Where Homes Are Flying Off the Market—and Where They’re Lingering Longest
Why do home buyers and sellers alike track days-on-market stats every bit as obsessively as money managers fixate on the Dow, baseball fans on weight-on-base averages, or “Bachelor” fans on ambush breakups? Well, it all depends on which side of the sales aisle you’re on. Sellers, of course, want their homes to move to closing as quickly as possible, maybe even spurring a sweet price war en route. Buyers, on the other hand, are eager to avoid said price wars and maybe even have a bunch of different homes to choose from.
But contrary to what you might assume from reading real estate news headlines, there are metro areas where homes aren’t being snapped up at a breakneck pace. It’s a big country, after all. So we got curious. What could we learn from how long homes spend on the market in different metros?
Buyers and sellers, take note(s)!
“That info can give home buyers an idea of how much competition they face, how limited homes are in the market, and how quickly they need to make a decision if they find a home they like,” says Chief Economist Danielle Hale of realtor.com.
And sellers can get a reality check about how long their home should spend on the market—if it’s priced right and in good condition.
“It helps them get an idea of how long they have to move somewhere else,” Hale says. “In a really hot market, you can probably sell your home without making updates. But if you make updates, your home is more competitive.”
Nationally, the median number of days on the market is falling—there are too many buyers and not enough properties for sale, particularly in booming tech hubs. It hit a low of 60 days in the high-home-buying season of both May and June 2017, according to realtor.com data. That’s down from 89 days in June 2012. (Our data go back only to May 2012.)
To figure out where these home-buying headaches are the worst (or are relatively painless), we looked at the median number of days that for-sale homes in the 300 largest metros spent on market from February 2017 through January 2018.* We limited our rankings to just one metro per state to ensure some geographic diversity.
Ready? Get set? Let’s first go look at those boiling-hot metros where homes spend the least time on market.
1. San Jose, CA
Median days on market: 28.6
Median list price: $1,100,300
When it comes to high-tech jobs with correspondingly high paychecks—and a soaring real estate market—nothing can compete with San Jose. The sprawling city is the heart of Silicon Valley.
As a result of those movin’-like-flapjack homes and the resulting availability shortage, median list prices in the metro rose nearly 26.4% year over year as of February, according to realtor.com data.
Local real estate broker associate Zaid Hanna, of Intero Real Estate Services, routinely receives five to 70—yes, 70—offers per property if it’s not priced outrageously. He received nearly two dozen offers for one three-bedroom, 1.5-bathroom abode that was listed at $829,000. It wound up selling for $960,000. That’s $131,000 over asking price, and had a down payment of $600,000. And this was a property that hadn’t been updated in 35 years!
It’s not uncommon for homes to go for $100,000 to $400,000 over the asking price, Hanna says. Ouch.
“There no shortage of buyers—many of them well-heeled—in Santa Clara County, where so many tech giants are located and jobs, generally, have lately been on the rebound,” says area real estate broker associate Dawn Thomas, of Golden Gate Sotheby’s International Realty. “Buyers are ‘burning’ through inventory with [still] low-interest rates.”
2. Seattle, WA
Median days on market: 34.1
Median list price: $499,950
Homes are flying off their blocks in the birthplace of Amazon and Microsoft almost as quickly as in Silicon Valley.
“Anything on the market that is halfway decent is selling immediately with multiple offers,” says Annie Radecki, senior manager at John Burns Real Estate Consulting Seattle. “New-home builders used to sell first come, first served. But more than half of them have converted to selling to the highest and best offer.”
That’s because the economy is strong with plenty of well-paid employees needing places to live. But the home shortage—as well as skyrocketing prices—is leading more buyers to venture farther out from the city limits.
Take Tacoma, about 35 miles from Seattle, where the median list price is a much more reasonable $270,000, according to realtor.com data. But prices are rising there as well. Prices jumped about 13.9% from December 2016 to December 2017, according to the most recent realtor.com data.
They were up 16.9% year over year in Seattle over the same period, according to realtor.com data.
“It’s so hot that one would have to drive an hour and a half at rush hour from downtown Seattle to get a better inventory situation,” Radecki adds. That means to find an area with a better stock of homes on the market buyers have to commute 30 to 40 miles to the north, south, or east.
3. Salt Lake City, UT
Median days on market: 38.2
Median list price: $372,450
People are flocking to Utah, particularly Salt Lake City, like luna moths to flame.
That’s probably because the economy is booming with one of the lowest unemployment rates in the U.S., ringing in at just 2.7% in December 2017, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s leading to plenty of transplants. The city is expected to gain an additional 600,000 residents over the next 50 years, according to a University of Utah research brief.
Pair that with a relatively low cost of living, compared with some of the other cities on our list, a great public transportation system, and nearby ski slopes, and you have yourself a great big shortage of homes for sale.
“Anything under $350,000 is selling pretty easily,” says Brook Bernier, a Realtor® with Hot Property Utah. She listed one home just outside the city limits for about $285,000. Within a few days, she had three offers at $300,000. “We have zero days on market with some places—no sign even goes out because it’s already gone.”
4. Denver, CO
Median days on market: 39.2
Median list price: $543,572
Buyers can’t seem to get enough of Denver. In recent years, the capital of Colorado has been drawing swaths of millennials to its outdoorsy lifestyle and vibrant nightlife. (Legal recreational marijuana probably doesn’t hurt either.)
But in addition to all the perks, the city is also home to a robust technology scene—albeit one with a cost of living well below that of Silicon Valley. And now many newcomers who have been renting are ready to purchase homes. Unfortunately, like the other metros on the list, there are few homes to buy.
Entry-level listings, from around $300,000 to $450,000, get snapped up in minutes, say local real estate professionals. However, that demand flows up to homes priced at over $1 million. The city basically has the lowest amount of inventory its seen, with just around 3,300 homes on the market.
“We make jokes that buyers are walking into homes on fire saying, ‘I’ll take it,’” says Jeff Plous with ONE Realty. “I try to tell clients to wait and be patient, keep calm. But prices seem to keep going up.”
5. Nashville, TN
Median days on market: 40.6
Median list price: $359,950
The Country Music Capital is booming these days—a Southern hub for millennial techies, foodies, makers of craft beer and spirits, and indie fashion labels. That has translated into the area receiving an influx of about 100 new residents per day, many of whom are looking to buy real estate. That’s led to the inventory shortage and rising prices.
These days, downtown condos are selling quickly for well over $600,000, says local real estate professional Lisa Peebles Chagnon of Benchmark Realty.
She had one Midtown listing that sold so quickly, she didn’t even have to enter it into the multiple listing service, the database of real estate listings.
“We put it in the MLS after the fact for comp purposes only,” she says. “That happens a lot these days.”
Rounding out the metros with the fewest median days on the market are Portland, OR (44.3); Boise, ID (46); Sioux Falls, SD (46.8); Omaha, NE (47.2); and Minneapolis (47.3).
Need to slow down a bit? Let’s take a look at the other end of the market, where homes are taking the longest to sell.
Take your time: Where homes sit on the market the longest…
1. Claremont, NH
Median days on market: 138.8
Median list price: $245,300
The small town of Claremont has an idyllic downtown punctuated with historic buildings dating from the 1830s to the 20th century. These range from wood-frame Greek Revival buildings to the ornate Queen Anne/Colonial Revival Hotel Claremont and the Italian Renaissance Revival Opera House.
However, the real estate market isn’t quite as strong as its architecture. The population has decreased (3% from 2010 to July 2016), and the property taxes are far higher than in nearby areas. However, there is no sales or income tax in the state.
In Claremont, the property tax rate is nearly a whopping $43 per $1,000 of home value, which is considered a factor in the low demand, according to Housing Solutions Real Estate, which sells property.
Just 35 minutes away, in Hanover, NH, home to the University of New Hampshire, Dartmouth College, and a highly coveted public school district, taxes are more like $20 per $1,000. But the median home prices are also much higher, at about $520,000.
“So it’s a wash, pretty much,” says local real estate agent Ann Jacques, of Century 21 Highview Realty, of the lower prices but higher home prices in Claremont. She’s seeing a lot of locals returning to the region, along with retirees and out-of-staters seeking a cheaper cost of living. “It’s been super busy lately.”
2. Brownsville, TX
Median days on market: 129.4
Median list price: $200,000
Brownsville has experienced its share of difficulties over the past year, including budget cuts and hiring freezes at the local colleges. Unemployment is about one and a half times the national average, at 6% as of December 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The upside is that after close to a decade of high-impact fees on new real estate development, the city lowered the rate to a more affordable level, spurring a flurry of new construction. That left many of the older homes, including many of those McMansions from the early 2000s, stagnating on the market.
“Anything over $150,000 is just sitting unless it’s just a really good deal,” says Craig Grove, broker/owner Grove Realty Team. “I’ve seen more people build over the past year than the whole time I’ve been here.”
3. Salisbury, MD
Median days on market: 124.9
Median list price: $299,500
Set on Maryland’s idyllic Eastern Shore, about a half-hour away from popular beach town Ocean City, Salisbury is the largest city in this rural region.
The historic town is filled with a mix of bungalow, Victorian, Colonial, and Cape Cod homes. Those properties are selling at a slower rate than what is common in the rest of the country. But homes are still fetching top dollar, says local real estate pro Dale King of Esham Real Estate.
Homes are selling for about 97% of the list price. And Salisbury is also experiencing a lack of inventory.
“The good stuff gets snapped up,” says King. “Older stuff languishes.”
There are a lot of older homes in the area that are in need of renovation, and many local buyers just don’t want to put in the elbow grease, says King.
Plus, a couple of economic factors may be driving down demand in Salisbury. Although the city’s population has increased 8.5% from 2010 to 2016, according to Census data, the city’s median income, $37,780, is lower than the national median of $59,039 in 2016.
There is also a large renter population. Only 29.9% of housing units in Salisbury were owner-occupied from 2012 to 2016, according to Census data.
4. Rocky Mount, NC
Median days on market: 123
Median list price: $135,050
There are several reasons why homes in Rocky Mount sit longer on the market than in other cities in booming North Carolina, the fifth fastest-growing state in the country, according to Census data.
The city was slow to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Floyd in 1999, utility costs are high, and many locals prefer to live in the surrounding counties, where there is no city tax.
And the few homes that do come onto the market (about 470 active listings in Nash and Edgecombe Counties compared with around 1,200 a half-decade ago) aren’t necessarily desirable to the small pool of buyers who are looking.
The ones that move are those that have been renovated and modernized.
“If we see a good, renovated home it’s usually gone within a day or two,” says Ana Joyner, a real estate professional with Joyner-Silk Team Market Leader Realty. “We don’t have a lot of new construction, and many older houses here have not been updated—they’re the ones you’re seeing longer on the market.”
5. Pittsfield, MA
Median days on market: 121.6
Median list price: $371,775
Lying between the lush Berkshire Hills and the jutting Taconic Range, Pittsfield and greater Berkshire County are defined by the stunning New England wilderness. But like many former industrial hubs of the Northeast, the city has been losing well-paying jobs since the 1970s.
This includes the General Electric plant closures that took place primarily between the 1980s and early 1990s. Since 2000 alone, more than 40% of the area’s manufacturing jobs have disappeared, a Berkshire Regional Planning Commission told MassLive.com.
Populations have been declining throughout Western Massachusetts. Berkshire County has lost more than 3.3% of its population since 2010, according to the Census, squelching demand for the aging property supply.
The area isn’t attracting many out-of-towners from bigger cities, like New York, seeking country homes. It’s more a local’s market with homes selling under the $200,000 mark, says local real estate broker Susan Baum, of Berkshire Homes and Condos, based in Lenox, MA.
“We’re an older housing market. We don’t have [a lot of] new housing construction,” she says.
Taking the No. 6 slot for cities with the highest median days on the market is Bangor, ME (118.8), followed by Torrington, CT (118.4); Hilton Head Island, SC (114); Naples, FL (112.6); and Lebanon, PA, (112.4).
- We looked at the monthly, median days on the market for each of the largest 300 metros. Then we created an average of the past 12 months ending Jan. 31, 2018.
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