At this time of year the weather begins to change, the kids are finally back in school, AND pumpkin spice lattes come back on the menu at Starbucks. Oh, and it’s normal for the real estate market to slow down.
The Truth: Real estate is usually very seasonal, meaning the market heats up in the spring and begins to slow down later in the year. This is normal, and we know this intellectually, yet it’s still easy to freak out when properties start taking longer to sell or demand changes. This is why I hope this post will be relevant.
NOTE: There is a difference between a market being slow and showing signs of a seasonal slowing.
Six temptations to avoid when the market slows down
- Freaking out: Just as we expect the weather to change during the fall, let’s expect real estate to change too. The public likes hearing positive news (“values are increasing”), so reporting a market slowing seems negative or anti-climatic, but it’s actually normal almost every single year (see this post and look at the fall graphs compared to the spring). On the positive side, a slower seasonal market might provide space for a vacation, relaxation, and most significantly an opportunity for the real estate community to communicate seasonal dynamics to clients. Of course when a market slows it’s not always easy to be self-employed since paychecks also slow. Yet when we start realizing the market slows during the end of the year, it helps us adjust our expectations and make plans for life and business. There has to be more to the last quarter of the year than being stressed until the market picks up again in the spring. 🙂
- Projecting the aggressive spring on summer: It’s easy to look back in time to a more aggressive market and want to price according to sales from the hot spring. But when the market has changed, be careful to look at values for what they are right now instead of projecting hotter seasonal trends of the recent past onto a fading summer or cool fall. This is just the same as not dressing for summer if it is winter (I do wear flip flops year round though). We have to do what makes sense for the current time.
- Putting too much weight on sales: Sales tell us what the market used to be like when the sales went into contract several months ago, but listings and pendings tell us what the current market is like right now. When values begin to soften during the fall, this makes it all the more important to look at listings / pendings instead of only sales. If the listings are priced at a similar level to recent sales, but not selling, this tells us the market has changed, and we might need to adjust our expectations (and prices). The same is true with the stock market. We wouldn’t use stock prices from three months ago as our gauge for today’s prices, but instead look at what stocks are actually selling for right now.
- Targeting that one magical buyer: We all want to attract the highest price ever, so it’s easy to hold out for that one cash buyer from outside the market who is going to pay more than anyone has ever paid. Yet we have to consider what the rest of the local market is willing to pay (this is what the appraiser is going to be considering too). If you lined up 100 buyers who are interested in the neighborhood, what is the most probable price most buyers would be willing to pay? That’s a good picture of what market value looks like.
- Refusing to reduce the list price: It can sting to reduce the list price, but if the price isn’t right, it’s time to change that, right? If you had something for sale on Craigslist and it wasn’t selling, would you keep the price the same? No, you’d change it if you really wanted to sell. How do you know if the price is wrong? If there aren’t any offers, you’re not “in the market”, but only “on the market” (Jay Papasan). An honest question: If the market is telling you to reduce the price, but you aren’t willing to do so, do you really want to sell?
- Not listening to your real estate agent: If you are an owner and your real estate agent keeps encouraging you to do something to the property or change the list price, but you’re not listening, ask yourself why you are not listening.
I hope this was helpful.
Social Media Podcast: By the way, a few weeks back I did a podcast with The Appraiser Coach on using social media. Here it is in case you want to give it a listen in the background. It’s geared toward appraisers, but there are probably relevant nuggets in there for anyone in the real estate community. Listen here or below.
Questions: What’s temptation #7? Did I miss anything? I’d love to hear your take.