How to Navigate a Hot Housing Market

In the end, the sellers accepted her offer, and she closed on the condo on May 7. She learned that the sellers liked that she had shown up promptly to an appointment, which helped seal the deal. “Be on time,” she said. And, she advised, use an experienced real estate agent. The current competitive market moves too quickly for do-it-yourself shopping.

In Nashville, buyers are getting creative. Brian Copeland, the president of Greater Nashville Realtors, said he had recently learned of an offer that promised the seller a “V.I.P.” meet-and-greet with a celebrity musician as an inducement. In another sale, a buyer offered to pay for a party with a bounce house for the seller’s children. And in a third, the buyer saw a Peloton bike in the house and offered to pay for a year’s subscription to online classes.

“We’re seeing all kinds of weird perks,” Mr. Copeland said, noting, “I am not condoning any of these practices.”

Angelica Olmsted, an agent in Denver, said tight markets demanded creative thinking. She tracks listings that have expired to see if the owner might still be interested in selling. “It may have been overpriced eight months ago,” she said, “but now it’s a steal.”

Here are some questions and answers about home shopping:

What are current mortgage rates?

A bright spot for home buyers is that mortgage rates have remained low — below 3 percent, on average, for the past month for a 30-year fixed-rate home loan, according to Freddie Mac’s weekly survey. Rates for fixed-rate 15-year loans averaged 2.26 percent last week.

I can’t pay above the asking price. Is there any hope for me?

Yes — if you’re willing to compromise, agents say. Mr. Copeland, in Nashville, said the majority of homes in Davidson County were still selling at or below the asking price. The most extreme competition, he said, is in a few ZIP codes in the city’s urban core. If you can live a bit farther away, he said, there’s probably a home you can afford.

How long is this going to last?

It is going to take time for construction to catch up to demand, especially for entry-level homes, economists say. But there are some reasons for optimism. A recent survey from Realtor.com suggests that more owners will be putting homes on the market in the next 12 months as the effects of the pandemic wane.

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Selling Your Home in a Seller’s Market

“Right now, sellers are in the position where they can direct buyers to have as few contingencies as possible,” Ms. Newquist-Nolan, the California broker, said. That’s a smart move, she said, because fewer contingencies means fewer opportunities when a transaction might fall through.

Take home inspections for example. From September 2020 through February 2021, 13.2 percent of winning Redfin offers had waived the inspection contingency, up from 7.3 percent a year ago, the brokerage reports. (Such a contingency would allow buyers to pull out of a deal if an inspection uncovered unexpected repair issues.) “Most buyers are waiving home inspections right now in our area,” Ms. Wethman said. “Pre-offer inspections have become the norm.”

Most sellers are now open to allowing buyers to bring in a home inspector before they make an offer on a home. A pre-offer inspection that finds few problems could give a buyer the confidence to waive an inspection contingency, which subsequently might make the buyer’s offer a more appealing choice for the seller.

Buyers are also finding ways to waive home appraisal contingencies, in an effort to make their bid more attractive to a seller. (Appraisal contingencies allow buyers to terminate a contract if an appraisal comes in lower than their offer price.)

“Some buyers who are putting down 20 percent are agreeing to reduce their down payment to pay the difference if there’s an appraisal gap,” Ms. Wethman said. For example, in a deal where a buyer is offering $300,000 for a home, and has a 20 percent down payment, if the house is appraised at $270,000, the buyer could drop their down payment to 10 percent, and use that 10 percent in cash to make up the appraisal shortfall.

The best approach that sellers can take when weighing offers, Mr. Lejeune said, is to compare them side-by-side.

His strategy: “I present offers to my clients in an Excel spreadsheet that specifics the offer price, loan amount, type of loan, contingencies, and other important metrics,” he said. “It’s basically a cheat sheet for sellers.”

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Realtors Want to Sell You a Home. Their Trade Group Backs Evicting Others.

“Redfin has consistently been in favor of moratoriums,” said its chief executive, Glenn Kelman. “History will judge us.”

Zillow supports the C.D.C. edict, too, and it believes that moratoriums work most effectively when policies and relief programs include landlords and property managers in addition to renters. Last month, it published research suggesting that there could be as few as 130,000 evictions in the near future if everything goes right with legislation, regulations, their implementation and the economy. But it is a difficult figure to predict.

On the ground in Atlanta, Bilal Shareef also sees the wisdom of the coordinated approach that Zillow outlines. “I definitely wouldn’t feel as if we need to sue the government,” Mr. Shareef said. “Instead of displacing people who are renters, also provide assistance for landlords.”

Mr. Shareef is president of the Empire Board of Realtists, a trade organization with a pointed name that was founded in 1939, when other groups barred Black real estate professionals from their membership ranks. He’s also among the 1.4 million members of the N.A.R.

“Sometimes, we have to be on the inside to keep them honest about some things,” he said.

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway is a big player in the Georgia real estate sales scene. Its chief executive there, Dan Forsman, said in an interview this week that he had not taken a public position on the eviction moratorium before I called him. But Mr. Forsman believes the moratorium should cease on June 30, the end of its current extension.

His is a nuanced view, because he had Covid himself. “I was scared to death,” he said. Last year, the moratorium made sense to him, when it was clear how worried some of his staff was. The unemployment rate was frightening, too. In the Atlanta region, it grew to 12.9 percent last April. By February, however, it had fallen to just 4.7 percent.

“I’m thankful for the leadership that the C.D.C. has shown,” Mr. Forsman said. “They’ve put their tails on the line and protected those who couldn’t protect themselves. And now it’s time to move on.”

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Talk Politics? Some Brokers Are Only Too Happy to Do So

Charlie Oppler, the president of the National Association of Realtors, issued a statement on Jan. 6., condemning the assault on the Capitol, but no formal actions have been taken against brokers involved in the siege. Responding to a query about the trade association’s position, Wesley Shaw, a spokesman for the association, wrote that the organization was closely following the legal proceedings connected to the breach and was “committed to taking any action that is deemed appropriate and in the best interest of our association,” but deferred membership qualification decisions to the group’s local associations.

With 1.4 million members, the association is the country’s largest trade organization, representing about half of all licensed real estate agents in the United States. Far from avoiding politics, the organization’s Realtor Political Action Committee is the largest PAC operated on behalf of a trade association in the United States, Mr. Shaw said, giving close to $4 million annually to political candidates on both sides of the aisle who support real estate interests. The association encourages members to get involved in their communities, and to speak out on issues related to housing and property rights. But some may have become too outspoken.

In a year of political and social unrest, the association has been grappling with a wave of social media discourse that became so inflammatory it drove the association to update its code of ethics last November, banning all discriminatory behavior by its members.

After George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police last May and the protests that followed, Realtor associations around the country were flooded with complaints about agents posting racist and sexist messages on their social media sites.

Calling out this activity last June, Jennifer Pino, then president of the Atlanta Realtors Association, wrote to the national association: “We cannot continue to allow the Realtor brand to be damaged by these hateful few. This must be stopped.”

“Realtors were being outwardly discriminatory on social media while supposedly adhering to Fair Housing rules,” said Ms. Pino, 49, managing broker at Sotheby’s International Realty’s Buckhead office. “If you were holding an open house, and you had expressed genuine hate for a protected class on social media, how could you possibly treat those people fairly?”

Over the next several months, the association held numerous internal meetings and online forums seeking input to amend the code. In October, Matt Difanis, an Illinois broker who was then chairman of the organization’s professional standards committee, released a video on YouTube where he shared examples from what he called “the mountain of hate speech” posted by agents. The sampling included messages like “I think Black people bring out the worst in us,” and “homosexuals and lesbians are murderers, according to the scripture.”

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