CAPITAL REGION — Home buyers, sellers and brokers are gearing up for spring, as the weather finally breaks and gray-brown front yards start to turn lush again.
The traditional winter lull isn’t as quiet as it used to be, though, particularly in the Capital Region housing market, where demand has been exceeding supply
“March was probably the third-worst March in history if you listen to [News10 chief meteorologist] Steve Caporizzo,” said Faye Falvo Rispoli a veteran RE/MAx Realtor. “Our market has been strong. We have a lack of inventory. [That’s] what I have found in this past 30 days.”
Winter is more active for real estate brokers than it once was, said Laura Burns, CEO of the Greater Capital Association of Realtors. But spring is still the busiest time because of the number of families with the children in this area, who want to time their moves with the school year.
“People who want to move can get in and out in time for school,” she explained.
Coldwell Banker Prime Properties broker Chris Culihan said the winter months have been mixed for him. Nothing came together this January and then everything did in February and March.
“November, December, January are always a bit hit-and-miss, for sure, and springtime is the most popular time, for a number of reasons,” he said. But after 11 years in the business, it seems to him that the spring season begins as early as Feb. 1, weather permitting. And this year, the weather permitted.
“I don’t think the weather really slowed us down at all,” he said.
As the spring rush begins in earnest, Culihan finds a few common threads: Prospective homebuyers are confident in the economy, apprehensive about mortgage interest rate hikes, and frustrated by the selection of houses up for sale.
He’s based in Latham, which puts the entire Capital Region within a reasonable driving radius.
The Capital Region remains a strong, stable, affordable housing market, he said, with a great economy and major cities a few hours south, east and north. Taxes are the only sticking point for some buyers, he added.
“We do get customers from other areas of the country. If you’re not from the Northeast, it’s sticker shock for sure,” Culihan said.
GCAR data show that a house’s average time on market from listing to purchase offer was lower in each of the last eight months than in the same month a year earlier.
In February 2018, GCAR reported, there were 1,091 single-family homes newly listed houses for sale, 12 percent fewer than in February 2017. Houses sold in February 2018 had been on the market an average of 76 days (down 3 percent), drew a median sale price of $210,000 (14 percent higher) and commanded 94.9 percent of their original asking price, on average.
In the last 30 days, Rispoli sold two houses that each attracted multiple offers higher than the asking price.
“My market wasn’t flooded with listings,” she said. “We are short on inventory.
“I have no idea what [sellers] are waiting for. The good ones go fast.”
Rispoli sees no sign of a bubble or other sea change approaching in the Capital Region housing market, recalling the national foreclosure crisis that began a decade ago.
“In 2005, 2006 we all knew it couldn’t sustain itself,” she said. “It wasn’t real. What I’m seeing now is real.”
This is due in part to the stability of the region, Rispoli said.
“We have a very strong community. Schools drive home sales — we’ve got fabulous schools in the Capital Region, we really do.”
Rispoli suggests prospective sellers look closely at their house before trying to sell it, and perhaps retain the services of a stager or at least seek an objective opinion on the house’s appearance.
For prospective buyers, Culihan at Coldwell suggested a sitdown with an adviser to review their finances before house hunting.
Burns at GCAR last week attended a national Realtors conference in North Carolina and heard a lot of familiar-sounding anecdotes.
“Across the country, my colleagues are having low inventory problems,” she said. “When is it going to break?”
Burns also noticed that the urban living trend reshaping some Capital Region downtowns is doing the same thing to Charlotte — there was a huge amount of construction underway there.
“I said, ‘This whole city looks like it was built last week,’” she recalled.
Both younger people and older empty-nesters are interested in city living for its maintenance-free living and walkable landscape, she said.