What’s your housing shtick?

It’s easy to fall into the trap of saying one thing about the housing market. Just as a comedian has a shtick, or regular performance, we can get into the routine of talking about real estate based on one big idea about what the market is doing or will do. Let’s consider some examples. Which one(s) are you? Any thoughts?

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Doom & Gloom:  The market is going to crash like it did 10 years ago.

Corrector:  Values will correct but not implode.  

One-Metric Wonder: The market will turn as soon as this one thing happens.

Normal: The market is normal and not in a “bubble”.

Mr. Buzzword: The market is headed toward a “shift” in the future.

Polly Pollyanna: It’s always a good time to buy and sell. Everything is always good.

Specific Year Guy: This year is going to be the one where values turn.

Mrs. Cyclepants: The market has a 7 year cycle and it’s about up.

Foreclosure Prophet: Another foreclosure wave is coming. Just wait.

Headline Regurgitator: This person says whatever the latest headlines say.

Spinster: Any negative aspect of housing is spun into something positive.

The Feeler: I feel like the market is strong and will be in the future.

Crystal Ball: This is exactly what the market is going to do.

Broken Crystal Ball: Nobody knows the future including me.

If we’re honest we might identify with several shticks above. That’s okay. I’m not saying there’s something wrong with that, but let’s be challenged to consider what we say and not get locked into conveying only one thing about the complex housing market. Moreover, let’s be cautious about imposing clichés and ideas on the market because it’s easy to miss trends that way. At the same time let’s not be naive by refusing to consider the future. My advice? Pay attention to the numbers and know them well enough to quote, know what is normal and not for the time of year, remember that values might be moving differently in various price ranges and neighborhoods, and find ways to talk about current values in specific terms while keeping an eye on the future (instead of focusing entirely on the future).

My knee & market update post: Some of you may know I hurt my knee in a snow tubing accident 10 days ago. I have an MRI next week, but for now the doctor thinks I may have torn my meniscus. Anyway, I normally do my big market update between the 10th and 15th of the month, but I can’t swing it this week since I took last week off and I’m basically playing catch-up with all my reports this week. I’m just grateful to be at my desk again. Anyway, I will be 100% up and running (not literally) next week, and I’ll get to my big update then. Thanks for your understanding.

Questions: Which shtick stands out to you most? Any others to add? Did I miss something? I’d love to hear your take.

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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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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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Are we really back to “bubble” prices?

We’re back at the peak of the market. Well, that’s what some of the national indexes are saying. So imagine yourself in line at Starbucks and someone remarks, “I heard on CNN we are back to bubble prices.” What would you say? Let’s look at some of the “national” trends below and then kick around a few thoughts. I’d love to hear your take in the comments.

bubble-prices-image-purchased-from-123rf-sacramento-appraisal-blog

Case-Shiller National Index: This index shows the “national” market is about where it was during the peak of the index in 2006 (source).

case-shiller-national-index-by-sacramento-appraisal-blog

Freddie Mac National Price Index: This index shows the “national” market is about where it was during the peak of the index in 2007 (source). 

freddie-mac-price-index-united-states-sacramento-appraisal-blog

Freddie Mac California Price Index: The “national” index in gray shows we are back to the peak of the market, but the state index in black shows California is still about 5% below the peak (source).  

freddie-mac-price-index-california-sacramento-appraisal-blog

Freddie Mac Sacramento Price Index: The national index in gray shows we are back to the peak, but the local Sacramento index in black shows we are still a ways off (source).

freddie-mac-price-index-sacramento-sacramento-appraisal-blog

Some quick thoughts:

1) I want to buy in the national market: There is no such thing as a national market, which makes “national” indexes only so valuable (or sometimes totally useless). As Jonathan Miller says, real estate is local and we have thousands of local markets instead of one national market. Therefore we ought to be naturally cautious about national metrics (see Barry Ritholtz rip NAR’s affordability index). In short, I watch “national” indexes, but I look to the local market for the real trend.

2) Different Peak: The “national” market peaked around 2007 depending on which index you’re looking at, but Sacramento peaked in 2005. Media outlets often talk about the housing “bubble” bursting in 2007 when in fact that wasn’t true for many markets (including Sac).

3) Current Values: Many Sacramento neighborhoods are still a good 10-15%+ below the peak of the market, though some classic areas are getting very close (while other depressed areas have much further to go). I included some neighborhood graphs below for reference.

4) Condos & Land: Let’s remember not all property types trend the same way. For instance, the condo market has struggled since the housing “bubble” burst. Owner occupancy rates being too low have stalled many complexes from obtaining financing, which has stalled value increases too. Vacant land is also far below where it was at the peak because there is less new construction today and we don’t have land speculators like we did 10+ years ago. 

Specific Neighborhoods (Are we there yet?):

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east-sac

4-plex-carro

del-paso-manor

curtis-park

I hope this was helpful.

Questions: Are there any national metrics you pay attention to? Any you’d recommend avoiding? Did I miss something? I’d love to hear your take.

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