The housing market shows signs of fatigue, but the slowing can be seen in some areas of the country more than others. For instance, in the San Francisco Bay Area, multimillion-dollar listings are taking longer to sell than listings in the less-than-1-million-dollar price range. This can work to the advantage of home buyers trading up from a smaller to a larger home.
Until recently, trading up in markets with tight inventories of homes for sale was not easy. It was easy enough sell a cute little starter home. But, finding the larger replacement home was difficult. Often when a suitable trade-up home came on the market, buyers faced competition from other buyers who were also eager to make the move up.
This often led to sale prices that were higher than the list price and disappointment on the part of the buyers who lost out. Now as the inventory of for-sale homes grows, many higher priced listings are taking longer to sell. This means that there’s more to choose from and less competition.
Interest rates are rising, but are still relatively low. This also works to your advantage in making a trade-up move. However, if you were preapproved before interest rates started to rise, you should check with your lender or mortgage broker to see if the rate changes affect the price you can pay.
HOUSE HUNTING TIP: Be on the lookout for sellers who are out of sync with the changing market. Buyers often have a good grasp of current market conditions, while sellers seem to be the last to know. The slowing of the upper-end market is in part due to over-pricing on the part of sellers, many of whom price their homes assuming that home prices will continue to rise at a breakneck pace.
Also be aware that the changing market could affect the time it will take to sell your home. Recently, move-up buyers who could afford to buy first did so confidently. They were sure that their home would sell quickly and that they wouldn’t be stuck owning two homes for long.
This strategy becomes more risky when the market slows. The lower-end market in many areas is still moving quickly. But this could change. So evaluate your options carefully.
Offers made contingent on the sale of another home usually don’t work in hot seller’s markets. But, contingent sale offers tend to come back in fashion as the market slows. If a listing you’re interested in has been on the market for some time and the seller is anxious for an offer, you might try a contingent sale offer and see if you can negotiate a deal.
Keep in mind that you can usually negotiate a lower price if your offer is not contingent on the sale of another property.
With a contingent sale offer, the seller is worried about two things. One is whether the buyer will list his house at a sensible price. The other related concern is how long it will take the buyer to sell his home.
It helps to shorten the time it takes to sell your home if it’s ready to go on the market as soon as you’re in contract to buy your new home. So, plan to do your fix-up-for-sale work in advance.
To sweeten a contingent sale offer, ask the seller for a short time period to find a buyer for your home – say three weeks. If your home is ready to go and you price it right, you just might sell in time.
THE CLOSING: It may be easier for you to sell your starter home than it will be for the seller of the larger, more expensive home to sell his.
Dian Hymer is author of “House Hunting, The Take-Along Workbook for Home Buyers” and “Starting Out, The Complete Home Buyer’s Guide,” Chronicle Books.
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