October 10, 2016

How to navigate today's hot housing market


Our local housing market crossed a threshold in April. It was the 12th straight month when there were more closing than there were the same month before the Great Recession. It was also the fourth time closings have moved past the 500 units a month mark since the Northeast Tennessee Association of Realtors launched its monthly Trends Reports.

Simply put, we became a hot market in May last year, and the pace has not let up.

Since most consumers pay attention to and rely heavily on what they read and hear about the housing market on mass media it's helpful to benchmark that national information with local market conditions.

The latest report from says the 2016 home buying season is in full swing, with homes in April moving 8 percent more quickly than last year. According to NETAR's Trends Report, homes are moving 9 percent faster here in Northeast Tennessee.   

According to, listing prices continued to hit record highs in April. The median priced home was listed at $247,300 - 9 percent higher than one year ago.

Locally the median listing price was $160,000 - 3.2 percent higher than April last year and the highest in the past 13 months. The difference is the high volume of lower priced, thus more affordable, homes sold here in Northeast Tennessee. 

Another variation is inventory. According to, for sale housing inventory is increasing on a monthly basis but remains lower than one year ago.

Locally, at the end of April active listings were 20 percent lower than last year and new listings were flat. The local active listing inventory last month was the lowest it has been in the past 13 months. While sales increased at a double-digit pace during eight of the past 13 months new listings were added at an average rate of 2.3 percent a month.

All of this begs the question: How can buyers navigate this market for the best deal?

The first step is to get a good Realtor. In a hot market, you want the best agent you can hire in your corner. Interview until you find one where the chemistry is right. Don’t be afraid to ask tough questions about what they have accomplished and who they worked with. Check their references.  Then, after you've selected one, commit to them that you will work exclusively with them. That's important because agents work on commission. If they don’t secure a sale they don't get paid, and a good agent puts in a lot of work helping his or her client find and negotiate a deal.

Have your financing locked in before you begin shopping and stay within the limit of how much mortgage you can afford.  This goes to being nimble when it comes time to make an offer. Sellers can sometimes be swayed by a quick closing that is set up by buyers who have already crossed all their t's and dotted the i's.

Everyone has a dream home. Not everyone finds exactly what they want. Confide in your Realtor about concessions you're willing to make.  It will make the process  and relationship a lot smoother.

Once you find a home that you're serious about get a pre-inspection. It's not uncommon in hot markets for sellers to reject requests to fix minor problems. A pre-inspection will give you the information and confidence you need to formulate the best offer.

Above all resolve to be patient. Sellers today are getting more offers and have more choices. Don't let a string of rejections grind you down to the point where your offers are too high, or you give in to the temptation of making an offer on something you don't really like.

Despite more competition and a tighter market, there are good buys on the local market, and housing here in Northeast Tennessee is a lot more affordable that it is in other areas. Persistence and a partnership with a professional Realtor also always pays off in the long run.

Marsha Stowell is the 2016 president of the Northeast Tennessee Association of Realtors. The real estate education and trade group is the voice for real estate in the Tri-Cities and has over 1,000 local Realtor® members and almost 60 affiliates.