Properties moving quickly as buyers take to market

Mary Ellen Podmolik / Chicago Tribune /


Published Sep 7, 2012 at 05:00AM / Updated Nov 19, 2013 at 12:31AM

CHICAGO — If it wasn’t the two failed offers or the missed opportunities, it was a tape measure that convinced potential homebuyers Brian McCord and Jamie Blondin that they just weren’t moving fast enough.

When they went to see a two-flat in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood earlier this summer, they liked everything they saw, except for the other potential buyers also looking at the house.

“Not only were they looking, they had a measuring tape,” McCord said. “And that made us much more nervous,” Blondin added.

The couple promptly offered $626,000 for the $649,000 house, 96 percent of the asking price. This time, they were successful. The transaction closed earlier this month.

The circumstances that McCord and Blondin encountered can create anxious home shoppers forced out of their comfort zones.

A confluence of factors is accelerating the pace of transactions in both choice and more stressed neighborhoods. Mortgage interest rates, while they have ticked up the past four weeks, remain well under 4 percent for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage. More sellers are setting realistic list prices.

Six years into the housing crisis, consumers who have sat on the sidelines are trying to take advantage of it all, as are investors who are scouring the market for properties to turn into rentals.

The market trends are forcing a re-education of clients and real estate agents alike. It used to be that when agents told each other there were competing aggressive offers on a listing, the agents might call each other’s bluff.

But at least three times this year, clients of Warren Davis, a real estate consultant at Urban Real Estate in Chicago, have lost deals to offers that he thought were just bluffs. Now Davis has taken to role-playing with clients, pretending that they find a property and training them to make a decision quickly.

“No one likes to rush,” Davis said. “I tell them when you find a good opportunity, you have to pounce. You can’t hesitate. When you go back and see it under contract, you go through an emotional loss.”

Some of the quickened sales pace is seasonal, but it’s also because of a lack of inventory. Housing inventory in July was nearly 24 percent lower than the same month last year, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Some homeowners who would like to sell their homes can’t do so because they are underwater, owing more on their mortgage than the property is worth. Others may be waiting for true appreciation in the market to net a real profit.

The median time a home was listed for sale was 69 days in July, a 29.6 percent plunge from the same month just a year ago, according to data from the National Association of Realtors.

“The serious buyers are all looking at the same thing,” said Mark Reitman, regional manager at Redfin. “A couple of years ago, there was more inventory so there was more choice.”

Some listings come onto the market and are gone within days. A Naperville, Ill., homeowner let Kay Russell, an agent at Keller Williams Fox Valley, place his home on the multiple-listing service on a recent Saturday evening but didn’t want any showings until Monday so he could finish a few last projects.

“My phone starting ringing off the wall Sunday,” Russell said. “People were hopping all over their agents, saying, ‘We want to see that house.’ ”