Scott Bayens: Digging deep in the world of dirt
Has anybody tried to buy a camper or RV lately? How about a car at the local dealership? Score reservations for a camp site? Shop for a new bike? Outdoor equipment? A hot tub? How ‘bout a plumber, an electrician, a good architect and builder? The list goes on and on and on. And before last week, signing up for the vaccine was like shopping Ticketmaster for concert tickets.
Just like those empty shelves and lack of toilet paper at the grocery store this time last year, if you don’t plan ahead or act quickly, you’re going on the wait list and not just for a few weeks but usually for months. Add to that, no haggle, no set delivery date and get ready to cut a non-refundable check for the privilege. These of course are nothing more than first-world problems. The real and disruptive impacts of COVID remain and are much more significant, substantial and important, so I beg your indulgence to make my point as it relates to real estate.
The lack of a good wipe and empty aisles are the best metaphors I can find to describe the current state of affairs now. Given the current dearth of inventory here and around the country, one might actually need a car or a camper and a campsite to live in this summer, as options for homes, condos, even raw land are at a fraction of what they were a few short years ago. And if you think last summer was busy, just wait as the freshly vaccinated, cooped up masses arrive and start fighting over what’s left.
And according to a recent statistics, this is now a national trend. There were half as many homes for sale at the end of February than this time last year, according to realtor.com. That equates to 200,000 less options for house hunters this spring. Add to that numbers from CoreLogic that shows in January prices were up 10% year over year. And asking prices for new listings in February just hit an all-time high, making it even tougher for first-time homebuyers.
But here comes the crazy part. So far sellers aren’t out of line in terms of their pricing and have plenty of reasons to be confident. In February, 55% of newly listed homes went under contract in the first two weeks. That number was 44% a year ago. And despite some expert’s claims the housing market is overvalued, nationwide, more than half of all offers saw bidding wars for the ninth straight month.
We’re seeing exactly the same thing here in our valley. From Glenwood Springs to Aspen, new listings — even those with prices that make experienced local experts gasp — go under contract in just a couple days. I have at least three clients asking for two-bed, two-bath condos in Aspen under $2 million. There are 12 total. Of the dozen, 10 of those are pending and the other two are dark, subterranean basements. And as I write, there are 13 single-family homes in Basalt and Willits. Three are under contract and three have yet to be built.
That’s right, homes on lots yet to break dirt are on market and selling at today’s prices! In fact, there are over a dozen homes in Carbondale and Basalt being offered in this pre-construction, “get ‘em while their hot” fashion. Shockingly, about a third of those have gone under contract using nothing more than renderings, floorplans and the promise of what’s to come. That’s remarkable considering most buyers want to see, feel, smell and stand in what for most, will become their most valuable and treasured asset. It’s a true risk/reward proposition.
Now that the latest relief bill has passed, more than 100 million Americans got shots in the arm in just the past few weeks, and warmer weather on the way, this summer’s sure to be an absolute goat rodeo. I expect the market to be highly competitive, favorable to cash buyers and quick closings. The name of the game for agents right now is new listings; picking up the phone or knocking on doors to find those willing to move even if they don’t have a place to go.
For those reasons I am advising my clients to shop and offer now if they can as it’s sure to get tougher on buyers as more folks arrive and start sniffing around again. Those needing to secure a loan should be locked and loaded with their down payment, bank approval and ready to come in close to or at asking price. Interest rates are ticking up but remain at historical lows.
Yes, homes are selling fast, but something new comes up every day. Don’t be intimidated. Make sure you’ve got a seasoned pro in your corner and choose a firm with a strong record of success. Now is not the time to hire a rookie. It’s as important as ever to find an experienced and resourceful broker with boots on the ground and a Rolodex of contacts to dig deep in the dirt to find what no one else might know is for sale.
Scott Bayens (GRI, ABR, CNE) is a Realtor with Aspen Snowmass Sotheby’s International Realty. Learn more about him at http://www.aspendreamhome.com.
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Some very philosophical and long-overdue discussions are finally happening among the members of the Aspen-Piktin County Housing Authority board.