BY NICHOLAS PUGLIESE
810-452-2601 • NPUGLIESE@MIHOMEPAPER.COM
LAPEER COUNTY — On the surface, it may seem like a risky proposition to sell your house during political turmoil, a global pandemic and general economic uncertainty.
But a few key ingredients are keeping the real estate market afloat, and in Lapeer County, it’s “on fire.”
That’s according to Alex Lengemann of Imlay City’s Realty Volution. Lengemann has been selling properties in the area for more than two decades, and he said he’s never seen conditions so favorable for a seller. Those two key ingredients? Interest rates and inventory. And for the latter, the lack thereof.
Sharon LaFrance of State Wide Real Estate in Almont is seeing a similar trend, especially for listings in the $150,000 to $300,000 range. LaFrance said the interest rates, which are currently reaching historic lows below 3%, are “to everyone’s advantage being down,” and are enticing sellers to list their houses in what might otherwise be an unwelcoming environment. “Right now, it’s a seller’s market,” she said. “Generally speaking, sellers are getting multiple offers, all of them over the asking price, and a lot of them are cash offers.”
The low interest rates are key, she said. “Everyone wants to sell,” she said. “You can put your house on the market and it’s going to sell.”
The lack of inventory in the area has done nothing to curb the number of buyers who are searching for a new home, especially in the $150-250 thousand range, said Lengemann. Properties are being sold “in days,” with bidding wars and cash offers “very common,” he said, partly because there are so few viable options for people in that price range. “Everyone’s all going after the same couple houses, driving the prices up,” he said. “Something comes up, and it’s gone.”
The limited inventory is felt even more acutely in lower price ranges, said LaFrance, and while high-end properties topping half-million or more might linger on the market, starter homes and properties below $150,000 just aren’t there. “Nobody’s listing under $100,000 — if you’re looking for a fixer-upper, good luck,” she said. “Even fixer-uppers are going for a lot more.”
Lengemann said that with the pandemic, he expected the housing market to slow down, but it hasn’t. It’s actually sped up. But with so much uncertainty on the horizon, it’s impossible to predict if current trends will continue. “With a second wave (of COVID-19), possible lockdowns, foreclosures, we might start to see more inventory, and that might change the mindset of buyers,” he said. “They might think ‘why would I pay $200,000 for this house when there are houses for $150,000 out there now?’”
The pandemic affected most industries, and the real estate market is no different. Just as the internet changed the way buyers seek out prospective houses, the pandemic has forced sellers — and their agents — to rethink how they provide access to their properties. At the beginning of the pandemic, there was plenty of trepidation regarding allowing a home to be seen in-person. “I had my first ever experience with Zoom (teleconference software),” said LaFrance. “Sellers walked around to do a virtual tour, zooming in on a cabinet or a sump pump, and it worked out.” LaFrance said she, sellers and buyers donned masks, gloves, and even booties to see houses in-person. “We just have to learn to do it virtually,” she said.