Could You, Would You, Buy a House Sight Unseen?
First Half of 2017 – 3 Major Home Price Trends
The extreme shortage of homes available for sales is resulting in a new phenomenon of buyers who are purchasing homes sight unseen. Twenty years ago, virtual tours and 3D graphics were mainly science fiction in movies like The Fifth Element, and a “sight-unseen” purchase literally meant a buyer had no experience of the property other than static photographs. Buyers were in essence blindfolded. Today, 3D and virtual technologies have become a reality. They are able to bring a property experience to the “sight-unseen” purchase. A number of local real estate brokers have noted this ingress of technology into the real estate industry and how it has given them a new tool to present properties. One Minneapolis based broker who has personally sold 3 properties sight-unseen in the last year, said the Minneapolis market has recently seen buyers more willing to at least offer sight-unseen. All of our conversations with Minneapolis realtors shared the opinion that technology is impacting the industry. They stated that listing price and anticipated time on the market are main factors on whether a virtual tour is created. The description of the Minneapolis “sight-unseen” buyer was someone looking to relocate from out of state or internationally and has experience in home buying (i.e. not a first time home buyer). An interesting point, technology can actually be a drawback for certain listings. We were told technology removes the interactive sales process; buyers experiencing a virtual tour may never visit the property in isolation from the neighborhood experience.
Twin Cities Home Price Trends Through the First Half of 2017
Price Appreciation is Outstripping Income Growth
- Median sale prices continue to increase at record rates. Between May and June the median sale price increased 3.6%. For the first ½ of 2017 through June median sale prices increased at the red hot pace of 15.1%. The year over year increase for homes sold between June 2016 and June 2017 was 7.0%. These rates of increase are far exceeding wage and income growth and will begin to cause affordability issues for homebuyers if these trends continue
- Market Still Lacks Adequate Inventory
- While the availability of homes for sale has improved slightly the number of homes for sale has been consistently running 15% – 20% less than a year ago and 20% – 25% less than 2 years ago. While the construction of new homes has picked up notably this year we are still not building enough new homes to build our way out of the current short supply situation. It will take many more new listings to get the housing market more balanced in terms of supply and demand.
- Tight Inventory Also Impacting Rental Markets
- The lack of homes available to purchase is creating a situation where potential home buyers are unable to find a home to buy causing them to remain in rental housing for a longer period of time. Even though there were over 4,000 new apartment units delivered in 2016 and given that 2017 is expected to be another record year for new units delivered, the market is expected to absorb all of the new construction. Vacancy rates may increase slightly in the short run in some areas as new developments come on line, but overall occupancy will remain high through the end of this year. Minneapolis / St. Paul is one of the tightest rental markets in the country. Rent growth was 4.8% in 2016 and is expected to be at least that much in 2017. That rate of increase is higher than the expected wage and income growth of 2% – 3%. Continuation of this trend over time will continue to create an affordability gap resulting in renters having to pay an increasingly larger percentage of their income for housing.