6 Min Read | February 14, 2020
Planning on buying a home? Thinking of selling a home? Timing is key to everything from getting a good price to closing a deal.
A buyer’s market and seller’s market work very differently in real estate.
At stake is everything from the number of houses on the market to the range of prices and speed of sales.
When buying or selling a home, it’s a good idea to study current market conditions and be prepared to act on them.
Maybe timing isn’t everything when you’re buying a home or selling one, but it comes awfully close. Your probability of success in the housing market can lie in the answers to two important timing questions:
In the wake of the 2020 economic downturn, you might have expected a buyer’s market in real estate – lots of homes for sale but few buyers. After all, that’s what happened after the Great Recession of 2008.
This time, however, many parts of the country have been experiencing a seller’s market – few homes for sale but many buyers. In these local housing markets, bidding wars have been breaking out among buyers vying for the same properties. Houses have closed fast, buyers have paid more or dropped out of the bidding, and sellers have reaped the rewards.
Why the difference?
At a national level, each economic cycle is different. The Great Recession actually came about when a bubble in the hyperinflated housing market burst, driving prices down an average of 33% nationwide.1 This episode is freshest in people’s minds. However, the housing market has performed relatively well in all other economic downturns since 1980, real estate experts say.2
Several factors have shaped today’s national housing market, where the number of properties for sale had already been falling in recent years. Among them, health-related limitations on home showings and sellers’ economic uncertainties further reduced the supply of houses on the market. At the same time, historically low mortgage rates, health concerns, and an increase in remote working were driving demand. The result: In April 2020 the median price for an existing home was up 7.4% over April 2019, with condo prices up 7.1% in the same period. Over half of the homes sold in April of this year were on the market for less than a month.3
But national trends don’t tell the whole story. The housing market can vary from region to region – and within regions. As one real estate expert described it, there are “thousands of micro-markets, all in different phases of growth or decline.”4
For example, real estate analysts have attributed some of the current housing demand to remote workers upgrading from urban apartments into suburban single-family homes. This has shifted the balance between buyer’s and seller’s markets in some metropolitan areas.
How can you tell what’s happening in your local market? One way is to dig into local news coverage and other indicators such as realtor.com’s new Housing Market Recovery Index, which tracks 50 metropolitan markets.5 Local real estate agents also distribute statistical analysis in social media and email newsletters. Working with an agent is often recommended. And it’s wise to stay up-to-date on the latest information because markets can change quickly.
If you’re buying a home, of course, you may also be selling the one you’re in now. In either case, you can apply the following rules of thumb to buying and selling a home: Knowledge is power. Be prepared. Act from a position of strength.
Buying a home: Buyers can lose focus as they swipe through real estate listings online, cruise from property to property with an agent, or get swept up in a bidding war. Here are some tips that are useful for buying a home in either a buyer’s or seller’s market – but especially in a seller’s market, where properties can go like hotcakes:
Selling a home: In a seller’s market, you may get away with putting your home up for sale pretty much “as is.” Not so in a buyer’s market. In either market, you’ll want to consider these steps to increase your profit and sell quickly:
When buying or selling a home, you’ll inevitably find yourself at the intersection of two real estate clichés: “timing is everything” and “location, location, location.” Understanding the current dynamics in your target market, getting into a position to act quickly, and remaining focused yet flexible are all key to success in the housing market.
1 “Evaluating the Housing Market Since the Great Recession,” CoreLogic
2 “Why Today’s Housing Market May Be a Recession Buster,” First American
3 “Existing-Home Sales Wane 17.8% in April,” National Association of Realtors
4 “How to Determine If It’s a Buyer’s or Seller’s Market?” Real Wealth Network
5 “National and Local Housing Market Recovery Trends,” realtor.com
6 “What You Need to Know About Earnest Money and How to Protect Yours,” HomeLight
Karen Lynch is a journalist who has covered global business, technology, finance, and related public policy issues for more than 30 years.
All Credit Intel content is written by freelance authors and commissioned and paid for by American Express.
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