Has the St Louis Real Estate Market Peaked?

I’ve written a couple of articles lately addressing the news reports about the housing market cooling down.  As I’ve addressed in those articles, there has not really been much data supporting a significant cooling in the St Louis real estate market.  Additionally, I’ve noted that, due to the seasonality of the housing market, and the fact we are headed toward winter, a cooling of the market would be the seasonal norm.

So today, I decided to pick an easier question to answer, “has the St Louis real estate market peaked?”  The short answer is yes, I believe it has.  This statement, by itself, is not all bad as it would NOT be good for St Louis home prices to continue to increase at the rates they have over the past couple of years.  Not to mention, if we stay in this low-inventory market strongly favoring sellers much longer, many buyers are going to just give up and shelf the idea of buying for a while.

As usual, I’ll let the data speak for itself.  I have several charts and tables below (available exclusively from MORE, REALTORS®) that I believe support that we have probably seen the St Louis market peak.

St Louis Area Housing Market Report For September

The St Louis housing market appears to be cooling off slightly with fewer home sales last month than a year ago in 3 of the 5 St Louis area counties that make up the St Louis 5-county core real estate market.  As the charts below illustrate, the decline in the overall St Louis market was very slight, with 3,164 homes sold last month just 11 sales fewer than September last year when there were 3,715 homes sold in the St Louis5-county core market.  The charts have complete details but below is a recap of home sales and prices by county for last month versus September 2020:

  • St Louis City & County – These two counties combined are the only in the core market to see an increase in sales last month from a year ago.  Last month there were 1,710 homes sold, an increase of 4.6% from a year ago when there were 1,634 homes sold.  Last month the median price of homes sold was $247,000 and increase of nearly 7.5% from last year when it was $229,900.
  • Franklin County – Last month there were 127 homes sold, a decrease of 13.6% from a year ago when there were 147 homes sold.  Last month the median price of homes sold was $227,050 and increase of nearly 14.5% from last year when it was $198,300.
  • Jefferson County – Last month there were345 homes sold, a decrease of 6.8% from a year ago when there were 370 homes sold.  Last month the median price of homes sold was $229,000 and increase of nearly 9.0% from last year when it was $210,000.
  • St Charles County – Last month there were 617 homes sold, a decrease of 10.8% from a year ago when there were 684 homes sold.  Last month the median price of homes sold was $303,000 and increase of nearly 12.2% from last year when it was $270,000.

St Louis Home Sales Trend Slows Slightly In August

There continue to be conversations by St Louis REALTORS® as well as other industry professionals as to whether or not the market is cooling off somewhat or slowing down.  I keep watching the data closely to look for signs of a substantive change and while there are some, the market adjustments appear to be somewhat insignificant at this point. Last month, in an article about July’s market, I pointed out a slight slowing of the trend in July.  Now, I’m taking a look at August, specifically, the number of new listings that came on the St Louis real estate market during that month versus the number of new sales during the month.

More new listings in August than a year ago, fewer new sales:

As the STL Real Estate Trends Reports below show (exclusively available from MORE, REALTORS®) 3,702 new listings came on the market in the St Louis 5-County core during August, an increase in new St Louis listings of 3.2% from a year ago when there were 3,586 new listings.  Conversely, there were 3,861 new sales of homes last month, a decrease in St Louis home sales of 2.2% from a year ago when there were 3,949 new contracts written.

New contracts written exceeded listings again but not by as much margin:

During August 2020, the number of new contracts written on listings exceeded new listings in St Louis by about 10 percent (10.1%).  Last month, new sales of St Louis listings only exceed the number of new listings by just over 4 percent (4.2%).

So, as I mentioned, the change in trend is slight, but something worth keeping an eye on.

St Louis Area Home Sales Trend Slows Slightly After Setting Record in June

There has been talk of “the market slowing down” and while there hasn’t been a lot of data to support that, we did see the sales trend slow slightly in July.  As the home sales trend chart below shows, exclusively available from MORE, REALTORS®, the home sales trend for the 12-month period ending has increased every month of this year over the prior month through June. For the 12-month period ending in June, there were 30,055 homes sold marking the highest record since we’ve been tracking the data, however, for the 12-month period ending in July home sales decreased slightly to 29,974 homes.

More new listings than new sales…

A change I’ve also noticed lately is that the number of new listings hiring the St Louis market is outpacing the number of new sales, a reversal of the trend we saw until recently.  As the STL Trends Reports below show, there were 881 new listings in the most recent week and 816 new sales.  For the prior week, the trend was the same with 895 new listings and  807 new sales.

St Louis Listing Supply Increases 50 Percent in July from June…still low

For the past couple of years now you’ve heard how low the inventory of homes for sale is, and, if you are a buyer, you have no doubt experienced some grief or hardship in buying a home as a result.  However, this may be changing.  As the table below shows, there are currently 3,565 active listings in the St Louis 5-county core market (city of St Louis and counties of St Louis, St Charles, Jefferson and Franklin) which based upon the rate of home sales, works out to a supply of 1.41 months. This is a 50% increase from the supply (inventory) from June of 0.94 months.  Granted, at 1.41 months, it is still VERY LOW from a historical perspective, but this is something to watch as it could be indicative of a change in the market.

What do the leading indicators show?

We don’t want to base too much on just one report for one month so to drill down a little further lets look at the STL Trends Reports, available exclusively from MORE, REALTORS®.  Below the table is the New Listings Trends Report which shows for the most recent week reported, new listings were up 23% from the same period a year ago.  There were 885 new listings in the St Louis 5-county core market during the week 7/18/21 – 7/24/21 as compared with 718 new listings for the same period last year.  On the other side of the deal, so to speak, as the New Contracts Trends Report shows, there were 890 new contracts written during that same week, a decline of 1% from the same period the year before.

Don’t sound the alarm yet..

As I’ve said, even with the increase in inventory it is still low and the trend reports are just for one week so we need to give it more time and watch the trend in the coming couple of weeks before we can determine that there is possibly a significant trend indicating a change in the market.  Stay tuned…

St Charles County Homes Sold For Largest Percentage Over List Price In June

As the chart below illustrates (available exclusively from MORE, REALTORS®), homes in St Charles County sold for a median price equal to nearly 105% of the current list price of the listing in June, which is the highest percentage of list price for the counties that make up the St Louis 5-county core market.  For the 9 months up to and including January of this year, 4 of the 5 counties all had a median sold price equal to 100% of the current list price with Franklin County averaging less.  In January St Charles county took off followed by Jefferson County, St Louis County and St Louis City all of which saw the median sold price exceed 100% of the current list price.  Franklin County made it up to 100% but has stayed there.

St Louis Area Counties $ Of Current List Price Homes Sold For During Past 13 Months

(click on chart for live, interactive chart)

St Louis Area Counties $ Of Current List Price Homes Sold For During Past 13 Months

St Louis Home Sales And Prices Saw Double-Digit Increase In Past 12-Months

For the 12-month period ended May 31, 2021, there were 30,225 homes sold within the St Louis 5-County core market, an increase in home sales of 13.91% from the prior 12-month period, according to the STL Market Report below, available exclusively from MORE, REALTORS®.  During the same period, St Louis home prices increased 11.5% from a median of $213,000 to $237,500.  As the report also shows, the current supply of listings for sale is low at 0.86 months.

STL Market Report For the St Louis 5-County Core Market

(click on report for live, complete report)

STL Market Report For the St Louis 5-County Core Market

 

STL Market Report – May 2021

St Louis Realtors Home Prices and Sales Market Report May 2021

Sixty-Three Percent Of St Louis Homes Sold In Past 12 Months Sold At Or Above List Price

It’s no secret how competitive the St Louis housing market is currently.  In effort to get their offer accepted, homebuyers are waiving financing contingencies, building inspections and doing everything they can to convince the seller to take their offer.  However, in addition to those aforementioned things, while it’s not necessarily the most important thing, price is pretty close to the top of the list.

As a result of everything mentioned above, almost two-thirds of the homes sold in the St Louis 5-County core market (St Louis city and the counties of St Louis, St Charles, Jefferson and Franklin) during the past 12 months sold for the asking price or above.  As the infographic below shows (exclusively available from MORE, REALTORS®) there were 34,225 homes sold during the past 12-months in the St Louis 5-County core market with 63% of them selling at the list price or above.  One thing to remember about home prices though, and something you won’t hear from too many people reporting prices, is that not all sold prices are the “real” price.

St Charles County Real Estate Market On Fire!

While most of the current real estate market is doing quite well, and has for some time, the St Charles County real estate market has been on fire lately!  Highlights from the the reports and charts below include (which are available exclusively from MORE, REALTORS):

  • For the 12-month period ending April 30, 2021 there were 6,620 homes sold in St Charles County, an increase of 13% from the prior 12-month period.
  • For the most recent period noted above, the median price of homes sold in St Charles County was $271,240, and an increase of nearly 9% from the prior period.
  • Currently, there is just under a one-half of one month’s supply of homes for sale in St Charles County.
  • The trend chart below does a good job of illustrating how, after over 3 years with a fairly flat trend, 10 of the 11 prior months have seen an increase in the home sales trend (12-month) for St Charles County.
  • The STL Real Estate Trends Report below for new contracts and new listings is the absolute best way to spot where the market is headed and with new contracts written on listings increasing 50% in the most recent week from the prior week and new listings declining 6% in the same period, it looks like the inventory of homes for sale in St Charles is headed even lower. 

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Continue reading “St Charles County Real Estate Market On Fire!

Consumer Sentiment Toward Now Being A Good Time To Buy A Home Drops To Record Low

Every month Fannie Mae surveys consumers about owning and renting a home as well as about other issues related to the housing market and economy and from the results publish their Home Purchase Sentiment Index® (HPSI).  One of the components of the index is what the sentiment is on whether now is a good time to buy a home or sell a home.  In the April 2021 HPSI consumers sentiment on now being a good time to buy a home hit an all-time low with just 47% of respondents saying now is a good time to buy a home.  As the charts below illustrate, 67% of respondents saiid now was a good time to sell a home which is just one percentage point away from the record high of 68% back in April 2018.

It’s not surpassing that if a near record number of people think now is a good time to sell that the sentiment on the buyer’s side would be the opposite as having a truly balanced market not favoring buyers or sellers is hard.  In fact, the last time it was even close to balanced was in the latter part of 2012 and the early part of 2013 when roughly 45% – 55% of consumers felt it was both a good time to buy as well as sell a home.

St Louis Area Housing Market Report For April

In spite of the challenge of a low-inventory housing market, St Louis City and County, St Charles County and Franklin County all saw double-digit increases in the number of homes sold in April while Jefferson County saw a double digit decline.   As the charts below illustrate, the median price of homes sold in those counties increased from a year ago in all the counties, two of them in the double digits.

Not all housing data is the same….nor accurate for that matter…

One thing worth noting is that there are housing market reports out there from many different sources, including many credible ones that may or may not be accurate.  In most cases this is not due to an error on the part of the person or entity sharing the data but a result of either bad data,  inaccurate data or misinterpreted data.   For example, when preparing to write this article I noticed two different reports on “St Louis” home prices for homes sold in April.  One, which indicated it was for St Louis City and County combined, reported $250,000 and one which reported the “St Louis area” was $266,000.  In the case of the latter, my first guess was that they were reporting data for the St Louis MSA but when I checked that the actual sold price in April was only $223,750 so I have no idea where the data came from.  For the former, the $250,000 median price is not only higher than the median price for St Louis City and County, it’s higher than the median price for the whole MSA and while the source is indicated, I’m not sure how this number was arrived at.

So what does it matter?

In the crazy market we are in where buyers are getting in bidding wars to get a home, I think it’s more important than ever to have good, relevant and accurate data available to your agent so your agent can help you make an informed decision.  You ultimately may decide to pay above what you think the current value of the home is but it would help to know what the real value is.  If you look at my chart below for St Louis City and County you’ll see the median price of homes sold in April was $230,000 which is quite different than the $250,000 price and $266,000 I saw reported elsewhere.  Would being $20,000 – $36,000 off on the value matter to you?  I think it might.

So how do I know I’m right?

Well, for starters I’m a data junky and for the past dozen or so years I’ve probably spent, on average about a dozen hours a week or more studying market data for St Louis.  In addition, for the past 6 or 7 years we have worked to develop our own proprietary software to compile and report housing data and are constantly checking and double checking the output.  Finally, we have a very credible source for data, the REALTOR® MLS and we constantly update and check the data.  Put all of this together and while there’s no way to say it’s 100% correct, but I’m confident it’s about as close as you can get.

Why St Louis Is Not Headed Toward Another Housing Market Bubble or Crash

Lately, I’ve noticed several articles questioning whether the kind of crazy real estate market we’ve in for a while now is reminiscent of the early 2000’s which lead to a housing bubble that eventually burst in 2008.  Granted, even in St Louis where we tend to not see the market extremes one way or the other like the coasts do, one could get the idea that maybe we’re headed that way with buyer’s fighting over new listings and bidding wars that have homes often selling for over the list price.  However, in my humble opinion, this market is very different than the 2000 – 2007 market and we are not headed to a crash at this point.

Before I go further…my disclaimer…

I’m not an economist and I didn’t even stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, I’m just a long-time real estate industry data junkie who has ridden the real estate roller coaster for 40+ years and have some thoughts on the current state of the market.  While my comments may apply outside of our local market, my focus and commentary are on the St Louis housing market.

What’s different now from before…

St Louis Climbs To 5th Highest Homeownership Rate of Major Metros In Q1 2021

The homeownership rate in the St Louis MSA for the first quarter of 2021 was 73.1%, according to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau.  This is a big jump upward from the 4th quarter of last year when St Louis ranked 23rd on the list.

New Contracts For Home Sales Over 50 Percent Higher Than For Same Period Last Year

The inventory of homes for sale may be low, but that doesn’t appear to be slowing down the pace of home sales.  As the STL Real Estate Trends Report below shows (which is exclusively available from MORE, REALTORS®) during the most recent week that data is available for, there were 1,151 new contracts written on listings in the St Louis MSA, an increase of 54% from the same period a year ago when there were 746 contracts written.

New listings are up as well during the same period.  Again, referring to STL Real Estate Trends Report from MORE, REALTORS® this time for listings, we see that there were 908 new listings during the most recently reported week, an increase of 26% from the same period last year.

For the week ended April 3rd, new sales out paced new listings by 26% so it doesn’t appear we are going to see any change in the low supply of homes for sale anytime soon.

Local Home Trends Report- New Contracts

(click on report for live, current report)Local Home Trends Report- New Contracts

Local Home Trends Report- New Listings

(click on report for live, current report)Local Home Trends Report- New Listings

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Is The St Louis MSA Real Estate Market Better in Missouri or Illinois?

There are a total of seventeen counties that make up the St Louis MSA with 9 of them being on the Missouri side of the Mississippi River and the other 8 on the Illinois side.  For some reason, I was curious today if the portion of the St Louis MSA in one state was outperforming the other or if they were performing about the same.  I guess my expectation was probably the latter but the data showed that in fact, during the past three months, they were closed, but each state has its bragging rights depending on which data point you look at.

The tables and charts below (available exclusively from MORE, REALTORS®) show more details but below are some highlights of the comparisons between the counties in the two states:

  • Sold home prices in Missouri for December were at a median price of $226,500 in December then dipped in January, as expected but rebounded back in February to a median price of $225,000 or 99.3% of the December price.  Illinois, on the other hand, had a median price of $150,000 in December then actually increased in January but then fell to $137,750 in February, or 91.8% of the December price.
  • The number of home sales paints a different picture though.  For the Missouri counties, there were 2,819 homes sold in December and  1,849 in February, for a decrease of 34%.  In the Illinois counties, there were 744 homes sold in December and 554 in February for a 26% decrease.


St Louis 12-Month Home Sales Sets 15-Year Record In February

For the 12-month period ended February 28, 2021, there were 29,402 homes sold in the St Louis 5-County core market.  As the 15-year chart below (available exclusively from MORE, REALTORS®) shows, this is the highest 12-month sales period in more than 15 years!  Going back to 2006, a historic banner year for real estate, we find that the 12-month period ended March 31, 2006, came in close at 28,797 homes sold, but that’s a little over 2% below our most recent 12-month period.

But, can St Louis home sales keep up this pace?

Having a record-setting period for home sales is great but, practically speaking, it’s hard to sustain a record level for long so typically sales would ease after a record period and settle into a “norm”.  Having been in this business for 40 years, I’ve seen many of these periods and the $64 question is always the same.  How long can it last?  I’m not going to even pretend I have that answer as there are too many variables including the continued impact of the pandemic on the economy and life in general, rising oil and gas prices, rising government debt, and uncertainty about the economy to name just a few.  Oh, and did I mention the lack of inventory?  It’s hard to maintain record sales levels when there are not enough products to sell.

21 Zips In 5-County Core Where Listing Inventory Is More Than Double The Median

If you are in the process of trying to find a home to purchase or have gone through the process in the last couple of years, I don’t need to tell you how low the inventory of homes for sale is.  Currently, in the St Louis 5-County core market, there is less than a one-month supply of homes for sale (0.85 months).

However, within that area, there are 21 zip codes that have a current supply of at least double that, 1.7 months or more.  As the chart below shows, the supply of homes for sale in these zip codes ranges from a high of 9 months in 63115 down to 1.71 months in 63367.  There are a total of 9 zip codes that have a supply greater than triple the median of 0.85 months  (2.55 months+).

Jefferson County Home Prices Increase in February While Sale Plummet

As the chart below shows, the median price of homes sold in Jefferson  County climbed to $200,413 in February from $192,000 the month before and sales plummeted from 220 in January to 81 in February.

In February last year, the median price of homes sold was $180,000 so the price of $200,413 last month represents an 11 percent increase.  The number of homes sold in February 2020 was 217 so with just 81 homes sold last month, there was a 63% decline in sales for the month.

Jefferson County Home Prices and Sales

(click on chart for live chart)

Jefferson County Home Prices and Sales

Franklin County Home Prices and Sales Last Month Up Double-Digits From A Year Ago

As the chart below shows, the median price of homes sold in Franklin County remained at $196,000 in February the same as the month before.  There were 82 homes sold in Franklin County in February, one more than the month before.

In February last year, the median price of homes sold was $155,000 so the price of $196,000 last month represents a 26 percent increase.  The number of homes sold in February 2020 was 59 so the number of homes sold last month was 39% higher than a year ago.

Franklin County Home Prices and Sales

(click on chart for live chart)

Franklin County Home Prices and Sales

St Charles County Median Price Of Homes Sold Spikes in February

As the chart below shows, the median price of homes sold in St Charles County jumped to $275,000 last month approaching the record-high price of $279,000 set this past August.  This is the second consecutive month the median price has increased and is contrary to the norm.  Last year home prices fell to a low of $235,000 in February.

Though home prices didn’t follow the typical pattern and fall during the winter in St Charles County, home sales did.  Home sales last month followed that pattern falling to 333 homes sold, similar to last year’s February sales of 320 homes.

St Charles County Home Prices and Sales

(click on chart for live chart)

St Charles County Home Prices and Sales

 

 

 

COVID-19 Pandemic Driven Serious Mortgage Delinquencies To Highest Levels Since The Great Recession

According to a report just released by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), titled “Housing insecurity and the COVID-19 pandemic“, there are over 2 million homeowners that have fallen behind at least three months on their mortgage payments.  This represents a 250% increase from pre-Covid-19 levels and is now at a level we haven’t seen since the height of the Great Recession in 2010.

Homeowners with an FHA mortgage delinquency rates double rate for all loans:

As the chart below shows, homeowners with an FHA mortgage hit a serious mortgage delinquency rate of 10.8% during the 3rd quarter of 2020, with the rate for all mortgages was just under half that at 5.2%.

Serious Mortgage Delinquency Rate By Loan Type- Q1 2005 – Q3 2020

Seroious Mortgage Delinquency Rate By Loan Type- Q1 2005 - Q3 2020

Seven Of the Ten Fastest-Selling School Districts In St Louis MSA are in Outer Ring Counties

As the list below shows, seven of the ten school districts in the St Louis MSA where homes are selling the fastest, are in outer-ring counties, with the remaining three districts being in St Louis County.  This list is based upon the average time it took homes to sell that closed in the past 30 days and Wright City R-II District came in at the top of the list with an average of 14 days for homes to sell.  St Charles County was home to the largest number of the fastest-selling school districts with 4 followed by St Louis County with 3, Warren County with 2, and 1 in Jefferson County.

Ten Fastest-Selling School Districts In The St Louis MSA

(click on the list for a complete and current list)

Ten Fastest-Selling School Districts In The St Louis MSA

St Louis Real Estate Market Update VIDEO – February 2021

The St Louis real estate market has started off 2021 strong, but is a change coming?  Closings of home sales in January were strong with more sales closing than in January of last year, but with everything going and the uncertainty of the economy will it continue?  I address both the current state of the St Louis real estate market, as well as discuss our “leading indicator” data which gives us a glimpse of where the market is headed in the St Louis Real Estate Market Update video you can access below.
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You can now subscribe to our ITUNES Podcast Channel to receive our updated market videos via podcast automatically each week! Just click here, then click on "Subscribe Free".) St Louis Real Estate Market Update Video - St Louis Home Prices

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St Louis’s Most Expensive Home Sale In The Last Two Years

One of the many benefits to living in St Louis is it’s a very affordable place to live and much easier to be a homeowner than in most other major metro areas.  Having said that, we do have areas, such as Ladue, Huntleigh, and Clayton to name a few where we do see home prices that are out of reach for most of the folks living here.   One such example is a magnificent 10,000+ square foot Ladue manse that sold earlier this month.  At a final sales price of $6,150,000, it is the highest-priced home sale in the REALTOR® MLS in more than 2 years.

See what $6 million gets you in a St Louis home by clicking here – be sure to click on the video to see the tour of this beautiful home.


One-Story Homes in St Louis Outsell Two-Story Homes Nearly 3 to 1

I would say for pretty much most of the 40-years I’ve been in the real estate business in St Louis, one-story homes have been popular.  The trend shifted with new homes however as undeveloped ground became more scarce and demand for larger homes grew, which led to two-story homes gaining in popularity.  There are of course other styles, such as 1.5 story homes, 2.5 or 3 story homes, and multi-level homes, but one and two-story are the most plentiful.

One-story homes outsell 2-story homes by nearly 3-1:

As the tables below show, in the St Louis MSA during the past months, there have been 11,898 1-story homes sold, 2.7 times as many 2-story homes sold during the same period.  With 4,380 2-story homes sold this was nearly double the next most popular style, 1.5 story homes of which 2,370 sold.

One-story homes sold the fastest:

The popular 1-story home also sold faster than other styles, taking a median time of just 27 days to sell while 1.5 story homes took 38 days and 2-story homes 32 days.

Two-story homes that sold were the youngest:

The one-story homes that sold were a median age of 54 years, while the median age of the two-story homes was just 31 years.

St Louis MSA Home Styles Sold – Past 6 Months

(click on table for live, current data)

1 -Story HomesSt Louis MSA Home Styles Sold - Past 6 Months   (click on table for live, current data)  1 -Story Homes

1.5 -Story Homes

St Louis MSA Home Styles Sold - Past 6 Months   (click on table for live, current data)  1.5-Story Homes

2 -Story Homes

St Louis MSA Home Styles Sold - Past 6 Months   (click on table for live, current data)  2 -Story Homes

St Louis Real Estate Market Trend For February Down From Last Year

The St Louis real estate market has slowed a little in February thus far.  As the Local Market Trends reports (availably exclusively from MORE, REALTORS® ) show, new contracts written on listings as well as new listings in St Louis 5-County Core market, were down in each of the first two weeks of February both from the prior week as well as from the same period a year ago.

New contracts written (new sales):

As the reports below show, there were 590 new contracts written (new sales)  on homes during the 2nd week of February which was 13% fewer contracts than were written the same week a year ago and  7% fewer than the prior week.

New listings:

As the reports below illustrate, there were 537 new listings of homes during the 2nd week of February which was 9% fewer new listings than during the same period a year ago and 8% fewer new listings than the prior week.

Local Market Trends – New contracts written on homes

(click on report for live, current report)

Local Market Trends - New contracts written on homes  Local Market Trends - New contracts written on homes 

Local Market Trends – New listings

(click on report for live, current report)

Local Market Trends - New listings Local Market Trends - New listings

Home Foreclosure Ban Extended Through End of June – Is this a ticking time bomb?

President Joe Biden on Tuesday extended the ban on home foreclosures for federally backed mortgages until June 30, 2021.  This is the second extension of the ban which was originally set to expire January 31, 2021, but then previously extended by President Biden to March 31, 2021.

Meanwhile, as the chart below shows, serious delinquencies on home mortgages have been on the rise since nearly the beginning of the pandemic almost a year ago.  The ban on foreclosures is certainly a welcome relief to those struggling to make their house payments. However, with such a high delinquency rate one has to wonder if it is just delaying the inevitable and that this is sort of a ticking time bomb for the real estate market?  I say that because with the number of mortgage delinquencies piling up it is safe to assume that once the ban is over there will be a massive amount of foreclosures hitting the market which may very well have a negative impact on the market.

Mortgage Delinquency Rates
Mortgage Delinquency Rates 

St Louis County Home Sales Trend Outpacing New Listings By Larger Margin Then Neighboring Counties

It’s no secret that listings of homes for sale in St Louis are in short supply and for a while now new sales have outpaced new listings making it a challenge for home buyers.  However, over the past couple of months, new sales of homes in St Louis County have outpaced new listings by a greater margin than neighboring counties.  As can be compiled from the tables below, new sales of homes in the St Louis 5-County Core market during the last four months outpaced new listings during the same period by 12.7%.  For St Louis county, there were 6,095 new contracts written during the last 4 months and 5,353  new listings resulting in new contracts outpacing new listings by 13.9%, a rate 1.2% higher than the rate for the 5-county area as a whole.   Franklin County had the next highest rate at 10.7%, then Jefferson County at 9.4%, St Charles County at 5.8%, and then the city of St Louis was the only county where new contracts were about equal to new listings.

Transparency in the home buying process including buyer’s agent commissions

Buyers Agent Commission TransparencyIn December I wrote about multiple class-action lawsuits filed against the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), as well as some of the largest real estate brokerages, like ReMax and Keller Williams as well as a Department of Justice (DOJ) complaint filed again NAR over issues related to the lack of transparency in the home buying process.

The aforementioned complaints claim, among other things, that there has been an effort by the defendants to force buyers to pay an “inflated” price for a home as a result of the buyer not realizing the seller was forced to offer a commission to a buyer’s agent in order to get their listing in the MLS.  In addition, they claim that NAR and its members misrepresented to buyers that a buyer’s agent’s representation and services were “free”, when in fact their agent was being paid a commission,  which came from the seller and as a result, they claim this expense inflated the cost the buyer was forced to pay for the home.

I’m not here to address the accuracy of the claims made in these complaints nor get into an analysis of the legal merits of the case, but instead just want to address the changes I see that have already taken place or will take place in the home-buying process.  NAR has already reached a settlement with the DOJ in which they (NAR) agreed to make several changes, so those are pretty easy to predict and I think I have a reasonable idea of some other changes that will come along in the comings months as well.

So, what are these changes I see coming to the home-buying process in terms of transparency?

Below are some of the changes I already see or expect to see:

  • Buyer’s agents aren’t FREE, nor should they be.  NAR has already agreed to prohibit their members from claiming their services are free as they are not.  A good buyer’s agent is invaluable to a home buyer and not only will earn the commission they make but in many cases,  will “pay for themselves”.   What I mean by this is their guidance and advice to their clients, which comes from their knowledge of the market and process, as well as experience, will help their clients avoid pitfalls and to make informed, good decisions.
  • Commission transparency.  Prior to the lawsuits, many MLS’s around the country, including the one that serves the St Louis area, prohibited the amount of commission being offered to a buyer’s agent by the seller from being shown on broker’s real estate search websites.  MARIS, the company that provides the MLS for St Louis area REALTORS® was quick and pro-active in this area and began allowing brokers to display buyer’s agent’s commission on their websites.  I’m happy to say that my company, MORE, REALTORS® was, I believe, one of the first brokerages in the area to begin displaying this information.  On STLMLS.com consumers can find the amount of commission being offered to buyer’s agents on listings.  In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention I’m on the board of directors for MARIS and I’m an officer and shareholder of MORE, REALTORS.
  • Sellers won’t have to offer to pay a buyer’s agent to get in the MLS.  While the first two bullet-points above are things that have happened, now I’m predicting what will happen.  I believe that soon, perhaps as soon as “months” or as long as a year or two, the MLS requirement that a seller offers compensation to a buyer’s agent to have their listing be in the MLS will be dropped.  This is nothing that should cause panic as buyer’s agents won’t go away nor work for free, it’s just the structure of the transaction will change.  The changes made will no doubt provide a much greater level of transparency to the buyer though as I believe they will have a clear picture of the process including how their buyer’s agent is getting paid.
  • Agents won’t have to be REALTORS® to be part of the MLS.  Even though this is already true in several parts of the country, most MLS’s require that agents be a REALTOR® (so be a member of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR)) to join the MLS.  I believe that all MLS’s in the country will be forced to allow participation by all licensed real estate brokers and agents and not just REALTORS®.  I think my prior prediction will come to fruition sooner and this one will follow so it will likely be a couple of years at least before this happens.

The bottom line is some obstacles exist today for the real estate industry as well as there are changes taking place and more coming.  While many folks don’t embrace change, call me a Pollyanna, but I think the result will be positive both for the real estate professional as well as the consumer that is buying or selling a home.

I’ll close with a quote on the topic of obstacles that I frequently share on a coaching session I do for our agents that is from Victor Kiam (the Remington razor guy) – “….there is little difference between obstacle and opportunity…