Buyers have the edge today. There’s more inventory to consider and less pressure for buyers to act quickly. With a slower trading pace, there’s more time to explore and evaluate increasing inventory options. With sluggish sales, sellers have adjusted their expectations, and they are reducing prices to more realistic levels to get deals done. Developers are also dropping prices, negotiating and offering upgrades and concessions. Even national builders like Toll Brothers are incentivizing homebuyers to boost soft sales. This month until July 29th, Toll Brothers is offering to pay mansion and transfer taxes to buyers of their condominiums in New York and D.C. This downward value trend is likely to continue for several more quarters.
Homeownership rates are steady. Despite incrementally rising mortgage interest charges, rates remain historically low, encouraging owning over renting. According to U.S. Census Bureau statistics for 1995-2018, homeownership percentages peaked at 69% in 2004 and 2005, then dropped to a low of 63.4% in 2016, but remain virtually unchanged at 63.9% in the last two years. Although last year’s tax reform puts limits on the tax advantages of ownership, it appears that more renters are opting to purchase to build wealth, create community and improve lifestyle, contributing to pride in ownership. It will take time, at the very least until next April 15th, to measure the tangible impact of the revised tax law on homeowners.
Gradually rising interest rates cause buyers to favor fixed rate products. Fed fund rates which control short term interest rates increased in June to 2%. With more rate hikes expected in September and December, buyers are choosing fixed rate products over variable options. As mortgage financing becomes costlier, affordability declines particularly for entry level buyers of studio and one bedroom apartments.
Fewer showings have become the norm. Sellers are asking, “Why aren’t you showing my home more often?” The truth of the matter is we are experiencing fewer showings, and not only because it’s summer. For nearly every property, first visits occur online. When a potential buyer actually visits the residence, the meeting is akin to a second showing.
A beautiful online presence has never been more important. In a nation of Facebook and Instagram, the visual image drives the consumer. As the first point of contact for the buyer, the online presentation matters more today than ever. If the image shows a cluttered home and fails to attract visually and emotionally, it’s too easy for the prospective buyer to click next. There’s no good reason for the homeowner not to take the time and spend the money to clean, declutter and stage the home to its best advantage.
Research shows millennials prefer home ownership to renting. Those born between 1981-1997 share the American dream of owning a home, much like their parents and grandparents. However, millennials appear to be postponing a purchase and renting for a median of six years in order to pay off existing debt (especially student loans), improve credit scores, repair credit history and save up for a down payment and closing costs.
If now is the time to buy, what about investing? Now is not the time for risk taking and speculative investment. If you’re making a purchase, choose a home in the best location possible where quality product will withstand market fluctuations. Lock in a fixed rate mortgage, reduce debt, increase savings and build wealth. If your purchase is investment driven, your time horizon should be 5-7 years, and don’t expect an immediate return.
A brief word about our newest property. If by chance you are looking to establish residency in Florida or buy a second home, we have an affordable choice for you to consider in Bay Harbour. Away from the tumult of downtown Miami and South Beach, The Sophie is a 7-story condo with 26 units, full amenities including beach club membership and 2 parking spaces. Prices approximate $500 per square foot. Do call if you’d like more information.