conservative assumption of what could happen next year to home prices if we see only 3% price growth, the wealth gap between homeowners and renters will widen even further. The Fed is likely to show a figure of $225,000 to $230,000 in median net worth for homeowners in 2016 and around $5,000 for renters. That is, a typical homeowner will be ahead of a typical renter by a multiple of 45 on a lifetime financial achievement scale.
Though there will always be discussion about whether to buy or rent, or whether the stock market offers a bigger return than real estate, the reality is that homeowners steadily build wealth. The simplest math shouldn’t be overlooked. A vast majority of homebuyers take out a 30-year fixed rate mortgage to make a home purchase. After 30 years, there is no mortgage payment (nor rent payment). So the home price growth over that time period would be the equity that the homebuyer would have accumulated. For example, the median home price of a single-family dwelling in the U.S. thirty years ago in 1985 was $75,500. This year, it will be at least $220,000. That figure of $220,000 is the housing component of the person’s wealth. Even had home prices not risen, the person would still have $75,500 in wealth today – on top of not paying any further monthly mortgage after 30 years.
This simple example does not play out nearly as neatly in the real world, since people do not stay in one residence over the 30 year period. Almost all homeowners trade up, change neighborhoods, or move to a better school district at some point. However, they are able to make those residential relocations due to the housing equity accumulated, even over a shorter period, and can immediately apply that equity to the next home as a downpayment. Therefore the conditions of steadily building housing wealth still hold.
We also know that not everyone can or should be homeowners. The memories of easily accessible subprime mortgages and subsequent harsh foreclosure pains are still fresh, and remind us of the devastating impact on the families involved, local communities, and to the broad economy. In addition most young adults have not developed the financial standing or have found a stable, desirable career and, therefore, choose not be homeowners until later. The homeownership rate among households under the age of 35 is 35% currently and rarely rises above 40% historically. For those under the age of 25, the current ownership rate is 23% and rarely rises above 25%. But the time will eventually come when people want to convert to ownership. By the time people are in their prime-earning years of 45-to-55, nearly three-fourths do eventually become homeowners. By retirement, nearly 80% are homeowners.
A recent survey of consumers commissioned by my organization revealed that 80% believe that purchasing a home is a good financial decision (2015 National Housing Pulse Survey). Most consumers appear to already understand the simple math and the benefits of homeownership. So don’t overthink the matter of whether now is a good time to buy, or whether stock market returns will be better. The exact timing of a home purchase will have little financial impact in the big scheme of things. Just know that homeowners generally do come out ahead of renters in the long run.