10 things to know about low housing inventory

Inventory is low. Really low. That’s one of the big stories right now in real estate, so I wanted to spend some time kicking around some thoughts. Let’s take a look at ten things to know about housing supply in Sacramento. If you aren’t local, I hope you can still find some value. Do you see any parallels to your market? Any thoughts? 

DOWNLOAD 50 graphs HERE: Please download new market graphs here as a zip file. See my sharing policy for 5 ways to share (please don’t copy verbatim).

10 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT LOW HOUSING INVENTORY

1) Housing inventory is clearly on a declining trend.

inventory in sacramento county Since 2013 - part 2 - by sacramento appraisal blog

Housing supply has been vanishing over the past few years in light of greater buyer demand, sellers sitting instead of selling, less new construction, increasing sales volume, and other reasons.

2) Housing supply is really sparse (except at the top).

inventory - March 2017 - by home appraiser blog

Housing supply was low last year, but this year it’s 15-20% lower. Having less listings means it’s really competitive for buyers – especially under $400,000. However, inventory is not low at every price range as there are far more listings at the top. Before freaking out though, this is actually a normal trend we see almost every single month. But the disparity between under $500,000 and above $1,000,000 is striking. As an FYI, it’s worth noting the top of the market does feel a bit soft.

3) Inventory is still not as low as the Blackstone days.

inventory in sacramento county Since 2011 - by sacramento appraisal blog

It’s true that inventory is anemic, but we have to remember during 2012 and 2013 it was at one month for nearly an entire year when Blackstone and other investors were gutting the market. I mention this because while the market has an aggressive feel, it’s still not what it was. If inventory persists in declining though it will be a bloodbath in terms of competition for buyers (good for sellers though as a developer mentioned to me on Twitter). 

4) Inventory was 1400% higher ten years ago during the “bubble”.

inventory in sacramento county Since 2007 - by sacramento appraisal blog

Ten years ago during the worst of the real estate “bubble” popping we had a 14-month supply of homes for sale (as opposed to one month now).

5) Bank-owned inventory is not a driving factor today.

REOs and Short Sales Sacramento County - by Sac Appraisal Blog

Eight years ago over 70% of all sales in Sacramento County were REOs, but that number is now about 3%. Some folks promise a new “foreclosure wave”, but it’s definitely not here right now.

6) Low inventory is putting pressure on values to increase.

Median price since 2013 in sacramento county

Declining inventory over the past few years is a big factor in rising prices. Right now values are about where they were at the height of last summer (or slightly higher) after a lull in the fall in many neighborhoods in Sacramento County. But let’s not make the mistake to think the market is doing the same thing everywhere. The truth is in some areas increases have been modest at best over the past year while some price ranges feel flat, but the bottom of the market is hands-down experiencing the largest increases. Remember, in some price ranges the market feels more aggressive than actual value increases too, so it’s really important to sift through emotions, look at actual numbers, and not overprice because the market is “hot”. A good mantra for some areas is “Aggressive Demand, Modest Appreciation.”

7) Strong demand is a huge reason why inventory is declining:

price metrics since 2014 in sacramento county

Demand is strong right now for both buying and renting, and buyers and tenants are simply gobbling up almost anything out there (I say “almost” because buyers are still sensitive about adverse locations and overpriced homes). Thus it’s not surprising to see the median price is 7% higher than last year, the average sales price is 9% higher, and the average price per sq ft is about 9% higher. Prices increases from February to March were anywhere from 1-3% depending on the metric (this doesn’t mean values went up by 1-3% though). 

8) Increasing sales volume is one reason for lower inventory.

Cash in Q1 - by Sacramento Regional Appraisal Blog

Housing inventory is the relationship between sales and listings, so if there are more sales and no real change in the number of listings it will naturally mean inventory as a metric will show a decline. Look at the graph above to see all sales since 2013 for the first quarter of the year. Can you see how sales volume is increasing? At the same time we see cash volume declining. This reminds us the market is trying to figure out what normal looks like. It’s healthy to see sales volume growing.

9) Low interest rates have helped take homes off the market.

Interest Rates Since 2008

Historically low interest rates have played a big role in shaping inventory in that some owners are sitting on a 3.5% interest rate from years ago and they are simply not going to move unless necessary. Why would they anyway if their replacement home would come with a much higher mortgage? This means there are fewer homes hitting the market that might otherwise sell.

10) Low inventory is causing homes to sell faster.

CDOM in Sacramento County - by Sacramento Regional Appraisal Blog

Last year it was taking 5 days longer to sell a home and two years ago in March 2015 it was taking 15 days longer to sell a home. Can you see how low inventory makes a difference in how long it takes to sell? By the way, here is CDOM by price range. As you can see, the higher the price the longer it takes to sell. Just because it is a “hot” market does not mean every property is selling in 3 days.

BIG MONTHLY POST NOTE: Once a month I do a big market update (and it’s long purpose). Normally I talk about Placer County and the Sac Region too, but I tore my MCL a few weeks back, so I only had time to focus on Sacramento County in today’s post. Next month I’ll likely be back to normal (but I may change it up too).

DOWNLOAD 50 graphs HERE: Please download new market graphs here as a zip file. See my sharing policy for 5 ways to share (please don’t copy verbatim).

Questions: Did I miss anything? Any other thoughts as to why inventory is low? How would you describe the market right now? I’d love to hear your take.

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An open letter to buyers in an aggressive market

Dear Buyers,

Yesterday I talked with a few buyers who are in the trenches of the market. One is feeling frustrated at not getting offers accepted, and the other is starting to feel like affordability is beginning to vanish. I was actually taken aback with the sense of hopelessness felt by the latter individual, so I wanted to share some perspective as an appraiser when it comes to making offers in an aggressive-feeling market. Whether you are in Sacramento or elsewhere, I hope this helps. Any thoughts?

40519811 - empty notebook and pen on table

Advice for buyers in an aggressive market:

1. Shop below your price range: We are in a market where multiple offers are commonplace in many price ranges and neighborhoods. This means if you are qualified up to $300,000 and money is tight, you might want to consider homes that are priced $270,000 to $300,000 instead of just $299,000. This allows you some space in case there is a bidding war.

2. Expect to get beat: Sorry to be a downer, but you probably aren’t going to get into contract on the first home you offer on. Remember, real estate is a bit like dating. You often don’t marry the first person you go out with. So take heart and expect you’ll submit many offers until something sticks.

3. Know when listings usually hit the market: There is a season in real estate, just like there is a season for baseball, weather, or elections. It’s true inventory is sparse, but it’s also true listings don’t start to hit their stride until March through August. Sometimes February will be a stronger than usual month, but we still don’t see the bulk of what’s going to hit the market until May through July / August. If you don’t believe me, look at the light green listings below over the past few years. In short, don’t freak out in February if there isn’t much on the market. 

listings in sacramento - sacramento appraisal blog

4. Don’t let sensational headlines stress you out: Headlines these days often talk about how hot the market is, but my advice would be to read stories carefully and ask a few real estate professionals what they think too. For instance, one headline says “Sacramento will be one of the hottest markets in the nation” as values are projected to increase by 7% in 2017. This one story has seriously saturated the market and I’m hearing this sentence about everywhere I go. The irony though is a 7% price increase is about what happened in 2016, which means the headline could have just as easily said, “The market looks like it’ll do about the same thing this year.” I don’t say this to gloss over how competitive the market is, but only to highlight we need to read articles carefully and think critically rather than immediately stress out.

5. Don’t mistake low-ball pricing for the market: Some properties are attracting 15-20 offers, but my sense is when that happens it’s usually more about low pricing than the actual market. This week I saw a property listed at $290,000 that probably should have been listed at $350,000. We can look at the 15 offers and bemoan how intense it is out there or we can realize this one was priced ridiculously low.

6. Be careful of bidding up to “no man’s land”: While it’s plausible to think the contract price might get pushed up a bit with multiple offers, don’t forget to be realistic about what the home is actually worth. If you know you don’t have cash to pay for the difference between a realistic appraised value and the contract price, you might not want to offer that high then. Somehow you’re going to need to stand out as a buyer to the seller, but an unrealistic offer well beyond a reasonable value probably isn’t going to help you in the long run.

7. Realize cash doesn’t always win: There is a false idea that cash investors from the Bay Area are beating out financed buyers all the time – especially those bringing very little money to the table. The truth is 1 in 4 sales last year in Sacramento County were FHA buyers who put down 3.5% (or less if they used down-payment assistance). Keep in mind only 14% of all sales were cash during this same time. Moreover, 27.4% of all sales under $500,000 had FHA loans in 2016 in Sacramento County.

8. Find a way to stand out: There could be multiple offers, so you need to figure out a way to stand out and make a positive impression on the seller. Of course the strength of your offer is the first place to start, but beyond that find a way to make an emotional connection with the seller too if possible. I might recommend brainstorming ideas with your agent. When my wife and I bought a house a couple of years ago there was actually a higher offer on the property, but the seller accepted our offer instead. When touring the home we were fortunate to meet the seller and we hit it off a bit. During the conversation the seller mentioned her son was going to start at a new private school. Anyway, when we submitted the offer we wrote a personal letter complimenting the house and reminding the seller who we were. We also looked up the school and found it was $1400 per month. We then wrote in our offer we were going to give the seller an extra $1400 at the close of escrow to help pay for her son’s school (The underwriter actually freaked out because she’d never seen a buyer do that). I’m not saying you need to do something like this, but in our case it definitely made a huge impression. It showed that we listened, we truly cared, and we were very serious about the home. 

9. Listen to your agent: You probably know the market pretty well by now because you’re scouring listings in an obsessive compulsive way on Redfin, Zillow, and MLS. This also means you are most likely going to find your eventual home before your agent does. That’s how it works these days. Just remember finding the home is the easy part, but the most important thing your agent can do for you is negotiate on your behalf and offer professional guidance and advice along the way. Will you listen?

I hope this was helpful.

Sincerely,

Ryan

Questions: What piece of advice resonates with you? What is #10? Did I miss something? I’d love to hear your take.

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Trends to watch in real estate in 2017

What’s the real estate market going to do this year? I thought it would be worthwhile to consider some of the emerging trends to watch in 2017 in Sacramento and beyond. What do you think? I’d love to hear your take in the comments.

real-estate-market-in-2017-sacramento-appraisal-blog

1) Bubble conversations: This year we are going to have even more real estate “bubble” conversations. We’ll hear things like, “The bubble is going to pop in 2017”, or “Get ready for 2007 again”, or “It’s all going to crumble after this year.” As these conversations ensue, my advice is to sift through the headlines, pay close attention to actual data, know the limitations of your ability to predict the future, and be in tune with the way the seasonal market tends to behave so you can spot anything out-of-the-ordinary.

2) Creative lending: As interest rates presumably rise in coming time, it will make mortgages more expensive (duh). This won’t matter for some buyers because they have the money to afford the market, but others will need an extra edge to keep up with higher prices. This is where lenders can loosen up financing options so they continue to close deals and make as much money as possible (sounds healthy, right?). Keep in mind President-Elect Trump is talking about repealing Dodd-Frank too, and that could create waves in the market if it actually happened. 

values-in-real-estate-sacramento-appraisal-blog-image-purchased-and-used-with-permission-from-123rf3) Housing inventory remains low: There isn’t any quick fix for anemic housing inventory, so we can expect to see another year of low inventory unless something drastic happens causing sellers to list their homes. That brings me to share something I talked about last month. In a video John Wake talks about San Francisco values and how sellers tend to wait to list their homes when values are increasing. The thought is, why list now when values are going to be higher next year? But then when values do eventually turn there can be a flood of houses hit the market as a “race to the exit”. That’s something to keep in mind.

4) Marijuana: It can be polarizing to talk about marijuana, but it’s definitely a market force since it is now legal in California for recreational use. Over the next year many cities and counties will be fine-tuning rules for grow operations, so be on the lookout for details. By no means am I glorifying marijuana, but I will be talking about it in coming years because it’s a force bound to impact real estate values. 

5) Smart homes: With the advent of Amazon Echo and Google Home, consumers can now say things like, “Alexa, set the sprinklers for 7am tomorrow morning” or “Okay Google, turn the temperature to 68 degrees.” The huge popularity of these devices during the holiday season will only mean millions more households are now going to be making their homes more digitally connected.

finding-cheap-properties-image-purchased-by-sacramento-appraisal-blog-from-123rt-dot-com6) Disappearance of the $100,000 market: There is definitely upward value pressure on the lowest end of the price spectrum. Other price ranges last year were much more flat, but not so much with the lowest prices in town. This year in Sacramento we are going to very likely see the disappearance of the market under $100,000. Each month lately we’ve had maybe 6-12 sales under $100,000 for single family detached homes, and after the next few quarters I expect that number might be down to zero. We shall see though.

7) Home flipping courses: There will be no shortage of “learn to flip” courses coming to a city near you. Friends, be very cautious about paying anyone to teach you “secrets” you can probably get for free online. You can read my open letter to celebrity flippers for more thoughts.

8) Custom woodworking: I’ve been seeing more and more custom woodworking in homes. I don’t mean really high-end craftsmanship per se, but rather the cool DIY stuff you might see on Pinterest or a show like Fixer Upper. I’m seeing more wood walls, large wood slabs, custom exterior wood accents on the exterior, etc…. As a dabbling woodworker, this makes me smile.

9) More agents will enter the market: When values increase and positive real estate news saturates the market, it tends to compel people to enter the real estate profession. So last month’s headline that Sacramento will be one of the “hottest market in the nation” in 2017 very likely sealed the deal for a number of folks on the fence about getting into real estate. 

real-estate-contracts-multiple-offers-in-sacramento-appraisal-blog10) Multiple offers: We are likely to continue to see a climate of multiple offers in the Sacramento area. In a market like this I would advise sellers to be realistic about pricing their homes properly. What have similar homes actually sold for? What is similar and getting into contract right now? It’s easy to cherry-pick the highest non-similar sales in the neighborhood because “the market is hot”, but we have to remember similar homes are the “comps” appraisers are going to use (key point). At the end of the day appraisers have to support the value, so it may be best to be reasonable on the front end rather than run into all sorts of “appraisal issues” because the property got into contract too high. Remember, just because housing inventory is low does not mean you can command whatever price you want. That may have been more true in early 2013, but it’s not true right now.

11) The 2-4 unit market is heating up: These days in many areas it seems like the market is heating up with some surprisingly high prices again for 2-4 unit properties. Values were subdued for years after the housing crash, but news of increasing rents is certainly part of what’s helping drive 2-4 unit prices up. I’ve also observed some Bay Area buyers wanting to park money in Sacramento and overpay. Sometimes unrealistic cap rates are being used to justify value too (more on that in a few weeks maybe).

12) Appraisal waivers: Last month Fannie Mae rolled out an appraisal waiver program. They say this program is only for refinances, but it’s a pretty good guess we’re going to see some purchases waived too. On one hand this program can help offset slower turn-times by appraisers lately, but on the negative side of things it can lead to inflating values too. In short, let’s watch this closely and not forget important safeguards in real estate (like appraisers).

BONUS: This is a quick (well, 12 minutes) walk through what it looks like to see the seasonal trend in real estate and what it was like when values began to decline in 2005. With so much “bubble” talk these days, it’s critical to be able to cut through any hype, focus on data, and be able to spot seasonal trends (and non-seasonal trends). Watch below (or here):

I hope that was helpful or interesting.

Questions: What else do you think will be important in 2017? Did I miss something? I’d love to hear your take.

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Big demand and the force of FHA in Sacramento’s housing market

Big demand. Big FHA. Let’s talk the latest housing trends in Sacramento. If you’re local, my goal is to give you 10 quick talking points to share with clients. If you’re not local, what are you seeing in your area?

Two ways to read my big monthly market post:

  1. Scan the talking points and graphs quickly.
  2. Grab a cup of coffee and spend a few minutes digesting what is here.

star-wars-real-estate-photo-by-sacramento-appraisal-blog-530

One Paragraph to Describe the Sacramento Market: This year the market feels much stronger than it did last year at the same time. Values have not skyrocketed like they did a few years ago, but there has been somewhat of a desperation among buyers to get into contract before interest rates and/or values rise much more. This has made for an environment where multiple offers have been commonplace (at least for properties that are priced correctly and in average condition). Housing inventory did increase slightly last month, and we are starting to see slightly more price reductions, but demand is still “off the charts” in that pendings are a good 20% higher than one year ago. Regional prices have seen an uptick these past few months, and sales volume is 7% higher so far this year compared to last year. We all know low interest rates and sparse inventory have been driving the market, but having such a huge percentage of escrows going FHA has also boosted sales figures. Remember that many FHA buyers are not putting much “skin in the game” so to speak, and at times they tend to offer more than anyone else to get a contract accepted. Being that 25% of all sales in the Sacramento region were FHA last month (and 29% in Sacramento County), this definitely creates more competition at certain price ranges and makes housing stats look more impressive. As housing inventory presumably begins to increase over the next few months (as it did last year), watch out for price reductions, unrealistic expectations from sellers, and buyers gaining more power.

DOWNLOAD 51 graphs HERE (zip file): Please download all graphs in this post (and more) here as a zip file (or send me an email). Use them for study, for your newsletter, or some on your blog. See my sharing policy for 5 ways to share.

Sacramento Regional Trends for May 2015 (Sac, Placer, Yolo, El Dorado):

  1. The median price in the Sacramento Region is $333,250.
  2. The median price is 7.5% higher than one year ago (May 2014).
  3. Sales volume is up 7.3% so far in 2015 compared to the beginning of 2014 (January through May).
  4. It took an average of 38 days to sell a house last month (44 days in April).
  5. Cash sales were 15.6% of all sales last month.
  6. FHA sales were 25.4% of all sales in the region last month.
  7. Sales volume was 7% higher this May compared to last May.
  8. There is 1.9 months of housing inventory (2.2 months in May 2014).
  9. The average sales price is $368,525 (7.5% higher than last year).
  10. It took 14 less days to sell a house this May compared to May 2014.

median price and inventory in sacramento placer yolo el dorado county

fha and other sales in sacramento placer yolo el dorado county

volume cash and conventional in region by sacramento appraisal blog

months of housing inventory in region by sacramento appraisal blog

days on market in placer sac el dorado yolo county by sacramento appraisal blog

Sacramento County Market Trends for May 2015:

  1. The median price in Sacramento County is $289,950.
  2. The median price is 7% higher than one year ago (May 2014).
  3. It took an average of 35 days to sell a house last month (42 in April).
  4. Cash sales were only 15% of all sales last month.
  5. FHA sales were 29% of all sales in Sacramento County last month.
  6. Sales volume is 5.7% higher this May compared to last May.
  7. There is 1.7 months of housing inventory (2.0 months last May).
  8. The average price per sq ft is 183 (13% higher than last May).
  9. The average sales price is $317,000 (7.5% higher than last year).
  10. It took 12 days shorter to sell a house this May compared to May 2014.

Median price and inventory since 2011 by sacramento appraisal blog - with median figures

price metrics since 2014 in sacramento county

months of housing inventory by sacramento appraisal blog

CDOM in Sacramento County - by Sacramento Appraisal Blog

sales volume in May in Sacramento County since 2008 Interest Rates Since 2008

Placer County Market Trends for May 2015:

  1. The median price in Placer County is $400,000.
  2. The median price is 5.3% higher than one year ago (May 2014).
  3. It took 38 days on average to sell a house last month.
  4. Cash sales were 15.8% of all sales last month.
  5. FHA sales were 21.5% of all sales in Placer County last month.
  6. Sales volume was 9.8% higher this May compared to last May.
  7. There is 2.1 months of housing inventory (2.5 months last May).
  8. The average price per sq ft is 201.
  9. The average sales price is $445,218 (5.7% higher than May 2014).
  10. It took 16 days shorter to sell a house this May compared to last.

Placer County median price since 2012 - by home appraiser blog

months of housing inventory in placer county by sacramento appraisal blog

days on market in placer county by sacramento appraisal blog

number of listings in PLACER county - May 2015 - by home appraiser blog

Placer County sales volume - by sacramento appraisal blog

interest rates inventory median price in placer county by sacramento appraisal blog

I hope this was helpful. Thank you so much for being here.

DOWNLOAD 51 graphs HERE (zip file): Please download all graphs in this post (and more) here as a zip file (or send me an email). Use them for study, for your newsletter, or some on your blog. See my sharing policy for 5 ways to share.

My New Office & the Desk I Built: By the way, I wanted to share some exciting news. I’m in the process of building a new home office since I recently moved to Carmichael. By this time next week my office should theoretically be finished, but for now here is a desk I built out of reclaimed wood last week. It’s a beastly 12′ long, and it’s designed for two work stations.

The desk I built

Questions: How do you think sellers and buyers are feeling about the market right now? What are you seeing out there?

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