Friday, September 22, 2017


Back in the spring, I counseled many of my first time buyers to take a sabbatical. 

Wait until the fall, I said.  From mid-January until the 4th of July, if you're looking for something under $400k and you don't have 20% or the backing of the bank of mom and dad, you're mostly roadkill.  

It will calm down after the 4th of July, I predicted, and once Labor Day gets here, you'll actually have a fighting chance to get something nice without having to claw your way past 10 other motivated buyers.

Well, Labor Day has come and gone and the market has indeed downshifted.  

The market has thinned out, appreciably, just as it did post Labor Day in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. 

Predictably, the Denver Post has published an article putting buyers "on alert" that the real estate party in Denver may be coming to an end.  "Time will tell if the dip is seasonal or the beginning of a turning point...."

But let's take a moment to recalibrate here. 

The reason I have pulled housing data on a monthly basis for nearly 20 years is so I have a baseline for understanding what's normal and what's not.  Seasonality it normal.  Inventory peaks in August or September every year, then thins out until mid-November, when the market shuts down for the holidays.

The real test for our market every year comes in mid-January, when first-time buyers come out of hibernation and begin swarming when inventory is at its low point for the year.  

It's that crazy January through June imbalance - no homes for sale and thousands of first-time buyers chasing after scant inventory - that drives the lion's share of appreciation each year. 

The disparity between listings and buyers intensifies all spring, usually leading to such frantic conditions that in most years, sellers can get away with murder in March and April. 

I have written nearly 40 "failed offers" in 2017, and I can tell you for a fact that the spring market nearly fried my soul.  I wrote offers this spring on homes with 43 offers, 31 offers, 27 offers and several others with 20 or more.

Unless you have cash or are fully prepared to waive the appraisal clause, why would you even waste your time fighting through that market? 

But every year, buyers are drawn to the spring market like moths to a flame.  And so we write crazy offers with modified or waived appraisal clauses, "as is" provisions, and earnest money "hard" up front in a desperate attempt to get something, anything, under contract.


The time for first-time buyers is the fall, not the spring. 

I see it in the market already.  While there are still some homes drawing multiple offers, the frenzied season is over.  Call it burned out agents, burned out buyers, shorter days or perhaps just this region's ongoing obsession with the Broncos, but the buyer pool has thinned appreciably as the days have started to shorten.

For first-time buyers, the right move was to wait.  Some took my advice, some didn't.  But the smart move is to get after it now and try to find something before the holidays, because come January, it's highly likely the crazy wheel will start up once again.  

And at that point, if you don't have the guns to compete, you'll find yourself on the outside looking in once again.