Orange County Housing Report: “I’m Going to Wait to Buy”

October 8, 2017

Many potential buyers are unaware that there is a significant cost in waiting to purchase.

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 stating, “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 because 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.

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.

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.

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.

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