The month of December reliably marks a low point in unsold inventory in the residential real estate market. When looking at the local market this year, there are fewer unsold listings in the more affordable and mid-price ranges on the Eastside than the year prior.
Karen Lindsay, managing broker and branch manager of John L. Scott’s Bellevue-Issaquah office, said November’s real estate market was “surprisingly robust.”
“There was a strong buyer demand and very few properties to show them last month,” Lindsay said. “We also had sellers whose homes hadn’t sold in September and October, who made the decision to take the properties off the market and bring them back fresh in January or February. There is a perception among sellers that the spring market of 2020 will be beneficial to them.”
Martin Weiss, sales manager of the John L. Scott Bellevue-Issaquah office agreed, noting that decreased inventory was the hallmark of November’s market in Issaquah and Sammamish.
“Inventory continued to shrink as the month of November progressed,” Weiss said. “New listings on the Eastside have been coming on at a lower rate since June, compared to the last three years.”
Both Lindsay and Weiss said while the winter market is a far cry from the pace of the spring and summer, decreased unsold inventory will have some buyers feeling the squeeze. Lindsay added that in a market with constrained inventory, many buyers will choose to work with a real estate broker so they can boost their chance of getting their offer accepted for the home of their choice.
The National Association of Realtors recently released its 2019 profile of home buyers and sellers, which found that a record 89 percent of buyers say they used a real estate agent to purchase a home. NAR noted that “While the home search process has shifted toward digital technology, the need for a trusted real estate agent to help sell a home is still paramount.”
Lindsay said in today’s technology-heavy world, it’s easy for buyers to search and set up alerts for homes that meet their desired criteria through online tools. She added that while this is a great first step, it is just one part of the home buying process.
“It is extremely important for both buyers and sellers to have knowledgeable, professional representation when buying or selling – going it alone is not a financially sound decision,” Lindsay said. “While some homes remain on the market longer, it becomes more important than ever to be in the hands of a talented marketing person who can help the seller get top dollar when they sell. Buyers need a local expert with knowledge about the area and highly developed negotiation skills to help the buyer find a home they can afford and that suits them.”
NAR also found that the average length of a house hunt is 10 weeks (with a median of nine home tours). Weiss said while this estimate typically rings true in the local market, a variety of factors, including available inventory in a buyer’s price range, can heavily impact how long it takes for a client to find their dream home.
“Usually, the individual needs of a client is what will speed up the home buying process the most – the more uncomfortable a buyer is in their current situation, the faster they tend to want to move,” Weiss said. “The biggest thing that slows the process down is inventory. Many buyers just have to wait for the right home to hit the market.”