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HOW TO: Buy a home in a seller's market

 

Our area is currently experiencing a seller's market - there are less homes for sale, than interested buyers. This can make it difficult for buyers to break into the housing market; difficult, but not impossible. We have some tips to help you secure a home within your budget - even during a seller's market.

How seller's markets come to exist

The main metric used when evaluating housing markets is home price appreciation.There are several factors which can influence the price of homes in any given area, including:

  • Population growth. Generally, when there's an increase in the number of people moving to a town, demand for housing begins to exceed supply. The basic law of Supply and Demand will tell you that too few homes will lead to an increased sales price. 
  • Job growth. An influx of new companies and jobs can in turn fuel population growth that turns areas into seller's markets. This is a great indicator of economic progress! Unfortunately, it can also present challenges to buyers seeking to relocate to the area. 
  • Housing starts. The term "housing starts" refers to the number of new homes on which builders have started construction in any particular month. Because new construction directly affects supply, a decrease in housing starts can result in a sellers market. 

We are currently experiencing a seller's market. Here's how to tell:

  • Average days on market (DOM). This measurement will tell us the average number of days a home stays on the market before changing hands. In our area, this number has been steadily dropping since January 2017 and as of April 11, 2018, it sits right around 100 days from the day a home goes on the market, to the day the new owners receive the keys. Considering the time it takes to process a contract is about 60-80 days, this number is quite low!
  • Asking vs. final home price. In seller's markets, bidding wars can often erupt among buyers, which means sellers may enjoy a final sales price that's equal to their asking price, or more. So, if a home is listed at $450,000 and sells for $450,000, $460,000, or higher, that's a seller's market. In a strong seller's market, the final sales price is typically at least 10% higher than the asking price.

Buying a house in a seller's market

To compete against other buyers in a seller's market, you need to be prepared. First off, you should meet with a mortgage lender to discuss your finances, and find out what you can afford. You'll need a pre-approval letter before you start looking at homes; when competition is fierce, sellers want to know that the offers they're receiving are backed by actual buying power. 

Once you have a pre-approval, you'll want to hire a Realtor. It is crucial that you are represented during your purchase, especially in a seller's market. The Realtor who has the home listed is contractually bound to represent the seller's best interests not yours. You'll want to find a Realtor that you trust to advocate for you, and get you into the areas you're interested in. Often times Realtors will have knowledge of homes that haven't even hit the market yet - take advantage of that knowledge!

You'll want to discuss with your Realtor your wants, needs, and desired location. When housing supply is low, try to keep an open mind and consider exploring areas slightly outside of your target. Once you've found a home, you and your Realtor will work quickly to submit an offer. Consider adding an Escalation Clause to your contract, which basically states "if sellers receive an offer higher than this one, I am willing to increase my offer to X." You may also want to add a personal letter to the sellers with your contract, sometimes small details like that can really set your offer apart. 

 

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