Orange County Housing Report:
“I’m Going to Wait to Buy”
Many potential buyers are unaware that there is a significant cost in waiting to purchase.
Orange County Housing Report October 11th, 2017
Cost of Waiting: Today’s 3.85% interest rate is a gift in historical context.
There have not been enough homes on the market for over five years now. This trend has been reinforced in 2017 with 7% fewer FOR SALE signs compared to last year. Buyers have been tripping over each other in search of their piece of the “American Dream.” The lower the price range, the harder it has been to secure a home.
It has been difficult and frustrating to be a buyer, and that has not changed in years; and, it is not going to change in 2018 either. It is easy to empathize with buyers, especially those with smaller down payments. Buyers cannot help but fall in love with a home, write an offer, and then find out that they are one of ten buyers bidding on the same home. They have a 10% chance of being the winning bidder. They are instructed not to fall in love with a home until they are the winning bid. That is easier said than done. Buyers are human beings. They write offers to purchase a home because it is a good fit for their family. They visualize how their furniture will be situated in their potential new home. They visualize where they will entertain the extended family on the 4th of July and Thanksgiving. They visualize life. How are they supposed to strip the process of finding a home from all of their emotions?
Most buyers have been busy writing offer after offer, falling in love with home after home. The process can be grueling and exhausting. It does not mean that it cannot be done; it is just not going to be easy by any stretch of the imagination. Tapping out is not the answer. As frustrating as the process has been, it is not going to improve anytime soon. Taking a short break is understandable, but buyers really need to talk themselves out of saying, “I’m going to wait to buy.”
What exactly are they waiting for? The inventory of homes is not forecasted to significantly rise for a very long time. Buyers will be facing limited choices for the long haul unless they are looking for homes in the luxury end. There are plenty of choices above $1.5 million, but that is simply not the typical buyer. The only reason there are more choices for luxury housing is that there are fewer buyers that can afford the high sticker prices. For the rest of the market, there are not enough options to purchase and demand is red hot.
So, what happens to buyers that do wait? The biggest risk is the eventual rise in interest rates. It seems that the experts and prognosticators have been calling for a rise in interest rates for a few years running; yet, the increases have yet to materialize. Everybody needs to understand that it took quite a bit of manipulation by central banks around the world to get rates down to these unbelievable levels. Rates will not drop further. Instead, as the central banks, starting with the U.S. Federal Reserve, reverse course on their monetary policies, rates will become more volatile and will begin to rise.
Will rates remain low for the coming year? It is quite likely; however, “don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” This interest rate environment is a total gift from international central banks and our Federal Reserve. It will not be around forever.
Down the road, many will look back at these interest rates and wish they had pulled the trigger and locked in for the long haul. When interest rates rise just 1% from where they are today, a $500,000 mortgage will cost an additional $297 per month or $3,564 per year. For a $750,000 mortgage, a buyer is looking at paying an additional $445 per month or $5,340 per year. Over a five-year period the increase accumulates to $26,700; and, over the 30-year life of the loan, the homeowner will have paid an additional $160,020.
It seems that everybody has become quite accustomed to today’s low rates. For context, the 30-year fixed rate peaked at over 18% back in 1981 and it has been trending down ever since. In 1990, rates were at 10%. In 1980, it was 8%. Just prior to the Great Recession, mortgage rates had fallen to 6.35%. After tremendous manipulation by the Federal Reserve, rates dropped all the way down to 3.35% by the end of 2012, fueling the bonanza in housing that everybody is feeling today. Rates have hit a bottom and are only expected to rise from here. It’s not a matter of IF they rise; it’s more a matter of WHEN.
For buyers, it is not wise to gamble on rates. They are low today and the Orange County housing market is expected to continue to appreciate through 2018. The longer a buyer waits, the higher the mortgage payment will be down the road.
Active Inventory: The active inventory dropped by 2% over the past couple of weeks.
The active listing inventory shed 111 homes in the past two weeks and now sits at 5,382. There really are not that many homes on the market compared to the last few years. Only in 2012 were there fewer homes on the market to start October. The active inventory will continue to fall through the remainder of the year, picking up steam after Thanksgiving, the start of the Holiday/Winter Market.
Last year at this time, there were 6,472 homes on the market, 1,090 additional homes, or 20% more than today.
Demand: Demand decreased by 4% in the past couple of weeks.
Demand, the number of homes placed into escrow within the prior month, decreased by 94 pending sales, or 4%, in the past two-weeks, and now totals 2,426. Part of this drop is seasonal. Demand tends to drop a bit during the Autumn Market with both the Spring and Summer Markets in the rearview mirror. Additionally, fewer homes are coming on the market compared to the last few years for this time of year as well. Within the last month, 7% fewer FOR SALE signs have been placed in homeowners’ yards compared to 2016. With fewer choices, the number of pending sales has taken a hit.
Last year at this time, demand was at 2,693 pending sales, 267 more than today, or 11% higher.
The expected market time, the amount of time it would take for a home that comes onto the market today to be placed into escrow, rose from 65 to 67 days, a slight seller’s market where housing still tilts in the sellers’ favor and appreciation slows. Last year’s expected market time was at 72 days at the beginning of October.
Luxury End: Luxury supply and luxury demand dropped in the past couple of weeks.
In the past two weeks, demand for homes above $1.25 million decreased from 318 to 303 pending sales, a 5% drop. Since reaching 385 at the end of August, demand has dropped by 21%, representing a major shift in the Autumn Luxury Market. The luxury home inventory decreased from 1,959 homes to 1,887, a 4% drop, in the past two-weeks. As a result, the expected market time for all homes priced above $1.25 million slowed slightly from 185 days to 187. Luxury inventory and luxury demand will continue to drop through the end of the year.
For homes priced between $1.25 million and $1.5 million, the expected market time increased from 99 to 101 days. For homes priced between $1.5 million and $2 million, the expected market time increased from 169 to 178 days. For homes priced between $2 million and $4 million, the expected market time increased from 264 days to 280 days. In addition, for homes priced above $4 million, the expected market time decreased from 424 to 316 days. At 316 days, a seller would be looking at placing their home into escrow around the end of August of 2018.
Orange County Housing Market Summary:
- The active listing inventory decreased by 111 homes in the past couple of weeks and now totals 5,382. The trend is down for the remainder of the year. Last year, there were 6,472 homes on the market, 1,090 more than today.
- There are 37% fewer homes on the market below $500,000 today compared to last year at this time and demand is down by 27%. Fewer and fewer homes and condominiums are now priced below $500,000. This price range is slowly disappearing.
- Demand, the number of pending sales over the prior month, decreased by 94 homes in the past couple of weeks, down 4%, and now totals 2,426. The average pending price is $870,430.
- The average list price for all of Orange County remained at $1.7 million. This number is high due to the mix of homes in the luxury ranges that sit on the market and do not move as quickly as the lower end.
- For homes priced below $750,000, the market is HOT with an expected market time of just 42 days. This range represents 39% of the active inventory and 62% of demand.
- For homes priced between $750,000 and $1 million, the expected market time is 57 days, a hot seller’s market (less than 60 days). This range represents 17% of the active inventory and 20% of demand.
- For homes priced between $1 million to $1.25 million, the expected market time is 95 days, a balanced market that does not favor a buyer or seller.
- For luxury homes priced between $1.25 million and $1.5 million, the expected market time increased from 99 days to 101. For homes priced between $1.5 million and $2 million, the expected market time increased from 169 to 178 days. For luxury homes priced between $2 million and $4 million, the expected market time increased from 264 days to 280 days. For luxury homes priced above $4 million, the expected market time decreased from 424 to 316 days.
- The luxury end, all homes above $1.25 million, accounts for 35% of the inventory and only 12% of demand.
- The expected market time for all homes in Orange County increased in the past couple of weeks from 65 days to 67 days, a tepid seller’s market (60 to 90 days). From here, we can expect the market time to slowly rise as housing makes its way through the Autumn Market.
- Distressed homes, both short sales and foreclosures combined, make up only 1.5% of all listings and 2% of demand. There are only 34 foreclosures and 47 short sales available to purchase today in all of Orange County, that’s 81 total distressed homes on the active market, decreasing by 7 in the past two weeks. Last year there were 128 total distressed sales, 58% more than today.
- There were 2,733 closed residential resales in September, nearly identical to the 2,736 closed sales in September 2016. September marked a 12% drop over August 2017, part of a normal autumn housing transition. The sales to list price ratio was 98.1% for all of Orange County. Foreclosures accounted for just 0.6% of all closed sales and short sales accounted for 0.9%. That means that 98.5% of all sales were good ol’ fashioned sellers with equity.