Andrew Wetzel's Musings

August 22, 2022

The Real Estate Market is Changing (Again!)

After many months of a buying frenzy that seemed more like an auction, the Real Estate market is changing. Inventory levels have increased with the market adding more listings each month than there are properties going “under contract. Some of these are houses that came back on the market that did not sell before and needed less competition and/ or lower prices to sell.

The number of multiple offers has generally decreased and, whether it is the market or buyers taking a stand, the number of purchase offers made “sight unseen” or without inspections seems to have been greatly reduced. Many agents and consumers, both buyers and sellers, are happy about all of this. However, when markets like we have seen change, often with little warning, one question always comes to mind:

What about the properties that did not sell?

Many properties came off the market and still remain off the market. I work with many sellers whose listing contracts expired without selling or who canceled their contracts. There are a variety of reasons for both expired and canceled listing contracts. Pricing and marketing are the primary reasons why houses do not sell but there are times when owners change, delay or cancel their plans.

Due to the pandemic, some sellers are still reluctant to let people they do not know and who may not be financially “qualified” to buy into their homes. Others may have issues they are dealing with, especially if they need to buy their own “next home”. While selling their home may produce a “windfall” if they have a lot of equity, what will buying cost?

My primary concern is always whether people are making an informed decision or reacting to what they “think” is happening in the market. Selling and buying Real Estate are personal decisions involving what is typically our biggest asset and our largest investment. As with the market 15 years ago, the sellers who jumped in early may have had the best success if they needed to buy another home. If that was not a concern, they could wait for prices to get to the point where they were compelled to sell. On the other hand, some sellers waited too long and missed an opportunity to maximize their proceeds. When will the next really hot market arrive? It could be years. Maybe not.

Buyers and sellers need to do the same planning and preparation that those tasks typically require, regardless of the market. Easier said than done! Anyone looking to sell or buy needs to understand their local market and decide how to react to the “variables” that exist. Hopefully, they know what they need and want from the process and understand that they cannot control interest rates, the economy, inflation and other things. The effects of buying and selling remain for years. They are important decisions and likely require the knowledge and insight that a Real Estate 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 will not if they take it off the market. Anyone trying to sell now may have less competition even if it may take weeks or months instead of days to sell and they may not see multiple offers. Hiring an experienced, trained and educated professional is more important than ever.

Regardless of “supply and demand” factors, 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 market and/ or they were poorly marketed, meaning that some buyers and agents may not have even known that a house was available to look at or purchase. Some buyers may even make “full price” or higher offers just to control the process only to have remorse later as inspection results are revealed. Of course, this may well depend on the ratio of buyers and sellers so there is more to this than raw statistics.

If a market has a lot of inventory, 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 similarly priced houses offer more? Many sellers open to negotiating their price will never get the chance. I will be happy to discuss specifics with you.

The “bottom line” is always that you should do what is in your “best interests” and plan accordingly. There may be no “perfect time” to sell or buy. Buyers waiting for the “best” house to come on the market may miss the one that really met their needs and wants. Sellers waiting for a better offer may see their activity level drop off or see offers lower than what they have already declined.

If you want to sell or buy, let’s talk. There is no obligation but you may get the information you need to decide what to do next. It is better to know than to wonder what might have been.

Remember,

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

HIRE WISELY:  We are notall the same”!

April 20, 2022

The 2022 Real Estate Market:  Bubble or Not?

I listed and sold Real Estate during the build-up to the crash of 2008. I contend that this market is NOT the same. Let me explain.

Google defines “bubble” as a good or fortunate situation that is isolated from reality or unlikely to last. Good? Fortunate? That depends on your perspective which makes the definition vague, allowing people see both markets as more similar than they are.

Whatever you think caused the crash in 2008, I will focus on my personal experiences. Starting around 2002, the specific months and years involved varied across the country, interest rates dropped dramatically to generate buyer interest. Interestingly enough, the rates that created that heated market were very much like what we see today which has many complaining about rising rates. How is that for perspective?

In addition, and very troubling, lending standards loosened dramatically. The changes included a reduction in the minimum credit score required to “qualify” for a loan as well as increased ratios, meaning that prospective buyers could use more of their gross and net income to buy Real Estate. Ever hear the phrase “house poor”? Let me digress for a moment.

I have always asserted that the smartest people on the planet worked in finance of some sort. Not to disparage other professions but it is impressive to see how financial people use data to make decisions. I wish “analytics” in sports were as good but the issues with them likely relate to who is using them.

Here is my point. Lenders are NOT in business to loan money. Nor are they in business to turn down “credit worthy” borrowers:  there are no awards for “most declined business”! Lenders are in business to MAKE MONEY plain and simple and they do that by lending money to “credit worthy” borrowers. Many companies quickly sell their loans as investments in the borrowers using the Real Estate as collateral if the borrower defaults. They do NOT want to evict people to take ownership of the Real Estate. Doing that, in addition to the emotion of displacing homeowners, is costly and time consuming, perhaps costing them tens of thousands of dollars and the properties are often in disrepair.

There are two major components to making loans. First, the prospective borrowers must demonstrate their “credit worthiness”. Many joke that lenders will only lend money to people who can prove that they do not need the money. Anyway, lenders use “metrics” to assess how viable a prospect is. I do not know how they determine the “benchmarks” they use but do not believe that they intentionally discriminate although I am sure that some people let personal bias affect how they do business. Others may commit fraud to enrich themselves. I will focus on how things are meant to work. The standards are the same for ALL people as far as I know so, just because one group seems disadvantaged by the metrics, does NOT prove anything wrong happened. That is a lesson I think many need to learn.

The second component is an appraisal of the property to ensure that the lender is making a smart investment and, worst case, can recover their money should the borrower default. I have heard of issues where some allege that specific groups suffer bias with appraisals but think some of that may have more to do with location, features and condition rather than simply assuming that appraisal issues relate to the owners or prospects but that is a subject for another day.

During the years 2002 through 2008, it seemed like many borrowers with lower credit scores AND

higher “ratios” than used historically were buying homes. The “ends seemed to justify the means” and helped sell a lot of houses, enriching many. It also seemed like every sale was a “new high” for the local market. Then, the market hit a wall. It was destined to happen sooner or later regardless of what many thought. How many sellers turned down good offers, assuming others were coming. How many buyers thought they could delay buying waiting for something better? Delaying likely benefited buyers more than sellers unless the buyers were truly able to finance and own Real Estate.

Unfortunately, many borrowers were sold “adjustable” interest rate loans to “qualify” with little consideration about what would happen when their interest rates reset to higher fixed rates. In addition to the revised lending standards proving problematic, this change led to many new owners being unable to continue making their monthly payments. The new word of the day was “short sale” where owners were allowed to sell their houses even though the proceeds were not sufficient to pay off the debt. It was preferable to “foreclosure”.

As far as the effects on the Real Estate market, they happened in stages. Early on, many houses that had not sold earlier were now selling and many new buyers were able to achieve the American Dream, if only for a short time. The initial reaction was a surge in buyers, clearing out our prospect “pipelines” as many who had been “waiting” to buy jumped off the fence.

Then the market shifted:  the imbalance of new buyers and “For Sale” houses created stiff competition and drove prices up. It reached a point where the combination of historically low interest rates and historically high selling prices resulted in monthly payments similar to what would have occurred with “normal” interest rates and selling prices. However, the major difference was that you could re-finance a high interest rate but NOT a high selling price. While sellers continued to achieve great results, buyers were being impacted. Once adjustable rates started to reset to higher fixed rates the market came to a screeching halt. If you look at statistics in my market for 2008 and 2009 you will see a precipitous drop in prices.

The “bottom line” is that the 2002-2008 market was leveraged with many instances of bad financing decisions resulting in the “bubble bursting”. The “irrational exuberance” of many buyers hurt them for many years to come. As recently as a few years ago I was still meeting sellers whose property values were well below what they had paid years before. Some refused to sell for less than what they paid even though they had a lot of equity while others had used their home’s equity like an ATM and simply owed too much to try selling. There were many lessons to be learned, but did we? I still hear talk about trying to get more groups involved in home ownership. That is great but the devil is in the details and the end does not justify the means! Instead of lowering lending standards, focus on why some people have issues with credit scores, managing debt and earning a good income. Raising the minimum wage was not a viable answer either and the effects are starting to become apparent!

The current market, while some may assume it meets the Google definition, has some similarities but a very different “cause” and likely a different outcome. The pandemic suppressed inventory levels. Some sellers did not want buyers coming into their homes. Some were financially affected by the lockdown and could not buy their “next home”. Many buyers were reluctant to visit homes or were also financially impacted. However, many buyers were still looking even though inventory levels were low. The imbalance created a serious sellers’ market resulting in intense competition and huge price surges. That being said, it “appears” that these buyers were financially qualified although I cannot state how valid appraisals are in a market like this as no one has a crystal ball. At some point pricing has to stop rising and perhaps start to decline, doesn’t it?

Assuming (and hoping) that the typical new owner is able to make their monthly payments, I wonder how many will suffer repercussions such as “buyer remorse” if they bought “sight unseen” and/ or without inspections? How will what they paid impact their future decision-making if they think about moving? A major difference between markets is that we are not seeing “short-sales” and “foreclosures” resulting from loose lending standards. While both outcomes will always occur, the current causes have more to do with the overall economy.

There is a lot more to what caused these two similar markets and it remains to be seen what evolves in the next few years. As far as whether the current market is a “bubble” or not depends on how you define the term. To me, there is quite a difference between lowering lending standards so more people can become homeowners and what is happening today when buyers “seem” financially qualified even if paying over asking price and being extremely creative to gain a competitive advantage. Even if sales prices tumble, which they may as some owners enter the picture after the pipeline of buyers has dried up, to me that is more like a “stock market” correction and not a “bubble” based on faulty underpinnings.

Semantics? Perhaps but I have heard too many equating the two markets. While I respect and understand buyers expressing concern about buying Real Estate today, wondering if prices are sustainable, there is never a guarantee that Real Estate prices will appreciate in a straight-line, if at all. Look at the stock market regularly and you will see this in action. There is always risk in ANY “investment” but what are the alternatives? If you are renting, is that a more prudent bet than owning? You will never recover your rent payments and they continue for as long as you rent. If you have delayed your plans to move, what is the cost to your personal happiness and any other factors impacted by your staying put wherever you are?

Buying and selling Real Estate are personal decisions that deserve a lot of consideration. This type of market does not typically offer time to decide. These are emotional decisions justified with logic. Planning and preparation are critical even if the time available is shortened. The time to plan and prepare is not after you find a house you think you like but are stuck watching someone better prepared buy it. Start before looking! Some lessons from the real “bubble” should be helpful.

Contact me in 5 or 10 years and we will have a clearer picture of what happened!

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

HIRE WISELY:  We are notall the same”?

May 15, 2021

Multiple Offers: Two Different Opinions

Competition and multiple offers seem normal these days.  Your opinion about them probably depends on whom you represent and your personal experiences.  They do not guarantee success for a seller but make it harder for buyers and their agents.  I recently heard two very different opinions about them.

A buyer’s agent, frustrated by losing yet another bidding war, told me that multiple offers are the result of pricing a property too low.  I guess that makes some sense, pricing it higher might reduce the amount of competition but is that best for a seller?  Would that result in their seeing the highest and best possible offer?  Who knows?  There are a few things I think I can say in general:

  • Competition tends to produce the “highest and best” offer, even if it is not what a seller wants.  When there is only one offer a seller may think a better one will come later.  They often do not.
  • Looking at and comparing multiple offers can get tedious, especially if they seem repetitive.  I have had several listing agents tell me that, at some point, their seller stopped reviewing additional offers.  Presumably, they had at least one they liked but that concerns me.  A buyer agent who shows a house and takes the time and effort to prepare an offer should be able to trust that their buyer’s offer was considered.  We have forms to confirm that but the bigger picture is that offers not presented may be better than what a seller accepts and that those that “appear” uncompetitive may just be a starting point for a buyer who really likes a house.
  • Some agents actively encourage a flood of showings hoping for multiple offers and a quick sale.  There is nothing wrong with that but it creates an environment that must be managed.  What is the goal?  I assume it is to shorten the marketing time and to get the “highest and best” offer that will appraise and close.  The real dilemma may be knowing whether to accept an offer or question whether it will appraise.  What if it doesn’t?  Having a pre-listing appraisal may help but may not be ideal, especially if the market is rising.
  • While there is nothing wrong with multiple offers, I think it places some responsibility on everyone involved.  Our clients must be advised of the advantages and disadvantages.

This agent was frustrated with writing offers that failed and having to start showings again.  Imagine being a buyer who loses your preferred new or “next” home to competition, especially if it happens again and again.  We are in perhaps the best sellers’ market I have ever seen and its major attribute, if you  want to call it that, is that the number of buyers far exceeds the number of available properties.  While this does not mean that every property will sell, every buyer will not get a house.

Another agent posted on social media that a buyer’s agent who writes offer after offer is not doing their job.  I would love to have these two agents in the same room.  While I do agree that some agents do not adequately prepare their clients, both buyers and sellers, for what is likely to happen in this market, every buyer will not be able to buy a house.  There is a supply problem.  Buyers can adjust their needs and wants and pursue a house that is not selling but will they?  If multiple buyers want the same house, only one buyer will get to own it.  Does that mean that every agent who represented an unsuccessful buyer failed to do their job?  NO, but it could.  In a multiple offer situation, a buyer  may want or need to make their “highest and best” offer rather than assuming they will get a second chance.  A buyer agent has to present what they are given but the buyer decides their terms.  Doing the same thing over again is not a formula for success but let’s not assume that the buyer’s agent did anything wrong.

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

HIRE WISELY:  We are not all the same.

April 24, 2021

My Buyer’s Offer Did Not Get Accepted. What Can They Do? Part 2 of 4: The Search

Whether you are starting the process of buying a home, actively engaged in house hunting or you have already been denied a house you wanted, I want to share some time-tested advice.  I am going to cover this from four perspectives.  This is part 2 of 4, The Search.  This is a broad topic with no “one size fits all” answers.  My advice comes with two disclaimers:  this is not intended as legal advice and it is not meant to interfere if you have an existing business relationship.

I provide my buyer-clients with knowledge that I have gained through my years of experience, training and education.  I have also learned a lot by conducting mediations between buyers and sellers and listening to ethics complaints about agents.  Fundamentally, I believe that the process of buying or selling Real Estate is best looked at as a business decision, not a personal one.  It is also not a retail transaction.

Looking for a house can become a full-time job but it is worth it.  Your life will get back to normal after you succeed.  Bad decisions can be costly and their effects can last a long time.  How long do you plan to live in your “next home”?  Real Estate is typically our largest investment so buying or selling it requires planning and preparation.  It deserves our full attention.  How a buyer and their agent conduct “the search” will help determine the outcome.  Is the buyer convinced that they are aware of every house that is a potential match?

As I discussed in part one, Planning and Preparation, I suggest that buyers do three things before they even start looking at houses and this includes not visiting open houses or looking online.  Once you have hired an agent, spoken to a lender to determine your financial comfort level and thought about your “needs” and “wants”, you are ready to move forward.  There is no guarantee of success but working on those three items can be a real asset later.  All you can do is put yourself in the best position to compete.  The search then becomes the focus.

If you have not already set up a search, now is the time.  If you already have one set up, I suggest you re-evaluate it.  Your search criteria may change so I suggest that you keep your agent informed so that they know what you are looking for.  You may even have more than one search set up.  My point is that you and your agent should be searching for the same properties for you to consider.  Otherwise, you may miss an opportunity.

For many buyers, the initial search results can be overwhelming:  do not get frustrated or complacent with the number of possibilities or how to evaluate them.  You will likely find that many are not real matches so do not think that a high number of search results guarantees accuracy or ensures success.  Some of the houses on the list may already be under contract or close to it:  you are not the only one seeing the information.  On the other hand, there are probably houses you might like that do not appear in your search results.   I will cover this further in part 4 but will tell you that any search results are only as good as the information a listing agent uploads and the criteria a buyer or their agent uses.  This is why searching on your own can be deceiving.

If there are only a few houses in your search results, you can wait to see if any house sales fall through and what houses come on the market.  Or, you can revisit your comfort level or your wants and needs to try to expand your options.  Your time frame and patience will determine what you do.  If there are many houses, you may want to consider adding to your search criteria or prioritizing the list before starting any showings.  Again, do not take comfort in thinking you have many options.  In either case, do not feel pressured into pursuing the best of a number of bad choices.  Buying a house is a major life decision.

Buyers need to stay on top of new and updated property listings.  Again, you are not the only one getting this information.  Where and how frequently you get information are things to consider.  You need to decide which houses to visit unless you are willing to make an offer “sight unseen”.  Showings add a potential new task to the list and it frustrates some buyers.  Let me explain what I mean.

I have shown buyers just one house while I have shown a few buyers as many as 20 or so houses during one tour.  I have found that showing a buyer about 5 houses makes a good tour if there are that many to see.  This allows buyers to take their time and remember what they saw.  A tour should not be a race to get done.  After the initial search results, unless a buyer makes a major change to their criteria, you may only see a house or two on any given tour and that is fine.  Waiting until you have more to see only allows other buyers to get there first.

If there are 5 or fewer houses in your search results, we should try to see them all.  Of course some may already be under contract or our schedule may conflict with an owner’s which can create an issue if you really like one we see but you want to wait to see one or more we couldn’t get in to see.  What do you do?  If you wait, the one you like may be sold to another buyer and you may find that any you waited to see were not right for you.

Suppose there are 10 houses in your search results.  We could try to see them all but let’s assume that we need to go out twice.  If a buyer has prioritized their list from “best to worst”, they may have eliminated some and we can start looking at the best.  Then, if they see something they like during our first tour, they may be able to commit to making an offer knowing that the remaining houses did not measure up to what we saw.  In slower markets you may be able to see a house a second time.  You may want to compare two or more or have someone whose opinion you value take a look.  In hot markets, especially with low inventory, there is little time to waste.

How buyers prioritize their list is subjective but technology has made it easier.  The MLS and Internet allow more pictures and longer descriptions than in the past.  That being said, some agents use far too many pictures while others upload no pictures at all or only a few.  Some delay uploading pictures:  do you wait to see them?  Many listings have pictures of low quality but at least a buyer gets to see more than they could years ago.  The MLS and Internet can really help with eliminating houses instead of wasting your time and effort.  Every day you spend looking at houses that you don’t like could let another buyer get one you would have liked.  Buying Real Estate can be very competitive.  It can be like shopping on Christmas Eve for that new toy.

If there is time, especially if we will need to go out several times to see all of the options, I encourage buyers to drive by houses first so they can prioritize where to start showings.  This is especially true if the pictures or description are lacking.  The initial search results tend to offer the most possibilities which means more drive time than may be needed later.  Future results will likely be fewer in number making this easier.  Some buyers just want to get inside and question why they should take the time to drive by.  When you buy a house, you are buying the neighborhood and a lifestyle.  I have had many sellers tell me they wish they had spent more time looking to see if a better option were available.  Some just wished they had bought a different house.  Their houses tended to be harder to sell and provided lower equity than others they might have bought.

Driving through neighborhoods on your way to see houses on your list will help you learn more about different areas and your potential neighbors, especially if you are looking in unfamiliar areas.  In addition to gathering information, you may even see a “For Sale” sign on a house not yet listed.  I have had buyers add or eliminate areas to their searches based solely only on their driving through neighborhoods.  The better informed and more comfortable a buyer is, that goes back to planning and preparation, the better off they will be when they commit to making an offer.  Hesitation and indecision are not good, especially when there is competition.  Driving by houses is a great way to prioritize the list.  Some buyers may need to consider compromising between the best area and the nicest house.  You can change or update a house but the neighborhood is what it is.

Ideally, when a buyer finds a house they really like, if they have done the planning and preparation and are satisfied with how we have searched for options for them to consider, they will feel more comfortable making an offer.  They may learn something later that affects their decision which is why we have contingencies like property inspections.  Looking online is not the same as walking through a house and, unless you are a contractor, you won’t have a complete understanding of a house after a showing.  Again, this is not retail.  The process has several steps, allowing buyers and sellers opportunities to change their mind.  If there is doubt when making an offer, it can get magnified later.

As I mentioned earlier, house sales fall through putting some houses back on the market and new listings will appear.   Perhaps a price reduction makes a house an option that was not there before.  A buyer can wait, hoping or expecting something better to come along.  Maybe it does; maybe it doesn’t.  If a sale falls through, what happened?  Is there an inspection report available or was there a financing issue?  In general, how is the market evolving during your search?  Are prices rising, stable or falling?  What is the trend in the interest rate?  Any of these can add pressure, especially if you are not completely comfortable with what we are doing.  There is a lot that goes into buying Real Estate!

The simple fact is that there are many variables when it comes to identifying houses to consider buying and how to react to the information you have.  Some are controllable; some are not.  The challenge may seem endless and the “fun” aspect can evaporate.  All any buyer can do is put themselves in the best possible situation to identify and react to any choices they have.  They may or may not have a lot of time to see a house or decide whether to make an offer.  They should not assume they will have a second chance to reconsider how interested they are.

Any buyer can readily get a lot of the data and information from numerous sources but most need a professional to provide the knowledge and insight required to navigate the entire process.  When is it time to stop and make a decision?  Once you think you have identified the BEST house for you, how do you get to own it while protecting yourself if something goes wrong?  In part 3 I will discuss The Offer.

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

HIRE WISELY:  We are not all the same!

April 16, 2021

Is it a Better Time to Sell or to Buy Real Estate in Spring 2021?

As is usual, my best answer is it depends!  Can the answer be a “tie”?  I would like to think that when Real Estate is sold that both people “won” but Real Estate is a competitive process where two people have opposite if not adversarial motives.  No buyer ever said I want to give the seller as much money as possible unless, of course, they know there is competition or they intend to use their successful offer as leverage to negotiate something to their benefit later such as inspection results.  No seller ever said they wanted to give a buyer the lowest price unless they wanted to dump the property or intended to make no repairs.  Most sales happen between those extremes.  Getting to settlement is another matter.

The market today, Spring 2021, is as competitive as I have ever seen and I have been doing this since 1996.  The years from 2003 through 2008 were fairly hectic but that was a true “bubble” fueled by government manipulation to increase home ownership that relied on loose lending standards which financially destroyed many of the buyers it was supposed to help.  Sadly, many who bought were not really qualified to manage the finances and, frankly, many flippers took advantage of the market and sold bad rehabs.  I could go on but my main point is that this is NOT what is happening today.

Today is very different.  The market has been created by a combination of perpetually low interest rates, extremely low inventory and pent-up demand delayed by the pandemic.  Lending standards appear to be solid so buyers are better situated today, at least financially.  That being said, this cannot go on forever.  Interest rates have been rising slightly but there is plenty of money to lend.

Two significant variables are likely to change.  One is the number of buyers.  If this is anything like the “bubble years”, buyers have jumped off and over the proverbial fence and decided to buy earlier than they had been planning.  Sooner or later the market runs low or out of qualified buyers and I hope that does not result in easing lending standards.  The other variable is the inventory level.  My best guess is that the number of properties for sale will rise once whatever is holding owners back changes.  Just as the number of buyers was inflated by a number of factors, I believe that owners have been held back by a number of factors.  These diverging trends produced what we are seeing today.

Real Estate depends on “supply and demand”:  buyers and sellers are on opposite ends of a proverbial see-saw.  The supply of one often exceeds the supply of the other causing prices to rise and fall.  Competition drives prices up; excess inventory drives them down.  External factors like interest rates, the general economy and other variables like a pandemic play a vital role.  So back to the original  question, is it a better time to sell or to buy?  Let me break it down this way.

I believe that the group that has or had the most to gain in the current environment are the owners of properties which they were not selling to buy something else.  I call these “extra” properties.  Whether they are vacant, used for investment or the owners were willing to go into a rental or some other arrangement, those owners only had to focus on getting the most they could for their property.  What they achieve is determined by their understanding of what is going on and their risk tolerance.  Did they sell too soon or did they wait too long?  Many will regret missing the opportunity to “cash in”.

While I value home ownership and embrace the concept of owning compared to renting, I fear that the group who may have the most to lose are the buyers who jumped in without really thinking long-term.  It is nice to talk about building equity and owning a home for almost the same monthly payment as your rent but home ownership is more complicated than numbers.  A home purchase decision can easily become regrettable if one or more of the following happens:  you spend your savings for a down payment and suffer a loss where your savings are needed, you buy without doing the legwork to see if a neighborhood or house fits your lifestyle (having to resell in the short term can be costly), you made an offer you come to regret (did you buy “sight unseen” or waive inspections to make your offer more competitive?).  Long term, Real Estate tends to be a great investment.  However, the short term is more volatile.  Either way, you have to live somewhere but Real Estate is an investment and subject to risk.

Don’t get me wrong, private home ownership is one of the many blessings we have in America.  However, with any opportunity comes responsibility.  Buying Real Estate is an emotional decision justified with logic.  “Normal” markets generally allow a buyer time to really consider whether it is the right time for them to buy and whether a specific house really fits their “wants” and “needs”.  You may have time for a second showing or to have family and friends take a look.  Sadly, I have worked with many sellers who told me they wish they had bought another house.  I have heard many stories of how they made their decision, what they wish they had done differently and how their decision impacted their life.  Where you live affects the quality of your life.  A poor decision can rob you of equity.

The current market does not generally allow a lot of time to think and ponder, let alone compare your options.  It may compel buyers to make unwise offers they may come to regret.  I have heard many buyers respond to being told that a seller accepted another offer by saying “it wasn’t meant to be”.  That is a great response, especially if they meant it.  I have also seen people react as if their world were crumbling.  I try to prepare my clients as best I can and hope that they are ready for the process.  Planning to buy Real Estate requires a serious commitment and can be like a full-time job.

If the last frenzy was any indication, I suspect that 10 to 15 years from now, some of today’s buyers may find that their house is worth about what they paid, no more and hopefully no less.  At least that means that they “broke even”.  You have to live somewhere.  After 10 to 15 years of paying rent you walk away with nothing and, chances are, your rent has gone up dramatically.

On the other hand, unless they are forced to sell, I don’t see sellers reminiscing about a house they sold, wishing they could get it back.  Cars have that effect but not houses.  That is not to say that all sellers succeed.  Their motivation or sense of urgency may cause them to accept an offer that was not the best.  On the other hand, patience is a virtue but it can be expensive.  Contingencies within an offer can cost them money even if the price seemed nice.  A seller needs to be informed about the market just as buyers do.  Are they more focused on the money they achieve or how long it takes to sell?

There is one more group to consider:  the seller who needs or wants to sell one house to buy their “next home”.  In this market, they may be facing an uphill battle especially if they have competition.  That type of contingency can really impact the process.  It also impacts prospective buyers for their house.  I see listing contracts expire or get canceled because a seller wants a buyer to give them time to find a house or they want a short-term rent-back.  Any of that may be a concern for buyers.

If a seller is buying their “next home”, aside from how they manage an agreement with their buyer or the seller of the home they like, they need to compare their market with that of their “next home”.  It may be a great time to sell, convincing them that they may never have another chance to get what this market offers.  However, what will their “next home” cost them?  One of the ironies I have seen a number of times is the owner who expects top dollar for their home and thinks they can get their “next home” cheap.  There is a serious disconnect there.  On the other hand, while the two processes have to be coordinated, I have seen sellers who really needed to reduce their asking price but refused to even consider it.  If a reduction makes buying impossible I understand that but ego can get in the way.  If the seller’s property’s market value is flat or declining and the cost of buying is rising, we have a conflict.  Every day, week or month that passes is costing them more than they are gaining.  Some sellers are willing to rent so that they can sell and, ideally, buy later when prices stabilize, whatever that means.

Buying or selling as a single, disconnected act is one thing.  No one can predict what tomorrow will bring and decisions always look clearer in hindsight.  Tying a sale to a purchase or a purchase to a sale takes the game from checkers to chess and expands the thinking.  The possibilities can be endless!  All you can do is get the best information you can, decide what you want and need to accomplish and know when to make a move or when to hold back.

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

HIRE WISELY:  We are not all the same!

My Buyer’s Offer Did Not Get Accepted.  What Can They Do? Part 1 of 4: Planning and Preparation

Whether you are thinking about buying a home, are actively engaged in house hunting or you have already been denied a house you wanted, I want to share some time-tested advice.  I am going to cover this from four perspectives.  This is a broad topic with no “one size fits all” answers.  I strongly believe that planning and preparation will put you in the best position to identify houses that may interest you and, when you find one, maximize your opportunity to own it.  There are many variables in the home buying process, some of which you can’t control.  I encourage serious buyers to control what they can.

My advice comes with two disclaimers:  this is not intended as legal advice and it is not meant to interfere if you have an existing business relationship.

Let me start with the premise that a buyer (or perhaps you) made an offer and it was rejected.  If a buyer makes what they think is a reasonable offer and the seller does not accept it, they should have no regrets.  Easy for me to say.  If yours was the only offer, I would assume that you had a chance to negotiate but that you could not reach a mutually beneficial solution.  If you were competing with other buyers, only one offer could win.  Did the buyer have the right expectations about the process and how it might go?  Could or should their agent or the listing agent or the seller have done anything differently?

If the seller was given an opportunity to review all offers and was properly informed of any possible interest that existed and they accepted what they thought was the best offer, there may be no valid  reason to complain about the outcome.  Every signed agreement does not close so you may get another chance, if you want one, but do not assume you will.  In fact, depending on the type of Real Estate market, you may want to assume that you will not have a chance to change your initial offer.

I provide my buyer-clients with knowledge that I have gained through my years of experience, training and education.  I have also learned a lot by conducting mediations between buyers and sellers and listening to ethics complaints about agents.  Fundamentally, I believe that the process of buying or selling Real Estate is best looked at as a business decision, not a personal one.  It is also not a retail transaction.

Looking for a house can become a full-time job but it is worth it.  Your life will get back to normal after you succeed.  Bad decisions can be costly and their effects can last a long time.  How long do you plan to live in your “next home”?  Real Estate is typically our largest investment so buying or selling it requires planning and preparation.  It deserves our full attention.

I suggest that buyers do three things before they even start looking at houses and this includes not visiting open houses or looking online.  The goal is avoid being teased or distracted.  They may not even be consciously thinking about buying a house.  If they are, most buyers want to jump right in.  Frankly, looking at houses and imagining “what if” is the fun part although that can “get old” really fast especially after an offer has been rejected or terminated.  Easier said than done but if they see something they like and want to schedule an appointment or make an offer without really being prepared, the “process” can be frustrating, especially if a better prepared buyer likes the same house. 

So what are the three things?  They are all part of the “planning and preparation” that any serious house hunting requires.  If you fail to plan and prepare, you need to be prepared to fail.  Is failure an option?  What constitutes failure anyway and what happens next?

The order may vary but here is what I suggest doing:

  1. Hire an agent.  You want an experienced, trained and educated agent to protect and promote your interest throughout the process.  Sellers have an agent, so should you.  Hiring an agent includes related topics like understanding agency representation, contracts and the agreement of sale.  We do more than open doors and write offers.  You can find a lot of information about buying and selling Real Estate on my website AndrewWetzel.com.  Having agents you will not hire show you houses can be a problem, especially if you find the right house with the wrong agent.  I understand that committing to one agent, especially at the beginning of the process, seems challenging.  Tell us your concerns and let’s have a conversation.
  2. Get financially pre-qualified with a local, reputable lender.  Local and reputable are important.  I believe that only a live person can provide the information and service you will need.  Be wary of online offers, advertisements and “teaser” rates.  They may be “too good to be true”.  The interest rate is important but what are the total costs?  Do NOT overlook the quality of the service.  A serious buyer needs to know how much they can borrow, what it will cost them and, in some cases, whether they can actually get a loan.  Many buyers learn that they cannot get financing or that they need to do some work to get a loan.  It will be very frustrating if you learn either of these after finding the house of your dreams.  Some buyers may want to get a larger loan so they can buy a house they really like rather than settling for less.  Once you learn how much you can borrow, you need to determine your comfort level in terms of the monthly payment and your out-of-pocket expenses.  Knowing your comfort level will help determine the price range to search.  The type of market will complicate this:  is a seller’s asking price the “floor” or the “ceiling” for negotiating?
  3. Determine your “needs” and “wants”.  What is absolutely NON-negotiable?  Locations, schools, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms and other factors are important for most buyers.  “Quality of life” issues require some investigating and that can take time.  What would be nice to have?  Needs and wants add cost to a purchase.  Some buyers need to consider “trade-offs” or reducing their expectations while others can add to their “wish list”.  Your search criteria may change but you need a starting point to focus your attention.

Once you have managed these three, you can set up a search, start reviewing the possibilities and take action to own your “dream house”.  If there is competition, there is little time to waste getting into houses or making a decision.  Of course, if you have already started looking, you may have a search set up.  Now would be a great time to re-evaluate the search criteria. 

In part two, I’ll discuss the search for your first or “next home”.

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

HIRE WISELY:  We are not all the same!

April 5, 2021

Should a Buyer Agent Represent Two Buyers Bidding on the Same House?

This is a question that most agents and buyers never really have to think about.  How often does this happen?  I like to raise the question in my ethics classes for these very reasons.  Once people do think about it, it can generate a lively theoretical discussion which generates emotion and opinion.  I am not sure there is a perfect answer but I think it has so many aspects to it that it is worth discussing.  Better now than in an ethics hearing.  Let me start with some disclaimers.

First, this is my opinion and not intended as legal advice.  Second, I am in PA where this practice is not considered “dual agency”.  In fact, our contracts specifically allow this to happen which I will discuss later in further detail.  However, it is considered “dual agency” in some states which makes me wonder why, how can that be:  it either is or it is not “dual agency”.  How can it be looked at differently in different states?  If it were considered “dual agency”, which is not allowed in some states, that would at least provide some direction as to how to handle it and remove my concerns.  Third, my intent is not to interfere with any existing business relationships although I would respectfully suggest that buyers should know if this situation might come up so that they can make an informed decision before entering into a business relationship that might not work for them.  In PA many agents refuse to act as “dual agents”.  I wonder how they view this topic?

I am an analytical thinker so I will look at this from several perspectives.  Let’s start with some contract information, meaning some language that a potential buyer-client should know before hiring an agent to represent them.  This assumes that a buyer hires an agent and actually discusses their respective roles.  Of course, if an agent does not follow our rules and regulations, a member of the public may not be as well informed as they should be.  While well over 90% of the public searches online for Real Estate listings and information, I do not believe that most really understand agency representation.  We do more than open doors and write contracts.  Do prospective buyers know what to ask agents they might hire?  Are they resistant when an agent tries to do their job by discussing contracts and agency disclosures?  I am going to talk about this from the perspective of being a REALTOR, not just a licensee.  This means I will refer to out REALTOR Code of Ethics as well as our state’s “standard forms”.

Article 1 of our REALTOR Code of Ethics requires that we protect and promote the interests of our clients above all else.  While we are required to have a business relationship contract with someone to represent them as our client, rather than as our customer, that is not always the case and not having a contract is not an excuse when a problem arises.  What is important is what a buyer thinks of our relationship.  Our conduct may convey a perception that they are our client when they are technically not.  That poses potential problems and it likely means that they know less than they would have had they seen the proper forms.  This Article brings up the topic of fiduciary duties which I will discuss later.  These are owed to a client but not to a customer.

Article 2 states that “REALTORS shall avoid … concealment of pertinent facts relating to the property or transaction ….  REALTORS shall not, however, be obligated to …  disclose facts which are confidential”.  This Article brings up the topic of confidentiality which I will also discuss later.

In PA we have a form called a “Consumer Notice” that all licensees are required to present and explain to any member of the public before having a “substantive” discussion with them, referring to their “needs and wants”, and entering into a business relationship.  It describes the different relationships available as well as reviewing a number of agency/ representation-related issues. 

Under “Buyer Agent”, it says that we “work exclusively for the buyer”, that we “must act in the buyer’s best interest” “and must keep all confidential information, confidential”.  I mentioned a relationship called “dual agency”.  This occurs when an agent or Broker “works for both the seller and the buyer” in the same sale.  As stated in our Code of Ethics, this relationship requires “full disclosure to and with the informed consent of both parties”, meaning in writing, before acting in that capacity.

The Consumer Notice also includes several other important details.  All agents “must disclose, as soon as practicable, all conflicts of interest”.  A dual agent may not take any action that is detrimental to either party.  In a typical seller/ buyer scenario that is perhaps best explained by saying that a dual agent cannot disclose how low a seller will go or how high a buyer will go in their efforts to sign an agreement of sale or negotiate details later such as inspection issues.

Based on what I have presented so far, my non-legal but educated opinion is that representing two buyer-clients bidding on the same house seems like “dual agency” to me.  Again, I do not understand how some states see it that way while others, including PA, do not but I think that there is no harm in treating it as “dual agency”.  I have never heard a client complain that their agent over-protected their interests, have you?

Now let’s discuss “fiduciary duties”.  Working with a customer, meaning there is no contract, has requirements.  Working for a client expands that list as there is agency representation and six fiduciary duties.  The list includes:  obeying a client’s lawful instructions, being loyal to their purpose or goal, disclosing what you know that could help them succeed, keeping their information confidential, being accountable for keeping them on track with what they need to do throughout the process and providing reasonable care and diligence in your representation to protect them.  There is much more to these duties but imagine representing two buyers with similar intentions.

In a “dual agency” relationship two of these fiduciary duties are compromised or negated:  you cannot disclose to one party what the other party wants kept confidential.  This does not refer to “material facts” that must be disclosed if known.  It does refer to things that could hurt someone’s negotiating strategy.  A critical question is what is meant by confidential?

A listing agent can share details about an offer presented to them by one agent with another agent.  Many agents and consumers do not know that.  This is another topic that gets my classes going!  Absent a previously signed “confidentiality agreement”, such as is often used in commercial listings, the details of an offer are not inherently private and can be “shopped” to get a better offer.  Of course, this does not include the buyer’s name or personal information.

That being said, some people are very private and consider things “confidential” that others may not.  Learning this is part of getting to know your client.  Do you see how this can impact having more than one buyer client interested in the same property?

In PA we have two different buyer representation contracts, one is “exclusive” while the other is “non-exclusive”, the difference being whether a buyer works solely with one agent or has more than one agent assisting them.  That alone can present issues but is not my point here.  Unfortunately, some agents do not present either form to their prospective clients or they do so at the point of creating an offer on a property.  Better late than never!  I know that some clients are resistant to signing contracts or they may be willing to be a customer rather than committing to one Broker/ agent and getting the benefits of full representation.  However, there is important information they need to know and an executed contract proves they were at least informed of this information.

In both the exclusive and the non-exclusive contracts, there is the same language regarding issues related to conflicts with two clients.  They both say that a “Broker may not take action that is inconsistent with a buyer’s interest”.  They both say that an agent “may show the same properties to other buyers and may represent those buyers in attempts to purchase the same property that a buyer wishes to purchase” and that doing this is not a “breach of duty”.  They both say that “It is a conflict of interest when a Broker … cannot put a buyer’s interest before any other”.  “Unless permitted by a buyer or required by law, a Broker will not knowingly reveal or use any confidential information of a buyer”.  However, it does not specify what the word “confidential” mean.  It does talk about not treating the “existence, terms or conditions of any offer as confidential unless there is a confidentiality agreement” but the sentence ends with “between a Buyer and the seller”.  I guess the word “exclusive” only works one way, meaning that the buyer is restricted to one agent but the agent is not restricted to one buyer.

Then both contracts go on to say that “it is a conflict of interest when a Broker or licensee … cannot put a buyer’s interest before any other”.  The section concludes by saying that if there is a “conflict of interest, the broker will notify the Buyer in a timely manner”.  How does all of this sound to you?

These are not guidelines or suggestions, they are rules.  How do you accept all of these rules and properly manage the home searches of two buyers who want to pursue the same house?  Of course, if two or more buyers are looking in different areas and price ranges this may never be an issue.  But buyer’s plans change.  Many buyers end up buying a house vastly different from what they said they wanted.

I am not an attorney but these sections seem to conflict, don’t they?  Wouldn’t having more than one buyer interested in making an offer on the same house be about as conflicted as it gets?  While the rules say that an agent must mention having a conflict, it does not elaborate.  Do I need to do more than say “I have a conflict”?  Can I say what the conflict is?  Here is the best part:  to whom do I mention the conflict and what is the remedy?  Do I tell both buyers?  Can I just end my relationship with one of the buyers and keep working for the other?

That raises an interesting question:  who is allowed to terminate a contract?  While I could have another agent take over with one buyer, I think that poses a problem as I would still know information about that buyer that I would not normally know and that could harm them.  In fact, when agents encounter problems with seller/ buyer dual agency, I suggest that they completely remove themselves from both client relationships to avoid any perception of problems with disclosure or confidentiality.

As with all Real Estate paperwork, the buyer contracts do encourage the prospective client to seek the services of an appropriate professional, such as an attorney.  While that makes sense, is there time to do that?  If a buyer has done as I suggest, all of this would have been taken care of before I showed them any houses.  Conflicts that arise after that may not be able to be undone and it could impact a buyer’s opportunity to make an offer and get it signed.

Let’s drill down further to the real issue.  Aside from whether one agent can truly best represent the separate but conflicting interests of two different buyers, remember that only one buyer gets the house, does the agent have the right to tell each buyer-client about the other’s interest in the same house?  Does doing that conflict with the fiduciary duties owed to each buyer-client?  What is the goal?

I have had agents tell me that they want to be “fair”.  Really?  Who gets to decide what is “fair”?  What does that even mean?  The REALTOR Code of Ethics used to have that word in Article 1:  it said that, while we had a duty to protect and promote the best interests of our clients, we had a duty to treat people fairly.  If you are a sports fan, what is fair?  Is a pitch a ball or strike?  Did a referee miss a penalty or make a bad call?  The word, however nice it sounds, is confusing because it is unclear.  Do any two people, especially those working on the same sale, define the term the same?  Again, only one buyer can win.  Perhaps neither buyer will succeed but that does not mean that all is well.  Anyway, the Code of Ethics was amended years ago to say that we have to treat people honestly.  I’ll leave that alone but telling two buyer clients about the interest of the other is not a measure of honesty to me.

Years ago I had an agent in my office show one of my listings.  They brought me an offer which was negotiated, accepted and signed.  When I called to tell them that it was signed by my seller-client they made a very unusual request of me:  they asked if I would enter my name in the MLS as the buyer’s agent.  I asked why and was told that this agent had sent the same property listing information to four different clients but only one seized the opportunity and quickly got the house under agreement.  The agent was concerned that the other three would blame them for not telling them what had happened.  I commended this agent for what they did!  I can’t imagine what might have happened had they shown the house to the other clients and written and negotiated multiple offers on the same house.

The question then becomes what happens next?  Let me explore a couple possibilities.

  • If neither buyer gets the house, there may have been no harm done but the question of whether our actions are ethical or professional is based on our conduct and not the outcome.  “No harm, no foul” is not the measure.  Did our actions possibly cause both buyers to lose a sale?
  • Suppose one of your two buyers wins.  Did they improve their offer because they knew they had competition?  If so, did they spend or do more than they really had to and might have done if they did not know?  Did the other buyer hold back or drop out because they felt they could not win?  Some people want to compete, even if they overdo it, while others will not compete even if they might succeed.  Saying that both buyers knew that other agents had interested buyers does not change my opinion.

To conclude, there is a lot to what seems like a simple question.  Ultimately, it “appears” that our forms and contracts allow us to represent more than one buyer interested in buying the same house but I am not sure there is sufficient guidance as far as what to do when this situation comes up.  I have disclosure and confidentiality concerns.  I think each client should be allowed to make that decision.  I would guess that both would like to know about the other even if wanting their own interest kept quiet.  Suppose one cares and the other doesn’t?  Is it fair for one to know but not the other?  There is that word again, “fair”.  Trying to work this out once the situation comes up is too late. 

Let me add two thoughts.  First, this is not the same as a listing agent sharing the details of your client’s offer with another agent or having them let you know that other agents have made offers on a property that interests one or more of your buyer clients.  You must tell them that information.  However, you have no fiduciary duty to the listing agent, the seller or any other agent’s buyer clients.

My second thought is more of a question.  Suppose you write and present an offer for one buyer-client and it is rejected or countered without leading to having a signed agreement of sale.  Do you have the right or authority to tell another buyer-client the details?  While telling them what did not work with one buyer-client seems to make sense, perhaps that offer would work now if no one else has made a better offer.  Seller expectations do change.  Does telling another buyer how the seller countered an offer accomplish anything?  There is no guarantee that the seller would still be interested in that amount with a different buyer-client and, if the market is competitive, your current buyer client may only get one chance to make an offer.  Suppose you tell them a number and they lose.  An offer is more than the price and two buyers offering the same number may have very different terms and conditions.  Suppose the buyer-client whose offer failed decides to make another offer?

I am not trying to scare anyone but, if nothing else, I hope that people who read or listen to this will better understand how Real Estate works.  It is not retail where everyone is able to buy a product for a known price and there is ample supply.  Again, we do so much more than open doors and write contracts.  Real Estate requires experience, training and education.  It is not for everyone and it can get more complicated than it needs to be at any given moment.  Life would be easy if sellers would just accept their asking price or if buyers would just offer the asking price when they make an offer.  Of course, both of those statements are unrealistic if not ridiculous.  If they were true, you wouldn’t need a professional!  This is EXACTLY why I end my blogs and podcasts like this:

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

HIRE WISELY:  We are not all the same!

February 20, 2021

Delaware County PA January 2021 Residential Housing Market Update

Tri-County Suburban REALTORS and Showing Time have released their January 2021 Local Market Insight report for single family homes in Delaware County Pennsylvania.  The report relies on 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 market continues to be affected by the pandemic and resulting economic impact.  The weather has also been a factor.  However, generally speaking, the results in many areas are encouraging and, as always, your experience may differ depending on your location and how you have been personally impacted.  As I always say, the decision whether and when to sell or buy Real Estate is a personal one influenced by a number of lifestyle factors and external variables.  The pandemic typifies that.  Some have not been deterred while many others have decided to delay their plans to sell or buy.

The report compares current year-to-date results to one-year ago, same time period.  This report only covers one month so I would not over-react to the information.  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 marketany more than there is a national weather forecast so, whether you may be 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 MLS information.  Even then, while a sale may be reported as having settled or closed today, 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.  Up-to-date information, even if not perfect, is important!

As far as the statistics, there were 534 new listings in January 2021 compared to 586 in January 2020, a decrease of 8.9%.  The average number of active listings in January 2021 was 441 compared to 994 in January 2020.  Low inventory levels continue to affect the market.  There were 544 closed sales in January 2021 compared to 438 in January 2020, a 24.2% increase.  The median selling price was $240,000 in January 2021 compared to $202,000 in January 2020, an increase of 18.8%.  What effect did the large decrease in the number of properties being listed and available have on the market statistics?  It likely created some anxiety resulting in multiple offers, perhaps well over asking price, and buyers taking other actions to make their offers more competitive.  These include buying “sight unseen” and/ or waiving inspections.  The result was a huge increase in selling prices along with a large decrease in the Days on the Market (DOM) and the “Sold to List Price” ratio.  Do we really have an inventory problem or pent-up demand?  Time will tell.  Again, these numbers vary throughout the County:  the underlying data shows a wide range of results in all categories among the 49 different municipalities in Delaware County.

Generally speaking, the effects of what is happening remain to be seen.  Some buyers may come to regret a hasty decision to get a property under contract at “all costs”.  Buying “sight unseen”, especially without inspections comes with a risk.  Sellers and their agents need to consider how to manage such offers as they may have appraisal issues and/ or be more likely to result in buyer remorse.   Given the  expense and complexity of a typical Real Estate purchase, buyers and sellers need to fully understand what they are doing and what can go wrong.  Even with our property disclosure law in PA, many sellers either do not know about underlying issues with their properties or forget to disclose them.  Whatever your feelings about property inspections, they can provide important information to a buyer.  Getting a contract signed is only the first step to completing a Real Estate sale.

What about the properties that did not sellMany came off the market and remain off the market.  As the pandemic has evolved, some properties did come back on the market but many have not.  Did owners delay, change or give up their plans?  Buying activity has generally been strong but 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.  At some point things will return to whatever is “normal”:  how many will regret not taking action?  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.

Regardless of the amount of inventory, 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 unless you are looking to fix and flip it or planning to move within a short period of time.  There are always opportunities out there.  As with the stock market, it is very difficult 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.  Buyers look all year long and can only see and buy properties that are available to see.  Based on what we experienced in 2020, is waiting for Spring something you would consider?  If so, now is the time to start planning.

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

HIRE WISELY:  We are not all the same!

January 13, 2021

Delaware County PA December 2020 Residential Housing Update

Tri-County Suburban REALTORS and Showing Time, using Bright MLS statistics, have released their Local Market Insight report for single family homes in Delaware County Pennsylvania through December 2020.  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 market continues to be affected by the pandemic and resulting economic impact.   However, generally speaking, the results in many areas are encouraging and, as always, your experience may differ depending on your location and how you have been personally impacted.  As I always say, the decision whether and when to sell or buy Real Estate is a personal one influenced by a number of lifestyle factors and external variables.  The pandemic typifies that.

The report compares current year-to-date results to one-year ago, same time period.  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, whether you may be 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 the knowledge and insight to help you decide what works 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 MLS information.  Even then, while a sale may be reported as settled or closed today, 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.  Up-to-date information, even if not perfect, is important!

As far as the statistics, there were 8309 units listed for sale through December 2020 compared to 8993 listed through December 2019, a decrease of 7.6%.  Low inventory levels continue to affect related data points.  There were 7139 closed sales through December 2020 compared to 6984 through December 2019, a 2.2% increase.  The median selling price through December 2020 was $250,000 compared to $227,000 through December 2019, an increase of 10.1%.  The large decrease in inventory, meaning the number of properties being listed, had a relatively small effect on the number sold while substantially increasing their selling prices.  The number of currently available properties is well below one year ago and the Days on the Market (DOM) and “Sold to List Price” ratio are much improved.  Do we have an inventory problem or pent-up demand?  Again, these numbers vary throughout the County:  the underlying data shows a wide range of results in all categories among the 49 different municipalities in Delaware County.

Generally speaking, low inventory levels in some areas have produced multiple offers and a frenzy among buyers, some of whom may live to regret a hasty decision to get a property under contract. During the shutdown when “in-person” Real Estate activity was not permitted, many buyers made offers “sight unseen”, some without inspections to make their offers more attractive to sellers.  The effects of these strategies remain to be seen but Real Estate, perhaps with the exception of those properties acquired strictly as “investments” with documented income, is generally not something given its expense and complexity that the typical buyer would want to purchase without an in-person showing let alone removing the protection of an inspection contingency.  Even with our property disclosure law in PA, many sellers either do not know about underlying issues with their properties or forget to disclose them.  Whatever your feelings about property inspections, they can provide important information to a buyer.

What about the properties that did not sellMany came off the market and still remain off the market.  As the pandemic has evolved, some properties did come back on the market but many have not.  Did owners delay, change or give up their plans?  Buying activity has been strong but the sellers may be 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 the 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 the pandemic as a “variable” that was not here last year and, hopefully, will be gone in the near future.  However, the effects of buying and selling remain for years.  They 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.

Despite the pandemic, 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”.  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 even make “full price” offers just to control the process only to have remorse later as inspection results are revealed.

If a market has a lot of inventory, 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?  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 unless you are looking to fix and flip it or planning to move within a short period of time.  There are always opportunities out there.  As with the stock market, it is very difficult 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.  Buyers look all year long and can only see and buy properties that are available to see.  Based on what we experienced in 2020, is waiting for Spring something you would consider?

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

HIRE WISELY:  We are not all the same!

January 12, 2021

How Buyers Bought Real Estate in 2020: Who is the Typical Buyer?

NAR or the National Association of REALTORS has released its 2020 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers.  The profiles are based on a survey using 131 questions mailed to over 132,550 recent home buyers who also purchased a primary residence between July 2019 and June 2020.  The focus of this article will be buyers who sold one home to buy another.  This was a national survey so your market may be quite different.  Real Estate is local:  there is no national Real Estate market so please contact me for information about your local market.

NAR conducts their survey annually.  This year’s results were unique as it was impacted by the pandemic starting in March of 2020.

As I learned years ago, buying a home is an emotional decision justified with logic.  Your home is typically your largest asset and picking the “right one” involves many lifestyle factors.  The buying process can be interesting enough when there is only one buyer involved, however, there are often situations involving more than one buyer.  Family and friends may also be involved.  People have different ways of making decisions and we all handle challenges and stress differently.  Buying a home typically offers plenty of both.

  • 31% were first-time buyers, compared to 33% in 2019.  The historic number has been 40%;
  • The typical buyer was 47 years old (33 for first-time and 55 for repeat buyers), with those aged 25 to 34 accounting for 23% of all sales;
  • The primary reason for buying was the desire to own their own home:  the numbers were 64% for first-time and 27% for repeat buyers;
  • 85% purchased existing homes, 15% purchased new construction;
  • 81% purchased detached, single family homes;
  • Buyers moved a median distance of 15 miles while those who sold one primary residence to buy another moved a median distance of 20 miles;
  • The median purchase price was $272,500, up from $257,000 in 2019 ($230,000 for first-time and $297,000 for repeat);
  • Buyers typically paid 99% of the asking price; 15% paid more than asking;
  • Buyers expected to live in their home for a median time of 15 years, 10 years for first-time and 15 for repeat, with 21% saying they would never move;
  • 43% started their search online while 18% contacted a Real Estate agent;
  • 91% found their agent to be a very useful or somewhat useful source of information;
  • Buyers typically searched for 8 weeks and saw 9 houses, 5 of which were only viewed online;
  • 97% of buyers used the Internet, the increase likely related to the pandemic;
  • 64% were very satisfied with the home buying process;
  • 88% used a Real Estate agent, 6% used a builder and 5% bought from the previous owner;
  • 51% prioritized hiring an agent to help them find the right home;
  • 87% financed their purchase with 95% of first-time and 83% of repeat typically financing 88% of the price.  First-time buyers financed 93% of the price and repeat buyers financed 84%;
  • 11% said that saving for a down payment was the most difficult step.  47% of them cited student loans as a problem with 43% citing high rent/ mortgage payments and 36% citing credit card debt;
  • 83% view a home purchase as a good investment;
  • Buyers typically searched online for 3 weeks before contacting an agent, two weeks during the pandemic;
  • 72% of first-time buyers were renters, 72% of repeat buyers owned their previous residence;
  • As far as motivating factors influencing location:  62% prioritized the quality of the neighborhood, 45% convenience to their job, 43% the affordability of the house;
  • As far as characteristics of the home and how they compromised:  23% prioritized price, 20% condition, 31% did not compromise;
  • 53% of buyers said that finding the “right property” was the most difficult part of the process, 26% mentioned financing (including saving for a down payment (13%), getting a loan (8%) and the appraisal (5%)), 17% cited the paperwork and 15% mentioned understanding the process.  20% reported no difficult steps, which was common for repeat new home buyers;
  • 56% walked through homes they found online, down from 65% in 2019, 37% drove by to look at the exterior and did not go inside.  Driving through a neighborhood to see if it meets your needs is an excellent way to narrow your focus while perhaps seeing areas you may not have been considering.  Many buyers eliminate houses after seeing the exterior;
  • For internet “shoppers”, 89% found photos and 86% found detailed property information very useful;
  • 64% were “very satisfied” while 30% were somewhat satisfied and 7% were dissatisfied;
  • 59% signed an agency representation disclosure at some point with 27% signing at the first meeting, 23% signed when their purchase contract was written, 11% signed at some other time.  28% had no representation agreement;
  • 51% of buyers wanted a Real Estate agent to help them find the right house, 24% wanted help negotiating (13% mentioned “terms” while 11% mentioned “price”), 8% wanted help with paperwork and 6% wanted help valuing comparables;
  • The top benefits Real Estate agents provided were:  62% said helping buyers understand the process, 61% said pointing out features or faults with properties, 48% said negotiating better terms, 47% said providing a list of service providers, 37% said negotiated a better price and 30% said shortened the home search;
  • Buyers ranked a number of agent qualities as “very important”:  98% want honesty and integrity; 93% want them to be knowledgeable about the process; 93% want them to be responsive; 88% want communication skills, 83% want them to be able to negotiate and 48% mentioned technology skills; 
  • The median down payment was 12% for all buyers with 7% for “first-time” and 16% for “repeat”;
  • 28% found the mortgage application process to be much more difficult than expected with only a 1% difference between first-time and repeat buyers. 

Buying Real Estate is unique compared to most typical purchases:  not only is it done much less frequently than other purchases, it typically involves multiple steps, each offering its own challenges.  If you would like to discuss selling or buying or if you have any questions about the process, please contact me.

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

HIRE WISELY!  We are not all the same!

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