Friday, October 07, 2011

Have We Reached The Bottom?

The biggest question my clients seem to have is whether we have reached the bottom of the market. I agree with real estate pundit Barbara Corcoran who says that when we have a consensus that the bottom has been reached, it is long past. I think for the most part the bottom was sometime mid-2010. What has the market in Broward been like so far in 2011? I have worked with a number of out of town buyers and have had hundreds of inquiries from others in the last few months, who have gathered from the news that Florida is having a huge fire sale. A big part of selling real estate has always been reconciling buyer’s expectations with the reality of the market. That is the biggest challenge in today’s market. I worked with four different clients in the last few months who all bid on foreclosure properties. I advised each of them to offer full price, and even more, and they all did. Two succeeded and two lost out to higher offers, one to an offer 50,000 more than the 840,000 list price. Before you think I am nuts to suggest anyone should pay over list during the worst real estate market of my 30-plus year career, let’s look at what the Broward County real estate market of condominiums and houses over 100,000 has done in the last 90 days according to the area MLS data. There are currently 4,206 houses for sale in Broward County over $100,000 that are conventional listings. There are 476 foreclosure listings and 1944 that are short sales. In the last 90 days 1000 conventional sales, 118 foreclosures sales and 443 short sales occurred. In the condominium market priced over $100,000 there are 4106 conventional listings, 291 foreclosures, and 1214 short sale listings. In the last 90 days 721 conventional sales, 330 foreclosure sales and 287 short sales occurred. I looked closer at this data and there are some definite trends that should help buyers understand what is happening in the market. First of all, the number of foreclosure listings is less than most consumers would expect. Foreclosures are the fastest selling category, with most selling within a few weeks of being listed. Most importantly, foreclosure listings are selling in a range from 5% under list to full price, to over list price in many cases. Buyers expecting to get discounts on foreclosure buys were entirely unsuccessful with that strategy, according to the numbers. The sales of short sale properties, that is, homes and condos where the mortgage balance is higher than the market value, had the longest days on market of all. Banks are still not moving with any speed in approving short sales. Short sales are the most frustrating segment of the market where the buyer has little control over the time frame for approval and closing, or if it will happen at all. Pre-approved short sales are the best bet, that is, one where the seller is pre-qualified and a price has been agreed on by the bank. The mortgage company is going to be looking for market value. Some sellers list short sales low to encourage a buyer, but be prepared to agree to a number that aligns with recent comparable sales when the lender responds. Conventional sales have been relatively strong in the last 90 days, pointing to strength in the market coming from the bottoming out of prices. Condos with water views and houses in all price ranges that are priced well, are attracting buyers. Again, the numbers show that properties sell when the price is within ten percent of what they sell for. No huge discounts off list are happening, but the seller has to be realistic in pricing to attract a realistic buyer. It looks like in general Broward County is trending to toward a stronger market. Smart buyers have the largest inventory of available properties to choose from right now. The best deals are in those places where there was the most speculative buying during the boom, such as condos downtown, and infill townhome developments. We don’t have the condo glut that downtown Miami has, or the housing glut of west Florida where overdevelopment was rampant, two areas that have contributed most to the perception of Florida being a real estate disaster. The market in Broward County will continue to be aggravated by the poor economy more than anything. The savvy buyer, however is acting now, and getting some of the best buys Broward County real estate consumers will see for a long, long time.

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