It’s called a “buyer’s market” because real estate buyers have a market advantage over sellers. The buyer advantage is a result of high inventory and lower demand. Buyers have a lot of Austin homes to pick from, and there are more homes for sale than there are buyers to buy them. This means Austin buyers should be getting great deals, right? Wrong. Many don’t.
Many buyers give away their buyer’s market advantage in favor of indulging a highly particular and restrictive set of search criteria. In other words, some buyers are looking for the “perfect” house, and once they find it, they are not willing to walk away even if the seller stubbornly holds out for a higher price than market conditions should bring.
The buyer doesn’t have a strong #2 or #3 choice to move on to. Instead of enjoying the benefits of an ample selection of homes, some buyers create their own artificial shortage of homes by ruling out adequate candidate properties, and thus limiting their options, and thus their negotiating leverage. So long buyer’s market, for those buyers.
Many sellers might be saying, “yeah, well bring me one of them there picky buyers because we’re priced too high and we need to get lucky”. Well, some of you will. Not many of you, but enough to keep the others hoping.
Here’s the thing if you’re a buyer in Austin….
In this type of real estate market – a buyer’s market – you ought not be shopping for the perfect home, but the perfect seller. You want a motivated seller ready to be flexible on price, one who actually wants to sell the house versus a seller who is just trying the market on for size. Our buyers who are willing to walk away from two or three deals before they find the really motivated seller are the ones getting the really good deals.
To accomplish that, you have to have the pragmatic, low emotion mindset of an investor. Otherwise, in this market, if you pay top dollar for your “perfect” home, you are upside down the day you close because you paid too much.
Our investors consistently obtain much better purchase prices than our owner-occupant buyers. There are exceptions, of course, but over time, this is what we experience. The reason is simple. I can show an investor a set of 15 homes and we’ll find 5 or 6 that are suitable candidate properties worthy of an offer. If the first seller isn’t willing to be flexible, we’ll move on to the second, third or fourth choice. The investor is not emotionally attached to a particular home, but is focused on obtaining a below market purchase price.
Out of the same set of 15 homes, an owner-occupant buyer might find one or two possibilities, but will still want to keep looking.
The typical owner-occupant buyer isn’t always focused on value, but on emotional satisfaction. This isn’t necessarily the wrong approach, and perhaps “picky buyer” could be termed a more forgiving “lifestyle buyer”, but either way, it’s not a wealth building strategy. It would be like passing up a superior stock pick because you don’t like the company’s logo. To pass up better deals in favor of cosmetic design preferences of no financial consequence is an emotional approach, not a financial decision.
So, should buyers throw their personal preferences out the window and just go out an low-ball 6 offers until they find the best deal? Of course not. But what we find is, at the end of the day, the same three criteria of price, location and quality/size are the dominant decision items. Each buyer, whether you consciously think of it this way or not, has a set of Must Have, Should Have, and Could Have preferences. Where people go astray is in allowing the “should haves” or the “could haves” to rule out otherwise suitable homes.
For example, if a buyer loves almost everything about a particular home but says “I hate these tile floors”, we can cure that problem with a dollar amount. It costs about $1.50 per square foot to demo/remove ceramic floor tile, and about $5 to $7 per square foot to install very good quality wood flooring. So if we’re talking about 700 square feet of ugly tile, you convert that to $5,250 and factor it into the offer you make, but you don’t rule out the home and keep looking just because of the tile, as most buyers are apt to do.
And let’s think for a moment about what we do in a home. I’ll use myself as an example.
First, I wake up in a warm bed next to a wife of 18 years who loves me. I stand up upon carpet, walk into a master bathroom where the plumbing works, take a hot shower and get dressed and ready for my day. The color of the carpet, tile, shower fixtures, etc. don’t really impact my life. Yes, I like my house, and find it aesthetically pleasing, but really, does the color of my bathroom counter really matter to my happiness and ability to get up and get dressed?
Next, I go into a kitchen that has food, and I cook a hot breakfast for me, my wife and two beautiful kids. I do this every morning, seven days a week. And I could and would do it, and the food would taste the same, and our breakfast table chatter would be the same, no matter the layout of my kitchen, the color of the granite, whether the floor is wood or tile. None of that really matters, does it? Is life really about the designer aspects of our homes? Or is it something else?
Next I leave the home, driving one or both kids to school, and I often don’t return to the home for 8 or 10 hours. And when I do, as in the morning routine, my life and happiness are not determined by the cosmetic features or colors of my home. Sorry, that stuff just doesn’t matter that much. And then I spend another 8 hours sleeping, during which time I am unaware of and oblivious to the quality or appearance of anything other than my bed.
But to buyers looking at homes, you’d think the cosmetics and nuances of the layout and floor plan would be life determining factors. That off-shade tile will most certainly rob the buyer of all future happiness, so we better keep looking, right?
When my family moved to San Diego in 1966, I was 4 years old. My mom tells me she and my father bought the one and only home they looked at. I was stunned to hear this a few years ago when I asked her “how many homes did you and Dad look at when you bought the house in San Diego?”. She said that one looked like “it would do”, and they already had some Navy friends living in the neighborhood who had recommended they buy there. That was the extent of their house hunting process.
Near the end of my Dad’s life a few years ago, as he was fading into Alzheimers, and we talked about life and love, he never did say “I wish we would have looked at more houses before we bought that one in San Diego back in 1966”. The one he owned for 26 years, that was 900 square feet, and in which he raised two sons.
Folks, the petty stuff that must of us obsess on in life (and I’m as guilty as the next person sometimes) just doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter at all. Honestly, it doesn’t.
Any home can be filled with love and happiness. Any home can house smart, happy kids who grow up to be great people. Ay home can be a great place for grand kids to come visit and ride on Grandpa’s shoulders. Those outcomes won’t be determined by the color of the tile, paint or formica. Nor whether you have gutters or a covered patio or bronze doorknobs.
Your life and hapiness will be determined by the quality of your time spent together. You don’t need a McMansion or a show place to live happy lives. Yes, you want a house you like, but keep it in perspective and in the context of your financial and family goals.
Now, go find a perfectly adequate house for a great price!