As if the real estate market wasn’t challenging enough, on Aug. 9 there was a cyberattack on Rapottoni, a software and services provider that supplies multiple listing services — the foundational source used to track home listings across the United States.
Agents couldn’t list their properties on the MLS, and consumers couldn’t get updated and accurate information on real estate websites across the country. Markets in California, Colorado, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Texas, and Virginia were all impacted. San Francisco was among them.
The ransomware incident interrupted services for about two weeks. That can feel like an eternity for sellers, buyers, and agents alike.
Ironically, of course, the number of homes for sale was and is down. The damage would have been much worse in a hotter market or at a busier time of year. Perhaps that’s the silver lining.
“Buyers are sitting on the sidelines, saving money and building their down payments just waiting for interest rates to drop. Agents like myself are all working with those types of future buyers,” said Ron Sebahar with Compass. “The prediction is when rates dip into the mid–5 percent level, we are going to have a wave of buyers flooding the market, and hopefully more inventory from sellers willing to let go of their properties.”
Sebahar added that pressure is building right now as people continue to cohabitate and have children while they are renting. Eventually, he believes that as in the past, these buyers will make the decision to purchase a home of their own.
Life circumstances — such as a new job, a marriage, the birth of a child, a divorce or a death — tend to prompt movement within the housing market. Buyers today, however, are choosing to stay put even when those major life events occur, because the market is so difficult right now. That’s exacerbating the tight inventory.
And this is happening across the country.
Homeowners who locked in sub-3 percent mortgage rates in recent years are simply reluctant to sell their existing home, afraid to take on a substantially higher interest rate on their next home purchase.
“Under a normal situation, they would buy or sell a home to adjust to a circumstance,” Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors said in a recent Business Times interview. “But they’re not doing that now.
. . . Maybe the house is a little small, but they love their interest rate.”
Looking ahead, Sebahar believes that unless there is a significant reduction in mortgage rates, it’s likely that low inventory will persist, and the reduced transaction environment that has existed in the city since early spring 2023 will continue.
Of course, buyers can always find a less expensive home elsewhere, where a high interest rate is less of an obstacle. Many people have chosen to do just this. And the reality of that is unsettling.
According to a NerdWallet report, among the 10 fastest-growing counties in the country, two are considered at very high risk for natural hazards and eight are considered at relatively high risk for natural hazards.
All of the fastest-growing counties are located in the western or southern parts of the United States, including six counties in Texas, three in Florida, and one in Arizona.
Each of the counties carries its own potential hazards: hurricanes in all three counties in Florida; extreme heat waves in Phoenix and Maricopa County, Arizona; and, according to Anna Helhoski. author of the report, a near-biblical assortment of risks in the Texas counties, including cold waves, heat waves, hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, and more.
With luck, interest rates will come down before others feel compelled to move to these regions, putting further stress on limited water and energy resources.
Back in San Francisco, Sebahar has noticed that one segment of the city’s buyer pool has kept the market alive — the aging population.
“I had three transactions in July, totaling just over $10 million in sales,” Sebahar said. “Two were single family homes in the Marina, and one was a condo in Pacific Heights. In two of the transactions, the sellers were moving into assisted living, and in all three transactions the buyers were empty-nesters paying cash.”
Two of his upcoming fall listings involve, in one case, a move into assisted living, and in the other case, sadly, two deaths — where the owners were 91 and 101 respectively.
Recent studies suggest that approximately 10,000 Americans are turning 65 every day. Clearly, a segment of this population has accumulated significant wealth, and these people have no problem purchasing the home they want, regardless of market conditions.
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