For months the talking heads have cited the ultra-low rates, the shortage of new homes being built, stock market, millennials, covid, etc. as reasons why the real estate market has exploded.
Let’s add a few no-so-obvious reasons.
Did we fully recover from the last downturn? We know that because Bernanke and the banks unilaterally changed the rules to rescue the MBS investors, we never hit the true bottom. The short-sales muddied the water further because there were so many that were never exposed to the open market and sold instead at artificially-low prices by unscrupulous realtors. In 2010-2014, we saw it here on the blog where many commenters expected the downturn to last for at least a few more years, and even the Frenzy of 2013 didn’t convince everyone we were out of the woods. Low (but not ultra-low) rates made it interesting, but there wasn’t enough confidence for buyers to flood the streets desperating seeking a home to buy – though in hindsight, they probably wish they did.
The lower-end inventory has been decimated by rental conversions and aging-in-place. Because the rents have exploded, any of those homeowners who didn’t have to sell their existing home had to consider hoarding their prized possession that was probably the best investment they ever made and turn it into a rental instead. The high costs of senior care is causing many if not most to age-in-place, and besides, one of the kids or grandkids can take over and assume the low tax basis. While pricing is flying on the lower-end today, it’s a recent occurrence that the appreciation has been 2% to 3% per month. If there had been more listings in recent years, we would have had prices rising faster, sooner. In the chart above, the rest of the categories look fairly uniform – it’s the lower-end that has changed drastically and having the most impact on the frenzy upstream.
The builders never got the memo about open bidding. Still to this day, it is first-come, first serve. Pardee is down to their last 20-30 houses ever in Carmel Valley, they were taken over by Tri-Pointe, and they have nothing left to lose. You know there has to be 50-100 people waiting on their buyers’ list yet they only release 2-4 homes per phase. Toll Brothers sold two of their models for $4,000,000+, yet Pardee is keeping their production homes attractive priced in the mid-$2,000,000s. If they just opened up the bidding at each release to ALL the buyers on the list, they would pick up an extra $500,000 easily – just because if you are number 50+ on the list, you’re not going to get another chance. But they don’t do it, which is keeping a lid on pricing. Because most everyone is buying their forever home, there won’t be enough turnover in the next few years to generate the momentum needed to find the real top-dollar value.
There are three examples of what has been undercutting the trajectory of home pricing.
When we have BOTH sales and pricing on the rise exponentially like we do now, it demonstrates what is possible when you take off the inhibitors. We are probably running a little hot today – can we be so undervalued that this frenzy could keep going for months or years?
Perhaps – especially if there are new market factors we haven’t considered before!
Zillow is optimistic that we will see more homes being listed for sale:
In prior years, inventory has generally increased in March, and the return to some seasonal normality is a positive sign that the market is reaching a more steady state and could see inventory rise more steadily going forward. With home values skyrocketing, vaccination rates rising, and employees getting long-term guidance on where they can work, we expect an increasing number of homeowners to enter the market and list in coming months. That will come as welcome news to home shoppers enmeshed in bidding wars and watching homes get plucked off the market weeks faster than usual.
But their graph shows an interesting trend. Our inventory had already been dropping since the middle of 2019, and is probably why the beginning of 2020 felt hotter than usual:
If we are nearing two years’ worth of declining inventory, than it wasn’t just a Covid-related event – which means the low-inventory environment will persist after Covid is gone.
If baby-boomers control our destiny and continue to age in place, then it may last for years to come.
But does it impact sales?
Here’s how this month’s numbers compare to the full month of April, 2019:
NSDCC Listings and Sales in April
Number of Listings
Number of Detached-Home Sales
We have already exceeded the number of sales for all of April, 2019 with a few days left to go!
These are the optimal frenzy ingredients of all-time!
If we do see more homes coming on the market, they should all get gobbled up and cause even crazier market conditions as buyers could have a new listing to consider every week, instead of every month. It might even put a dent in the pricing trend that has been going straight up:
The author first explored this topic in 2015, and this follow-up article was published in February:
Welcome to the Brave New Housing Cycle: Factors indicate that an extended housing boom is underway.
A new long-term housing boom is upon us. And COVID-19 is the main reason why.
Both housing and economic cycles used to last five to seven years, but the economy has shifted to longer cycles, due to factors such as technology and monetary policy. The housing market has followed suit and the result is what I have defined as the Brave New Housing Cycle, which is poised to last seven to 10 years.
The current Brave New Housing Cycle actually started last year.
The multi-gen home will be a very popular choice for many. From cnbc.com – an excerpt:
Things have changed in the last few years, however, and a new trend has emerged. Rather than downsizing or right-sizing, retirees are starting to upsize. They are moving to bigger homes in their golden years.
According to a recent Merrill Lynch/Age Wave study of more than 3,600 respondents, 49% of retirees didn’t downsize in their last move, and 30% actually ended up moving into larger homes.
And they are doing it for all sorts of reasons — from finding a home that better suits them to buying a home with room for a live-in parent or visiting family members.
According to a recent Del Webb survey conducted among 50- to 60-year-olds, 22% are looking to move to bigger homes. The study also found that 43% want to remain in their existing home or move to a new location with comparable space.
This change marks the first time such a significant majority of retirees have gone against real estate norms.
Let’s take a look at the reasons behind this culture shift and the financial considerations that come into play if you intend to upsize your home.
Remember when it seemed to make sense that because home prices were escalating, people would be buying smaller homes? Boy, did Covid-19 change that – now the larger homes are driving the market, which suggests that the move-up market has come alive:
(To keep a healthy sample size, let’s combine October and November)
NSDCC Sales and Pricing Over/Under 3,000sf
Oct + Nov
# of Sales Under 3,000sf
# of Sales Over 3,000sf
Rapidly-increasing prices aren’t slowing down sales….and may be speeding them up!
Could the increase in larger-home sales be due to more inventory?
No – actually we have had fewer Over-3,000sf homes listed this year than in 2019:
NSDCC Total Listings between Jan-Nov
# of Listings Under 3,000sf
# of Listings Over 3,000sf
The larger-home sales were already benefiting from multi-gen buyers needing a place for Mom. Add to that demand the move-uppers who may not need a place for Mom yet, but if they sense it might be coming in the near future, then might as well buy bigger now – and maybe get granny to throw in some of her dough!
The U-T asked their twelve real estate experts about the effects of Prop 19:
Q: Will Prop. 19 substantially increase home inventory in California?
Of the local experts, 11 out of 12 said NO, and the justification for the one YES answer could have been just as easily been reasons to say NO. Gary’s answer above was the best and most-accurate. See the rest here:
The boomer sales spree is inevitable, it’s just a matter of when. But if it’s a slow methodical process over the next two decades, will we even notice? Let’s say the 100,112 homes turn over in the next 25 years (and only 1/3 are inherited by the kids), we’d average 223 more sales per month. There were 3,827 residential sales in the county in September. Results may vary!
Homeownership has long been considered part of the American dream. But first-time homebuyers — especially millennials and Gen Xers — are facing an uphill battle when it comes to house hunting.
This is in part because of a growing trend in which baby boomers, the generation that owns the largest share of American homes, are planning to stay put. In fact, a 2018 survey conducted by AARP found that 76 percent of Americans over the age of 50 would prefer to remain in their current home — rather than move in with family, to a nursing home, or to an assisted living facility. That is leading to less inventory for new buyers.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the share of homeowners over the age of 55 has been steadily increasing. In 2008, at the onset of the Great Recession, Americans over the age of 55 owned 44.3 percent of homes. By 2019, that percentage had increased to 53.8 percent. While the share of homeowners under the age of 35 remained fairly steady within the same time span, the share of homeowners between the ages of 35 and 54 decreased from 42.3 percent to 34.1 percent.
While baby boomers — defined here as Americans between the ages of 55 and 74 — comprise just over 22 percent of the U.S. population, they account for nearly 42 percent of homeowners nationwide.
My friend Ken Perlman at JBREC consults with new-home builders primarily, but these thoughts apply to the resale market too – notably, the 65+ generation growing by 17 million people in the next ten years!
With the national housing market surging, active adults have decided it is time to participate again. As discretionary buyers, they’ve had time to “restart” their purchasing process, and many of our developer and builder clients report that with proper health precautions in place, they’ve been willing to do so. In many age-qualified communities across the nation, home sales were particularly strong in August and September.
The pandemic hasn’t changed the size of the active adult population or its motivations. The active adult buyers are a key component of housing demand, as the 65+ population will grow by a net 17 million people over the next ten years. We know one of the highest priorities for this buyer set is being close to children and grandchildren. This means that as the Great American Move takes place in hot markets from Phoenix to Southern California’s Inland Empire to Sarasota, Florida, active adult buyers are following.
They are wealthy with large homes they can sell. Our active adult developer and builder clients told us one of the biggest fears their buyers had heading into the pandemic was the negative impact on their stock portfolios and on the homes they had to sell. Those fears have largely subsided with a rising stock market where the S&P 500 is up 10% year over year (YOY) and existing home Google searches up 30% YOY, as well as the Burns Home Value Index (BHVI) up 5.5% YOY.
4 Keys to Success
Active adult buyers are ready to buy now, so make sure you have inventory. Builders we spoke with in the active adult space told us standing inventory numbers are low, and some are tripling the number of standing inventory homes they produce to satisfy demand. Some are also simplifying what they offer in their homes, a process that streamlines housing production and keeps new home prices more attainable. Despite their wealth, these buyers are still prudent about how they spend their money.
Design elements that appeal to primary buyers also appeal to active adults. Per JBREC’s Consumer Products and Insights survey, more than 70% of new home shoppers between the ages of 55 and 69 included a member who worked at least part time. Work-from-home spaces were always critical to this buyer and are even more so today. Indoor/outdoor spaces are top of mind for active adult buyers, particularly those who live in warmer climates. Opportunities to live in the “healthy” outside while still maintaining cover is a big reason why open corner sliders and outdoor living rooms are immensely popular among this buyer set.
A strong virtual presence is essential. Active adult buyers are not afraid to use technology to search for a home; they rely on it. Active adult developers and builders around the country reinforce that their buyers are doing extensive research online before ever coming to the sales office, and we’ve heard reports of conversion rates among prospects in this space tripling post-pandemic. With travel more restricted and the market expanding rapidly, some active adult buyers are tying up their lots and homes efficiently via builder websites before ever visiting the neighborhood. Empire Communities in Atlanta told us, “We leveraged our virtual platforms, created new virtual platforms, optimized our online campaigns and online sales consultant initiatives, coached the sales teams to get out of their comfort zones, and shifted into a ‘we got this’ attitude.”
Active adult buyers still want to visit sales offices before they buy. While technology is helping buyers become educated, developers were universal in their opinion that this buyer cohort still want to make its final purchase in person. This means that an on-site sales office, decorated models, and well-organized system for coordinating appointments are still critical for selling homes to this buyer profile. Our clients across the country told us that with proper safety precautions in place, active adult buyers prefer visiting sales offices or models in person.
While the first-time and move-up buyers have clearly been the headlines of the housing market resurgence, the active adult buyer is starting to reemerge. We are assessing active adult housing across the country and watching product trends and buyer preferences. Let us know how we can be a resource for you. email@example.com
Who is selling? The chart below tracks when the home was purchased by the sellers. Today’s numbers are from those sales closed between Aug 21-31 of this year:
0 – 2003
2004 – 2008
2009 – 2011
2012 – 2020
So much for my theory about boomers leaving town! Today’s percentage of long-time owners sellers was the lowest yet…..but we know that over 50% of boomers delayed selling their home due to covid.
The chart at the top (click to enlarge) shows the California migration, and it’s a money thing.
People who leave the state find it too expensive here, and can do better elsewhere – and are willing to go for it! Younger people are probably more inclined to leave, at least at first. Grandparents to follow!
Of course, even the recent purchasers have no problem selling for a decent-to-huge gain, and more of them have been taking their profits – and hopefully buying another home, either here or elsewhere. Though the 2012-2020 group is the only one that grows just because we’re adding years over time.
# of Sales
DOM = 0
There were four flippers in today’s group, same as last time.
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