Long Island Real Estate Market – To Sell or Hold

By Thomas McGiveron

Many homeowners on Long Island are pondering whether or not they should sell their homes now or “wait it out”. I want to discuss a few factors that may aid in this decision. These factors may also shed some light into why it’s so important to choose a competent real estate agent.

During the years between 1999 and 2004/2005, the real estate market, especially on Long Island, realized a tremendous upsurge in appreciative values, as the prices of homes could see as much as 30% appreciation in 12 months. In this article I want to feature the “real estate roller coaster”. This is a graphic that some pretty smart people put together in order to trace the trends of real estate for the past 110 years. You can view the coaster at google.com – http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-2757699799528285056.

Now you have to try and stay with me on this. Toward the end of the roller coaster, you’ll notice an incredible incline that never seems to end. It is the steepest incline and the longest of the entire roller coaster. Unfortunately, we’re at the end of the incline and now face the decline. The good news is we’re well on our way slowly down. The simple question to ask a homeowner who is considering selling right now is, “How far down do you want to go?”

However, that’s not what I want to focus on. I don’t want to focus on the downward forecast of the real estate market. Rather, I want to focus on that steep incline and compare it to the other inclines. Throughout recorded history, the real estate market has generally produced a steady 4% to 6% appreciation per annum. Now applying that standard to today’s market is what I want to point out.

Many homeowners are currently in a situation where they are hemming and hawing about whether or not to sell their home. They are also losing valuable time (and money) not putting their home on the market with a top team of agents. However, some are also in a position where they do not have to sell and they’re saying to themselves, “We’ll just wait it out.”

“Waiting it out” is a relative term that I want to build this entire article around. House prices have dropped on Long Island. So let’s just take one homeowner as an example. We’ll call him Joe. Joe owns a home in Smithtown and bought it for $245,000 in 2000. He put it on the market in January of this year for $689,000 (wow, that’s over 150% appreciation in less than 10 years). In 2005, had he chose to put it on the market then, he probably could have sold it for a reasonable price of $589,000 given the appreciation values (remember the roller coaster).

The only problem is, Joe didn’t put it on the market in 2005. He put it on the market in 2007 but assumed the same upward appreciation. Joe thought the roller coaster was still going up when in fact, just before fall of 2005, that roller coaster started to level off and by winter of 2006, began to dip down slightly. Since that time, Joe’s home, like many other Long Island homeowners, has lost “value” in his home. That “value” we call equity (the difference between what is owed on the property and the true market value).

So now assuming that by this time in 2007 (December), Joe has taken his lumps (and so has his realtor who overpriced his home in January) and he has realized that his home actually lost value since 2005, what do you think Joe is going to do? What do you think he should do?

Aside from hiring me to sell his home, we can’t answer this question. We need more details. Okay, Joe and his family want to move to North Carolina. In fact, they “have to” because they’ve already purchased a new construction home in Lake Norman (not physically in the lake, but the area – wink). Here’s where it’s very important we all pay attention.

It’s not the market that causes our troubles; It’s the circumstances we create in our own lives that create most of our troubles. Joe has created his own trouble, not the market. His previous agent didn’t help him by over pricing the home in January when he put it on the market for $689,000, but that’s life (lesson: choose your agent wisely). So Joe “needs” to sell.

For those of you homeowners who don’t “need” to sell, don’t. Unless of course you want to and in that case, call me (631)587-1700, ext. 51. Okay, so Joe has to sell. Here’s what he must consider. His home was worth $589,000 in 2005 (that’s what the buying public would have actually paid for his house – market value). All the houses are on the market right now in his area are “listed” for around $549,000. The homeowners who are actually “selling” their properties are accepting somewhere around $519,000 and less. These sold houses on the market for about 195 days (over 6 months) and all started around $569,000 asking price originally.

Pause. Okay, we went from $689,000 to $519,0000. Is this a loss of $170,000 in market value for Joe’s home? Of course not. And here’s the kicker. Joe’s home was never worth $689,000. It was worth, at it’s best day, $590,000 in 2005. After 2005, the 30% appreciation stopped. It vanished. And we were left with about a 10% loss in value from January 2006 to March 2007. And here’s where it gets really bad for Joe…poor Joe.

Since March of 2007, Joe has lost another 3% to 5% in “value”. So, his home was actually worth, at the height of the market, in his given area in Smithtown, $590,000. We’re going to assume a 14% reduction in value, again what the buying public will pay for homes in his area NOW. This leaves Joe at around $508,000. So Joe, in reality has lost $82,000 in value since 2005.

Let’s leave Joe alone for a moment (he needs a break). If you own a home right now and you’re reading this, take what you think your home was worth in 2005 and subtract 14%. Now for all homeowners who don’t “need” to sell their home and are planning on “waiting it out”, let’s look at that roller coaster again. You’ll see that the average incline is steady. Since we just saw the most significant incline in the history of real estate, do you think the roller coaster is going to go right back up?

The answer is no. It will eventually start to go back up and we’ll assume the normal ride on the roller coaster. So assuming 5% appreciation, it will take about 3 years to recoup the lost 14% market value of homes throughout Long Island. But wait. And here’s where it gets bad (sorry for the doom ‘n’ gloom)…the market is not leveling off just yet. Long Island homeowners are still losing market values in their homes because buyers are not buying. Not only are they not buying but many can’t buy due to the mortgage difficulties and overall lack of liquidity in the market place (banks just don’t have the money to lend at the same rate they did in 2005 due to investors pulling out large (gigantic) sums of money from the mortgage lending business).

So on top of what has already been lost, where do we go from here. Let’s go back to Joe. Right now he could put his home on the market for $520,000 and be $29,000 less than his competition (remember the “listed” homes in the area are on the market now for $549,000). Most realtors, including myself, might think that’s an acceptable asking price to start at with room to come down. In reality, Joe’s optimal price is exactly $508,000 and not a penny more. This price would grab market attention.

Homes are sitting on the market now (as of December, 2007) and have been sitting for quite some time. The average listing period for a home in Suffolk County is over 6 months. Does Joe want to sit on the market? No, he wants to sell and be out of his home in 3 months. This is where a good agent comes in and gives Joe nothing but the facts. Joe thought his home was worth $689,000 in January of 2007, only to find out in June of 2007, that his home wasn’t worth anywhere near that amount. And while he spent the last 6 months (July through December) trying to get 2005 prices (he had a $590,000 list price on some for sale by owner website), he has finally realized that he needs two things; A good price and a good agent to market his property.

So now for the people who are going to hold on until the market “picks back up”. Five years. That’s it. You’ll have to wait 5 years before you will be able to get a 2005 price for your home. Let me repeat that: 5 years to get 2005 prices. Why? Here’s my personal speculative view: Assuming 12 more months of current declining market conditions, most homeowners will realize another 5% to 8% loss of market values in their homes (a conservative outlook). Again, market value is what the buying public is willing to spend on something – anything, whether it’s a hamburger, a shirt, a purse or a house. Everything that’s for sale has a “market value” (and I’m not even talking about the factors of supply and demand in this article as it pertains to the real estate market conditions).

So now remember that 14%. Add…let’s say 6.5% (the blended rate of declining market value – I added 5 + 8 and divided by 2 = 6.5).

So 20.5% is the projected total loss of market values for homes on Long Island. Again this is just my personal speculative view. It could be much worse, or it could be much better. That’s why it’s called speculation. But I will prove my point right now.

Is it safe to say that a home, where ever it is located, that was selling for $480,000 in January of 2006, is now (December 2007) selling for around $420,000?

The answer is yes.

So, now minus 6.5% from $420,000. We’re at $390,000. That’s a loss of $90,000 or 19.5%. So I’m one percent off. My point is that this is the reality of home values on Long Island. So in December 2008, we can safely say that all homes throughout Long Island will be about 20% less in price.

Assuming a 5% appreciation beginning in winter of 2009, in winter of 2010, homes will be at a 15% loss in market value in comparison to 2005 home values. In winter of 2011, homes will be at a 10% loss in market value in comparison to 2005 home values. In winter 2012, homes will be at a 5% loss in market value in comparison to 2005 home values. And in 2013, homes will be at breakeven from where they were valued at in 2005.

This is of course, all speculative. But let’s look at some quotes and statistics that are going to back it up:

  • “So far, prices have dropped only slightly. But it was enough to cause alarm around the world,” he said. “Prices are going to fall much lower yet.” Alan Greenspan
  • “What we see in our residential brokerage business is a slowdown everyplace, most dramatically in the formerly hottest markets…We’ve had a real bubble to some degree. I would be surprised if there aren’t some significant downward adjustments, especially in the higher end of the housing market.” Warren Buffet
  • 201 – The number of mortgage lenders that have closed since the mortgage crisis began. Foreclosure Trends: Nationally, the number of foreclosure filings has risen from 323,101 in the first quarter of 2006 to 345,554 in the fourth quarter of 2006, to a total of 437,498 filings reported in the first quarter of 2007.* – source: Yahoo! Real Estate
  • Report by realtytrac, the leading online marketplace for foreclosure properties, shows a foreclosure rate of 1 foreclosure filing for every 134 U.S. households for the first half of 2007.
  • Check this graph at http://www.erealtyonline.net/graphs/eastend_2q07.gif showing the average selling price of homes in eastern suffolk. The graph only covers up to the second quarter (up to June 07). Notice the downward trend for almost every town.

So where does all this leave you, the seller? This depends a great deal on your circumstances. In the world of business, financial transactions are engaged in for expected profits, based on market research and numbers. The residential real estate market is based on people making decisions for their families more so than the almighty dollar. So my suggestion to you is to contact me in order to discuss your options as they pertain to the real estate market. With this information you can decide what is best for your financial situation and more importantly, your family’s future. I can be reached at (631)587-1700, ext. 51.

If you take anything from this article, please note that the real estate market has trends. In order to “wait out the market”, you’re looking at a long-term waiting period of at least four years. Please understand this and if you have any questions at all, call me. And please remember that no matter what the circumstances may be, you always have options. Consult a good attorney if you are in financial trouble and please do not make decisions based largely on emotions. Remain calm, call professionals in, get second and third opinions and after getting as much information as possible, then and only then make the most rational decision you can based on information.

(c) copyright 2007 http://www.tommcgiveron.com

Written by Thomas McGiveron

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