Thursday, July 5, 2007

Buying and Selling in Today’s Market – Is It Right For Me?

We are all aware of what’s going on in today’s real estate marketplace. There is no way that you can escape the news. It’s all over on the radio, television and in print. So where do you stand?

Firstly, the situation is not going to change anytime soon. There are too many factors that have contributed to our present market. One of the greatest, that most people are not aware of, is that of the mortgage lending business. This has greatly contributed the our present set of circumstances.

A little history. A long time ago when someone took out a mortgage, they generally had a relationship with their lender, who more often than not was their banker. The banker knew of their ability to repay a loan and lent money on this criteria. The banker also kept and serviced that loan for the life of that particular mortgage.

Well, the industry changed greatly in the past twenty years. Now, the originating lenders take the mortgages that they’ve made and then bundle them up and sell them to investors. Thus, giving the original lender money to go back out and sell more mortgages. This is great in that it brings more available money back into the marketplace. The downside is that the original lender no longer has the risk of carrying that loan. So, therefore, criteria became quite lax for procuring loans.

This is why we are seeing so much trouble with the subprime market. Too many loans were made to people who could marginally afford a home. With interest rates rising so has many adjustable rate mortgages and this further pushed many more people into that group. They couldn’t afford the higher payments and especially with the addition or higher insurance rates & property taxes.

Because so many of these loans were heading towards default, that it why we are seeing a collapse in the subprime market. It used to be that you could find a loan for someone with credit scores of less than 580. Now, that the subprime market is drying up, it is difficult to find a loan for someone with a FICO score under 620.

This fueled a lot of the buying and selling that we saw over the past several years. This, in addition to the fact, that a lot of people as they saw the prices of real estate moving up so quickly wanted to get in on the action also. Unfortunately, a lot of these people should not have. Many used their available funds or even home equities in their primary residences to purchase second homes or rental properties. When they could no longer afford these properties, they tried to sell them, but found that they couldn’t at a profit.

Many also used the increased value of their homes as a sort of spending account. Since incomes were not increasing relative to the value of their property, they would take money out, utilizing home equities, and use this money to buy cars, trips, etc.

But, this had to stop and it did! We were finding more homes languishing on the market. The builders were still building at an expanded pace. Therefore, even more homes on the market. The statistics show that most of these builders made profits last year, but that is now changing. Many, if not most, have seen losses this year. Many builders have stopped building speculation homes.

The combination of all of the things that I’ve just written about has contributed to the glut of properties available for sale. And yes, has driven down the price of homes. If you purchased a home within the last two years, you will find it quite difficult to sell it now at a profit and in most cases breaking even, if you are lucky.

Yes, there are many more factors that have also contributed to our state of affairs, but this is to just give you a general overview. So, now to the title of this blog.

It is definitely a buyer’s market and will remain so for quite some time. Right now in the two counties that make up the majority of the Greater Orlando area, there are over 20K single-family homes, condos, townhomes & villas for sale. This, when in what might be considered a normal market, when there was much less than 1/3 of that number of available properties for sale.

Buyers have a wide selection of properties to look at & choose from. Never has it been greater & especially when you note that the builders are offering such great bargains. Some even $100K and more off of the selling price. Others offering discounts, closing incentives & even a Harley-Davidson in addition. I’ve recently seen a home that was almost 2000sf with a starting price of approximately $250K. And this home wasn’t in the boonies or even near to such, it was right in the metro area.

Now, to the sellers. Unfortunately, there are many that just have to sell. They have to move whether it be for a job transfer, familial reasons, health, etc. These people have no choice. What I’ve stated over and over for these people is that you have to show Price & Value. Your home has to be in tip-top shape. People do not want homes that they have to do work on. There are too many others out there & they will just go to the next one. People are not going to overpay for a property. And this is where it also comes in – sellers have to be realistic in their expectations and pricing. 2005 is a long time ago and has nothing to do with our present real estate market.

Some may read this and think that I am a pessimist. I am not by any means, or at least try not to be. I consider myself a realistic optimist. We are still selling homes, but granted, they are selling at levels that we saw in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. There is over a 16-month supply of available homes on the market.

Real Estate is a great investment, but it has always been meant as a long-term investment. Not, the short-term one it was considered in the recent past. It is no longer the cash cow that we saw through the past several years. There is no real estate bubble that we are going to see burst. But at the same time, you are not going to see lenders utilizing the line-up & sign-up routine of the past for mortgages. The criteria for such has been tightened.

One of the things that quite concerns me is what is going to happen when Wall Street feels the effects of the subprime market. Are we going to be asked to bail them out as we have with property insurance companies, etc? I hope not, they took on the risk & that is where it should stay. It’s not the public’s responsibility to bail out all of these companies. We, as individuals, cannot afford that.

Just remember – Price & Value. If you can show that, you can sell your home.

Until next time – Marc It Sold!