The housing market is soaring all across the country. It’s a sellers’ market. So much so, that sellers are requesting special oddball contingencies and anxious buyers are agreeing. In Philadelphia, for example, a first time home buyer found a cute house with a nice lawn in a good neighborhood. The house also had a skeleton outside the front door that had become a “must-see” in the area year round because the seller changed its attire regularly. For example, some days a white blouse, others a green bodysuit. The seller said that it would accept the buyers offer to purchase the house, if and only if the buyer would maintain the tradition of the skeleton outside 365 days a year. In this market, the buyer, who had already lost three houses that he was bidding on, agreed. So the skeleton will stay where he has been, even beyond Halloween.
There are lots of other contingencies that sellers are asking for and getting. A house in Santa Cruz, California is being sold with a cat. The orange tabby has lived there for years and the sellers didn’t want to move him. In Chicago, the sellers asked for the right to continue visiting the backyard grave of their beloved golden retriever, Buffy. The buyers agreed and the purchase contract included a provision to allow the sellers visitation rights in their old backyard every Sunday from noon to 2 p.m. In Florida, a widow sold her house but made the sale of her house contingent on the buyers keeping her husband‘s ashes inside a safe in a partitioned area behind the bedroom closet. Hmmm-that one sounds like the start to an Edgar Allen Poe story.
Despite these oddball sellers’ requests, buyers across the country are purchasing houses at record rates. South Carolina home sales rose more than 15% in September as compared to 2019. Illinois home sales were also double digits, with the statewide median price in September up 17.5% to $235,000 from a median price a year earlier of $200,000. The city of Chicago saw year-over-year home sales increase by 28% with 2,570 sales in September compared to 2,006 a year ago. The median price of a home in Chicago in September was $322,000, up 10%. Charleston home sales were up nearly 50% as compared to a year earlier. This increase follows double digit sales gains of 12% in August and 32% in July as buyers crowded the market after the spring stay home orders were lifted. Homes are being snapped up faster than ever with an average of only 44 days on the market before an offer is accepted in both Illinois and the Lowcountry. Total showings for the Charleston area posted another strong gain in September, with over 40% more than the same month last year.
There are three primary reasons for this huge uptick. First, low mortgage rates of 3% or below have been quite helpful. Second, the supply of houses has been very low. Inventory was low before the pandemic and has been further stressed by health fears among would-be sellers who worry about opening their home for showings. Third, during the COVID-19 crisis, houses have become a much larger and more important part of our lives. Most workers have been working remotely, as have many students. With closures, we’ve all been staying home more and eating more meals at home. Buyers want more out of a house and many are also looking for a new location- perhaps out in the country, in a warmer climate or simply with more space, inside and out.
Consumers who have not been as financially impacted by the ongoing economic pressures of COVID and now have more flexibility on where they can live are taking advantage of low mortgage rates to buy their first house, upgrade their living situations, move to a new location and/or purchase second homes and investment properties. Some are even buying houses complete with a year-round skeleton. Happy Halloween!!