The month of December reliably marks a low point in unsold inventory in the residential real estate market. When looking at the local market this year, there are fewer unsold listings in the more affordable and mid-price ranges on the Eastside than the year prior.
The market on Mercer Island in November was a bit more active than we expected, as the winter tends to be quieter once the holiday season begins. Buyers are still out and about this December, and the current market is tight on inventory in many areas, making it a bit trickier for them to secure their home of choice. This year, inventory is down 16.9 percent on Mercer Island compared to last year, and we will be entering January with low inventory again.
John L. Scott Mercer Island broker Mark Eskridge said the reduced inventory is especially felt in the more affordable to mid-price ranges.
“Competition for listings over the last year has led to a backlog of buyers, and dedicated buyers remain active in the market through winter,” Eskridge said. “A home that hits the market and is priced well is certainly going to demand attention from buyers, no matter the season.”
In a market with constrained inventory, many buyers will choose to work with a real estate broker so they can boost their chance of getting their offer accepted for the home of their choice.
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) recently released its 2019 profile of home buyers and sellers, which found that a record 89 percent of buyers say they used a real estate agent to purchase a home. NAR noted that “While the home search process has shifted toward digital technology, the need for a trusted real estate agent to help sell a home is still paramount.”
Eskridge said he sees digital technology as “another tool in the tool shed,” when it comes to helping clients. He noted that technology can help consumers be well-informed, allowing for conversations to be more in-depth and focused on what will lead to a successful outcome.
“I always tell buyers that the home search is organic and what you tell me you want now can differ completely from what you end up buying,” Eskridge said. “The human component of in-depth industry knowledge, and being able to listen to wants and needs cannot be replicated by online platforms. Buying a home is a large purchase for most, and clients value having a trusted adviser that works tirelessly as their advocate. Whether it’s being on top of available inventory or providing expert guidance during the negotiation process, clients want a person they can trust standing next to them.”
NAR also found the average length of a house hunt is 10 weeks (with a median of nine home tours). Asked if the estimate rings true in the local market, Eskridge said a variety of factors, including available inventory, can heavily impact how long it takes for a client to find their dream home.
“In recent years, lack of inventory in this market is the overall number-one reason that the home buying process has been moving slowly,” Eskridge said. “You may find the home you love the very first stop, but you also might end up being forced to see more homes than you would have liked because of the competition for inventory.”
Sandra Levin is an office leader and business coach at John L. Scott Mercer Island.