The competition to purchase a home is maddening and buyers are throwing caution aside. I’m not aware of a single geographic location where buyers are in control.
Existing home inventory is extremely low and the competition for new construction is off the charts. Builders today are compiling bidder lists and you can bet you will pay much more in a winning bid to purchase the home.
While this market is healthy for a seller, it is detrimental to a buyer. In my working career, I have seen this market scenario twice before; the mid-1980’s and the mid-2000’s. Both previous markets peaked before housing recessions where we saw home prices decline an average of 30% and much higher in some markets.
Both previous markets were driven by high demand, low inventory and rapidly escalating building material pricing, much as we are seeing today. Lumber prices have tripled over the last two years and they are still going up. Labor is also rising but at a modest pace (2-4%) which means the people building the home can’t afford to buy it but that is another story altogether.
I can’t advise anyone if our current market will lead to a recession as in previous similar markets, but I can advise you to not disregard good due diligence by getting caught up in bidding wars. Bidders are not equal, and each has differing levels of risk tolerance. Your ability to absorb risk may be less than others you are competing against. Bidders often get caught up in the emotion of “winning” when they should be concentrating on making the best purchase decision.
I lived through the housing recessions of the 1980s and 2000s and here are some examples of mistakes made then which are becoming commonplace today. Please take a moment to reflect on how these mistakes could impact you.
1. Gambling On Market Equity
Buyers in hot real estate markets often accept the escalation they are seeing today will continue to drive up the value in their home. Hot markets create artificial value due to demand. Once demand subsides, market values often decline especially if we enter into a recession. Homes sold in 2004-2005 at the peak of the last housing boom lost 30% of their value by 2010 and many took well over ten years to recover. By then most of these homes needed new roofs, windows, HVAC systems, and appliances so, in effect, they have never recovered in value. Here is an example:
|Purchase price in 2004||$389,000|
|Renovation costs (roof, HVAC, windows, appliances)||$49,000|
|Cost basis in 2019||$438,000|
|Sales price in 2020||$440,000|
|Less RE commission||$26,400|
|Net sales proceeds||$413,600|
|Gain/loss on sale||($24,400)|
Of course, there have been some tax advantages in ownership but there have been other ancillary expenses as well. This is a real-world example to show you can’t bet on appreciation to supplant paying more than the home is worth.
Many of these buyers defaulted on their mortgage due to the recession which further compounded the market value losses. Owners were stuck with underwater mortgages and many simply could not sustain the market.
2. Failing To Estimate Ownership Costs
The above example was based on a new construction home. What if you are buying an existing home that may need repair? Even if you have the home inspected, do you fully understand what the repair/upkeep costs might be for this particular home? If you do, you are in the minority of home buyers. I see buyers waiving repairs daily which, in time, will cost them thousands of dollars. That’s ok if you are prepared for it but in reality, I don’t meet many who are. A home inspector may advise you to replace the roof in 3 years but it does no good if you buy the home and don’t budget to do so.
3. Failing To Allow For Income Loss
If we do enter into a major recession and your income declines, will you be able to meet your obligations? You probably met the debt-to-income criteria needed to qualify for a mortgage (31% housing and 43% combined housing/long-term debt) but if you are like a lot of people, you may have taken on more debt after closing on the home. Perhaps it was new furniture/decorations (window blinds are expensive!), a golf cart, lawnmower, a new car or you had a baby. Maybe you gained weight while working from home due to Covid-19 and now that you are returning to the office you need $10,000 in new clothes. None of this is atypical and like many new homeowners, you now find your combined debt-to-income ratio is more like 56%. Now, what happens if your spouse loses their job, or you have to accept a 40% pay cut? Don’t think it can’t happen to you because it can, and it does.
4. Failing To Follow Good Due Diligence
This is perhaps the worst of all. This is gambling with your financial future. Real estate agents are advising buyers to waive inspections in order to increase their chance of offer acceptance and that is simply bad advice. Of course, a seller wants you to waive inspection contingencies because sellers do not want to make repairs or give price concessions! You can still waive repairs if you want later but without inspections, how will you know what may be wrong with the home? You are proceeding blindly, and you may find the home needs expensive repairs which you may not be able to afford. A home warranty plan is limited in coverage and it is not going to fix major structural defects or replace the plumbing or roof. It will do nothing whatsoever for termite damage.
If you are financially secure and you are paying cash for your mansion while knowing you will spend millions on renovations, by all means – waive the home inspection. In this case, it is probably a waste of time and money. But if you are like 98% of us and you will probably take 30 years to pay off this mortgage, the absolute worst thing you can do is waive the best home inspection you can possibly get.
5. Ordering A Home Inspection From A Barely Qualified Inspector
It’s almost worse than not ordering a home inspection at all. Hiring a barely qualified home inspector because they are a little cheaper is wasted money. It is not hard to imagine a well-qualified home inspector, with decades of experience is going to cost a bit more than someone with no background in home construction or who has had a license for a year. You get what you pay for. You are not shopping for the best price on the same toaster. You are hiring the one person in your whole real estate transaction who will advise you on what is wrong with the home and what you should expect to repair/replace. A home inspector is the least paid of any person involved in your transaction, yet they provide the highest value to you. There is rarely more than a hundred bucks difference between a great home inspector and a barely qualified home inspector. You’ll soon forget the hundred bucks, but you’ll remember the cheap home inspector for a long time to come.
Contact Property360 For Your Home Inspection
Don’t make the mistake of waiving your right to an inspection when purchasing a home. Property360 is a multi-disciplined property inspection firm offering home inspections across Florida. We are licensed and insured to conduct termite inspections, mold/indoor air quality investigations, EIFS/Stucco inspections, and insurance inspections. Contact us at (904) 503-9808 to request your Jacksonville, FL home inspection today!