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You got to love when the media finally catches up to the state of the market – Washington Examiner reported today (January 17, 2013) that foreclosures in the D.C. area have “plunged over 2 years.”

Over two years? Forget that! They’ve plunged in the last year. Data gathered from the local multiple listing system (Metropolitan Regional Information Systems) shows that foreclosures and short sale listings are down 64.5% in January 2013 compared to the same type listings entering the market in 2012 at this time.

The Washington D.C. market has led the country throughout the recovery period and Northern Virginia has led D.C. While there are still many homes that are “under water,” the region has nearly recovered in the last few years its lost values. December 2007, the average price was $542,775 (the highest average price for December ever for the region). Last month, the average price was at $518,503, according to data from MRIS (see the data sheet here). That’s just $24,000 below the high average. Prices are on the rise and we can expect that many homeowners in the region who have been under water will recover sooner than later!

This year is standing to be a huge year for home sellers and buyers in the suburbs of D.C. Foreclosures are nearly off the market (there are only 5 available in the Northern Virginia MLS at this writing). Need more info or to talk with a professional? Leave a message here or call (703) 821-8300 to Weichert Realtors in McLean.

 

With all the stimulus packages being floated out there at costs of up to $5,000 per tax payer (per program), the question comes begging about the Homebuyer Tax Credit.

“At $8,000 for each first-time homebuyer and now $6,500 for move-up buyers – how much is that going to cost the American taxpayers?”

Good question. Not knowing how many people will be able to take advantage of it, we’ll have to start with some guestimates.

Keep in mind, first, that about 4.5 million existing home sold in 2008 altogether and we have been on track to sell roughly the same in 2009.

For 2009, the tax credit was  only for first-time buyers and up to $8,000 (10% of the sales price, not to exceed $8,000). So not everyone received the $8,000 if they purchased a house less than $80,000 – but let’s go ahead and say they did for argument sake.

If the stats hold true, and that is about half of all buyers are first-timers, then there were 2.25 million buyers that qualified (assuming they didn’t go beyond the income limits – which many did). But for simplicity, we’ll say they all qualified.

Simple math puts the tax credits at $18 billion for 2009 – that doesn’t have to be paid back. For all the money that’s being floated out there to stimulate the economy, this is probably the best plan in play.

Now, before all my conservative friends blow a vein behind their eyeballs that are now popping – here’s what happens when a homeowner purchases a house (vs., say when someone buys a car or some other depreciating asset). They spend money on it. Lots of money.

The foreclosures/short sales that have made up most of the market for the last 2 years are mostly in paltry condition and need paint, carpet, appliances, countertops, cabinets, windows, landscaping, rot replacement, sump pumps, mold remediation, heat pumps, etc.

Unless you saw these houses, you just wouldn’t understand. I’m not talking “updating” homes that would otherwise be in good living condition, but making them inhabitable altogether. In fact, regular home buyers like you and me can’t even finance many of these houses because of the condition they’re in.

People get into a tizzy about home flippers swooping in and making “all this money” by flipping a house. Let me tell you – without the flippers some of these houses would completely fall apart. Remember, that lenders WON’T LEND MONEY on a house without complete bathrooms, that are mold invested, lack certain appliances, etc. And the REO banks WON’T fix them up to sell them. They just let them deteriorate while they wait for a buyer.

Enter the investor/rehabber who purchases the house with either cash or off-line financing, then fixes it up to pristine condition, sells it at a fair price and moves on to the next project. They are providing a much-needed service to even make the houses salable, much less inhabitable.

Now, as the market turns around in city after city (that’s what the increase in  pending sales is all about across the country), we’ll see an increase in sales and a use of the home buyer tax credit to fix up the housing pool.

The tax credit for home buyers has played its role and now it will go away April 30, 2010. The question for consumers is will they recognize and act on a good deal when they see it?

Virginia Association of RealtorsHere are the basics:

How Much:

  • First Timers: Up to $8,000 (10% of home purchase) but not for anyone buying a house more than $800,000
  • Move Up Seller/Buyer: Up to $6,500

Who?

  • First Timers – meaning you haven’t held title on a property in the previous 3 years.
  • Move up sellers/buyers: who have lived in their homes five consecutive years.

Income Limit:

  • Adjusted gross income of $125,000 (single); or $225,000 (married filing jointly). The credit fades out from these incomes and is elminated for those making more than $145,000 (single); or $245,000 for married filers.

Check out this link from the Virginia Association of Realtors for more details: http://www.varealtor.com/Portals/0/docs/ConsumerInformation/EXTENDED_First-Time_Home_Buyer_Credit_09.pdf

As we look at the 2009 real estate market recovery in Northern Virginia, there are various indicators to pull out to demonstrate how hot the market has turned here. The first item to watch is the pending sales. (I know many people want to look at pricing, but the problem with watching pricing is you never know where the bottom is until it bounces back up!)

Pending sales let you know buyers believe prices have hit bottom and are starting to jump off the fence. As pending sales (contracts written) pick up speed, the number of closed sales follow suit. Once sales surpass year-over-year percentages, the media starts jumping on board, officially announcing the market has turned.  Well – we saw the turn last fall (nearly a year ago) and all the numbers have been in a positive run since.

Next – I reported that inventory was hitting lows that would result in higher prices. And that’s exactly what happened. In my last issue of Around Town, I shared with you how the average prices have been moving up now for 7 consecutive months– well, that’s now 8 months straight for the whole region. And that brings us to the final indicator of a turning market, and that would be the Days on Market.

As of July 2009, the average days on market (DOM) for houses sold in Northern Virginia has hit the 60-day mark. The significance of 60 days is that it is half the time it took (120 days) to sell a house at the height of the buyers market, which was in January 2008 (see the chart on the flipside of this newsletter).

So what? What does this mean to you? Well – it doesn’t take much to figure out what’s happening here. Prices hit the bottom for buyers, buyers jumped off the fence, inventory dropped, prices are moving upward and now more buyers are jumping in droves, dipping the time on market.

We are selling more and more regular sales these days – non-foreclosure – and that means regular sellers are moving up to the larger, more updated home since they have plenty of first-timers and move-up buyers in line to buy their home for a profit. The market is tightening up!

Make your move now while there is still plenty of higher-priced inventory available.

I was looking over the supply of houses on the market this week in Fairfax County, Virginia and it’s really getting dangerously low. Compared to May of 2008, we have 55% fewer homes on the market – and 20% more contracts written on them.

That leaves home buyers with only a 7-week supply of houses and it’s getting smaller. Officially – we’re in a sellers’ market. For pocket markets (townships, subdivisions, etc.) it’s as hot a market as it was in the peek of 2005-2006 – it’s just that the prices are much lower. Ergo – the opportunity. If you’ve ever heard about buy low, sell high – now is the time to buy low.

The same is true across the country. Pending sales are up all over Florida, in Seattle, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, you name it, and buyers are coming off the fence like they were stung by a bumble bee!

For a macro look at how this can benefit you – consider the suburban Washington DC market of Fairfax Countty. If you are sitting in a house purchased in 2000 or earlier, you’re most likely sitting on a lot of equity that could enable you to move up to a larger home with the upgrades you’ve wanted but couldn’t afford.

I know – this sounds like a sales pitch – but frankly – it’s just the simple truth. Sellers and buyers have a unique opportunity to purchase a house at prices that have been backed up several years and at interest rates not seen for decades (currently in the mid-5% range).

In fact – we haven’t seen these kind of rates since they’ve been tracking them at Freddie Mac (http://www.freddiemac.com/pmms/pmms30.htm).

The average price of a 4BR, 2BA house in Springfield, VA, for instance, sold for $235,665 10 years ago. Today, that same house sells at $371,549. While this price is down from the last five recent years, the pricing has leveled and starting to rise in pocket markets throughout Northern Virginia.

And if you’re wondering if the market has turned around consider this – the average days on market for that house in Springfield is down to 18 days. That is not a misprint – NOT 180 Days, but 18 Days – a little over 2 weeks. Many other towns in the area are in the same situation.

So what?

  • Inventory is beginning its dip downward because buyers are coming off the fence, the foreclosure rate in the Northern Virginia area has been cut nearly in half (see www.CRA-GMU.org) and
  • Regular owners have not yet decided to place their homes on the market yet.
  • We are experiencing multiple offers (7 – 10 is not unusual, we’ve seen upwards to 35)
  • Escalation offers are back – one of my team members lost a bid after escalating $75,000!

Just remember DON’T MAKE A LOCAL DECISION BASED ON NATIONAL INFORMATION!

Today, the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors sold market is up 10.26% year-to-date.

Today, the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors pending sales market is up 21.09% year-to-date.

Today, the Fairfax County sold market is up 40% year-to-date.

Today, the Fairfax County pending sales market is up 30.96% year-to-date.

AGENTS – have you told anyone?

BUYERS – have you gotten off the fence?

SELLERS – are you ready to move up before prices do?

Finally — it’s not just me. Forbes magazine is letting its readers know that the DC market is on the upswing. Take a look at the link above for the Top 10 as rated by Forbes.com

Yes, I understand we’re in the worst foreclosure real estate market on record; and that a lot of people did a lot of bad things; and that we’re probably only half way through getting through this real estate debacle. However — I just ask that the feds be careful how much they need to push along the recovery in the marketplace — it’s already happening.

On the street, we watch inventory, pending sales and pricing to determine if a market is about to turn around either upward or downward. We could track it in 2006 when it started halting and now it’s tracking upward.
Ahh- you say, the prices are still down. Yep. Because that’s just the final piece of the equation. Prices are down across the country, and they will probably remain soft until the inventory starts shrinking – which is what’s starting to happen.
Consider these sales and pending sales numbers across the country:
  • San Jose, CA: Sales up 51% in January 2009
  • California: 2008 sales up 26% over 2007
  • Northern Virginia (Metropolitan Washington DC): Pending Sales +41%;
  • Manassas, VA: pending sales +50%
  • Florida: January sales +13%
Market after market, sales are starting their predictable climb upward after prices have dropped by as high as 50% in some areas. Whether we like it or not, feel good about it or not, has no bearing on whether or not the markets are starting to turn around. They are.
(The charts here show Northern Virginia sales price drops that correlate with the number of sales increaseing through 2008.)
In these same markets, agents are starting to report multiple offers on bank-owned properties that need a lot more than just paint and carpet. In my office this week, my team is starting to report that while buyers have finally gotten off the fence, now there’s no inventory and what’s left is selling for $25,000 to $40,000 more than asking price in a shower of multiple offers.
No – this is NOT 2004. It’s now 2009 and we’re about to repeat the whole cycle of the last run up. Why? Simple — supply and demand, mortgage money available and willing/able buyers ready to pick up good deals who have been saving their money for three years for prices to hit the low they’ve been waiting for. Well, it’s hit it and they have pulled out their check books to start the bidding.
It will continue upward as well and here’s why.
  1. Lack of inventory. The resale inventory has been primarily been made up of foreclosures and the federal programs to rehash old mortgages and stop the foreclosure cycle will create a drain on the need of inventory. Seller-owned properties are scarece because sellers who are okay financially are upside down on their mortgages and must wait till prices return to their previous levels before they can even consider selling.
  2. Prices have hit the psychological low. When you’ve been dealing in prices around a half million dollars for years, a house priced at $300,000 sounds like a real deal. Buyers are diving in with a vengeance and bidding up; again, removing the safeguards of home inspections, home warranties, and appraisals (if they have enough cash).
  3. Small new home inventory: New home builders pulled out of the market and must now ramp up again to build the product buyers want. This will take years to get going. They just can’t start building, they have to get the infrastructure planned, permited and approved before they can turn the first shovel of dirt – this takes time.
  4. Job growth. As go jobs, so goes the housing market. Several job markets have continued churning out employment even through this latest downturn. Washington, D.C.; Boston; Dallas/Ft. Worth; Houston have added, rather than shed new jobs over the last 18 months. Meanwhile, the surge of the stimulus packages (whether you like the package or not, the attention on the urban infrastructure is a good and needed thing – that will create labor jobs) these jobs will create the need for housing in those markets. States are already applying for and spending the stimulus millions.
Economic growth creates jobs; houses are where the jobs go at night. Meanwhile, the prices have hit the bottom in many areas and already started the surge of buyers jumping off the fence. The inventory is shrinking, the next item to tip will be prices.
Anthony Carr is an award winning sales coach and managing broker in Northern Virginia. He’s tracked and written about the real estate market since 1989. His blog http://commonsenserealestate.blogspot.com. He’s the author of two books and contributor to Donald Trump’s The Best Real Estate Advice I Ever Received.

I get this question all the time: have we hit the bottom yet? Market by market, that’s what’s happening across the country. I’ve been tracking “hot” markets for RealtyTimes.com (http://realtytimes.com/rtpages/manthonycarr.htm) for the last year and I’m seeing very healthy markets across the country in state after state.

The strongest market in the country is nearly any county in Texas. As far as comeback markets, where ever the foreclosures hit the hardest is where you’ll see the biggest come back. Prince William County, Virginia (outside Washington, D.C.), many markets in the state of Florida, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, all are in the middle of a recovery.

Now, recovery doesn’t immediately mean increasing prices. So when I refer to a “recovering” market, I’m looking more at pending sales; list to sold price; the level and direction of seller subsidies; and sustainability of the market, such as job growth and the housing inventory.

When inventory begins to drop, with pending sales moving upward – that’s the beginning stages of a recovering market. That’s what’s happening all over Northern Virginia, for instance, in the shadow of the White House. In Fairfax County over the last month, pending sales have jumped above last December’s levels by more than 50%; sales are up in the 30% range and inventory has dropped by about 35%. This has been happening for most of the year (2008).

Does the mainline media pick up on it? Of course, not, because they think a recovering market means one thing — prices. Unfortunately, by the time you put in a contract on a home when prices are moving up – your chance for a great deal have already disappeared. Most likely, you’ll pay at or above asking price and must bring your own money to the table without the benefit of seller closing costs to help you keep your own cash for redecorating, fix ups, etc.

I recently competed on a foreclosure property in Springfield, Virginia against four other investors. My buyer won, only because we came in closer to asking price more than anyone else and asked for no closing costs at all. We got a good deal, as the houses are selling for more than $100,000 more than what we pulled in on the property — of course, it needs fixing up.

So as you look around for that “great deal,” look at the underlying numbers that reveal the bottom of the market – not the sales price which tells you nothing more than the fact that the bottom’s already hit.

What makes the Washington, D.C. market different than the rest of the country? The job market within the market. While other cities brag about being the headquarters of Fortune 500 companies, we have something none of them will ever have – the Capital City of the United States. I like the way one colleague puts it when explaining to agents from other states: “When you can put the Pentagon, Congress and the White House in your backyard, then you’ll have a housing market like ours.”

It’s been an interesting week on Wall Street and on Pennsylvania Avenue, leaving Main Street wondering what will happen with the housing market. When you look at our numbers around the Washington Monument, and see that the job growth here has moved upward and heating up even more, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist (or political scientist) to see that the inventory is dropping, prices are starting to level and move upward, and buyers are writing contracts at a triple digit rate more than last year.

If you’re looking to move up, this is the year to take advantage of level prices so you can move up without busting your personal budget. In addition, with FHA financing requiring a minimal down payment, first-time buyers are creating a feeding frenzy in the entry-level market in all property types. We’re seeing more parents help their kids buy a house now before they are priced out of the market. Renters are getting out of supporting the landlord and beginning to build their own equity and personal wealth.

So what? What does this mean to you? Real estate is local. Despite job challenges and foreclosures across the country, homebuyers and sellers must make a decision based on the local scene. The number of foreclosures in the area is declining month after month AND they are drawing multiple offers. Traditional sales of homes priced right and in good condition still make up the majority of the market. Is now the time for you to sell or buy? Waiting too long may cause you to say in the future: “You know, I could have …”

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