About Jim Armstrong

Jim Armstrong is a real estate Broker and teacher in Massachusetts. His brokerage, Armstrong Feild Real Estate, was established in 1944 by his grandmother, Lillienne Field. Jim has been practicing real estate since 2000 and is the former president of the North Shore Association of REALTORS. He continues to be heavily involved in the REALTOR Association and his local community.

What Do Past Years Tell Us About Today’s Real Estate Market?

As you follow the news, you’re likely seeing headlines discussing what’s going on in today’s housing market. Chances are high that some of the more recent storylines you’ve come across mention terms like cooling or slowing when talking about where the market is headed.

But what do these terms mean? The housing market today is anything but normal, and it’s still an incredibly strong sellers’ market, especially when compared to the few years leading up to the pandemic. With that in mind, what can previous years tell us about today’s real estate market and if it’s truly slowing?

We’re Still Seeing an Above Average Number of Sales
You may see headlines about a drop in home sales. But are those headlines telling the full story? The most recent Existing Home Sales Report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) does show a drop of about 2% from July to August. But the month-over-month decline doesn’t provide the full picture (see graph below): Existing home sale vs pre-pandemic

 Today’s home sales are well ahead of some of the more normal years that led up to the health crisis. That means buyers are still in the market, which is great news if you’re planning to list your home.


Houses Are Selling Faster Than Usual
When headlines mention the market is slowing, sellers may naturally wonder if their house will sell as quickly as they’d like. According to the most recent Realtors Confidence Index from NAR, homes are still selling at record speed (see graph below)

Again, if we look back at data from previous years, we can see the average time on the market – 17 days – means homes are selling faster than a normal pace.

Bidding Wars Are Still the Norm
The Realtors Confidence Index from NAR also shows a drop in the average number of offers homes are receiving in August, and many headlines may simply focus there without providing the important context (see graph below)

Number of Offers are still above the average

Again, it’s important to compare today’s market to trends from recent years. Currently, the average number of offers per listing is higher than 39 of the previous 45 months. That means the likelihood of a bidding war on your home is still high. And the number of offers your house receives can have a major influence on the final sale price.

So, Is the Market Slowing Down?
While there are slight declines in various month-to-month data, it’s important to keep historical context in mind when determining what’s happening in today’s market. Odeta Kushi, Deputy Chief Economist at First American, put it best recently, saying:

“It’s not the white-hot market from earlier in the year & it’s not the 2020 market benefiting from a wave of pent-up demand but make no mistake this is still a hot housing market.”

Bottom Line
Don’t let headlines make you rethink listing your home this fall. Selling today means you can still take advantage of high buyer demand, multiple offers, and a quick sale. If you’re thinking of selling your house, let’s connect and discuss why this fall is the perfect time to do so.

Why 2021 Is Still the Year To Sell Your House

Why 2021 Is Still the Year To Sell Your House | MyKCM

If you’re trying to decide whether or not to sell your house, this is the time to think seriously about making a move. Fannie Mae’s recent Home Purchase Sentiment Index (HPSI) reveals the number of respondents who say it’s a good time to sell is higher now than it was over the past few summers (see graph below). Today, the majority of consumers, 75 percent, say it’s a good time to sell a house.Why 2021 Is Still the Year To Sell Your House | MyKCM

Why is sellers sentiment up year-over-year?

The higher good time to sell sentiment has to do with today’s market conditions, specifically low housing supply and high buyer demand. In the simplest terms, we don’t have enough houses available for sale to meet buyer demand.

According to the latest data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), we’re still firmly in a sellers’ market because housing supply is well below a balanced norm (shown in the graph below).Why 2021 Is Still the Year To Sell Your House | MyKCMClearly, the scales are tipped in a seller’s favor today. But while housing supply is undeniably low, the right side of the graph shows how the inventory situation is improving little by little each month as more sellers list their homes for sale.

As a seller, that means each month, buyers have more options to pick from. By extension, that means your house may get less buyer attention with time. Danielle Hale, Chief Economist for realtor.com, explains it like this:

More homeowners continue to list homes for sale compared to a year ago… Notably, while new listings continue to lag behind a more ‘normal’ 2019 pace, the gap is shrinking. Even though homes continue to sell quickly thanks to high demand and limited supply, new listings are subtly shifting the balance of market conditions in favor of buyers.” 

So, what’s that mean for you?

If you’ve been waiting for the perfect time to sell, there may not be a better chance than right now. Inventory is gradually increasing each month, so selling sooner rather than later will help you maximize your home’s potential.

Bottom Line

If you’re planning to sell your house, 2021 is still the year to do it. The unique mix of low supply and high demand won’t last forever. Let’s connect to discuss what you need to do now to sell your house and take advantage of this sellers’ market.

Jim Armstrong
Armstrong Field Real Estate

4 Tips to Maximize the Sale Price of Your House

4 Tips to Maximize the Sale of Your House | MyKCM

Homeowners ready to make a move are definitely in a great position to sell today. Housing inventory is incredibly low, driving up buyer competition. This gives homeowners leverage to sell for the best possible terms, and it’s fueling a steady rise in home prices.

In such a hot market, houses are selling quickly. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), homes are typically on the market for just 18 short days. Despite the speed and opportunity for home sellers, there are still steps you can take to prep your house to shine so you get the greatest possible return.

1. Make Buyers Feel at Home

One of the ways to make this happen is to take time to declutter. Pack away any personal items like pictures, awards, and sentimental belongings. The more neutral and tidy the space, the easier it is for a buyer to picture themselves living there. According to the 2021 Profile of Home Staging by NAR:

“82% of buyers’ agents said staging a home made it easier for a buyer to visualize the property as a future home.”

Not only will your house potentially attract the attention of more buyers and likely sell quickly, but the same report also notes:

“Eighteen percent of sellers’ agents said home staging increased the dollar value of a residence between 6% and 10%.”

As Jessica Lautz, Vice President of Demographics and Behavior Insights for NAR, says:

“Staging a home helps consumers see the full potential of a given space or property…It features the home in its best light and helps would-be buyers envision its various possibilities.”

 

2. Keep It Clean

On top of making an effort to declutter, it’s important to keep your house neat and clean. Before a buyer stops by, be sure to pick up toys, make the beds, and wash the dishes. This is one more way to reduce the number of things that can distract a buyer from the appeal of the home.

Ensure your home smells fresh and clean as well. Buyers will remember the smell of your house, and according to the same report from NAR, the kitchen is one of the most important rooms of the house to focus on if you want to attract more buyers.

3. Give Buyers Access

Buyers are less likely to make an offer on your house if they aren’t able to easily schedule a time to check it out. If your home is available anytime, that opens up more opportunities for multiple buyers to go from curious to eager. It also allows buyers on tight schedules to still get in to see your house.

While health continues to be a great concern throughout the country, it’s important to work with your agent to find the best safety measures and digital practices for your listing. This will drive visibility and create access options that also keep everyone in the process safe.

4. Price It Right

Even in a sellers’ market, it’s crucial to set your house at the right price to maximize selling potential. Pricing your house too high is actually a detriment to the sale. The goal is to drive high attention from competing buyers and let bidding wars push the final sales price up.

Work with your trusted real estate professional to determine the best list price for your house. Having an expert on your side in this process is truly essential.

Bottom Line

If you want to sell your home on your terms, in the least amount of time, and for the best price, today’s real estate market sets the stage to make that happen. Let’s connect today to determine the best ways to maximize the sale of your house this year.

Jim Armstrong
Broker/REALTOR
Armstrong Field Real Estate

Will the Real Estate Market Maintain Its Momentum?

Will the Housing Market Maintain Its Momentum? | MyKCM

Last week’s Existing Home Sales Report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) shows sales have dropped by 3.7% compared to the month before. This is the second consecutive month that sales have slumped. Some see this as evidence that the red-hot real estate market may be cooling. However, there could also be a simple explanation as to why existing home sales have slowed – there aren’t enough homes to buy. There are currently 410,000 fewer single-family homes available for sale than there were at this time last year.

Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist at NAR, explains in the report:

“The sales for March would have been measurably higher, had there been more inventory. Days-on-market are swift, multiple offers are prevalent, and buyer confidence is rising.”

Yun’s insight was supported the next day when the Census Bureau released its Monthly New Residential Sales Report. It shows that newly constructed home sales are up 20.7% over the previous month.

Buyer demand remains strong. With more of the adult population becoming vaccinated and job creation data showing encouraging signs, existing-home inventory is expected to grow in the coming months.

What will this mean for home sales going forward?

Fannie MaeFreddie Mac, and the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) have all forecasted that total home sales (existing homes and new construction) will continue their momentum both this year and next. Here’s a graph showing those projections:Will the Housing Market Maintain Its Momentum? | MyKCM

Bottom Line

Living through a pandemic has caused many to re-evaluate the importance of a home and the value of homeownership. The residential real estate market will benefit from both as we move forward.

Jim Armstrong
Broker/REALTOR
Armstrong Field Real Estate

Patience Is the Key to Buying a Home This Year

Patience Is the Key to Buying a Home This Year | MyKCM

The question many homebuyers are facing this year is, “Why is it so hard to find a house?” We’re in the ultimate sellers’ market, which means real estate is ultra-competitive for buyers right now. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) notes homes are getting an average of 4.8 offers per sale, and that number keeps rising. Why? It’s because there are so few houses for sale.

Low inventory in the housing market isn’t new, but it’s becoming more challenging to navigate. Danielle Hale, Chief Economist at realtor.comexplains:

The housing market is still relatively under supplied, and buyers can’t buy what’s not for sale. Relative to what we saw in 2017 to 2019, March 2021 was still roughly 117,000 new listings lower, adding to the pre-existing early-year gap of more than 200,000 fresh listings that would typically have come to market in January or February. Despite this week’s gain from a year ago, we’re 19 percent below the new seller activity that we saw in the same week in 2019.

While many homeowners paused their plans to sell during the height of the pandemic, this isn’t the main cause of today’s huge gap between supply and demand. Sam Khater, Vice President and Chief Economist at Freddie Mac, Economic Housing and Research Division, shares:

The main driver of the housing shortfall has been the long-term decline in the construction of single-family homes . . . That decline has resulted in the decrease in supply of entry-level single-family homes or, ’starter homes.’”

When you consider the number of homes built in the U.S. by decade, the serious lack of new construction is clear (See graph below):Patience Is the Key to Buying a Home This Year | MyKCMThe number of newly built homes is disproportionately lower than the rate of household formation, which, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, has continued to increase. Khater also explains:

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic and current recession, the housing market was facing a substantial supply shortage and that deficit has grown. In 2018, we estimated that there was a housing supply shortage of approximately 2.5 million units, meaning that the U.S. economy was about 2.5 million units below what was needed to match long-term demand. Using the same methodology, we estimate that the housing shortage increased to 3.8 million units by the end of 2020. A continued increase in a housing shortage is extremely unusual; typically in a recession, housing demand declines and supply rises, causing inventory to rise above the long-term trend.”

To catch up to current demand, Freddie Mac estimates we need to build almost four million homes. The good news is builders are working hard to get us there. The U.S. Census Bureau also states:

Privately-owned housing units authorized by building permits in March were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,766,000. This is 2.7 percent (±1.7 percent) above the revised February rate of 1,720,000 . . . Privately-owned housing starts in March were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,739,000. This is 19.4 percent (±13.7 percent) above the revised February estimate of 1,457,000. . . .”

What does this mean? Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist at NAR, clarifies:

The March figure of 1.74 million housing starts is the highest in 14 years. Both single-family units and multifamily units ramped up. After 13 straight years of underproduction – the chief cause for today’s inventory shortage – this construction boom needs to last for at least three years to make up for the part shortfall. As trade-up buyers purchase newly constructed homes, their prior homes will show up in MLSs, and hence, more choices for consumers. Housing starts to housing completion could be 4 to 8 months, so be patient with the improvement to inventory. In the meantime, construction workers deserve cheers.

Bottom Line

If you’re planning to buy this year, the key to success will be patience, given today’s low inventory environment. Let’s connect today to talk more about what’s happening in our area.

Jim Armstrong
Broker/REALTOR
Armstrong Field Real Estate

Some Buyers Prefer Smaller Homes

Some Buyers Prefer Smaller Homes | MyKCM

Over the past year, we’ve had plenty of opportunities to reflect on what we consider most important in our lives. The place we call home is one of the biggest things many of us are reevaluating. George Ratiu, Senior Economist at realtor.com, shares:

“The very nature of the pandemic, through the health implications, social distancing, and need to isolate, has really brought a central focus on the importance of home for most Americans…In a sense, it has elevated real estate markets as a centerpiece of our lives.”

For some, this has spurred an interest in making a move to a home that better suits our changing needs. In a recent study on today’s homebuyer preferences, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) states:

“When asked more specifically how the pandemic may have impacted their preference for home size21% or about 1 out of every 5 buyers, do want a larger home now as a direct result of the health crisis, while another segment – 12% – would prefer a smaller one instead.”

While you might expect more time at home to lead to a need for more space, it’s interesting that a significant portion of homeowners actually want less. For those who own larger homes right now and have a desire to move, today’s housing market is full of opportunities. Danielle Hale, Chief Economist at realtor.comexplains:

“In a real estate market that is tipped in the favor of sellers, boomers and older homeowners are really the ones holding the cards…Those who are selling homes can use the profits to help them buy new ones.”

As a homeowner today, you likely have equity that can be put toward the purchase of your next home. With the equity growth homes have seen over the past year, you may have more than you think, which can help significantly as you make a move into your next home. According to a report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR):

“Home sellers cited that they sold their homes for a median of $66,000 more than they purchased it. Sellers 22 to 30 years gained the least at $33,400 in equity compared to sellers 66 to 74 years gained $100,000 in equity as they likely had lived in their homes for a longer period of time.”

Despite the benefits of growing home equity, some homeowners are still hesitant to move and could be considering remodeling or making changes to their current space instead. However, if you’ve thought about aging in place rather than downsizing, you may want to reconsider. The U.S. Census Bureau points out:

Of the nation’s 115 million housing units, only 10% are ready to accommodate older populations.”

If your house is no longer the best fit for your evolving needs, it may be time to put your equity to work for you and downsize to the home you really want.

Bottom Line

Today’s housing market favors homeowners who are ready to sell their houses and make a move. If you’re thinking about downsizing this year, let’s connect to discuss your options in our local market.

Jim Armstrong
Broker
Armstrong Field Real Estate

Don’t Sell on Your Own Just Because It’s a Sellers’ Market

Don’t Sell on Your Own Just Because It’s a Sellers’ Market | MyKCM
In a sellers’ market, some homeowners might be tempted to try to sell their house on their own (known as For Sale By Owner, or FSBO) instead of working with a trusted real estate professional. When the inventory of homes for sale is as low as it is today, buyers are eager to snatch up virtually any house that comes to market. This makes it even more tempting to FSBO. As a result, some sellers think selling their house will be a breeze and see today’s market as an opportunity to FSBO. Let’s unpack why that’s a big mistake and may actually cost you more in the long run.

According to the Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers published by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), 41% of homeowners who tried to sell their house as a FSBO did so to avoid paying a commission or fee. In reality, even in a sellers’ market, selling on your own likely means you’ll net a lower profit than when you sell with the help of an agent.

The NAR report explains:

FSBOs typically sell for less than the selling price of other homes; FSBO homes sold at a median of $217,900 in 2020 (up from $200,000 in 2019), and still far lower than the median selling price of all homes at $242,300. Agent-assisted homes sold for a median of $295,000…Sellers who began as a FSBO, then ended up working with an agent, received 98 percent of the asking price, but had to reduce their price the most before arriving at a final listing price.”

When the seller knew the buyer, that amount was even lower, coming in at $176,700 (See graph below):Don’t Sell on Your Own Just Because It’s a Sellers’ Market | MyKCMThat’s a lot of money to risk losing when you FSBO – far more than what you’d save on commission or other fees. Despite the advantages sellers have in today’s market, it’s still crucial to have the support of an expert to guide you through the process. Real estate professionals are trained negotiators with a ton of housing market insights that average homeowners may never have. An agent’s expertise can alleviate much of the stress of selling your house and help you close the best possible deal when you do.

Bottom Line

If you’re ready to sell your house this year and you’re considering doing so on your own, be sure to think through that decision carefully. Odds are, you stand to gain the most by working with a knowledgeable and experienced real estate agent. Let’s connect to discuss how a trusted advisor can help you, especially in today’s market.

Jim Armstrong
Broker -Armstrong Field Real Estate

Homeownership Is Full of Financial Benefits

Homeownership Is Full of Financial Benefits | MyKCM

Fannie Mae survey recently revealed some of the most highly-rated benefits of homeownership, which continue to be key drivers in today’s power-packed housing market. Here are the top four financial benefits of owning a home according to consumer respondents:

  • 88% – a better chance of saving for retirement
  • 87% – the best investment plan
  • 85% – the chance to be better off financially
  • 85% – the chance to build up wealth

Additional financial advantages of homeownership included in the survey are having the best overall tax situation and being able to live within your budget.

Does homeownership actually give you a better chance to build wealth?

No one can question a person’s unique feelings about the importance of homeownership. However, it’s fair to ask if the numbers justify homeownership as a financial asset.

Last fall, the Federal Reserve released the Survey of Consumer Finances, a report done every three years, with the latest edition covering through 2019. Their findings confirmed that homeownership is a clear financial benefit. The survey found that homeowners have forty times higher net worth than renters ($255,000 for homeowners compared to $6,300 for renters).

The difference in net worth between homeowners and renters has continued to grow. Here’s a graph showing the results of the last four Fed surveys:Homeownership Is Full of Financial Benefits | MyKCMThe above graph only includes data through 2019, but according to CoreLogic, the equity held by homeowners grew by $26,300 over the last twelve months alone. That means the gap between the net worth of homeowners and renters has probably widened even further over the last year.

Some might argue the difference in net worth may be due to homeowners normally having larger incomes than renters and therefore the ability to save more money. However, a study by First American shows homeowners have greater net worth than renters regardless of their income level. Here are the findings:Homeownership Is Full of Financial Benefits | MyKCMOthers may think homeowners are older and that’s why they have a greater net worth. However, a Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University report on homeowners and renters over the age of 65 reveals:

“The ability to build equity puts homeowners far ahead of renters in terms of household wealth…the median owner age 65 and over had home equity of $143,500 and net wealth of $319,200. By comparison, the net wealth of the same-age renter was just $6,700.”

Homeowners 65 and older have 47.6 times greater net worth than renters.

Find out how much your Massachusetts home is worth

Bottom Line

The idea of homeownership as a direct way to build your net worth has met the test of time. Let’s connect if you’re ready to take steps toward becoming a homeowner.

Jim Armstrong
Broker – Armstrong Field Real Estate

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What Does It Mean To Be in a Sellers’ Market?

What does it mean to be in a Seller’s Market as a Homeowner?

What It Means To Be in a Sellers’ Market

If you’ve given even a casual thought to selling your house in the near future, this is the time to really think seriously about making a move. Here’s why this season is the ultimate sellers’ market and the optimal time to make sure your house is available for buyers who are looking for homes to purchase.

The latest Existing Home Sales Report from The National Association of Realtors (NAR) shows the inventory of houses for sale is still astonishingly low, sitting at just a 2-month supply at the current sales pace.

Historically, a 6-month supply is necessary for a ‘normal’ or ‘neutral’ market in which there are enough homes available for active buyers (See graph below):What It Means To Be in a Sellers’ Market | MyKCMWhen the supply of houses for sale is as low as it is right now, it’s much harder for buyers to find homes to purchase. As a result, competition among purchasers rises and more bidding wars take place, making it essential for buyers to submit very attractive offers.

As this happens, home prices rise and sellers are in the best position to negotiate deals that meet their ideal terms. If you put your house on the market while so few homes are available to buy, it will likely get a lot of attention from hopeful buyers.

Today, there are many buyers who are ready, willing, and able to purchase a home. Low mortgage rates and a year filled with unique changes have prompted buyers to think differently about where they live – and they’re taking action. The supply of homes for sale is not keeping up with this high demand, making now the optimal time to sell your house.

Bottom Line

Home prices are appreciating in today’s sellers’ market. Making your home available over the coming weeks will give you the most exposure to buyers who will actively compete against each other to purchase it.

Jim Armstrong
Broker
Armstrong Field Real Estate

Don’t Go to Open Houses…

…unless you are prepared to make an offer.

But I just want to get an idea of what’s on the market.Open Houses in Salem MA

It’s great that you want to see what’s on the market, but you can actually do that from the comfort of your own home (or apartment) on any of the real estate search websites. What happens if you see a house that you really love? Are you fully prepared to make an offer – or to be totally disappointed that you can’t make one?

Here’s what you need to know before going to an Open House.

  • Be pre-approved for a mortgage by a well-known local lender. Those internet mortgage websites are convenient, but they do not hold as much clout to the listing agent as your local bank or mortgage company. Make sure your mortgage person communicates well and is available to talk with the listing agent after you make your offer. It is a very common practice for the listing agent to verify any pre-approvals that accompany offers. If your mortgage person does not return that phone call, it gives the impression to the listing agent that he or she will be poor at communicating through the entire buying process. This could hurt your chances of your offer being accepted by the seller. If you are a cash buyer you have an advantage, but you still need to provide evidence that you have the cash with a bank statement or letter from your bank stating that you have the funds to complete the purchase
  • If possible, have your REALTOR come to the open house with you so they can get an idea of the competition, and the condition and value of the property. Though they can do that just by looking at the MLS, they may be able to get some insight on the home from the listing agent who is hosting the open house.
  •  Be prepared to make an offer shortly after seeing the property. Because of the competition, most listing agents are only giving 24 to 48 hours to make an offer.
  • Make sure your finances are in shape and you have the cash to put down with the offer, which is typically $1,000, and with the signing of the purchase and sale agreement (P&S) that occurs approximately10 days later. The second deposit is typically 5% of the purchase price but that can be negotiated, especially if you are financing more than 95% of the property.
  • Once your offer is accepted you are going to have to contact a home inspector and an attorney immediately. Your REALTOR can help you with finding each of these professionals. The home inspection is typically done within 7 to 10 days of your offer being accepted, and before signing the P&S.

Being prepared is one of the most important things you can do when making an offer. There’s typically no time after an open house to contact a lender to get pre-approved since the process usually takes 2-3 days to get a solid, verified pre-approval. So if you don’t have that pre-approval letter in hand, go get it now, and then you can start going to open houses.

Jim Armstrong
Broker/Owner
Armstrong FIeld Real Estate
978-394-6736
jarmstrong@armstrongfield.com