Now That the Summer Months Are Behind Us, How’s the Market Shaping Up for Fall?

It has been a wild ride so far in 2021 — and the ride may be slowing, but it is definitely not over.

Below is a chart with some key statistics that I garnered from our MLS, REcolorado.com, for the 13 months ending August 2021, a timespan that allows us to compare this August with last August as well as the months since.

In creating the chart, I limited myself to listings within 15 miles of downtown Denver. That includes the entire metro area except for the city of Boulder.

The headings are pretty self-explanatory except for the last three columns. “Ratio” is the ratio of closed price to listing price at the time of sale, which might, in the case of older listings, be less than the original listing price. “Med. DOM” stands for median days that the listing was “active” on the MLS.  Half the listings went under contract in that number of days or less, and half of them went under contract in that number of days or more. “Ave. DOM” stands for average days that listings were active on the MLS, and it’s always higher than median days on the MLS because many listings are overpriced and linger on the market before the price is lowered and the home goes under contract.

There are some numbers that are worth noting, but there are some numbers that are downright remarkable.  We all know, for example, that the inventory of active listings is very low, but it’s notable that it is more than 40% lower this August than it was in August 2020. The number of sold listings is also lower by over 4% and the number of new listings is lower by 13%.

However, it’s also notable that the number of listings that expired without selling has plunged by over 43% from a year ago. More hard-to-sell and overpriced homes are selling before expiring.

Lastly, it is notable that the median days before a listing goes under contract has barely risen, and that figure has been under 7 days now for over a year.

Those statistics are notable, but there are two statistics that are remarkable. The first one is the ratio of sold price to listing price, which remains above 100% at 101.4%, although down from June’s high of 104.6%. This is remarkable because it was only this February that the number rose above 100% for the first time, signaling the height of the bidding wars. The August figure indicates that many bidding wars are still happening — due in part, of course, to the limited inventory of active listings — but they are not as numerous or extreme overall.

I emphasize “overall” because bidding wars are still getting extreme in isolated instances where the home is outstanding in some way or is in a highly desirable area with little or no competing listings. We are still seeing some homes sell for 40 to even 50% over their asking prices here and there. That includes in my home town of Golden.

So what, you may be asking, is the outlook for the fall and winter months?

If there is any seasonality left in the real estate business, it is that there are fewer new listings in the winter. You can see that was true last winter, with the low point being December. This makes sense, because few people want to put their home on the market during the holidays. That, however, only serves to keep the inventory of active listings even lower than during the summer time, yet the buying of homes continues year-round, with roughly as many closings happening in December as in November. Notice, in fact, that December was the only month in the last 13 where the number of sold listings exceeded both the number of active listings and new listings.

We should stop thinking of spring and summer as the selling season, but rather as the listing season. Most sellers believe it’s the selling season, when in fact homes sell year round. In fact, winter could be the best time to put your home on the market because there are just as many buyers getting those MLS alerts that I wrote about last week, but there are fewer homes for them to look at. 

If you want to sell your home before next spring, you should not wait until next spring to put it on the market — but do take some nice exterior photos of your home now that can be used in the marketing of your home over the winter.

Mortgage rates could start to ease upward in the coming months, but that will only increase the market frenzy as buyers try to get ahead of further increases in interest rates. No one in the industry, however, is projecting a major increase in interest rates over the next 12 months.

The MLS’s Campaign Against ‘Pocket Listings’ Is Serious, With $1,500 Penalties

Last November, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) board of directors voted into existence a “Clear Cooperation Policy” (see below). The rule required all MLSs in the country to implement the policy by May 1st of 2021. Although there were some technical delays, the rule is in full force now and our MLS, REcolorado, is enforcing it with substantial fines for violations. (I know because I’m on the Rules & Regulations Committee.) Many MLS members have already received fines starting at $1,500, with only one warning notice given.

The rule basically says that there can be no advertising of any kind for a listing without making the listing active on the MLS so that all members of the MLS have the opportunity to show and sell it.  If a “for sale” sign is put on a listing or there is a social media ad for it, or any other kind of public promotion of the listing, the agent must put it on the MLS within one business day. Currently that means that if the sign or advertising appears in the morning, it must be on the MLS by 6:30 pm the same day.  If it is promoted in the afternoon, it should be on the MLS the following morning.

A listing can be listed on the MLS as “Coming Soon,” but that means no showing by anyone including the listing agent. Once a showing takes place, it must be changed to “Active” immediately, making it available to other MLS members. Also, if it’s “Coming Soon” on the MLS, there must be a Coming Soon sign rider on the yard sign.

Most NAR rules only apply to NAR members (aka “Realtors”), but since NAR requires all MLSs to implement the rule, it does apply to the thousands of agents who do not belong to a Realtor brokerage. 

The policy was intended to reduce the number of “pocket listings.” A pocket listing is one which an agent withholds from the MLS (i.e., keeps in his pocket) in hopes of selling it himself or herself and thereby not sharing the commission with another agent.

With such stringent enforcement of the rule — other MLS violations carry penalties as small as $25 — you’d think there would be a widespread shift away from agents selling their listings before they are shared on the MLS. 

To see if that was the case, I did some analysis of my own, counting the number of closings entered on REcolorado showing zero days on the MLS. I fully expected to see a drop in the number of such closings.

The first day that a listing is on the MLS, it is shown as 0 days in the MLS. If it is changed to pending (or closed) the same day, one can assume that the listing was not active on the MLS long enough for other agents to set a showing and submit an offer.

Much to my surprise, the number of homes listed as closed with zero days on the MLS has only increased over the last 24 months, as shown by the chart below. In fact, the highest number of such closings has occurred since the rule went into effect.

So what gives? This harsh penalty does not appear to be having the desired effect, but maybe some more publicity about it will create more awareness and more compliance. Agents can be suspended from membership in the MLS after enough violations, basically putting them out of business.

After three violations within the same brokerage, the brokerage itself starts getting penalized, with the fine starting at $5,000, so that should certainly increase the in-house training about the rule. I have made sure that my own broker associates are aware of the rule.

Homeowners can, of course, make their own private deals with a buyer and then call upon an agent to handle the paperwork, which is fine, since there’s no advertising or promotion of the listing by the agent.

Also, there’s a “brokerage exclusion” which allows an agent in a large brokerage to tell other agents within that brokerage about the listing, but that cannot include posting it on social media where other buyers could learn about it. These two work-arounds could explain many of the homes contributing to the chart’s high numbers.

Why Is It Called ‘Clear Cooperation Policy’?

The real estate industry is unlike any other industry I know. Through our many Multi-List Services or MLSs, we members agree to “cooperation and compensation.” In other words, each member agrees to share his/her listings with every other member, allowing them to sell that listing to a buyer, and to be compensated by the listing agent by an amount displayed on the MLS.

I like to compare our industry to the new car business. Imagine if you went to a Chevy dealer and described the kind of car you wanted, and the salesman said, “I think the Ford Explorer would be perfect for you.” The salesman takes you to the Ford dealer, gets the keys, and then joins you on a test drive. If you like it, the salesman writes up the contract and presents it to a Ford salesman, who then gives the Chevy salesman half his commission (which the Chevy salesman then splits with his dealership).

That’s how it works in real estate. The commission earned by a buyer’s agent (who is the selling agent)  is called the co-op commission, short for cooperation.

The MLSs have rules requiring a member to put all their listings on the MLS, typically within 3 business days.  NAR’s “Clear Cooperation Policy” tightens that rule to say that any agent who promotes a listing to prospective buyers in any way (including with a sign in the yard or a social media post) must put the listing on the MLS within one business day.

The NAR policy — now an MLS rule — was instigated by members upset that other members were withholding their listings from the MLS until they were sold, further frustrating both the agents and their buyers looking for homes to buy at a time of especially low inventory.

Is the Real Estate Market Slowing, or Isn’t It? Here Are Some Useful Statistics.

Last week I did my regular update on the state of the bidding wars, but it left me unsatisfied because I knew that the market was slowing, yet the bidding wars seemed just as real, especially in the under-$500,000 price range.

The problem with my analysis was that I only looked at the homes which sold in 1 to 6 days because those are the listings which likely had bidding wars.

This week, I looked at the bigger picture but still limiting my analysis to residential listings on REcolorado that are within 15 miles of downtown Denver.

A chart containing some key statistics over the last 11 months is shown below. Here are my observations, which you can follow by looking at the chart’s columns from left to right.

First, it’s clear that the bidding wars started in earnest in February, when the ratio of closing price to listing price went above 100% for the first time. That ratio peaked in June and fell significantly in July, but is still far above 100%.

The number of active listings is still unseasonably low, but higher than it has been since last November. The number of listings under contract (pending) is lower than it was in May and June, but still higher than any of the other months on the chart.

The number of July closings is probably a bit higher than shown in the chart since I did this analysis on August 1st, and not all July closings had been reported, but it is clearly lower than June’s number, while higher than any other month since last October.

The number of new listings in July was higher than any other month except June, which reinforces what I’ve said for months, namely that the lack of inventory is not due to sellers keeping their homes off the market. Rather, homes sell so quickly that the number of active listings remains low.

The median days active in the MLS (DIM) has not risen, but the drop in average days in the MLS is very telling. The drop to 10 days is stunning and shows that even the homes that don’t sell immediately are selling faster than ever. Last July the number was 21 and in July 2019 the number was 23. In the past five years the average days in the MLS never fell below 16 until this April.

The last column shows that the inventory (in months) of homes for sale hasn’t been above one month since January, although it is the highest it has been since February.

The bottom line, then, is that, yes, the market is slowing but is still crazy hot. The trend, if there is one, is toward a gradual easing of the seller’s market in the Denver metro area, but it is well short of becoming a “balanced” market.

Will the end of the eviction moratorium have a big effect on the market?  My guess is that it may increase the number of new listings as landlords, especially small landlords, decide to sell rather than replace their evicted tenants. The opportunity to cash in on their properties’ increased value may be too much for some to resist, and the risk of continued lost income too great for some landlords.

There will not, I believe, be an increase in foreclosures or short sales, because very few property owners are likely to owe more than their property is worth. Because of that, they will simply sell.

Brokerages Should Allow Agents to Enter or Change Their Listings on the MLS

At Golden Real Estate, each agent (under my supervision) enters and updates their own listings on the MLS. I believe that helps to promote accuracy.

But many brokerages block their agents from accessing their own listings, sometimes resulting in incomplete or inaccurate data. One would hope that agents in those brokerages check to see how their listings were entered and tell their admins when mistakes have been made or data omitted, but there’s no way to know that.

Did you know that in addition to the “public remarks” for listings, there is a place to enter a description of every room in the house?

Very few listings — under 50% by my count — include a description of any rooms, and some listings don’t even list rooms other than bedrooms and bathrooms.

Dimensions can be entered for each room, too (rounded to the nearest foot), but I find very few listings with that information either. Our office policy is to enter room dimensions and descriptions for every room in every listing.

Brokerages which require all agent listings to be entered by their unlicensed administrative staff are less likely to have these non-mandatory fields entered. If they would make each agent responsible for such data entry and then monitor their work as we do, I believe that buyers would have much more useful and accurate information for each listing. Other non-mandatory fields in the MLS include the following:

> Is the property owner-occupied, tenant-occupied, or vacant?

> What is the zoning?

> What direction does the home face?

> How close are bus stops and light rail stations?

> Is it in an incorporated or unincorporated area?

> What are the dimensions and features of the garage/carport/RV parking?

> What appliances are in the house?

> What kinds of flooring is there?

> Does the home have any fireplaces, and where are they?

> If there’s an HOA, what are the fees and what do those fees cover?

Our office policy is not only to complete every field on our company’s MLS listings, but to share our MLS data entry in draft form with the seller before making the listing live on the MLS, which also helps to assure accuracy and completeness of our listings.

Bidding Wars Are Slowing — for Higher Priced Homes

This is my regular update on the real estate bidding wars. This week I chose to analyze the closings that occurred last Thursday, July 22nd, to see how the bidding wars have evolved over the past few weeks. As before, the source for this monthly analysis is REcolorado.com.

As I did in previous months, I limited my analysis to sales within a 15-mile radius of downtown Denver. I limited my search to listings that were active on our MLS at least one day and not more than 6 days before going under contract. Those are the homes that likely had bidding wars.

On July 22nd there were 36 closings up to $500,000, compared to 55 closings on June 28th. The median home sold for 6.3% over its asking price, compared to 5.4% on June 28th. The highest ratio this time was 18.5% for a home in SW Denver, compared to 20.8% on June 28th for a townhome in Littleton. Three listings sold for the asking price, and three sold for less than listing price, compared to four and six respectively on June 28th.

There were 48 homes that closed on July 22nd for more than $500,000, compared to 53 homes on June 28th. The median home in that group sold for 3.2% over its listing price, compared to 8.7% on June 28th. Only six sold for the listing price, and six sold for less than the listing price. The highest overbid in this group was 18% for a home north of Denver’s City Park, compared to 32% on June 28th.

To have a statistically significant number of closings over $1 million, I analyzed the 87 such closings that occurred from July 12 to 26. The median closing for those high-end homes was 5.4% over listing price, compared to 6.6% from late June. Nine homes sold for the listing price and 8 homes sold for less than the listing price, compared to 12 and 6 respectively in late June. The highest overbid was 24.8% for a bungalow in the Hilltop neighborhood, which was listed at $950,000 and sold in three days for $1,186,000. Of those 87 homes, 24 were listed under $1 million. Last month four million-dollar homes sold for more than 30% over their listing price.

Are More Contracts Falling Because of Bidding Wars?

A contract on one of my listings fell on inspection last week, but the buyer would not say why and would not release the inspection report. Meanwhile, the inspector had met the seller during the inspection and expressed shock when told that the contract was terminated. The logical conclusion was that the contract fell due to buyer’s remorse, i.e., a change of mind about buying the home.

The buyer and their agent could have simply stated that, because it’s a perfectly valid reason for terminating under the inspection contingency. It practically says as much in the contract itself. (By the way, the home quickly went under contract again with a new buyer.)

The seller asked me how common buyer’s remorse terminations are, given the way buyers are being rushed into making purchase decisions (at inflated prices) due to bidding wars.

So I did some research and found that contracts are not falling at a statistically significant higher rate than they did, say, two years ago during the same week.

Here are the specifics from my   research on REcolorado.com:

Of the 100 highest priced closings in early July that were on the market 1 to 20 days, 8% had a contract fall before a successful closing. During the same time period in 2019, 7% listings had a fallen contract before their successful closing.

Of the 100 lowest priced closings in early July that were on the MLS 1 to 20 days, 15% had a contract fall, compared to the same time period in 2019, when 16% had a contract fall before a successful closing.

It was a reasonable theory, but not true.

Real Estate Bidding Wars Are Not Abating

This is my monthly update on the real estate bidding wars. This week I chose to analyze the closings that occurred last Thursday, June 10th, to see how the bidding wars have evolved over the past four weeks. The source for this monthly analysis is REcolorado.com, the Denver MLS.

As I did in previous months, I limited my analysis to sales within a 15-mile radius of downtown Denver. I limited my search to homes, condos and townhouses that were on the MLS at least one day and not more than 6 days before going under contract. Those are the homes with bidding wars. I divided the results into homes which sold up to $500,000 and those that sold for more.

As you can see in this chart, the bidding wars only took off in earnest during February 2021, and they have kept accelerating month by month, enough that it raised the average ratio of closing price to listing price over all sales, not just the homes which sold in six days or less.

On June 10th there were 40 closings up to $500,000, compared to 44 closings on May 13th. The median home sold for 6.2% over its asking price, compared to 8.7% on May 13th. The highest ratio this time was 19.6% for a condo in Golden compared to 15.7% on May 13th for a home in southwest Denver. Only one listing sold for the asking price, and only two sold for less than listing price.

There were 37 homes that closed on June 10th for more than $500,000, compared to 56 homes on May 13th. The median home in that group sold for 7.7% over its listing price, compared to 8.1% on May 13th. Only three sold for the listing price, and none sold for less than the listing price. The highest overbid in this group was 20.9% for a one-story home in Lakewood on June 10 compared to 29.4% on May 13.

To have a statistically significant number of closings over $1 million, I analyzed the 82 such closings over a longer period — June 1-13. The median closing for those high-end homes was 6.1% over listing price, compared to 6.0% in May. Four homes sold for the listing price and 9 homes sold for less than the listing price. The highest overbid was for a 1979 ranch-style home in Jeffco’s Sixth Avenue West subdivision, which was listed at $1,080,000 and sold in 6 days for $1,575,000, 45.8% over listing price.  

I’ll repeat this analysis on July 15.

An $850,000 Home In Littleton Just Sold for $1.1 Million

How High Are Bidding Wars Pushing Up Home Prices?

This is a reprise of my article on April 22nd, when I took a snapshot of closed listings on Friday, April 16th.  This week I did the same analysis, and the day I chose was last Thursday, May 13th, to see how the bidding wars have evolved in just the last four weeks. The source both times was REcolorado.com, Denver’s MLS.

As I did in April, I limited my analysis to sales within a 15-mile radius of downtown Denver. That takes in an area from Broomfield to Highlands Ranch and from Golden to Aurora. It does not include the City of Boulder.

I limited my search to homes, condos and townhouses that were on the MLS at least one day and not more than 6 days before going under contract. Those are the homes with bidding wars. I divided the results into homes which sold up to $500,000 and those that sold for more.

On May 13th there were 44 closings up to $500,000. The median home sold for 8.4% over its asking price. On April 16th, there were 48 closings, but the median home sold for “only” 4.7% over its asking price. The highest ratio this time was 15.7% for a home in southwest Denver that sold in 4 days.

There were 56 homes that closed on May 13th for more than $500,000. The median home in that group sold for 8.1% over its listing price.  On April 16th there were 68 such closings, and the median home sold for 8.3% over asking price, so little change there, but the highest overbid in this group on May 13th was 29.4% over listing for an $850,000 home in Littleton’s Sundown Ridge, which sold in 2 days for $1.1 million.  On April 16th, the highest overbid was “only” 18.8% over asking price for a home in Westminster. On May 13th, there were four homes with an overbid higher than that.

To have a statistically significant number of closings over $1 million, I analyzed the closings over a longer period — May 1-15. The median closing for those high-end homes was 6% over listing price. The highest was for a 1991 home in Denver’s Hyde Park at Polo Club subdivision, which was listed at $1,575,000 and sold in 6 days for $2,225,000, 41.3% over listing price.  In the first half of April, there were only 68 closings over $1 million, and the highest overbid was 24.9% over listing price. This time there were six closings with an overbid higher than that.

In my April analysis I predicted that the overbids would get even more intense, and that has proven to be the case. I’ll keep up this analysis in coming months. Stay tuned.

How High Are Bidding Wars Pushing Up Home Prices?

We’ve all heard some crazy examples of bidding wars in which homes have sold for way over their listing prices, so I took a snapshot of just one day’s closings, limited to a 15-mile radius of downtown Denver. That takes in an area from Broomfield to Highlands Ranch and from Golden to Aurora. It does not include the City of Boulder.

The day I chose was last Friday. The source was REcolorado.com.

I limited my search to homes, condos and townhouses that were on the MLS at least one day and no more than 6 days before going under contract. Those are the listings that experienced bidding wars. I divided the results into homes which sold up to $500,000 and those that sold for more than that.

On April 16th there were 48 closings up to $500,000. The median home sold for 4.7% over its asking price. It was a tri-level home in Aurora listed at $420,000 which sold in 3 days for $440,000. Only 3 homes sold for the listing price and 2 sold for less. The highest ratio was 25.8% for a home in Aurora that sold in 1 day.

There were 68 homes that closed on April 16th for more than $500,000. The median home in that group sold for 8.3% over its listing price.  It was a 1950 ranch in Denver’s North Hilltop neighborhood listed for $600,000 that sold in 3 days for $650,000. The highest overbid in this group was 18.8% for a 2-story home in Westminster listed for $425,000 that sold in 5 days for $505,000. Only 5 sold for the listing price and 4 sold for less.

To get a statistically meaningful number of closings over $1 million, I looked at 68 such closings from April 1-16. The median ratio was 4.3% over listing price. The highest was for a 1954 bungalow in Denver which was listed at $965,000 and sold for $1,205,000, 24.9% over listing.

Note: These statistics reflect the bidding wars that were taking place during late March, when most of these listings went under contract. Today’s bidding wars appear to be even more intense. Stay tuned!