I’ve been getting this question quite a bit lately. How much has the market gone up? How do you figure that out exactly? This is something we consider all the time when pulling comps, which is why it’s so important. Let’s talk about it.
NOTE: This post is longer because there’s lots to say. You can still skim the bold headings though if you wish.
Here are a few simple things I do to gauge value changes:
1) Look for comps: The best thing we can do is look to the comps for the answers. More specifically, look for the price difference between sales in the past compared with properties that are currently getting into contract.
To gauge a change in value I recommend comparing similar properties from the past to similar properties now. This is often done with sales from last year vs this year, but here’s an example of several years ago with this year. If you’re in a tract neighborhood you might consider comparing a few different similar-sized models from the past with those same models today. If you’re not in a tract area, just compare competitive sales from the past with competitive sales today.
In this example above I looked up a 2,734 sq ft model in South Sacramento and in 2015 this model was selling for about $330,000 while today the most recent sales have been $400,000 (backs highway) and $412,000. There is a pending at $419,126. Ultimately we could say the market has gone up by $80,000 to $90,000 or about 24% to 27%. It might seem odd that I’m looking up 2015 sales, but in this case the subject property sold in 2015, so I was attempting to figure out how much the market changed since then.
When lining up all data from 2018 through 2019 it’s really clear we’ve seen price increases, right?
2) Sales last year & this year: We can also try to find some sales that sold last year and then re-sold this year. I realize if we’re lucky we might find only one or two examples at best. I’m not talking about flips where remodeling has occurred, but an example like the one below where it sold in the exact same condition.
In this example we see the market has shown about a 2% uptick in value over the past year. Of course we have to understand whether these sales sold at reasonable levels. After all, if either sold too high or too low, then it’s probably meaningless data. Ultimately sales like this can be clues into the market (more on this below too).
3) Stats programs: Some people might use fancy excel spreadsheet programs where competitive neighborhood data can be exported to show price changes over time. I don’t personally use something like this, but it’s not a bad idea if it helps you get a good picture of a neighborhood market. If you use something like this, please comment below.
4) Create visuals: I’m a visual guy and it helps me see the market by creating visuals. I find myself spending a good chunk of time on #1 and #2 above as I’m pulling comps, but I also use this step to compliment those steps. If you want to learn to make graphs, here’s a tutorial. If you’ve been thinking about this, why not go for it? Creating images has been revolutionary for the way I see the market and explain it.
1) Be careful about zip code data: If you’re pulling data from a zip code or county, just remember trends shown in a larger area may or may not apply equally to every neighborhood or price range (or property type). This is why I don’t look at my recent big market update, see price metrics are up 3-4% this year in the region, and then use that number for every neighborhood. Nope. I advise knowing the larger trend very well, but don’t impose that trend on a smaller area without doing research.
2) Not just one example: It’s dangerous to base a value conclusion on only one example. This is why I wouldn’t look at my example in number two above and definitely state the market has increased by 2%. One example is best considered a piece of the puzzle, and it’s important to find other pieces before understanding the puzzle.
3) The stock market & competitive data: In the stock market you can have different stocks going up, down, and sideways all at once. The same thing happens in real estate. This is exactly why I strongly recommend you look at competitive data in neighborhoods. For example, if you are valuing a 1,200 sq ft house, make sure you are looking at examples of similar-sized homes to understand that market segment instead of 4,000 sq ft homes in the same neighborhood. Otherwise if I only look at larger homes that might be a little more stagnant, I could miss the fact that the bottom of the market is increasing much more rapidly than the top end.
4) Declining market: It’s been years since we’ve had a declining market, but this same methodology above can help you measure the market when prices are declining too.
5) Seasons: When looking at older sales let’s remember the seasons in which they sold. Thus last year I might give a 2% adjustment in a neighborhood for a property that sold in June, but I could give a 5% adjustment for something that closed in December because it sold when the market was down further during a dull fall season.
6) Being quick & reconciliation: There’s not just one way to do this, and there aren’t quick answers. We have to dig in. Most of all, we might choose a few different ways to study the market and then reconcile our findings. What I mean is I might do all of the steps above, get slightly different answers for each step, and then piece them all together (reconcile them) when I use a comp in a report and make a specific adjustment to that comp. In other words, if I adjust a comp up by 2% or 4% or whatever the number is, I’m coming to the table with some sort of rationale or support for why that adjustment makes sense.
I hope this was helpful.
MARKET UPDATE VIDEO: Here’s a video to walk through the growing and slowing market in Sacramento. Enjoy if you wish.
Questions: What do you think of the steps above? Anything else you’d add? What do you do?