Real Estate News
The real estate crystal ball – when should you get back in?
Published Thursday, 29-Jul-2010 in issue 1179
The year is 2020, Nicole Murray-Ramirez has just wrapped up another Pride parade gig, making her farewell tour longer than Cher and Barbra Streisand’s combined. The world is at peace and 9 years of prudent monetary policy crafted with full bi-partisan cooperation of all branches of the US government has finally led to measurable growth in the housing sector. It is once again, morning in America. Okay, okay....so I was dreaming....
Seriously, a natural segue from my recent columns on foreclosure, short sales and strategic defaults; several readers wrote this week and asked “So when will the market improve?” A fair question as you part with a hard-earned down payment to buy a home.
A simple answer is, the bottom has come and gone (but could return under a “double-dip” scenario) and the overall market is slowly improving.
Predicting real estate values, as current market conditions make clear, is not a simple thing. Too many external forces make accurate estimates nearly impossible.
Many homeowners have grabbed recent headlines touting a rise in housing prices as a good sign. No doubt they are, but do yourself a favor and dig deeper than just the headline. Housing prices in most categories above $700K are soft. The lack of mortgage lending by the nation’s big banks makes loan products scarce and exacerbates sagging values.
Make no mistake; fortunes are being made right now. Cash investors have come into residential real estate with vigor and you would be surprised to see who these investors are. Often they are mom-and-pop buyers who wait 10 to 15 years for the right property to add to their portfolio. They have a long view of the market and they have done well by real estate over the years. They have also lost confidence in Wall Street where much of the blame resides for today’s economic climate.
This new reality has placed a lot of upward pressure on pricing in certain categories. To make things simple, if an investor can put 30% down on a residential rental property and achieve a positive return then that property is a good investment. In San Diego, this limits the feasibility to the lowest quartile of homes for sale. Paying too much creates a negative cash flow as will hefty HOA monthly fees.
If you have been out trying to purchase a house under $500,000, you may have run into multiple offer situations and unless you too are a cash buyer, you may have difficulty securing a property. It is sometimes hard for buyers to accept the need to write offers in excess of an asking price, but many are doing just that. Making sure all your ducks are in a row before submitting an offer will go a long way towards getting your offer accepted. Ask your Realtor for creative ways to make sure your offer stands out.
All of this activity at the lower end of the market creates the media headlines like “Home Values Rise” or “Housing Market on Upswing.” What isn’t made clear is that for the vast majority of homeowners - particularly in the GLBT demographic that skews affluent - the losses are still mounting and home sales decidedly are not.
Official estimates of the overall decline in values to date in San Diego County are 38% - a staggering number and one that calls into question our country’s lack of oversight of consumer financial entities. Who can blame buyers for exercising caution?
If you are attempting to sell your home and it has been on the market more than 90 days, REDUCE THE PRICE. Brokers and agents, in carrying out their fiduciary duties to clients must get the highest possible sale prices on properties they list. We often fail as an industry in delivering the difficult news that your home is not worth what it once was, or even what it was three months ago when it hit the market. No homeowner wants to consider the foreclosure down the street or the shortsale next door as valid comparables. Guess what? Buyers are, and so are licensed appraisers.
So, to answer the question “When should I get back into the real estate market?” Here are my simple guidelines:
If all your personal satisfaction in homeownership comes from the bargain you negotiated, you have a year or two for the hunt.
If you intend to finance your new home, interest rates are at near-record lows. (Again, I urge you to join a credit union and the last time I checked only one local CU extended domestic partner benefits to same sex couples: San Diego County Credit Union.)