5 things to keep in mind about rising rates and values

Rising interest rates is one of the big topics right now in real estate. I don’t know about you, but I find myself having rate conversations all the time, so I thought we could maybe kick around some thoughts. Anything to add?

rates and value - sacramento appraisal group

5 things to consider about rising rates and values:

1) Duh, values will soften: Rising interest rates can affect the ability of buyers to afford higher prices because mortgages become more expensive (thanks Captain Obvious). Unless there is another factor to help prop values up, rising rates can naturally lead to softer values. To be fair though, let’s remember rates are not the only driving factor to make value go up or down in real estate.

2) Demand is strong enough: Rising rates can certainly impact affordability, but the interesting part to consider is we have a shortage of housing inventory. This means there is actually room for some buyers to completely leave the market (or be priced out) because there would still be enough buyers left to afford higher prices. On one hand I am very skeptical of articles that say rising rates will not impact buyers at all because that sounds like spin. Yet we do have to entertain the reality of demand being strong enough to a certain extent to deal with some rate increases without much value change (assuming modest increases of course).

3) The squeeze on lower-end buyers: In a market with rising rates, it’s buyers with less money that will be impacted the most because some buyers are on the brink of struggling to afford the market already. Thus an increase in interest rates that makes a $100 or $200 difference in a mortgage payment can be a very big deal for someone on a tight budget. Moreover, buyers with larger down payments simply have more power when making offers, negotiating, paying beyond appraised value, etc…. But before we start saying buyers putting less money down cannot play the real estate game, let’s look at actual stats. If you didn’t know, 25% of all sales last month in Sacramento County were FHA (very low down payment required) and nearly 29% of all sales under $400,000 went FHA. It’s easy to say things like, “Buyers without real money down are not winning in this market,” but the stats say otherwise.

4) Lenders getting creative: When rates rise it can put pressure on lenders to get more “creative” in their financing so more buyers can keep playing the market. In other words, lenders can help buyers artificially afford higher prices with newer and looser loan programs that compensate for higher rates. Part of me hopes lenders put movies like The Big Short and Inside Job in their Netflix queue just to remember how much power they truly have when it comes to making markets move. On a realistic level though, the lending market probably could loosen up a bit in a healthy sense since the regulation pendulum swung very far after the “bubble” burst. For anyone who has tried to get a loan recently, you know how rigorous and stressful it is. Simply put, getting a loan is not as easy as pushing a “rocket” button on a smart phone app.

5) Pressure to buy “before it’s too late”: Many buyers feel pressure to get into the market before rates get too much higher, and that’s a dynamic likely to persist throughout this year as discussions about rate increases ensue. It’s as if buyers feel like they have a small window of time to act before they are forever doomed and shut out of the housing market. What do you think of that? What advice or wisdom would you share with buyers feeling this way?

Questions: What is #6? How do you think rising rates will impact the market? Did I miss anything? I’d love to hear your take.

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A recap of the Sacramento real estate market in 2016

High demand. Modest value increases. Price sensitive. Those are ways to describe the real estate market in 2016. Today let’s take a deep look into where the market went last year. This post is long on purpose. You can scan it quickly or pour a cup of coffee and spend some time here. If you aren’t in Sacramento, I hope you can still find some value. Do you see any parallels to your market? Any thoughts? 

P.S. I have some really cool year-in-review images. Please share.

13516718 - white wood texture with natural patterns

DOWNLOAD 76 graphs HERE: Please download all graphs in this post (and more) here as a zip file (including a one-page quick stat sheet). See my sharing policy for 5 ways to share (please don’t copy verbatim). Thanks.

A Market Rush: Overall prices saw a dip these past few months as the regional median price declined 4-5% from summer. This isn’t anything unexpected because it happens virtually every year. Just as there is a season for fishing, fashion, or television, there is also a season for real estate values. Granted, 2016 did have a more aggressive feel in that multiple offers were commonplace, it took an average of 7 less days to sell a home compared to last year, and inventory was sparse at best. In fact, the year closed with the strongest months of sales volume in the past 5 years for November / December. It’s as if there was a rush on the market from September through November that ended up beefing up these year-end stats. Why did sales volume increase? Some say it’s the power of Trump or the anticipation of a new political era. Or it could be buyers were expecting an increase in interest rates and wanted to get in before a rate hike. Or maybe it’s the byproduct of a fall that wasn’t all that dull and a market with strong demand. Or maybe it’s a combination of all or none of the above.  🙂

When looking at the entire year, most price metrics increased 7-9% and sales volume was up a modest 2% overall for the year. Remember, just because price metrics increased by 7-9% does not mean actual values increased by that much (we can talk about that more below if you wish). My sense is prices at lower levels saw larger increases than the middle and upper end of the market, which means a more aggressive bottom tends to create larger increases on paper. I say this because it’s easy to see the median price at 10.5% higher and say, “Values went up by 10.5% last year,” but that just isn’t true for the bulk of the market. On a related note, last week I mentioned trends to watch in 2017, and if I had to add one more thing I would say there could easily be a problem this year with overpricing homes because of so much focus on the market being “hot” without looking at actual data.

A few year-in-review images:

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sacramento-region-year-in-review-blog-size

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Sacramento County:

  1. The median price was $315,000 in December (6.5% above last December).
  2. Housing inventory is about 10% lower than it was last December.
  3. Sales volume was 7% lower this December compared to last December, but this year and last were higher than 2012, 2013, and 2014.
  4. It took 3 days longer to sell a house last month compared to November. 
  5. One year ago in December it was taking 4 days longer to sell.
  6. FHA sales volume is down 6% this year compared to 2015 (but 25% of all sales this year were FHA).
  7. Cash sales are down 11% this year (they were 13% of all sales last month).
  8. The average price per sq ft was $202 last month (about the same as November, but 7.5% higher than last year).
  9. The average sales price at $343,670 is down about 4% from the height of summer (but is 6% higher than last year).
  10. When looking at the entire year in Sacramento County it took 33 days on average to sell a home this year.

A few images to show the bottom and top of the market:

all-residential-sales-in-sacramento-county-by-sacramento-appraisal-blog

all-residential-sales-under-100k-in-sacramento-county-by-sacramento-appraisal-blog

all-residential-sales-under-100k-in-2016-in-sacramento-county-by-sacramento-appraisal-blog

million-dollar-market-in-sacramento-county-by-sacramento-appraisal-blog

Some of my favorite images this month:

cdom-in-sacramento-county-by-sacramento-regional-appraisal-blog interest-rates-since-2008 inventory-december-2016-by-home-appraiser-blog median-price-context-in-sacramento-county price-metrics-since-2015-in-sacramento-county-look-at-all

SACRAMENTO REGIONAL MARKET:

  1. The median price was $350,000 in December (7% above last December).
  2. It took 3 days longer to sell compared to the previous month (but 4 less days compared to December 2015).
  3. Sales volume was about 1% lower this December compared to last year.
  4. FHA sales volume is down 6% this year compared to last year. 
  5. Cash sales are down 8% this year compared to last year.
  6. Cash sales were 14.4% of all sales last month.
  7. The average price per sq ft was $208 last month. That’s down about 1% from the height of summer and 8% higher than last year.
  8. FHA sales were 22% of all sales in the region last month.
  9. The average sales price was $387,915 in December. It’s down about 5% from the height of summer but 8% higher than last year.
  10. When looking at the entire year in the region it took 37 days on average to sell a home this year.

Some of my favorite images this month:

median-price-sacramento-placer-yolo-el-dorado-county

regional-inventory-by-sacramento-regional-appraisal-blog

sacramento-region-volume-fha-and-conventional-by-appraiser-blog

inventory-in-sacramento-regional-market

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

PLACER COUNTY:

  1. The median price was $423,925 in December (7% above last December).
  2. It took 2 less days to sell compared to the previous month (but 9 less days compared to December 2015).
  3. Sales volume was about 1% lower this December compared to last year.
  4. FHA sales volume is down 11% this year compared to last year (FHA sales were 18% of all sales in Placer County last month).
  5. Cash sales are down a mere 1% this year compared to last year.
  6. Cash sales were 16% of all sales last month.
  7. The average price per sq ft was $216 last month, which is about as high as it’s been all year (about 8% higher than last year).
  8. REOs were 1.5% and short sales were 1.8% of all sales in Placer County.
  9. The average sales price was $472,130 in December. It’s down about 2% from the height of summer but about 9.5% higher than last year.
  10. When looking at the entire year in Placer County it took 42 days on average to sell a home this year.

Some of my favorite images this month:

regional-market-median-price-by-home-appraiser-blog

months-of-housing-inventory-in-placer-county-by-sacramento-appraisal-blog

placer-county-price-and-inventory-by-sacramento-appraisal-blog

placer-county-sales-volume-by-sacramento-appraisal-blog

days-on-market-in-placer-county-by-sacramento-appraisal-blog

DOWNLOAD 76 graphs HERE: Please download all graphs in this post (and more) here as a zip file (including a one-page quick stat sheet). See my sharing policy for 5 ways to share (please don’t copy verbatim). Thanks.

Questions: Did I miss anything? What are you seeing out there? How would you describe the market? I’d love to hear your take.

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What does the market expect? (a critical question to ask in real estate)

What does the market expect? That’s one of the best questions we can ask ourselves in real estate. Why? Because it helps us keep the focus on what buyers actually demand in certain neighborhoods and price ranges. In other words, what are buyers really willing to pay more or less for in a neighborhood? Being in tune with that is definitely one of the key aspects of coming up with a credible value.

Market expectations - Sacramento Appraisal Blog

Pool Example: Take a look at the table below to see how some areas and price ranges in Sacramento have far more built-in pools than others.

Market expectations pool example by Sacramento Appraisal Blog

Key Point: When built-in pools are more common in some neighborhoods and price ranges we can probably say the market expects a pool, right? This is especially true at the higher end of the price spectrum where over 70% of homes have a pool. In contrast, some areas of town have less than 1% of homes with a built-in pool, and it’s safe to say the market doesn’t expect a built-in pool in those areas. This doesn’t mean the pool is worth nothing in those places, but if anything it’s a reminder to really consider that a pool might be worth far less or more in some areas than others. While it’s tempting to always give a token $10,000 adjustment for a pool, based on the data above alone, that adjustment probably doesn’t make sense for every neighborhood because of differing expectations.

Not Just About Pools: This conversation isn’t just about built-in pools because we have to ask what the market expects for things like upgrades, square footage, condition, lot size, architectural design, bedroom count, garage spaces, landscaping, etc… As much as we’d like instant answers, there really isn’t a quick guide to understand what the market expects without immersing ourselves in comparing sales, talking with buyers and other real estate professionals, and crunching numbers.

Two Mentions: I’m honored to share a couple of recent media mentions. I was quoted in Inman SF Bay Area in “Sacramento housing boosted by Bay Area refugees” and in RealtyTrac’s June Housing News Report (PDF – pg 17-21).

Blackstone: One more thing. A recent article talked about the private equity fund Blackstone (Invitation Homes) selling off some of its homes directly to tenants. As you probably know, Blackstone purchased thousands of homes in the Sacramento market several years ago. They continue to buy today, but their purchase volume is minimal and nowhere near what it used to be. Anyway, the article states they would likely sell about 5% of their inventory this year directly to tenants. Whether that’s true for the Sacramento market or not is to be seen, but it’s worth watching closely. Keep in mind many landlords are selling straight to their tenants right now instead of listing on MLS. In short, this isn’t just a Blackstone thing.

Questions: How do you get a sense of what the market expects in a neighborhood? Any advice you’d give on how to better understand market expectations? Did I miss anything? I’d love to hear your take.

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Starbucks cups and price per sq ft

I was in line at Starbucks and then it hit me. The perfect analogy for price per sq ft in real estate. While ordering my Grande drip with no room, I began to wonder how much I was paying for each ounce. Maybe that means I’m a geek, but was I really getting the most bang for my buck to buy a Grande (medium)? Or should I go with a Venti (large)? Take a look at the image below to see how price per ounce works at Starbucks, and then let’s consider a real example of this principle in real estate.

Starbucks cups and real estate - by sacramento appraisal blog

Big Point: The larger the cup, the less you pay for each ounce of coffee. Or we could say it a different way. Smaller cups of coffee tend to cost more per ounce. This is interesting, but it’s not really surprising because it’s merely an example of economies of scale, right? We see this principle all the time when buying bigger or smaller items, yet it’s easy to ignore when it comes to housing. So let’s take a look at all residential home sales from last month in Sacramento County. Do you see a similarity with the coffee?

image purchased from 123rf by sacramento appraisal blog - price per sq ft example

Big Point: The larger the house, the less you tend to pay for each square foot. Or we could say it a different way. Smaller homes tend to have a higher price per sq ft compared to larger homes. This is a principle we see when looking at county-wide data, but it’s also something we tend to see by neighborhood (assuming we have enough data). Just like coffee costs less per ounce the more you buy, it tends to cost less per sq ft for the more house you buy. That’s the big idea.

Be a Great Explainer: I love this analogy. Maybe it’s partly because I’m a coffee fanboy, but in truth talking through price per sq ft is hands-down one of the most relevant conversations to master in real estate. I hope the next time the topic comes up with a client, maybe you’ll think about using Starbucks cups to explain how price per sq ft tends to work in a neighborhood. For a refresher post you can read 5 things to remember about using price per sq ft in real estate.

Question: What drink do you order at Starbucks?

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