Andrew Wetzel's Musings

August 8, 2021

Delaware County PA June 2021 Residential Housing Market Update

Tri-County Suburban REALTORS and Showing Time have released their June 2021 Local Market Insight report for single family homes in Delaware County Pennsylvania.  The report uses Bright MLS statistics.  If you would like more information about this or any other County or any specific municipalities in the Delaware Valley, please contact me or visit my web site, AndrewWetzel.com.  I am only a phone call, an email or a text away!  I respond promptly to all inquiries.

The Real Estate market continues to recover from the pandemic shutdown and resulting economic impact.  As always, your experience may differ depending on your location and how you have been personally affected.  As I always say, the decision whether or when to sell or buy Real Estate is a personal one influenced by a number of lifestyle factors and external variables.  The past year or so typifies that.  Some have not been deterred causing a frenzied sellers’ market while others have decided to delay their plans to sell or buy.

The report compares current month and year-to-date results to one-year ago.  We are past the halfway point but the statistics continue to include pre- and post-pandemic time frames so it is not a true “apples-to-apples” comparison.  As with all Real Estate statistics, two things are true.  First, the performance within individual zip-codes can and will vary significantly from the overall County.  Real Estate is local and results can vary greatly from neighborhood to neighborhood and even block to block.  There is no such thing as a “national” Real Estate market any more than there is a national weather forecast so, if you are thinking about selling or buying, please contact me for details about your areas of interest.  I can provide current information and keep you informed about the evolving market as well as provide you with the knowledge and insight to help you decide what works best for you.

My second point is that, unfortunately, all Real Estate statistics involving sold data are stale.  This is especially true if you are relying on Internet valuation models which use recorded data rather than up-to-date Bright MLS information.  Even then, while a sale may be reported as having settled or closed recently, the real question is when was the offer negotiated?  Typically, sales can take 45 to 60 days to close so the market today may be different from when the offer was presented and negotiated.  This is especially true as market conditions change.  Up-to-date information, even if not perfect, is important!

As far as the statistics, please remember that these numbers include a variety of single-family homes throughout the County.  There were 1003 new listings in June 2021 compared to 880 in June 2020, an increase of 14%.  YTD 2021 shows 4802 new listings compared to 3800 in 2020, an increase of 26.4%.  The 5-year June average is 906 new listings.  There were 665 active listings in June 2021 compared to 875 in June 2020 with a 5-year average of 1477.  Inventory levels continue to rise but the “Months of Supply” is below one month at .7 which is down 70% compared to last year.  There were 908 closed sales in June 2021 compared to 408 in June 2020, an increase of 122.5%.  YTD 2021 shows 3699 closed sales compared to 2555 in 2020, an increase of 44.8%.  The 5-year June average is 756.  The median sold price was $290,000 in June 2021 compared to $259,500 in June 2020, an increase of 11.8%.  YTD 2021 shows a median sold price of $265,000 compared to $235,000 in 2020, an increase of 12.8%.  The 5-year June average is $256,250.

Here are two other interesting June 2021 vs June 2020 statistics:  (1) the Sold vs. List Price Ratio was 102.4% compared to 97.1%; (2) the average Days on the Market was 13 compared to 38.  As usual, properly priced houses are selling fast and achieve more than their asking price.

How you interpret all of this information and data is subjective, meaning you can draw a variety of conclusions and then make decisions based on what you think.  Does it make you any more or any less likely to want to sell or buy?  If you are thinking about selling, know that history suggests that markets change suddenly.  Some will try to “time the market” and get as much as they can.  Many owners still regret not selling during the last seller’s market.  Some waited too long and prices fell or they wanted too much for their house.  If you are thinking about buying, do you worry about prices continuing to rise, do you worry about overpaying or are you waiting for prices to drop?  How many wish they had bought months ago?  If you need or want to sell one house to buy another, this can get even more complicated as you try to coordinate two processes.

All of this underscores the need to work with a professional.  The internet and advice you get from family, friends and the media is likely very general and subjective.  In my opinion, much of the well-reported “frenzy” created erratic behavior.  Assuming buyers did what they thought or were told they needed to do to “win”, even without really knowing if others were bidding on the same house, do they or will they regret their decisions?  Many agents will tell you that they are shocked by buying “sight unseen”, waiving inspections and going well over asking price.  I have no doubt that we will be talking about this time period for years to come.  I hope that it all works out as the market stabilizes and then shifts into a buyer’s market.  Only time will tell.

What about the properties that did not sellMany came off the market and remain unavailable.  Did owners delay, change or give up their plans?  While buying activity has generally been strong, some sellers are reluctant to allow showings or may have issues holding them back.  Given the statistics, are people making an informed decision or reacting to what they “think” is happening in their local market?  A brief conversation may be very helpful if you have any questions about selling or buying.

Anyone thinking about selling or buying needs to understand their local market and decide how to react to it.  The effects of buying and selling remain for years as does inaction.  These are important decisions and likely require the knowledge and insight that an experienced, trained and educated professional can provide.

I tell my clients that I cannot guarantee that their house will sell if it is on the market but am fairly certain that it won’t if they keep it off the market.  Anyone trying to sell now may have less competition and more offers to consider.  Buyers may have more competition and fewer houses to consider.  Hiring an experienced, trained and educated professional is more important than ever.

No matter how good the market may appear, every house will not sell.  Houses may get showings without generating offers unless buyers think they are priced within the range of their perceived “worth”, whatever that means today.  Most property listings whose contracts are canceled or allowed to expire have asking prices considered high for their local market and/ or they were poorly marketed, meaning that some buyers and agents may not have even known that a property was available to look at or purchase.  Some buyers may make an attractive offer just to control the process only to have remorse later as inspection results are revealed or they see another property they prefer more.

Some buyers may not be willing to look at houses priced high compared to the rest of the market:  why try to negotiate a price down when other similar properties are available at more competitive prices or others offer more for the same price?  Many sellers open to negotiating their price will never get the chance.  I will be happy to discuss specifics with you.

Statistics aside, what are you planning to do?  Real Estate is generally a long-term investment.  There are always opportunities out there.  As with the stock market, it is very difficult if not impossible to pick the best time to make a move.  All you can do is get the best available information, determine what is in your best interests and then start the process.  Getting started is easy once you take action.

If you want or need to sell any type of Real Estate, now or in the future, whether you tried and did not succeed before or are planning for the first time, it is never too early to start the planning and preparation.  Please do not wait for what you think is a better or the best time to start.  If you need to sell in order to buy, let’s have that conversation.  Now may be the best time to start planning.

There is no time for inexperience, empty promises or false expectation!

HIRE WISELY: We are not “all the same”!

My Buyer’s Offer Did Not Get Accepted: What Can They Do? Part 4 of 4: The MLS, Seller and Listing Agent.

Whether you are starting the process of buying your first or “next” home, engaged in the process of house-hunting or you have already been denied a house you really wanted to own, I want to share some time-tested advice.  I am going to address the main question in three parts.  This is not intended as legal advice and not intended to interfere if you have an existing business relationship.

Let’s start with the premise that you have made an offer and it was rejected.  You may have had no response or you may have been given an opportunity to negotiate that did result in a signed contract.  If a buyer makes what they think is a reasonable offer and the seller did not accept it, they should have no regrets.   Easy for me to say.  However, did the buyer have the right expectations and understanding about the process?  Could or should their agent or the listing agent or the seller have done anything differently?

If the seller was given the opportunity to review all offers and was properly informed of any possible interest that could generate additional offers and they accepted what they thought was the best offer, who has any reason to complain about the process?  Every executed agreement will not close so it may be best to remain on good terms with everyone involved.  You may get another chance to get a house you want to own, if you want one, but do not assume you will.

I provide my buyer-clients with a few pearls of wisdom I have gained through experience, training and education.  The process of buying or selling Real Estate is typically an emotional decision justified with logic.  It should be treated as “business” and not taken personally.  It is also not retail.  Looking for a house can be a full-time job but it is worth the investment of time and effort.  Your life will get back to normal after you succeed.  Bad decisions are costly and their effects can last a long time.  Real Estate is typically our biggest asset and requires our largest ongoing investment so buying or selling it deserves a lot of attention.

I have already discussed how a buyer might manage their search and making their offer in a previous post.  Those are both important but there is more work required to get the house you like under contract.  Respectfully, you may have had the best planning and preparation and made your best offer but there are still two potential obstacles to having a signed contract:  they are the listing agent and the seller.

As a buyer agent, it can be very frustrating just trying to show properties to our clients.  Add to that possibly waiting for a buyer to decide if they want to make an offer, their trying to assess how to do that and then trying to ensure that your buyer’s offer is properly presented to the seller.  My intent is not to criticize acceptable business models but I do question some business practices.  Article 1 of our REALTOR Code of Ethics requires that we protect and promote the interest of our clients and that we be honest with others.  Not all Real Estate agents are REALTORS.

The MLS has rules and regulations which member agents are required and expected to follow.  Listing statuses and their definitions are a major part of them.  For example, Bright MLS requires that properties are listed in the MLS within three business days of having an executed listing contract and within one business day once it is advertised if not already uploaded to the MLS.  There is status called “Coming Soon” which offers agents an opportunity to advertise properties before any showings are allowed.  There is a publicized date when showings will start.  Those dates change so buyer agents need to monitor them as they should when a listing agent specifies when offers are due and going to be presented to sellers.  There is no rule that you cannot submit an offer sooner than required or that you can’t have it “expire” before they intend to present it.  Obviously your buyer must agree with what you do.

The “Coming Soon” status can be effective with generating interest but frustrates some waiting for showings to start.  Listing agents and sellers tend to like this status as it can reduce the actual marketing time while maximizing competition and the selling price.  Buyer agents and buyers are less enthusiastic.  Should a buyer wait to make an offer on another house, especially if the listing agent of a “Coming Soon” property has not shared pictures or provided a decent write-up?  Is this property better than what they have already seen?  Competition and a lack of knowledge can create anxiety.  However, a major concern is that some listing agents may be allowing some people to  see inside, against the rules, while others are left out.  Some buyers are willing to make offers “sight unseen”.  However anyone views that, it is perfectly fine even if some refuse to do so.  Some think it “unfair” and risky.

Some agents have suggested eliminating this status saying that a property is either “active” and available for showings or it isn’t.  I can see their point but I do not agree.  Even now, some houses are listed as active and immediately placed “under contract”, suggesting that it never got full market exposure.  I think the issue is how the status is handled and that is a “people problem”.  There is no perfect system.  What guarantee is there that every interested buyer would be able to see every “active” and available house?

If you were going to design a perfect, “neutral” system, meaning it levels the playing field rather than favoring or potentially harming buyers or sellers, several things would have to be in place.  I will suggest a few although many will see the folly:

  1. Perhaps no showings should be allowed until a property is “active” in the MLS.  PERIOD.  This makes sense but how do you implement it or prove it was violated?
  2. Once “active”, a property should be kept available for showings and offers for some “reasonable” amount of time to allow any interested buyer and their agent an opportunity to visit and make an offer.  In theory, this should maximize the selling price but some sellers are more interested in a quick sale.  Only a seller gets to decide what is in their best interest and which offer to accept.  Either way, there is no way to force this on a seller.  What about buyers unable to see a house for whatever reason?  Even then, how do you know that your offer was properly presented to the seller for their consideration?
  3. All listing agents should be required to use a third-party showing service to schedule appointments.  I have had to call listing agents to schedule showings on numerous occasions.  That tends to take longer as far as getting an answer and a confirmation than contacting an appointment scheduling service.  Are these listing agents too busy to promptly respond or are they trying to keep out competition, hoping to sell their listings to their own buyers?  I do not know but that is the suspicion.  Calls for showings can go unanswered for days.  Even worse, some listing agents, for whatever reason (some are valid!) need to attend showings.  A buyer and their agent should not have to work around a listing agent’s schedule.  Granted, they have to work around a seller’s schedule but it is the seller’s house.
  4. Many agents have wondered whether their buyer’s offer was actually presented to the seller.  In PA we have forms which attempt to document that an offer was presented but you never really know.  I once had a sealed offer returned to me unopened.  That buyer never had a chance to compete.  In multiple-offer situations, I have been told by several agents that their seller-client reached a point where they wanted to stop looking at additional offers that they had in front of them.  I do empathize!  The real question is how many offers is too many to open, evaluate and compare?  My experience has been that after awhile the offers tend to seem very similar but you never know about any offers you do not actually look at.  What about the time and effort the agent and buyer took to see the house and prepare and deliver an offer?

The bottom line is that we have to rely on and trust each other to do our job.  Technology has made our job easier as far as creating, executing and delivering paperwork than in the past but you still have to print them out and look at them.  Some buyer agents do not submit complete packages.  Some use formats that are difficult to work with.  Do all agents really explain what their clients are reviewing and signing?  Do our clients really understand the paperwork and their potential obligations?  Electronic signing and delivery have made life easier but it has also increased the possibility of a client not fully understanding what they are doing in a rush to sign documents.  Can Real Estate really be conducted electronically instead of face-to-face, at least for major documents like representation agreements and agreements of sale?

My best hope is that a seller hires an experienced, trained and educated agent that has the ethics and integrity to do their job and that a buyer does the same.  If they have both hired the same agent, that is fine but that creates an inherent conflict called “dual agency”.  If, as is more likely, they have hired separate agents, my best hope is that they do everything in their power to promote and protect the best interest of their client while being honest, at least as allowed by their representation agreement, with everyone else.

The simple facts are these:

  1. houses will come on the market.  They may or may not be overpriced or poorly marketed which could prevent their exposure to the full market which can lower activity and selling prices;
  2. some buyers will miss opportunities because their search criteria do not “capture” every real possibility, they simply miss listings as they rush through an email, they are not able to schedule a showing before a house sells or they are not in a position to make a serious offer for whatever reason.  Much of this falls on the buyer.  Many “shop” online for weeks before contacting a professional who can better explain the planning and preparation needed;
  3. sellers may make it more difficult than it should be to see their house or they might be expecting too much from the market;
  4. agents may frustrate their clients’ efforts to sell or buy.

There is a lot more to buying or selling Real Estate than marketing, showings and writing offers.  This is NOT retail!  There is no online “shopping cart” or a “Buy It Now” option.  Again, this is a business decision which is often emotional and justified with logic.  While the public has endless access to data and information, it takes an experienced, trained and educated professional to bring the knowledge and insight that Real Estate sales often require.

There is no time for inexperience, empty promises or false expectations.

HIRE WISELY: We are not “all the same”!

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