From time to time, people ask us, “How’s business?”
If you look around and ask various Agents throughout the Birmingham area how their business is going, you’re likely to get varied answers. One Agent we spoke with recently has struggled much of the year. Other Agents we know have been doing much better. Colleen and I have had an extremely busy year, for which we’re grateful.
The fact is that—regardless of the economy in general and what’s reported in the news media—homes still sell. That’s because people’s lives change. New jobs, a change in family size or wanting to be closer to a particular area can be among the reasons.
I’ve heard people thinking of selling their home say, “I’ll wait until the economy improves.” To be sure, values are still down considerably, compared to previous years.
But that can also be like saying, “I’m going to buy a new car when the models get better.”
Here in the Birmingham and Shelby Co. area, the number of homes for sale in many communities is down considerably, compared to previous months. In Shelby County’s Alabaster and vicinity, the Birmingham MLS shows 220 homes for sale at present. This continues to be among the lowest numbers we’ve seen.
This drop in inventory is having an effect. Homes for sale that we consider excellent deals don’t stay on the market long. Buyers are out there, and pounce as soon as the excellent deals appear.
I’ve heard some home owners trying to sell without luck lamenting the lack of Buyers. It’s really not that Buyers are scarce. It’s just that they’re finding better deals elsewhere; the homes they wind up buying are in nicer condition, have more features, or are priced more attractively (or maybe all three).
A home needs to have pizazz to sell in the current market, and must be priced to grab a Buyer’s attention.
Homes lacking these attributes typically take much longer to sell (we’ve seen homes remain on market over a year before getting an Offer).
When it comes to getting your home sold, there are definitely success stories in the Birmingham area. Colleen and I recently listed a home in Alabaster that got two Offers and went Under Contract 13 days after going on the market. The Seller was motivated, priced his home so that Buyers had to notice, and has done a lot of fixing up to make his home look nice. The payoff to his work is that his home is set to sell, so he can move.
The drop in inventory being seen in some areas around Birmingham is starting to put a bit of a squeeze on Buyers. The Buyer who sees a really good deal on a home for sale in this area now realizes that there’s a chance to be taken by waiting: Someone else might swoop in and grab the home in the meantime.
If you’re looking to buy a home in the area, our advice is to think about what’s important in a home to you, as well as area, and to contact us (205-356-5412). If you’re planning to get a loan, another critical step to take early in the process is to get in touch with a Lender. Here is a link to some area Lenders we recommend contacting.
Remember that the world of home mortgages can be confusing, because there are so many different kinds of loans and differences in fees, down payments and other charges. A good Lender will be able to sort this out for you to help to simplify your decision.
Getting quotes from other Lenders to compare is a good idea, too; just be sure to understand that comparing different loans effectively means looking at all the overall costs, and not just a single fee that might be higher with one loan. You might also ask about “locking” in your interest rate (which involves being assured of getting the same rate if you wind up buying a little later).
By following these steps, you’ll be on the road to being part of the home sales success stories we’re seeing throughout much of the Shelby Co. and Birmingham area.
Thinking of selling your home?
You already know there’s plenty of competition here in the Birmingham and Shelby Co. area.
But now, there’s a new force to deal with. Check out our video just below. This all started when we decided to pay a visit to a recently listed Foreclosure in Alabaster’s Lake Forest; you may be interested to see what’s happening inside…
We’re ready to help you with getting your home sold, successfully, and sooner, rather than later.
Give us a call at 205.677.8696…
With summer behind us, here’s a look at home sales trends in the Alabaster, Maylene and Saginaw areas (stats from the Birmingham MLS):
After taking a dip in June, average sales prices are holding fairly steady:
How long does it take to get a home sold in these areas? According to the MLS, the time needed is just a little over two months (the shortest it has been all year):
Right now, 354 conventional single family houses and townhomes are for sale in the Alabaster, Maylene and Saginaw areas. Of those:
289 are priced at or below $250,000;
127 are priced at or below $150,000;
22 are priced at or below $100,000;
338 have 3 or more bedrooms;
170 have 4 or more bedrooms;
29 have 5 or more bedrooms;
113 have pools or access to pools;
5 have 4 or more acres…
Need a loan to buy? Rates right now continue to be among the lowest in history. Qualified borrowers can get a 30-year fixed rate loan for as low as around 4.25%; 15-year fixed rate loans can be found by some borrowers as low as 3.75%. Colleen and I have been able to help a number of first time Buyers say ‘adios’ to renting and move into their first homes with some excellent loans at very low rates.
Needless to say, this continues to be a tremendous time to buy a home … let us know if we can help!
Recent conversations we’ve had with several homeowners about selling their homes remind me of a fact I consider important to remember:
We may be in the age of unprecedented access to information, but there’s still a lot of misinformation out there.
Cases in point are Sellers we’ve talked with in Alabaster and Hoover.
Both have tried to sell their homes, both properties are in popular neighborhoods, but neither home sold; in fact, neither couple even got an Offer. One of the homes has been on the market twice.
According to both Sellers, the reason is pretty obvious. “Everybody knows nothing is selling,” one said, while the other told me,
“There just aren’t any Buyers.” To back that up, one of the Sellers points to a home directly across the street from hers that has
been on the market since November, 2008. Within only a few blocks of this setting are at least four more homes that never sold,
I have to admit that I can’t blame these folks for thinking there are no Buyers out there. After all, the sight of real estate signs swinging in the breeze for long periods of time is pretty convincing visual proof for them.
But when you watch the market day in and day out, a different picture emerges.
With almost 1200 homes having sold across Shelby Co. since April, it’s a bit of a stretch to say there are simply no Buyers. The truth is that those Buyers are going after the best deals they find.
The real reason most homes fail to sell is because they’re overpriced. We see proof of this all the time, both in properties that draw little interest from Buyers, and others that draw almost immediate interest after going on the market.
Generally speaking, the current market is not one for putting your home up for sale to simply test the waters or “just see if it will sell.” Sellers with this perspective face slim chances at best of even getting an Offer.
The homeowner who is motivated to sell, and who is willing to meet Buyers on their price terms is the Seller who is far more likely to be successful.
Ever wished for a crystal ball so you’d know what’s ahead? That might, or might not, be a good thing, depending on what you want to know…!
On the one hand, having a crystal ball to look into the real estate market could sure help ease concerns for some folks here in the Birmingham and Shelby county areas. Or would it?
Suppose you’re thinking of selling your home. Would you be more inclined to sell sooner, if, say, the ball suggested values would continue to slide in 2010? What if the ball suggested you’d get more if you wait?
I don’t think we really need a crystal ball to know that home values will rise. Nearly every expert out there predicts they will, at some point.
It’s those last three words that are the kicker: At some point.
Hmm. Does that mean in the next three months? Ten months? Two years? This is where having a crystal ball would be pretty handy.
However, crystal balls are about as plentiful as bumper stickers in Alabama supporting the Texas Longhorns. People ask us questions frequently that would pretty much need a crystal ball to answer accurately. “What is my home going to be worth in a year?” would be one such question.
“What will my home sell for if I list it right now?”
Ahh. There’s a question that doesn’t need a crystal ball as badly to answer. We have good resources we can draw upon to come up with a figure that—more times than not—winds up being very close to actual selling price.
The fact is that if your home ‘shows nicely’ as Agents like to say, and is priced where we know Buyers will bite, your odds of selling are promising. And, yes, that’s true even in the tough market affecting so many neighborhoods in the Birmingham and Shelby Co. areas as we plow into 2010.
This might sound ridiculously obvious to some, but the ‘shows nicely, priced right’ concept is one we’ve seen trip up a lot of people trying to sell their homes. So, not everyone really understands how important this really is. Or put another way, not everyone really ‘gets it.’
During 2009, we represented Sellers who agreed to price their homes where we suggested. Granted, they weren’t always thrilled with the price we recommended. But they swallowed hard and said, ‘okay.’ Why? Because they needed to sell. Helping ease this frustration was their knowledge that—when they turned around to buy another home—they’d be enjoying the opposite side of the tough selling market, getting a very good deal on the home they’re buying.
We also dealt with Sellers in 2009 who disagreed with us. They felt they had a better idea than we did of what their home would would sell for. And guess what happened with their efforts to sell? Nothing. Zilch. Their homes didn’t sell, despite being on the market plenty long enough to sell. I remember several cases where other homes in the same neighborhood as our Clients’ house sold, and in the general price range we had recommended.
There were some cases where our Client’s home never even got an Offer. We always talk about how important it is to listen to what the market is telling us. Let me assure you of one thing: If a home for sale doesn’t even get an Offer, that’s the market talking. It may even be shouting.
I know one thing for sure about trying to get a home sold in this market. You either have to ‘get it,’ or you have to trust your Agent’s advice. Otherwise, your home is probably not destined to sell.
I think the real question that emerges is: How badly do you want, or need, to sell?
Clearly, there are many situations for folks where—regardless of how the market may be performing at the moment—it’s important to sell sooner, rather than later. Some Sellers who contact us tell us they need to sell as fast as possible, and are waiting for us to tell them what to do to make it so.
These are the people we feel confident we can help.
And no, we don’t have a crystal ball to predict the outcome.
But listening to the market and to your Agent go a long way right now, and will most likely mean you can start packing sooner, rather than later.
Congress has taken a step many people were watching for, and has extended the $8,000 tax credit for people buying a home for the first time. But the extension also carries a big change that could affect you if you own a home right now and want to buy again.
The credit, which was originally set to expire November 30th, now applies to Sales Contracts in place by April 30th, 2010. Homeowners have an additional 60 days beyond then to actually close the sale.
If you currently own your home and have lived in it for five consecutive years, the extension provides for a $6,500 credit if you buy another property by the new deadline. In the current market where so many homes have lost value, this may help Sellers frustrated over not being able to get an Offer for as much as they’ve wanted.
So … either way, the extension is intended to make buying a home more enticing to a larger group of people. That’s exactly why Congress passed the bill, in a continuing desire to stimulate the housing market.
Another point many buyers are not aware of is the fact that you can still qualify for the credit even if you owned a home previously. The government defines a first time buyer as someone who has not owned a home during the previous three years. So, if you owned a home in, say, 2004, but have not owned your residence since then, you would qualify for the first time buyer’s credit.
The tax credit’s extension and expansion, coupled with such affordable deals and financing on homes in the Birmingham and Shelby Co. area really do suggest that—unless you plan to move again soon—you’re much better off owning, rather than renting, and—if you qualify as an existing owner and have been wanting to move—now’s the time.
Getting your home sold in Shelby County is taking longer in some communities and less time in others, while prices have dropped, according to October statistics from the Birmingham Multiple Listing System.
The average number of days on market increased in Alabaster and Chelsea, but fell in Helena, Pelham and Calera:
Prices continued a downward trend in October, and substantially so, compared to September:
How many homes are selling?
Except for Calera, the number of homes sold in October dropped from September. Chelsea saw the sharpest one month drop, while more homes sold in Calera during October than in September:
Why the uptick in Calera?
Perhaps it’s the large inventory of low cost housing (both new and resale), making for some very attractive deals for first time home buyers, along with the fact that Calera qualifies for USDA financing (which means loans with no down payment required).
I think these statistics are giving us some important messages.
If you’re planning on buying a home, the market is continuing to work very much in your favor in the Birmingham and Shelby County area. Prices have dropped, inventory is in plentiful supply, and loans continue to be very affordable.
If you’re trying to sell, the message these numbers present is that it’s going to take a lot more than just putting a For Sale sign in the yard.
Marketing plays a more critical role than ever, and must be done in innovative ways if your home is to stand out among all the other properties for sale.
Pricing is no less important and will be a huge deciding factor in how quickly you sell, or if you sell, at all (believe me, we have seen examples of both!).
You may also benefit from an informed assessment of your property’s appearance and condition. With so many homes for sale right now, if your property doesn’t sparkle, Buyers will simply move on to another.
These are some very good reasons for trusting the sale of your home to an Agent who’s knowledgeable about the market here in the Shelby Co./Birmingham area and who knows how to achieve success in spite of challenging economic conditions.
Hereâ€™s a look at current inventory for the Shelby County and Birmingham areas, as indicated by the Birmingham Multiple Listing Service. To help you with an idea of trends, the numbers in parentheses show the count as of March 9th, 2009 (one month ago today):
Single family, town homes and condominiums available:
Helena & Pelham area (Shelby Co.): 519 (521)
Helena & Pelham area (Jefferson Co.): 59 (58)
North Shelby/Hoover area (Shelby Co.): 739 (701)
Chelsea: 298 (324)
Altadena/Cahaba Heights area: 67 (62)
Liberty Park/Vestavia area: 492 (446)
Alabaster, Maylene & Saginaw area: 373 (372)
Calera, Montevallo & Wilton area: 360 (356)
Columbiana, Westover & Wilsonville area: 93 (89)
Number of homes for sale based on current selling price:
Alabaster, Maylene and Saginaw area:
$150,000-$200,000: 132 (131)
$200,000-$300,000: 90 (86)
Helena and Pelham areas (Shelby Co.):
$150,000-$200,000: 169 (166)
$200,000-$300,000: 127 (124)
Helena and Pelham areas (Jefferson Co.):
$150,000-$200,000: 2 (2)
$200,000-$300,000: 22 (21)
$150,000-$200,000: 82 (99)
$200,000-$300,000: 118 (120)
So, you have to knock the price way, way down to get your home sold? Not always. While price is certainly important when it comes to getting your home sold, it’s not the only way to achieve a successful sale.
Ever heard of a buy-down? Lots of people have, but not everyone understands it. It’s not as complicated as you might think.
A buy-down could be the ticket to getting a home sold in a deal that’s better for the seller and the buyer.
K. C. Haririan, a Loan Officer with First Federal Mortgage in Birmingham, is here to explain how buy-downs work.
So, how is the Shelby Co. and Birmingham home market looking as we forge ahead into 2009? We’ll share our thoughts and observations–and we’ll see if Fisbo, our very spoiled five pound poodle, barks during our recording session.
Click the player just below to listen:
Care to download the program so you can listen to it later?
We hope you enjoy the netcast!
David, Colleen and Fisbo
Here’s a quick look at some current numbers for the Birmingham and Shelby County housing market as we approach mid February, courtesy of the Birmingham Multiple Listing Service…
Number of homes available:
Helena & Pelham area (Shelby Co.): 497
Helena & Pelham area (Jefferson Co.): 60
North Shelby/Hoover area (Shelby Co.): 665
Altadena/Cahaba Heights area: 54
Liberty Park/Vestavia area: 438
Alabaster, Maylene & Saginaw area: 374
Calera, Montevallo & Wilton area: 360
Columbiana, Westover & Wilsonville area: 88
Number of homes for sale based on current selling price:
Alabaster, Maylene and Saginaw area:
Helena and Pelham areas (Shelby Co.):
Helena and Pelham areas (Jefferson Co.):
Bottom line: There are still lots of choices!