Same song, different verse

Take a quick look at the most recently updated statistics on this blog site and tell me, honestly, if you think sales units would be down if there was a selection of homes for buyers looking under $500,000. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

It is not pleasant to report that sales are down, but they are. They are down because there are precious few homes for sale for qualified buyers under that half million price point. That happens to be the price range threshold I use to set up my reports: Under 500K, then 500K to 1.0 million etc… If one wanted to search more narrowly, say between 300K and 400K, the numbers could be striking and actually sad.

There are plenty of market forces at work in Santa Fe residential real estate, including the dimensional shift into higher priced homes. Take for example the First Quarter Sales report attached and available for you to view by clicking in the margin. In the 15 years of reporting, home sales above $1 million have risen from single digits for the quarter, to five and six times that lately. This shows the effect of appreciation and the ever-increasing average and median home sales prices. Another way to view the shift is comparing the average sales price for a home in Santa Fe city and county for the two years 2001 and 2018… $295,674 then and $493,715 for 2018.

This is graphic evidence that the increasing average prices continue to hurt the first time home buyer and lay waste to reasonable market conditions in that lowest price range of under $500K.

How about comparing the # of months of inventory, on average, that our market offers to potential buyers, say as recently as 2009 compared to 2019. Then it was in excess of 13 months to sell a home; now it is barely over 2 months. do you think we could sell another 100 homes a year in that lower price range? How about another 250 homes? I suspect yes we could as there seems to be demand sufficient to accomplish that increase.

All is not lost for home buyers in Santa Fe. Their choices are limited and some say the quality inventory is gone in a flash, so one must be ready to move quickly with a solid written offer and be prepared to compete with other buyers.

I remember a time when a buyer customer I was showing homes to was upset because a new listing popped up overnight and I did not know about it to arrange for her to see it. Never mind that the market was much more saturated then and it would likely have been on the market for several months. It was not even a finished home so a large portion of the buyers eligible or interested would not have been able to secure a mortgage on an unfinished home. This buyer could due to the family trust having the ability to set him/her up with mortgage debt he/she automatically qualified for due to last name, DNA and being in good standing with the estate attorney in charge. Lucky me I was able to help with the sale. Lucky buyer that the home could be shown the first day it was on the market. We were the first to see it and of course the first to submit an offer.

Your favorite blogger will return soon with more analysis of what is going on in Santa Fe real estate. Stay woke!

How can it be so thin?

Just how can the capital city of New Mexico, with somewhere above 75,000 residents plus a bunch of part timers, be so short of inventory in homes available for sale? What do buyers do when they want to buy a home in Santa Fe? First, they watch to learn how the market is behaving. They pay attention to listings, studying how long they stay available before they are grabbed up by a motivated and qualified buyer. All of the widely used web sites that show residential listings – Realtor.com – Zillow – Trulia – and many more – show accurate listing data and when those homes go under contract, they often drop off the web site. That is your clue that home is no longer for sale (provided the contract holds up and it goes to closing).

So its fairly easy to track homes for sale if you are not ready and able to drive around town all day checking on for sale signs. What do you learn when you are shopping for a home below $500,000? (that is the low range in my posted and updated charts and spreadsheets available on the left margin). You see that there are many more homes sold in a year than there are available at any moment. This means that the absorption rate for homes under $500,000 is well below 12 months, on average. By the way, 6 months is considered a “balanced” market, between sellers and buyers. The calculation at the beginning of March was a mere 268 homes listed in Santa Fe city and county, while the current rate of sales is about 131 homes sold per month. That means in barely over two months, the entire existing inventory of homes will be sold.

It does not pay to be picky if you are a buyer ready to buy in this price range. Be prepared to act quickly and have a Realtor on call that can have your offer submitted in an hour or two.

Another point we might see more of is that listing brokers with Seller support may price a home knowing it will generate multiple offers and the status might change to pending on the listing in the first few days. Maybe the days of pricing a home a little above what it is likely to sell for are gone. Maybe better in this market to put a price on a home that is a “best guess” of what it will sell for and let the buyer’s brokers fight over whose customer is the most motivated to buy that home.

An issue with that approach is that Sellers must have put priority status on any repairs and cosmetic improvements. The new pending price has a better chance of surviving through the escrow period, when Buyers are trying to whittle down the price due to inspection issues. Sellers are well advised to get a pre-listing inspection and actually deal with the problems that report might identify.

And so, with thin inventory at critical low levels in the lowest price ranges, Santa Fe, the city different, extends its reputation as being unaffordable for most people. Money to put down? Good credit? You also need luck and excellent timing to buy a home in Santa Fe. Residential real estate deals are for the willing and the able.