• Mid Year Report

    Nest has completed our 2013 Mid Year Nest Report. Download the whole report here. 2013_Q2_NR. To summarize: The market continues a cautiously optimistic upward trajectory. Sales are up in the County and slightly down in the City. However, many believe that the City transactions have been limited only by a low inventory. In the City and Read More

  • Home Buyers are Bond Traders

    The fixed income bond market. Likely the most unsexy of all the traders on Wall Street. Also some of the most wildly paid when the bond market is on a roll. It is an area that few casual investors really want to understand. It’s boring. Buying 10 year bonds payable by Chrysler just does’t excite. Read More

  • Accurate Pricing

    We meet with sellers all the time and make estimates on price. We really do our best to provide guidance on what a house is worth. It is a fascinating art. But what we try to stress over and over is that pricing right is not about finding the estimate and trying to get 5% Read More

  • More on City Assessments

    I requested from the City a breakdown of all residential assessments for 2013 and the adjustments by neighborhood. They were kind enough to respond very quickly. I have reformatted what they sent to me, and thought I would pass it along here. Below, you will find the 22 Neighborhoods that saw decreases in 2013 assessments Read More

  • Value of Tax Value

    The City of Charlottesville released their 2013 tax assessments this week. Mailings have been sent to home owners, and the web site has been updated to reflect the changes. Assessments cause all kinds of a ruckus. There is an erroneous perception that prices should instantly adjust to match these new numbers. Nothing could be further Read More

  • Twelve Straight

    February 1. Our January stats are far from being updated. We likely won’t have complete numbers for at least another week. But I had to peak anyway. And the numbers are remarkably positive so far. Keeping in mind that in the first week after a month, sales continue to be entered, and thus numbers only Read More

  • Vacant Showings

    I went out yesterday and showed 5 properties to buyer clients. Nothing odd about that. Except that, for the first time in my recent memory, all the properties were vacant, and none were new construction. The houses I showed yesterday were all in the $300-400,000 range. These are not homes where owners regularly pay cash, Read More

Mid Year Report

Nest has completed our 2013 Mid Year Nest Report. Download the whole report here. 2013_Q2_NR.

To summarize: The market continues a cautiously optimistic upward trajectory. Sales are up in the County and slightly down in the City. However, many believe that the City transactions have been limited only by a low inventory. In the City and Country median prices are up 4.6% and 6.4% respectively from this time last year.

Inventory is virtually identical in size to last year, producing a slightly lower months of inventory at 6.14.

3rd Quarter looks positive as contracts written in 2013 were up more than 12% in the 2nd quarter.

29.3% of homes sold in Albemarle went under contract in LESS THAN 10 DAYS.

And Nest is proud that through June 30, we were the #1 Firm in Central Virginia in volume of Buyer Representation. We helped more people than any other company find homes. And that makes us happy.

 

Home Buyers are Bond Traders

The fixed income bond market. Likely the most unsexy of all the traders on Wall Street. Also some of the most wildly paid when the bond market is on a roll. It is an area that few casual investors really want to understand. It’s boring. Buying 10 year bonds payable by Chrysler just does’t excite. And more importantly, it confuses any newbie to the debt market.

When interest rates go down, bond prices go up. When interest rates go up, bond prices go down.

Now, why do we as Realtors care? Well, on the most basic level, we care because our 30 Year Fixed Rate mortgages that drive the US housing market are set (at least theoretically) based on federal 10 year treasury notes. But I argue that every home buyer who doesn’t pay cash is gambling in the bond market without really understanding it.

What drives price of a home? Lots of things. Scarcity is top of the list. Inventory is way down across our MSA, and thus, prices are no longer falling, and in many cases even going up.

But the other factor to influence prices is affordability. And affordability is directly impacted by interest rates.

Take a family that today has $100,000 saved to put down on a house. With a 20% downpayment, this qualifies them to purchase a $500,000 home. (Let’s set aside closing costs for the purposes of this argument.) When there was a 4.0% interest rate just a few weeks ago, this would have meant a mortgage payment of $1,909 in Principal and Interest. When the interest rate hits 5.0% — and that will be soon — that same $1,909 no longer affords a mortgage of $400,000. It affords only $355,735. This is an 8.8% reduction in buying power with only a 1% move in interest rates.

mtgrateshift.png

So the question then becomes why are these home buyers bond buyers. Simple. They have a specific return they have decided they need to make an investment. And likely, that return is in the form of specific home specifications. They are looking for 4 bedrooms with a minimum of 3,000 finished square feet in a specific school district. And for months they have been looking, and they have been told by their mortgage lender that they can afford $500,000. As they continue to look for homes, however, they unknowingly are becoming priced out of the market.

But, when they find that dream home, they aren’t going to decide to spend more. They aren’t going to decided to find a cheaper house. They are going to go after this one house, but demand a drop in price commensurate with their new mortgage rate. So, they are looking to cut that $500,000 house to $455,735. Will this happen each and every time? No! Will it sometimes? Depends on the seller and their motivation. But it will happen. And that will bring down comparable sales, and that will bring down the escalating prices.

I said this as the rates were coming down. People don’t buy a house based on sale price. They buy it based on the mortgage price. People didn’t mind prices going up during the interest rate decline because they still paid less, and they felt richer. Well, here comes the reverse of that.

Accurate Pricing

We meet with sellers all the time and make estimates on price. We really do our best to provide guidance on what a house is worth. It is a fascinating art.

But what we try to stress over and over is that pricing right is not about finding the estimate and trying to get 5% more, to provide wiggle room. It’s a natural reaction for a seller. If we ask 5% more, we can always come down. If we price low, we leave money on the table. While this may make sense, it is not accurate in reality.

I have a buyer client who is currently attempting to buy a home. This home is priced right. I would certainly not say I think it is priced too low. I don’t think it is priced too high. What I will say is that it is realistic. We made an offer, a very good offer I felt… but guess what… so did someone else. End Result, we just sent a second offer that upped our initial one by 4.5%… Meaning, the seller is going to land up selling their house for MORE than asking, and in less than a week on the market.

Isn’t this what sellers want? If the seller had asked 5% more than they did, I don’t know that my clients would have fallen in love. They fell in love at the asking price… they were willing to pay more, but they fell in love at asking. If the seller had asked more, and my client’s focus had been at the higher number, there would have been a higher comparison. Perhaps there would have not been an offer, or only one offer. No one to push the other up.

Houses priced fairly are moving very, very quickly in the city. Properties that are priced high, are getting very little attention. Why negotiate with someone who is being unrealistic, when you have options with fair sellers?

On the buyer side… be prepared for a battle. Be prepared to offer quickly and a fair number. Gone are the days of you being the only buyer on a property. Gone are the days of stealing a home. This doesn’t mean you need to offer 5% over asking everything, but it does mean that if you think you can slow play an offer and hope to dance to the middle ground, someone else will be willing to do better. If you really want a house, don’t risk dilly dallying. It’s not always worth walking away.

More on City Assessments

I requested from the City a breakdown of all residential assessments for 2013 and the adjustments by neighborhood. They were kind enough to respond very quickly. I have reformatted what they sent to me, and thought I would pass it along here.

Below, you will find the 22 Neighborhoods that saw decreases in 2013 assessments from last year. This list does not mean that EVERY property in the neighborhood was treated the same. It means that barring any new information provided to the assessor’s office, this is the adjustment due to “General Reassessment”. The other 25 neighborhoods in the City did not have any adjustments this year due to General Reassessment.

DecliningAssessments

In looking for a pattern, there is nothing that stands out. Three of the ten most expensive neighborhoods saw declines, while eight of the bottom ten saw declines. Of those top three, two were university area (although oposite sides) and one was near downtown. Of those that declined, some were detached homes and some were condos. Some were new construction (Carter’s View / Brookwood / Burnet Commons) and some were among the oldest homes in town (Fifeville / Fry’s Spring / Ix – Belmont). Every elementary school district seems to have some neighborhoods that declined and some that stayed flat.

The flip side to all of these numbers is that inventory is currently at a 7 year low in the City, and competing offers are common. The fact that the Assessor’s Office is showing a decline from 2012 is not mirrored by the current exuberance for City properties.

 

Value of Tax Value

The City of Charlottesville released their 2013 tax assessments this week. Mailings have been sent to home owners, and the web site has been updated to reflect the changes.

Assessments cause all kinds of a ruckus. There is an erroneous perception that prices should instantly adjust to match these new numbers. Nothing could be further from the truth. Reality is, this is the City’s best effort to meet state requirements to estimate the values of the parcels in the city. No one in the assessors office would argue they are perfect. I won’t go so far as to say they are even close in many cases.

There are, however, certain times when assessments should be darn easy. Like the day a home sells. If a home sells for $745,000 after being offered on the open market, and the transaction is indeed an arms length transaction, it makes total sense that the City would be able to assess that house without really thinking about it. The value at which a seller is willing to sell and a buyer is willing to buy is $745,000. That is the definition of market value. And that’s why it’s truly bizarre to see the assessment today on this house at $381,000. (Assessing this home at 51.2% of its market value.)

From the City assessors web site:

Real Estate Assessments are required by the Codes of Virginia and the City of Charlottesville to be at 100% of fair market value.  Assessments are made each year by the City Assessor’s Office and are effective January 1.

and

As required, the City’s assessment is an estimate of fair market value as of January 1 each year, based on property sales for the previous calendar year.

The City breaks down the city into neighborhoods and then samples that neighborhood to determine what is happening price wise over the course of the year. Then, barring changes to a home, they apply a % change to all the houses in that neighborhood. There are certainly some places where there is more specific work being done, but in general, this is the practice. I pulled up a sampling of 10 homes in the neighborhood that is bounded by Rugby Road, Emmett Street, Westview Road, and Wayside Place. The tax assessments I pulled changed from -4.68% to -4.7%. You can’t tell me that is an accident. So, the question is, how accurate is this practice. I would say we can bicker about whether -4.7% is the correct amount, but in general, I agree with the practice. If my neighbor’s home goes up 5% or down 3%, it is fairly accurate to say mine did too — UNLESS one of us has done improvements or allowed our house to waste away, in which case, they certainly change at different rates.

So, I focused on this one neighborhood and pulled every house that sold in 2012 to see if the new 2013 assessments were accurate for these homes. Nine homes total ranging in sales price from $367,000 to $1,250,000. How’d they do? Mixed Bag.

  • 938 Rosser Lane – Sold for $367,500 – Assessed for $443,600 – 121% of Sale Price
  • 901 Rosser Lane – Sold for $450,000 – Assessed for $449,200 – Spot On.
  • 1865 Field Road – Sold for $469,000 – Assessed for $511,900 – 109% of Sale Price
  • 1825 Edgewood Lane – Sold for $530,000 – Assessed for $734,100 – 139% of Sale Price — (NOTE: On the market for nearly a year)
  • 1859 Wayside Place – Sold for $706,000 – Assessed for $590,000 – 84% of Sale Price
  • 1863 Wayside Place – Sold for $745,000 – Assessed for $381,600 – 51% of Sale Price
  • 920 Rosser Lane – Sold for $753,000 – Assessed for $735,000 – 98% of Sale Price
  • 1872 Edgewood Lane – Sold for 890,000 – Assessed for $778,800 – 88% of Sale Price
  • 1820 Edgewood Lane – Sold for $1,250,000 – Assessed for $993,000 – 79% of Sale Price

Don’t get me wrong, I totally respect the fact that assessing homes that the City has likely never been in is extremely hard. And I respect the fact that the city has a good process. But no one can argue that a group of nine homes that all sold in the past year, arguably the easiest homes to assess, range in values compared to their sale price from 51% to 139% all in the same neighborhood is anything close to useful, valuable, or accurate.

My point here is not to say that all assessments are bad, or that we should be challenging every one. What I want people to realize is that basing listing and offering prices on City (or County) assessments is dangerous. While it can be a guide, and certainly should be considered, it has to be a single tool of many in pricing a home. We look at comps all day long. And the price you paid four years ago for your home will affect its sale price far more than the new City assessments. Prices in the Venable neighborhood did not go down 4.7% this week with the new assessments. The only thing that changed is that the taxes these home owners will pay went down by 4.7%.

 

 

Back to top

Twitter links powered by Tweet This v1.8.3, a WordPress plugin for Twitter.