December 2022 Market Update

In the blink of an eye, this year is coming to a close.  It has been a true whirlwind, to say the least, regarding the real estate market. We had a fury of activity and sales at the beginning of the year with artificially low interest rates, escalating prices, and extremely high demand. Now we will finish the year with interest rates that doubled over the last year (though they are coming back down), stabilizing prices, and less demand. We are in a more balanced market, and it’s nothing like it was earlier in the year. 

This ‘slowdown’ has the media going crazy and they continue to put out sensationalized headlines to grab your attention.  One topic we’ve all been reading about is the crash of housing prices.  While there are some areas that will see price declines, most will see a decline in price appreciation.  Areas where prices skyrocketed (and are now spiking in inventory levels) will indeed see prices decline – and decline rapidly.  These areas saw the most benefit from the pandemic and remote working environments, and that was not sustainable.

Overall, prices are up year-over-year, but we have been seeing prices decline month-over-month (See Chart 1 below). Historically, price appreciation is 3.8% and the numbers far exceed those historical averages, even today. These declines are slowing down (See Chart 2 below). As a result of the year-over-year price increases, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) recently announced the conforming loan limit values for mortgages to be acquired by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in 2023 will be increased to $726,200. This is an increase of $79,000 over 2022. In Northern Virginia, where our area boasts prices that have higher median home values, we have a new loan limit for properties – that number is $1,089,300. These are crazy numbers indeed, but the numbers show that prices may have hit the bottom. Price declines month-over-month have slowed, showing more realistic prices today than earlier this year, as noted in Chart 2. The question is, would the FHFA increase the loan limit if they thought prices would decline substantially? I don’t think so. 

In my opinion, and as you can see, the media is not telling the whole story. To get a much more accurate story about housing, please rely on me, your trusted real estate advisor.  Real estate is extremely local, so call me to learn more how this affects you if you are selling or buying a home today. Next month, we will debunk another media fallacy – so stay tuned!

In the meantime, have a great holiday season with family and friends!

CHART 1
CHART 2

November 2022 Market Update

The leaves are the most beautiful I have seen in years…it must be all the rain we had earlier in the season.

As we enter the shift from fall to winter, we’re all wondering if the market will bring us stability or change. It’s tough to tell right now, as we are on a real estate market roller coaster, not only in Northern Virginia but the rest of the United States. Soaring interest rates and inflation, declining house sales and buyer demand, plus the overall negativity about the economy have put us off (number wise) when we compare this market to last year and 2020. My advice has been, and will continue to be, to stop comparing today’s real estate market to 2021 and 2020. Those years were outliers, and I can explain why. It all began with the pandemic, which resulted in historically low interest rates, remote working conditions, lack of inventory and then resulted in irrational exuberance when it came to making offers. On top of that, the overall mindset about the future contributed to the unique situation we were all in. Taking all of this into consideration, we really should be benchmarking against pre-Covid times and post Great Recession times instead of the pandemic years. If we do this, we’re having very comparable years regarding yearly sales, month supply of homes, and weekly absorption rates – which means we should end up with a historically good year. 

The biggest differences are inventory and number of weekly sales. Inventory is down 22% from 2019, down 45% from 2018. At the same time, weekly sales are down 40% from 2019 and 39% from 2018. People seem to remember what their neighbor’s sale was like last year, or even earlier this year, and not what happened when they sold in 2015. Our perspective when selling a home today should change to a more realistic approach to the market we are currently in.

So, what’s the moral of the story? If you are seller, get your house in the right condition to sell, price it right, be patient, and wait for it to sell. You also have the option to sell later. If you are a buyer and you are ready to buy, then buy – don’t wait! If the house fits your needs and lifestyle, make the move. In most cases, you can negotiate and get a home on your terms. When the economy shifts and rates come down, refinance and then it becomes a win-win for you.

If you have any questions at all, feel free to reach out me.  I am always here to help you.

Have a great holiday season with your family and friends!

October 2022 Market Update

As we enter the last quarter of the year and with Halloween quickly approaching, here’s my question: is the real estate market going to experience a trick or a treat? We are all hoping for a treat but as mortgage interest rates rise along with inflation, it seems like the economy might give us a trick. As a result, buyers are in for a treat if they are in the market to buy a home. There is less competition for houses today. This allows buyers to negotiate with sellers to get lower prices, closing cost credits, and most contingencies they desire as we enter a more balanced market. 

In the past, I’ve discussed that buyers should consider alternative financing options like Adjustable-Rate Mortgages and 2-1 Buydowns to temporarily get a more reasonable rate. This still stands. As my friend Jared James says, marry the house and date the rate.  When the economy settles in, or if we enter a full-blown recession, we should see rates come down. Buyers can then refinance to the lower rates, especially on 30-year fixed rates. 

Now as a seller, it’s going to be more of a trick going forward.  Be prepared to settle in when selling your house, as the days on market are increasing.  Additionally, the house will have to be in top condition, staged, and most importantly, priced right.  Prices have moderated, and in most cases, we are not seeing higher prices on properties.

If you plan to sell, now is not the time to get greedy on the price, but the timing is good as there is less competition in the market. There are still savvy buyers looking to purchase a home today, and the contracts will have contingencies in them. If you are a buyer, call me if you would like to know more about the financing options I discussed, and let me guide you through the home selling process we are encountering today if you are considering selling.

On another note, we are growing! I recently purchased RE/MAX Regency out of Haymarket and Warrenton.

We’re consolidating our Gainesville and Haymarket offices into one, located at Regency’s Haymarket location in the Dominion Valley Country Club shopping center.  Please let me know if you would like to check out our state-of-the-art offices – I’d love to show you!

September 2022 Market Update

Summer is coming to an end! The question is – is the real estate market coming to an end as well? If you read the headlines, watch the news, and talk with co-workers and family members (who are not real estate professionals), the answer is probably ‘yes’. Prices are going to crash, we are in a bubble, inventory is going to skyrocket, foreclosures are going to ramp up, and more false information floats around regularly. Luckily, you have the voice of reason – me – to tell you the real facts, especially about the Northern Virginia Market. 

First things first: prices will go down in some areas, but not all, and not drastically. Some sellers will be desperate and will sell their homes for less than market value, as their circumstances will dictate their motivation. This is the exception and not the norm. They’ll still make money on the sale, as prices have increased in the last few years, so they’ll not be in a negative equity position. Some sellers will receive multiple offers and prices will escalate – again, this is the exception and not the norm. This is ok, as we don’t need the market to continue to have prices escalate $25,000 – $150,000 over the list price. That was just not sustainable. 

Inventory is not going to skyrocket, and we won’t suddenly have an oversupply of houses on the market. Why? Many homeowners have 2.5-3.5% interest rates on their mortgages and their payments are affordable, so why would they just suddenly list? Because people say the market is going to crash? Not gonna happen. Inventory levels have dropped in the last six weeks in our market, and that trend will probably continue. People are selling today because they need to – not because the market is on fire. Houses will stay on the market for two to three months – not two to three hours, or even two to three days – and that is ok. We are in a balanced market. This will frustrate some sellers, but the market has changed, so settle in and know that these are the conditions today. 

In today’s balanced market, buyers will have time to look at houses more than once and for longer than just five minutes. Their contracts will have contingencies, and this, too, is ok. 

Lastly, we are not going to have a foreclosure explosion. People have equity and jobs. They will exist, but there will not be an onslaught of them.

Sellers – it is time to balance the expectations of your sale to mimic the new market. Have patience – your house will sell. Buyers – know you will have time and choices, which is a good thing, but also know that sellers will not drop prices by 10%. Be realistic and you will get a home that fits your lifestyle. Buy for the long term and don’t be concerned about price fluctuations – they are normal.

With all that being said, some parts of the country will see bigger price drops because their prices increased nearly 50% in just a few years. They will see more inventory coming on the market. Their markets are not as sustainable as ours. Remote work situations have reversed in many cases, making these “hot markets” not so hot. 

I can tell you more and show you charts and images that back all of this up, so feel free to reach out if you want to learn more. As always, I am here to help you (and those you know) with their real estate needs. Call me to discuss how all of this affects you or them!

Now, go watch some football!

August 2022 Market Update

It’s the dog days of summer, and the real estate market is generally as it is this time of year, but just a little bit slower. Typically, the market sees less activity in August – people go on vacation, the showings slow, and prices moderate. Nothing to be concerned about, but the difference this year is the market was so fast-paced the first five months that it seems like things are drastically slow now.

The good news is that we have settled into a more “normal” market. The initial shock of the changing market has worn off. Inventory levels have stabilized, prices are settling, and buyer demand remains active. The weekly absorption rate of sales this year is 19% which is good, relative to other non-pandemic years. For comparison, the rate in 2019 was 18%, in 2018 it was 15% and in 2017 it was a mere 12%. What we need now is for seller expectations to be in line with where the current market is. It will take longer for houses to sell; there are fewer buyers in the market due to rising rates, rising prices, and buyer fatigue. The great news is that there are still buyers in the market. There is no bubble and prices are not crashing.

Why you may ask? Today (versus the Great Recession), we have 5 million more buyers in the first-time home buyer age bracket (28-32) and there are 12 million more household formations. Additionally, the number of homes for sale was 3.7 million nationally in 2008. Today we have under 1 million. Builders only build when they have a buyer – they are not building spec homes like they were before the Great Recession. The overall numbers reflect a better market for both sellers and buyers. The frenetic pace from November through the end of April was not sustainable, nor was it healthy.

So, what’s next? We will have a market where buyers will have the ability to take their time when deciding to buy. When they do write contracts, they will have contingencies in them. There will still be some homes that sell quickly with multiple offers, but it won’t be like it was a few months ago. I want to reiterate that this is a good thing for everyone, as we have seen issues with people who bought homes sight unseen, didn’t do inspections, or have appraisal contingencies.

The bottom line is that if you are looking to sell or buy, you need the advice of a trusted professional. Call me to discuss your situation in more detail. I am here to help!

July 2022 Market Update

Welcome to the summer – and all the fun associated with it! What does summer mean to you? Trips to the beach?  Lazy days at the pool? Cookouts with family and friends? Baseball games?  How about amusement parks? 

In our current world of real estate, we are at an amusement park and rollercoaster rides are what we are experiencing. We’re facing the ups and downs and twists and turns of the most exciting ride at the park.  Now, more than ever, you need to have an agent with experience and knowledge to help you navigate the roller coaster of real estate.  We’ve seen some houses sell with multiple offers in just a few days, and other houses sitting on the market with very few showings in weeks.  We have a high demand for housing and growing – albeit slowly – inventory levels.  Interest rates are up and down regularly, yet they are still at fantastic historical levels.

The rates of the past are the rates of the past. They were artificially low and could not stay that way for an extended period.  Even though current rates are higher than where they were, they WILL come down as we enter a recession.  The good news for real estate is that in recessionary times, real estate has fared well, with only the Great Recession negatively affecting home values.

The reason for that decline in home values was the exotic home loans and the fallout as a result of them.  We are not in the same situation today.

Homeowners have equity today versus the Great Recession, when many people had negative equity the day they bought the house.  As a matter of fact, of people in foreclosure today, 90% have positive equity and 25% of those in foreclosure have 50% positive equity or greater.

So, what does all this mean if you are a seller or a buyer in today’s market?  Sellers need to be realistic with their pricing and have patience, as it may take time for your house to sell.  The good news is that your home will sell as we DO have demand. Even though inflation and rates are up, buyers are out there.  If you are a buyer, you may need to be competitive or you may not be able to negotiate like “the old days”.  In any scenario you find yourself in, we should speak more specifically about your situation.  I am here to help, so give me a call.

Happy Summer and stay cool!

June 2022 Market Update

Lately, we’ve been having conversations with each other, our clients, and others in the industry both locally and around the country to better understand what is happening today in the real world and the Northern Virginia real estate market. Lots of questions are being asked. Do we have a housing bubble in Northern Virginia? Are prices going to crash? When are prices coming down? Should I wait for prices to drop before I buy? Why is it taking longer to sell a house? How high will rates go? Should I sell (or buy) now or wait? 

In my opinion, prices will not be escalating at the rate they were previously. Those dramatic price increases were not sustainable. There may be pockets where prices decline, but we still have high demand at most price points.

Additionally, our price increases were not as drastic as in other parts of the country. According to the FHFA Top 100 Metropolitan Markets Ranking, we rank 99 out of 100! Other parts of the country will see higher price drops, but our area should remain stable. We will not have a “housing crash” in Northern Virginia. 

Don’t wait to buy real estate – buy real estate and wait. Buy because of your lifestyle, needs, and wants – and not strictly because of prices. Buy for the long term, not the short-term gains. Yes, the market has slowed down. Buyers are not “rushing” into buying decisions like they were previously, but remember – that type of market cannot be sustained. It is still a seller’s market. It’s a good thing when a house is on the market 7-10 days.  

If you are thinking of selling soon, give me a call. Rates are going up on 30-year fixed mortgages, but you do have alternatives – most notably, adjustable-rate mortgages and buydowns. The adjustable-rate mortgages are a great option and not what they were when the real estate market crashed in the past. Buydowns give you another option, with lower than 30-year fixed rates. Let’s discuss why these are often viable options for buyers. If you are looking to sell or buy – now is a great time, so call me to learn more.

Enjoy the last few days of Spring before the summer heat kicks in!

May 2022 Market Update

There is one thing that the real estate market never fails to provide us with: change. The change can be gradual, or it can be swift. The change we are experiencing today was fast and unpredictable as it is not a broad-brush change in the market. There are pockets where we have recently gone from 75 to 100 showings in a weekend to fewer than eight, while other markets have 45 showings in two days and ten offers. There is no rhyme or reason for the disparity in the activity levels and the number of contracts. However, the one thing I do know is that price is critical in getting a home sold. If you are considering selling, bear in mind that the last several months of sales have already escalated your price to where you should not expect a huge jump in pricing.

Additionally, you should not overprice the house, as buyers are more discerning and conscious of pricing. This being said, we are still seeing prices go 10% over the list, but these occurrences are more the exception than the rule as it was just a month ago. Obviously, the rapid increase in interest rates has affected the market, but they have not caused a crash or bubble. What the increase has done is made people reconsider price points and payments. Therefore, the sudden rate increase is no reason for the slowdown in some areas. In my opinion, it is a combination of factors, as there is still high demand for housing. Another factor besides rising rates could be buyer fatigue; purchasers may be tired/frustrated with losing out multiple times on offers. Maybe it’s the lack of inventory in their price point or looking at overpriced houses and houses in poor condition. Or it could have been spring break and the holidays; only time will tell. Or perhaps it is just a lull like we saw last August to November before skyrocketing through April.

In a recent conversation with a lender, they said they wrote 80 pre-approval letters for one buyer. In most cases, lenders are writing between three and five letters for buyers before they end up successful or out of the market. All this being said, my experience, research, and due diligence can provide you with the right advice to make the best decisions when selling or buying a home. I am here to help, so give me a call.

Have a safe, fun, and Happy Memorial Day with friends and family to appreciate those who have sacrificed their lives so we can live ours.

April 2022 Market Update

How about this weather? Cold temps, blustery winds, snow, sleet, and sometimes sunshine and warm temperatures all on the same day. It’s so crazy; I can’t figure out what to wear today! These conditions remind me of the real estate market in Northern Virginia this last month. One house had 100 visitors and multiple contracts in two days; another had 15 visitors and one contract in four days – in the same neighborhood one week apart. We also have a house that has been on the market for more than two weeks with just a handful of showings and no ratified contract. As I always advise, you must have the house in pristine condition, priced right, and in a great location to get the most activity as well as contracts. If you think you can sell anything in this market, you are far from reality.

The real question of the month is, “when should I put my house on the market?” Interest rates have impacted the market as they continue to rise. We’ve had the most volatile few weeks of increases, with rates topping out at over 5%. This has some buyers looking to buy sooner rather than later (many believe rates will continue to rise), and they want to get in today. Another aspect to consider when I’m asked this question is the number of houses for sale – especially in your neighborhood. Overall, in Northern Virginia, inventory levels are down 29% from this same time last year – but inventory is rising. I also consider pricing when answering this question. Prices are up over 9% from last year, but with rising interest rates, inflation, and more homes for sale, price increases will not be as substantial as earlier this year. My answer is simple – get your house on the market sooner rather than later. Call me today if you are considering selling and want to see how this impacts you.

So how does all this impact buyers? If you are financially stable to buy a home, don’t wait – just go for it. Remember to buy for the right reasons – lifestyle, distance to work, and schools to name a few, just don’t forget what your why is. Don’t expect mortgage rates or home prices to come down because neither is going to happen for the foreseeable future. Waiting will cost you more. As the saying goes, ‘don’t wait to buy real estate; buy real estate and wait.’ If you are thinking about buying, call me, and we can discuss your situation in more detail.

In the meantime, have a great spring. Hopefully, the weather will begin to normalize soon!

March 2022 Market Update

For me, the word of the month is ‘strategize’…and that’s because the real estate market is moving fast and furiously. If you don’t have a strategy, you will not be adequately positioned as a seller or a buyer. If you are a seller, do you fix up your house or just list it in its current condition? Do you price it low and hope for multiple offers? Do you price it at market and expect a few offers – or maybe just one? Or do you price it high and hope a frustrated buyer is willing to pay any price?

If you are a buyer – do you use an escalation clause? Do you waive all contingencies? Do you offer a free Post Settlement Occupancy Agreement? Do you want to add an appraisal gap statement? Do you take it “as is”? So many questions need to be addressed; each situation is different and should be analyzed individually. The good news is that I have the answers for you, whether you are looking to sell or buy in today’s market, who you work with matters!

As you know, not every house will sell just because of the market. You still need to have the right strategy to get it sold. On the flip side, a strong offer can position you to win over multiple other contracts with the right strategy, so call me to discuss your situation in more detail. I am always here to help.

I am getting many real estate-related questions lately – will the rising interest rates hurt the market? Will the market be impacted by the Feds increasing their rates overnight? Will the Ukraine situation slow down the real estate market? Will rising gas prices impact real estate? How does rising inflation affect the real estate market? So many good questions. Here are the answers – at least the ones I have today. Mortgage interest rates remain at historic lows, and as a matter of fact, they are below where they were before the pandemic started. Mortgage rates would have to get to the 6% range before they began to impact the market, and the government won’t let this happen. Presently, rates are at 3.75% for conforming loans – a reasonable rate, in my opinion. The Fed rate increases do not directly impact mortgage rates, so this will not be a considerable influence. Rising gas prices may hinder a few first-time buyers from entering the market (they are budget-conscious overall), but this will not slow down home buying demand. Inflation may hinder some people from buying, but in the end, it won’t affect our market. We are receiving multiple offers across all price points, so we will still have a robust real estate market even if half the buyers drop out. Lastly, if it gets worse, the situation in Ukraine may impact housing. At this time, it is helping to bring rates down, but it hasn’t slowed demand or slowed price appreciation. Only time will tell, but all is good on our real estate front right now.

There are many scenarios and questions out there but know that I am here to help answer them. Just give me a call to discuss everything with you!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!