For the past month my husband and I have been working crazy long hours, sacrificing our free time to make home repairs in preparation of selling our family home of 16 years. We finally listed 11 days ago and have had two weekends of open houses. Here’s what we learned so far and how the interest rate hike (up to 5% now) will impact our selling and buying potential in 2022.
Why We Are Selling
In July of 2021 my father passed away quite unexpectedly. In October my mother moved into our home and shares a room with our 15-year-old daughter. Not the ideal roommate for an independent teenager. As much as we love our house, it just doesn’t work for the number of people in our household. We started our home buying and selling journey earlier this year, and finally listed on April 21st.
Did We List Too Late?
That’s the big question! Did we board the sale train too late? Did we miss out on a bidding war? February 2022 recorded the highest home sale price hike of the past two years with a 19.8% increase. The lack of inventory coupled with an extremely low interest rate made February sellers very happy. According to Mortgage Reports, in January and February the average seller sold their home for 1.3% above asking.
What we discovered in early 2022 was that the houses that we liked all sold for $25,000 to $75,000 over asking. One house we looked at sold for $100,00 over asking, and some of these were cash offers. Even with the lower interest rate, there was just no way we could compete with the overbidders, and more importantly, we didn’t want to. Overall housing prices felt inflated because of the sustained low inventory and we were skeptical of having any of our offers accepted.
After meeting with our agent and a stager, we decided to make some improvements to our home before listing. Was it worth us making the improvements and listing later? We could have tried to sell the house 3 weeks earlier at the end of March “as is”. But according to data from the California Realtors Association, it seems that home prices began to stabilize in mid-March and continued to normalize through today. Even though buyers are being more cautious right now because of higher interest rates, supply is still lower than demand.
Higher Interest Rates Means Cautious Buyers
Mortgage interest rates are fluctuating between 4.9% and 5.42%. This hike in interest rate is changing the game. In the real estate community we keep hearing that: the market is stabilizing. Inventory continues to be low and it is expected that some sellers may pause their plans to sell as they wait and see what the summer months bring. For us this stabilization is promising and we like the new, slightly slower approach to selling and buying. According to Coldwell Bankers, the number of mortgage loan applications processed decreased by 14% in April. However, this decrease does not affect the consistently low inventory. Sellers will still sell, but it may take a little longer than usual.
How Many Days Can You Expect Your House to be on the Market?
According to the California Association of Realtors report, most houses sold within 9 days of being listed in February compared to 22 days in March. This correlates with the increasing interest rates and eliminates the speculative buyer group. At first glance as a seller, this data can seem worrisome, but when looking at the leveling that is occurring in home prices and the number of people competing for them, this works out well for those looking to sell and then turn around and buy right away in the same area like us.
Even though it may take longer to sell our house at this point, we are excited about the prospect of not having to severely overbid or of being caught in a bidding war for the house we purchase. Yes, we will have a higher mortgage payment due to higher interest rate on our conventional mortgage, but every single house we considered buying before the interest hike went well over asking and would have cost us more in the end. The higher interest rate actually gives us solid ground to bid from with a real possibility of having an offer accepted.
The New Home Buyer
For a family like us we have time on our side and a great deal of equity too. Slightly declining home prices will still yield us more than we had hoped to get for our house. But where does this higher interest rate leave first-time home buyers? What will they have to do to compete in this crazy game?
The house we are currently selling was the very first home we bought. And we bought in the early 2000 when you didn’t need much of a down payment and lenders where gambling with home loans. First-time home buyers today face many more challenges than we did. First, you need a very healthy down payment to even be considered. In the case of a bidding war, a first-time buyer with only 10% down is not able to compete with the buyer coming in with a 40% down payment. And when houses sell for over asking, the first-time buyer usually doesn’t have the capital to float the cash discrepancy that arises when the lending bank won’t appraise the house as high as the sale price. This can prove to be too much for first-time buyers to handle.
But, not every first-time buyer is in the same position and some creative solutions are always being explored. A first-time buyer with a good income to debt ration will still be eligible to purchase a home within their price range. The rising interest hike does help these first time buyers too. Even though they can expect their monthly payment to be approximately $198 higher with the increased rate, they may be able to buy homes that are not as popular. And any home purchase continues to be an investment and will continue to be an investment. Programs for first-time buyers will also be coming out by summer which will feature lower down payments.
In the end, we expect to sell high and buy high. We are moving because we need to. This forces us into the housing market. You can expect home prices to continue to rise, more slowly than in February, but they will continue to go up since the demand for houses continues to surpass the supply of houses available at this time. The rest of 2022 is predicted to continue being a “sellers” market.
NOTE: On day 15 of listing our house we will be accepting an offer. The market continues to confirm that your house will sell despite the interest hike! I’ll keep you posted on our buying journey.