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Home Sellers Can’t Be Greedy Anymore

As escalating mortgage rates and home prices shrink the pool of buyers, help your sellers understand why they’ll likely need to readjust their expectations.

June 21, 2022

Key takeaways:

  • Today’s sellers are seeing the market cool considerably from the homebuying frenzy just months ago and need greater education in order to price their home appropriately so it won’t linger.
  • It's still a seller's market, but buyers are regaining negotiation leverage.
  • Those who are relocating or need to sell quickly may not have time to test a high listing price.

Home sellers had gotten used to setting sky-high asking prices, and voracious buyers were eagerly bidding them up even higher—until now. As the market shifts more in buyers’ favor, over 25% of homes on the market have experienced a price drop as of mid-June, according to data from Altos Research. In some areas of the country, price reductions are even more commonplace--most notably in Provo, Utah, where nearly half of homes on the market had a price reduction in May. Redfin data pinpoints other cities where 40% or more of listed homes are experiencing price drops:

  • Tacoma, Wash.
  • Denver
  • Salt Lake City
  • Sacramento, Calif.
  • Boise, Idaho
  • Ogden, Utah
  • Portland, Ore.
  • Indianapolis
  • Philadelphia

Rumblings of a housing slowdown are growing as higher mortgage rates and double-digit annual home price gains deal a blow to buyers’ budgets. Housing analysts are warning home sellers that they may need to readjust their expectations, but many are still holding on to hope for a big resale profit, after seeing their neighbors generate a bidding war and sell in mere hours in a bidding war for well over the listing price just months ago. In the spring, nearly 6,000 homes sold for $100,000 or more above asking price, according to Redfin data.

“Sellers could do no wrong over the past two years and have become overconfident,” says James McGrath, a real estate broker and co-founder of New York–based real estate brokerage Yoreevo. “They could take the price their neighbor just got, bump it up 5% and still have a line out the door. But with the surge in mortgage rates, those days are over.” Some home sellers are now having to reduce their price 5% below nearby comps to sell quickly, McGrath adds.

Economists are quick to note that overall home prices are not likely to fall precipitously. In fact, the national median home price reached an all-time high of $447,000 in June, according to realtor.com®. An increase in listings for larger homes may be skewing that figure even higher, realtor.com® economists note. Housing inventory is slowly increasing, giving home buyers more selections in many markets and home sellers some extra competition. Meanwhile, buyers are showing greater concern about affordability.

Realigning Expectations

Even when the housing market begins to soften, sellers tend to hold on to the original price they had in mind, McGrath says. “Only after sitting on the market for a few months do they acknowledge their expectations may need to come down,” McGrath says. “Realistic sellers will get ahead of their neighbors with realistic prices to sell first.”

Real estate pros may need to have more upfront conversations with sellers about the list price so a later price reduction isn’t necessary. “Agents may have to do a better job in the current market of educating their sellers,” says Tansey Soderstrom, president of the Orlando Regional REALTOR® Association in Florida. “Homeowners can’t just sell for double what they paid for it anymore. Some sellers may have shown up late to that party.”

Still, some sellers may insist on a certain price against their agent’s advice, risking a feeling of shame if their home lingers on the market. “The pricing will greatly depend on how motivated the seller is,” Soderstrom says, adding that though the market has weakened, it’s still tilted toward sellers. “Some sellers may want to throw out a high price just to see if they can get it. But that strategy is likely different than a person who is relocating or someone who needs to sell quickly.”

Homeowners looking to sell fast need to carefully review competitive prices in the current market with their agent and be prepared when it may not exactly match up with their expectations.

Why Buyers Are Growing Wearier

Higher mortgage rates are shrinking the buyer pool, says Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of REALTORS®. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage jumped from 2.93% one year ago to 5.78% as of the week ending June 16, according to Freddie Mac. On a $300,000 mortgage, the average monthly payment has increased from $1,265 last December to about $1,800 at today’s rate, Yun says.

Consumer confidence drives real estate activity, and with inflation at a 40-year high, stock market uncertainty and higher mortgage rates, more buyers are getting priced out, McGrath says. “Even if they can afford it, a buyer isn’t going to make one of the largest purchases of their life if they’re not confident and comfortable with their financial and employment situation,” he adds. As such, “smart sellers will reduce their pricing expectations and sell quickly.”

But home buyers haven’t abandoned the housing market. Demand is still strong and likely will remain so given improving inventory, which particularly will help first-time buyers, says Glenn Brunker, president of the mortgage servicer Ally Home. “Strong homebuyer demand will continue to support higher home price appreciation going forward, but likely at a much slower level,” Brunker says. “Certainly, we’re still in a seller’s market, but the buyer is starting to have more control and negotiating ability than they did six or 12 months ago. We’re seeing healthy examples of customers not buying as frantically, like ‘sight unseen’ offers or waiving their appraisal or home inspection. Those practices are beginning to stall, and it’s a return to a more normalized market with a more logical buying process.”