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.

Email Alerts of New Listings Provide a Good Reason for Listing Your Home on the MLS

Yes, it’s a seller’s market, and maybe you think you don’t need to hire an agent to put your home on the MLS, but the opposite is true. Take, for example, the listing which was featured in this space last week. For 7 days it was listed as “Coming Soon” on our MLS, REcolorado, during which time it was not visible to non-mem-bers of the MLS (i.e., buyers). But that listing was emailed to over 250 buyers who had email alerts set up by their agents. One of those buyers tagged the listing as a “favorite” and another six tagged it as a “possibility.”

Those numbers, however, only reflect buyers who had included “coming soon” among the criteria that would trigger an alert. After the listing changed from “coming soon” to “active” on the MLS, the number of buyers who were alerted jumped to 720 and two more buyers tagged it as a “favorite.”  When a buyer tags a listing as either a “favorite” or a “possibility,” the buyer’s agent gets an email letting him or her know which client liked the listing and may want to see it when it’s “active” and showings are allowed.

These numbers don’t include the buyers who set up their own alerts on Zillow or other consumer-facing sites, including Redfin. Also, those websites don’t display “coming soon” listings until they have been changed to “active.” Thus, buyers who had agents include “coming soon” as a criterion benefited from a 1-week earlier notice of that listing than did any of those buyers who were setting up alerts on their own.

For buyers wanting the earliest alerts of new listings matching their search criteria, please make this a reason to have an agent set up alerts for you instead of setting up alerts on your own.

Knowing the power of MLS alerts should cause any seller to have second thoughts about selling without an agent. It used to be that sellers could hire a “limited service” agent who would put their home on the MLS for a flat fee (say, $300) without performing any other service, but that is now illegal. The Colorado Real Estate Commission has ruled that there are certain minimum services which must be performed by all listing agents. Those services include exercising “reasonable skill and care,” receiving and presenting all offers, disclosing any known material facts about the buyer (such as their ability to close), referring their client to legal and other specialists on topics about which the agent is not qualified, accounting for the receipt of earnest money, and keeping the seller fully informed throughout the transaction. 

Failure to perform those minimum services could subject the agent to discipline up to and including loss of license, which has caused “limited service” listings to disappear. If an agent offers such service to you, you should report them to the Division of Real Estate.

By the way, the Colorado Real Estate Commission has also ruled that it is the duty of all licensees to report known wrong-doing by other licensees, which their competitors are happy to do. We can be disciplined for not performing that duty.

Studies have shown that homes which are listed “for sale by owner” (FSBO) sell for less than ones which are listed by an agent on the MLS, and you can see why, because the more exposure your home has to prospective buyers, the more showings and offers you are likely to receive. And that difference in bottom line proceeds can far exceed the commission you are likely to pay.

Consider this: whether or not you hire a listing agent, you’re still likely to pay the “co-op” commission to the buyer’s agent, which is typically 2.8%. The  average listing commission (which includes that co-op commission) is now around 5.5%, not the 6% everyone tells you. As a result, the savings you might experience from not hiring a listing agent could be about 2.7%, and that is likely less than the increased selling price you might get from listing your home on the MLS with a true “full-service” agent such as my broker associates and myself.

Note: Some brokerages mislead you by promoting a 1% listing commission, but when they get into your home to sign you up, they disclose that the 1% is in addition to the 2.8% that they recommend as the  co-op commission and is increased further if they don’t earn a co-op commission on the purchase of your replacement home. It is also increased if they double-end the sale of your home, meaning that they don’t have to pay that 2.8% co-op commission to the buyer’s agent.

Such deceptive advertising, to me, is reason enough not to hire such a brokerage, but it may be hard for some people to say “no” to an agent they invited into their home with contract in hand.

Unlike such a brokerage, Golden Real Estate tells you upfront that we reduce our listing commission when we double-end the transaction, and we discount it further when you allow us to earn a commission on the purchase of your replacement home.

That said, our final commission might be only 1% or so higher than what you might pay to a discount brokerage, and our version of “full service” is much more complete than theirs.  For starters, we produce narrated videos tours on every listing. Our video tours are not just slideshows with music or un-narrated interactive tours which can be dizzying and annoying. Our narrated tours resemble an actual showing, where the listing agent is walking you through the house, talking all the time, pointing out this or that feature which may not be obvious otherwise. Are those quartz countertops? Are there slide-outs in those base cabinets?  Is that a wood-burning or gas fireplace? We have sold listings to out-of-towners who only “toured” the home on video, not seeing it in person until they flew into town for the inspection. That’s the power of narrated video tours.

Sellers Who Value Their Privacy & Security Can Make Their Home Visible Only to Agents

A recent email newsletter from our Denver MLS, REcolorado, to us members explained how sellers, through their listing agents, can literally sell their homes without their neighbors knowing about it — although your neighbors may ask why so many people are visiting your home, one after another!

To quote that newsletter article, “Whether they are a celebrity, in witness protection, or simply concerned for their safety, protecting the seller’s privacy is the primary concern.”

Although not mentioned in that article, it starts with the yard sign. There’s no requirement that you have a real estate sign in your front yard.

As you probably know, Realtor.com, Zillow, Trulia, Redfin, NextDoor and virtually every real estate website downloads its listings from the MLS, but your listing agent can opt out of such syndication, which also keeps it off REcolorado.com except for its logged-in members. However, the listing will still be emailed to buyers who have alerts set up by their agent.

There are lesser degrees of privacy available.  For example, a seller may be okay with displaying their home on public-facing websites, but only allow logged-in agents to see their address. That’s another option available to agents when they enter a listing on REcolorado.

Sellers also, of course, can dictate what interior pictures are shown of their home — or ask their agent to have no interior pictures at all.

As you probably know, it is recommended that sellers leave their home during showings and inspections, but I’ve had sellers who insisted on staying home during showings.

Recently, I had a husband and wife who insisted on being present for my open house. That’s okay, although unusual. The husband worked from home and insisted on keeping his home office locked to all visitors. We had a picture of his office on the MLS, and it was included in my video tour, but during showings a picture of the room’s interior was posted on the locked door to his office.

If you have video cameras installed inside and outside your home, that’s okay, too. To comply with privacy laws, you only need to post a warning sign visible to all visitors that video and audio surveillance is in use at this property. Adding that warning to the “broker remarks” on the MLS provides proof that you did notify all visitors, through their agent, of the video and audio monitoring present in your home. (The MLS system keeps a record of each and every change to the MLS listing, allowing you to prove that the warning was there from the beginning and not added later.)

If you don’t want your agent to install a lockbox containing the key to your home, that can be arranged. Just have the showing instructions say, “Seller will let you in and then step outside during the showing.”

Speaking of lockboxes, I recommend against the kind of lockboxes with dials, because anyone can look at the lockbox while it is open and see what the code is. That’s why we only use lockboxes with push buttons.

Electronic lockboxes are becoming more common in our market. The most common brand is SentriLock. Electronic lockboxes record the time when each agent enters and leaves the home, and showing agents can only use their access code for the approved date, not come back a second time without asking for a second showing.

Normally, we don’t tell the seller the code to the lockbox, because we don’t want the seller to give that code to a friend or cleaning person without our knowledge. However, I have on occasion given that code to a seller who wants to remove the key overnight.

I don’t want readers to get the impression that security is a big problem in our market. In two decades of listing homes, I have never had an incident where a visitor (including at open houses) stole something from one of my listings. Every licensed real estate agent has been fingerprinted and had a criminal background check done on them when they were licensed. They could lose their license and livelihood if they were later convicted of a felony. They would also put their license in jeopardy if they were to give a lockbox code to a buyer.

It should be noted that our showing service, ShowingTime, makes sure that no unlicensed person is able to get showing instructions for our listings. When an agent calls to set a showing using their own phone, ShowingTime knows from Caller ID which agent it is so they don’t have to check if they’re licensed. (They greet me by name when answering my calls.)

ShowingTime offers several options for allowing showings of your home. You can specify what hours you want to block showings, and these rule can vary by date or day of the week. 

You can also specify lead time for showing requests. One hour is a common lead time requirement, but some listings require prior day notice. In other words, your listing agent can pretty much set any rule you want regarding showings, and that rule is computer enforced, meaning the rules will not be violated due to human error.

Do you have other concerns?

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.

Every Industry Is Facing Disruption of Some Kind. How About Real Estate?

I just finished reading a white paper by the founder of Dotloop (part of Zillow Group) with the catchy title, “The End of the Traditional Real Estate Brokerage.”

The premise of the document is that unless a brokerage adopts that company’s “end-to-end collaborative platform,” it is destined to fail.  Hmm…. Is my successful brokerage, Golden Real Estate, destined to fail?

Basically, the argument is that mobile and digital technology is disrupting every industry and is also disrupting real estate.

“Disrupting,” however, implies winners and losers. I prefer to say that technology is revolutionizing real estate (as indeed every industry), but I see no end to Golden  Real Estate as a small, some say “boutique,” brokerage.

In my two decades as a Realtor (i.e., a member of the National Association of Realtors, not merely a licensed real estate professional), I have seen major transformation of the technologies, tools and software made available to brokers.

When I first got my license and joined the West Office of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Lakewood, we wrote our contracts on 3-ply NCR forms created for each of the many documents required in a real estate transaction. We used typewriters to complete them, or pressed firm with ballpoint pens.

Nowadays, virtually every agent uses on-line contracts. In our market, CTM eContracts is dominant in providing these contracts, and the integration of documents by agents on both sides of every transaction is impressive and… revolutionary. We love it!

Occasionally I will received a contract from an out-of-area agent, as I did just last week on one of my listings, that is not on CTM and uses a third-party e-signature program, DocuSign, for signing each document. (CTM has e-signature capability built into it, and it works great.)

Showing service technology has also evolved beautifully. The near-universal vendor in our market is ShowingTime, and it’s great how they have simplified the process of setting multiple showings, with well-timed route planning and management of feedback requests.

REcolorado, the Denver MLS, is introducing a replacement showing service called BrokerBay, which will have some further enhancements (and be included in our MLS fees), but it will have to be spectacular to be better than ShowingTime.

The MLS itself has been radically improved in the quarter century since it became web-based, and, as with their showing service proposal, continues to do the heavy lifting for us brokerages so that we have only the task of learning new ways of operating.

Despite these changes, I don’t think the in-person model of working with buyers and sellers is up for displacement, merely rapid and ongoing improvement.

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.

1,200+ Metro Area Homes Are Sitting on MLS – No Bidding Wars for Them

No buyer wants to be in a bidding war, but there are many listings on the MLS that aren’t selling, and submitting an offer won’t put you into a bidding war. You might even buy them for less than their listing prices.

As I write this on Sunday, there are 1,241 active (that is, unsold) listings on the MLS within 25 miles of downtown Denver that have been active 10 or more days. There are 764 that have been active a month or longer, and 483 that have been active 60 days or longer. And it’s not as if those 483 listings are in the boondocks. The map shown here (from REcolorado) shows where they are.

483 Homes on the MLS for 60 Days or Longer

As I’ve written before, any agent can set you up to receive only listings which have been on the MLS a certain number of days. It is a good way to avoid bidding wars.

    Let me or one of my broker associates below know if you’d like us to set up an email alert like that for you.

Jim Smith, 303-525-1851

Jim Swanson, 303-929-2727

Chuck Brown, 303-885-7855

David Dlugasch, 303-908-4835

Ty Scrable, 720-281-6783

Andrea Cox, 720-446-8674