Are you thinking of going somewhere that doesn’t have bidding wars? You need to go a ways!
Just in case you haven’t heard, snagging a well-priced home in today’s real estate market can feel a bit like winning Powerball. It’s all about beating sky-high odds. Scant inventory, worsened by a pandemic-crush to buy new homes, has led to prices reaching new records and competition bidding them up even higher. All-cash bids and multiple offers way above asking are pricing many would-be homeowners right out of the market, or leaving them feeling hopeless.
“Demand has actually been growing stronger than supply going all the way back to 2014,” says Doug Duncan, chief economist at Fannie Mae. “It’s just that in 2020, incredibly low interest rates augmented that demand.”
In other words, we’ve found ourselves in an extreme seller’s market.
But not everywhere. The Realtor.com® data team found the places where buyers could actually have the advantage. Buyers in these spots—which tend to be smaller cities and college towns—have more properties available to choose from, and prices haven’t risen too much (if at all) compared with where they were at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. This doesn’t mean home prices haven’t risen and the competition isn’t fierce in these cities—they’re just better than the rest of the country.
Looking ahead, buyers may get some more relief in the coming months as sellers become more comfortable listing their homes. Rising mortgage rates and the increase in inventory could slow down price gains. And while prices likely won’t drop, or at least by much, it could lead to a bit less competition.
But where can buyers get at least a little relief right now? To come up with our list of places, we looked at cities where home prices had not risen more than 10% in the past year (compared with 16% nationally) and calculated the number of homes for sale per 1,000 households—the more the better. All of the cities had at least 50,000 residents, and we limited the list to one city per state to achieve geographic diversity.
We’ve had 208 closed SFR sales between La Jolla and Carlsbad this year.
How crazy is it?
Eighty homes sold over the list price, which is 38% of the total number of sales. Of those, most were just $10,000 to $50,000 over list, but there were some big bombers:
Most % Over List Price
Percentage Over List Price
It’s not just paying more than the list price. The listing agents will test your mettle too.
Here’s a seller counter-offer on a million-dollar home with nine offers on it:
The house was built in the 1980s, and you expect the buyer to take it as-is without a home-inspection contingency? And you’re going to get 5% to 10% over list price, but you can’t throw in a home warranty?
There will be buyers who would have paid more money but who drop out when they see the extra demands.
Listing agents believe that this is how you get rid of the buyers who ‘aren’t serious’, but in reality it just limits the remaining buyer pool to the emotionally-charged-and-will-sign-anything buyers. They are the ones that are less likely to close escrow.
What’s it like being a home buyer today? It’s a bonanza if you are in the multiple-millions category – there are hundreds of choices! If you want to stay under $1,500,000, the inventory looks bleak:
NSDCC Active Inventory
Town or Area
Actives Under $1.5M
Actives Over $1.5M
Overall Median List Price
Should the lower-end buyers be discouraged? No! There are 92 pending sales listed under $1,500,000 – they just sell fast. The lower-priced you are, the more tuned up you have to be to win a bidding war.
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:
Question: Our house was titled “joint tenant with right of survivorship” after my husband inherited the property in 1998. We were not married at the time. However we legally married in 2013. Will one of us get the step-up in tax basis when the other passes, or do we have to re-title the house some way? We also want to avoid probate. We live in California.
Answer: As you know, California is one of the community property states that allows both halves of a property to get a step-up in tax basis when one spouse dies. This double step-up can be a huge tax saver, since none of the appreciation that happened before the death is taxed. Other community property states include Arizona, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. In Alaska, spouses can sign an agreement to make specific assets community property.
In other, common law states, only half of the property gets the step-up to a new tax basis when one spouse dies. The other half retains its original tax basis.
Although assets acquired during a marriage are generally considered community property regardless of how they’re titled, in your case the property was acquired before marriage.
The current title of joint tenants with right of survivorship would avoid probate but it would not achieve full step-up in basis when the first spouse dies, said Mark Luscombe, principal analyst for tax research firm Wolters Kluwer.
So you’d be smart to get the property retitled as “community property with right of survivorship,” which allows you to avoid probate and get the double step-up after the first death. California allows this “best of both worlds” option, as do Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Nevada and Wisconsin, have this option. In other community property states, you’d have to choose between probate avoidance and getting the full step-up.
Anyone surprised to hear there are agents soliciting consumers based on their political beliefs?
At first, Stephanie Morris was nervous about leaving Modesto. She’d lived in the Central Valley her whole life, but her family couldn’t keep paying $850-a-month for her sons to share a living room while she, her husband and the baby slept in their apartment’s only bedroom.
The anxiety faded by the time her family pulled out in a U-Haul bound for Salt Lake City on a smoky September night. Morris, 31, had still never been to Utah — her husband liked it when he worked there as a truck driver — but she had discovered a whole world of people planning similar escapes online. They posted faraway landscapes on Pinterest, smiling family photos on Instagram and memes about leaving “Commiefornia” in Facebook groups like “Conservatives Leaving California.”
“I have to keep reminding myself that I’m not moving out of California to a third-world country,” Morris said. “I’m leaving a third-world country to join America.”
Unaffordable housing. High taxes. A Democratic stranglehold on state politics. The concerns driving transplants like Morris out of the country’s richest state during the COVID-19 era are not new. What is changing quickly is how disillusioned California residents are coming together by the tens of thousands on Facebook, YouTube and elsewhere online, fueling a cottage industry of real estate agents, mortgage lenders and political advocates stoking social division to compete for a piece of the much–discussed California Exodus.
Facebook groups like “Life After California” are full of stories about $4,000 U-Haul bills and home bidding wars in Texas, but it’s too early to tell if more people are leaving during the pandemic. People move for all kinds of reasons — a new job, to be near family, to buy their first house — and while many online moving groups target conservatives, a parallel migration of more liberal transplants has also scrambled the politics of some red states.
Early polls show that up to 40%of Bay Area tech workers will consider leaving if remote work continues. Recent tax proposals have alsotriggered familiar warnings about wealthy residents fleeing the state.
Even before COVID-19, California’s population growth had slowed considerably. Since 2015, the state has lost at least 100,000 more people than it gained each year from other U.S. states, including growing numbers of working class and Black residents. But California is still a top U.S. destination for people moving from other countries, plus affluent transplants from other states. From July 2018 to July 2019, California saw a net loss of 197,594 people to other states.
Scott Shepard has watched these forces collide from his new home in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. The California-bred realtor started relocation website ExitCalifornia.org and a namesake Facebook page early last year, when he saw a business opportunity in the endless stories of friends and neighbors moving out of state. Now, during the pandemic, the site is so busy he doesn’t have to pay for online ads.
“It’s starting to kind of take on a life of its own,” Shepard said. “I would be straight and say that it is primarily political. Then it really does come down to the cost and taxes.”
The anti-California Dream
Exit California is emblematic of a growing number of online relocation companies marketed heavily on social media. They target prospective transplants who skew white, right and over age 30, though renters post alongside members in the market for million-dollar houses. Between photos of tidy brick facades, crystal-clear pools and recommended moving truck routes, the Facebook pages revolve around ominous articles about Black Lives Matter protests, crime, immigration and, of late, pandemic shutdowns.
Prospective movers who click through to the website can pick a state — Arizona, Idaho, Tennessee, Texas — and see financial incentives to use selected realtors, mortgage lenders or other service providers. Beyond the mechanics of buying a house, the online groups are a platform for places to pitch fed-up Californians who don’t know where to start.
“There’s a fair percentage of them that don’t know where they wanna go,” said Scott Fuller, an Arizona transplant and real estate investor who started LeavingTheBayArea.com and LeavingSoCal.com three years ago. “They just know they want to go somewhere else.”
That’s not surprising to Bill Bishop, author of “The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America Is Tearing Us Apart.” He’s studied how over the past several decades, neighborhoods across the country have become increasingly politically homogeneous. Where people choose to live has become “a stage,” he said, to flaunt their values as old anchors like a one-company career fade into a blur of unstable jobs, anxiety and dwindling time with family and friends.
“What they’re doing is selling a way of life that then corresponds to political choice,” Bishop said. “It’s kind of pathetic, actually, but what the hell?”
It’s not just real estate agents using social media to reach jaded Californians. Sometimes, the California Exodus content is bankrolled by people in high places.
Take the YouTube video “Fleeing California,” which has racked up 2 million views since it was posted in March. It starts with sweeping L.A. views of palm trees and Spanish-tile roofs, then fades to a grainy montage of sidewalk tent cities and a person being pushed in front of an oncoming truck. A moment later, in Texas, viewers see happy kids getting off a school bus and a golden retriever bounding down a jungle gym while Republican Sen. Ted Cruz talks in the background.
The video was made by PragerU, a conservative digital media nonprofit that produces other titles like “Make Men Masculine Again” and “Dangerous People Are Teaching Your Kids.” The California video was commissioned by a donor, producer Will Witt said: Texas ranching and oil scion Windi Grimes, a board director of the Texas Public Policy Foundation and member of Trumpettes USA, a women’s group formed in Beverly Hills five years ago to boost President Trump as the country’s “savior.”
How many people are persuaded to pack up and move by similar videos, social media content or Joe Rogan’s recent podcasts on moving to Texas could help shuffle the country’s electoral map at a pivotal moment. Some of California’s last Republican strongholds, like Orange County, are seeing their residents decamp for other states — a net loss of nearly 25,000 people last year alone — along with notoriously liberal urban areas like L.A., which posted a net loss of more than 97,800 people.
The anti-California political spectacle playing out online has become a hobby for 30-year-old Texas country singer Charley Austin, who started the “Conservatives Leaving California” Facebook group last year. Some members post memes warning newcomers “Don’t California My Texas.” But Austin, who says he has campaigned for Trump, sees an opportunity to keep the state red as cities like Austin (“the San Francisco of Texas,” he said) go farther left.
“There’s nothing really we can do to stop people moving here,” Austin said. “The best thing you can do is help people that move here get acclimated to the state.”
San Diego didn’t make the NAR list of vacation-home areas (counties where 20% of the housing stock is for seasonal use), but our market should be enjoying some additional second-home purchases:
Vacation home sales are outperforming total existing-home sales. Sales of homes intended for vacation use rose to 109,100 in the past three months of July-September, a 44% gain from the level of 75,600 sales during the same period last year, according to NAR estimates based on information gathered from the monthly REATORS® Confidence Index Survey and NAR’s existing-home sales estimates. In comparison, total existing-home sales during July-September rose 13% year-over-year (1.72 million in July-Sept 2020 vs. 1.52 million in July-Sept 2019).
The pandemic and low mortgage rates have increased the desirability and affordability of owning a vacation home. Buyers may be desiring a vacation home as a weekend getaway as urban-based leisure activities are still constrained by social distancing. The ability to work from home also means buyers who can work from home can spend more time at and enjoy their vacation home. Historically low mortgage rates have also made a home purchase more affordable, while rising prices in past years have yielded larger home equity gains that can be tapped (through say a home equity loan) to use for a down payment.
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