Well it’s spring – and with April and May came a bunch of new listings to the market. As of May 9, Schuylkill County had 423 properties that were Active / Active with contingencies (can be marketed but there is a buyer identified) / Coming Soon. That’s a nice increase from the March inventory, which dipped as low as 250 residential properties on the market. In Berks it’s significantly higher – with 1058 today on the market.
Schuylkill Active / Active with Contingencies / Coming Soon: 423
Schuylkill Pending Sales: 168
Schuylkill Jan 1 – April 30 Closed: 317
Berks Active / Active with Contingencies / Coming Soon: 1058
Berks Pending Sales: 948
Berks Jan 1 – April 30 Closed: 1353
In looking at the price points that are selling in both counties, moderately priced homes – the average middle income single family houses – are the fastest selling homes in the area. Investor buying is still strong, but constrained by the lack of inventory. The bottom hanging fruit has been purchased, for the most part, and less profitable investments are languishing for hundreds of days on the market. Investment properties are sold quickly – or not for months and months, or after a round of price cuts. Similarly, the highest priced residential homes also are taking longer to sell. In our area, consumers want affordable.
The market is still firm. While it is still a seller’s market, professionals know that this is a cyclical business. At some point, it will turn from the seller’s favor to the buyer’s favor. Looking at the above figures, Schuylkill’s market is weaker than Berks, but that is normal for this area. Berks still has a strong seller’s market, and only 3 months of inventory available to sell. Schuylkill has more than 5 months inventory, which is still a seller’s market (although weaker), but as we slow down later in the year if inventories rise past 6 months, experts call that inversion the start of the buyer’s market territory.
Consumers need to be aware that with the lack of inventory, and with almost a 1:1 match of houses for sale in Berks and more than 2:1 in Schuylkill of agents:houses to sell – we do see an increase in agent “bad behavior.” I am not a huge fan of Coming Soon status, as this seems to encourage agents to try to keep their own listings off the market for as long as possible, in hopes of selling it themselves (or to a colleague in the office) rather than exposing it to the widest market possible. Our office will market properties Coming Soon – but we follow strict ethics guidelines per our MLS rules. Not all offices or agents do this, even if they swear they do.
If a property is Coming Soon it is most likely in the early stages of getting it ready for showings. Sometimes sellers want time to paint or landscape, and they will sign a listing contract with an agent with the understanding showings will not take place until the repairs are complete. Our MLS says this is okay – as long as it is a level playing field. We are not to take other buyers into the house or allow showings until the seller agrees it is time to open the house up to showings.
Some area agents are using this window as an opportunity to sneak their own buyers through early, or to make special arrangements with agents they are friends with. In essence they cut off qualified buyers and other agents in an effort to control who ends up buying the property. We have had several instances this spring where agents in our office were denied showings by another firm, and told that the showings would open up on a certain date. When we tried to make appointments for that future date, again we were denied showings, and the house was marked “pending” quickly after becoming active.
If you as a consumer see this behavior, know that it is against our MLS rules and Realtor ethics. If our office has a Coming Soon marketed listing, it is as dictated by the seller’s wishes (not ours), and we hold firm to no showings until it opens to the full market.
Note that in some instances, a property certainly can be entered in the MLS and immediately become pending, and no “bad behavior” may have taken place. A neighbor may have seen the sign go up and jumped on the purchase. A seller might have pointed the listing agent to a buyer in the wings. This post is not meant to imply in all instances that something was done improperly. However, we are seeing an increase in such circumstances and misuse of the Coming Soon status, and we think it is important consumers – both buyers and sellers – are aware of the rules licensees are supposed to follow.