Inventory, pandemic challenge homebuyers in seller’s market

Steve and Kaitlen Gerace and their daughter, Gemma bought their house in Kettering four months ago. The couple said it is a challenge to find a home in Dayton's sellers'  market, but added equity in the house they sold. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

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Steve and Kaitlen Gerace and their daughter, Gemma bought their house in Kettering four months ago. The couple said it is a challenge to find a home in Dayton's sellers' market, but added equity in the house they sold. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

As one real estate pro puts it, ‘Deals are falling apart left and right.’

Across the Miami Valley, the demand for homes is there, but the listings often are not.

Therein lies the frustration for Dayton-area homebuyers and the opportunity for sellers, as a pandemic soon to enter its third year continues to complicate the regional housing market and beyond.

The Dayton Realtors trade organization saw 19,626 home listings in 2021, a 1.5% increase over 2020′s 19,336 listings.

For December 2021, listings actually fell a bit, to 944 from 947 in December 2020.

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The result: A classic seller’s market.

Chuck and Celeste Scheibert can attest to how such a market can act as a double-edged sword.

The couple sold their Washington Twp. home, where they had lived for 17 years, in one day March 20, 2020.

That was the easy part. Finding their new home, also in Washington Twp., required more than a year of diligence and patience. They finally found that new home in the fall of 2021.

“It was very difficult,” Celeste Scheibert said.

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The Dayton real estate market is a sellers' market. The availability of homes and the pandemic have created an opportunity for sellers. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Credit: JIM NOELEKR

The Dayton real estate market is a sellers' market. The availability of homes and the pandemic have created an opportunity for sellers. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Credit: JIM NOELEKR

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The Dayton real estate market is a sellers' market. The availability of homes and the pandemic have created an opportunity for sellers. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Credit: JIM NOELEKR

Credit: JIM NOELEKR

Billie Duncan-Hart, a Coldwell Banker realtor and 2022 president of Dayton Realtors, worked with the Scheiberts as the couple found themselves house-hunting from a 1,200-square-foot temporary apartment.

“Inventory is a huge, huge issue,” Duncan-Hart said.

In a mid-January interview, Duncan-Hart said there were fewer than 1,000 homes then listed for sale in the Dayton market, a surprisingly low number.

Homes are moving, she and other real estate agents said. But the search for the next home offers would-be buyers limited options.

“We’ve had to work a lot harder than we’ve ever had to work to make sure our clients’ needs are being met,” said Greg Blatt, of Keller Williams Advisors, and Dayton Realtors’ 2022 president-elect.

A seller’s market

Even though the Scheiberts were cash buyers, they still had challenges finding the right house, Duncan-Hart said. The couple had particular desires, at first looking for a newer home with a small yard and a more open floor plan.

“There was so little of that coming up,” Duncan-Hart said.

Like most other would-be home buyers navigating this kind of market, the Scheiberts had to adjust their criteria and manage expectations.

“In a way, it was a good thing for us,” Celeste Scheibert said. “We weren’t ready for a patio home.”

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Home sales in the Dayton region

Home sales in the Dayton region

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Home sales in the Dayton region

She estimates Duncan-Hart showed her and her husband some 100 homes, pushing through an inventory that COVID-19 had all but shut down in the spring of 2020 and after.

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That sometimes meant dealing with sellers who weren’t shy about working from a position of strength. Duncan-Hart recalled sellers who would not agree to foot the bill for roof repairs or other accommodations. “Because it’s a seller’s market, the seller was like, ‘No, we’re not doing that,’” she said.

“This is happening every day on almost every deal,” Duncan-Hart said before adding: “It is not fun being a realtor right now.”

For all of 2021, 17,618 homes were sold in the Dayton area, up 1.94% from the 17,283 homes sold in 2020, according to Dayton Realtors data.

In that environment, prices are rising. The median sale price in 2021 was $185,000, up from 2020′s median of $170,000, according to Dayton Realtors.

Rising mortgage rates might soon offer another housing market complication. Central bankers in December predicted they would raise interest rates three times this year in response to inflation.

In a bid to beat those rates, many hopeful buyers are racing to get into the market. Last week, total mortgage application volume rose 2.3% compared with the previous week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s seasonally adjusted index.

Celeste recalled believing home listings would bounce back in the spring of 2021, a year after the pandemic was first truly felt domestically. But that bountiful new inventory never emerged.

Instead, the hard work for the Scheiberts continued.

‘Deals are falling apart’

Steve Gerace and his wife Kaitlen sold their Fairfield Twp. home in Butler County last year. They found that the price of the house increased in value $80,000 in the three years they spent there.

“That part of it was pretty nice,” he said.

The Geraces then bought a home a Kettering. “That process was a little bit more tricky,” he said.

Searching in the Oakwood and Kettering areas, the couple sought a “turnkey” house — renovated and ready for a move in — under $300,000.

Inventory was an issue.

“I don’t want to say we settled,” Gerace said. “But there were a few things that we definitely had to do to it to make it to our liking. And we’re still working through that process.”

Duncan-Hart’s advice to buyers: Save more for a down payment before shopping, if you can. Have your financing in order. Be ready to make an offer on a desired home immediately.

Be flexible with repair expectations or demands, she also advises. And don’t be afraid to have your agent put you forward as a “back-up offer” if your offer is rejected.

“Deals are falling apart left and right,” Duncan-Hart said.

And get pre-approved by a reputable local lender whom realtors know and trust, she also said.

Blatt advises clients to work with lenders who know how to get them conditionally approved. That means having the lender gather all needed data — credit checks, property records, income verification, underwriting and more, getting prospective buyers positioned for a quick purchase.

Finding and buying that next home should not be an emotional trauma for buyers, if the process is done right, Blatt believes.

“Don’t be afraid of the market,” he said. “Every market has its opportunities and every market has its challenges.

In the fall last year, the Scheiberts finally found their next home in the new Trails of Saddle Creek subdivision, off Clyo Road.

“It feels amazing,” Celeste said. “It is going to do the job right now for what we need in our lives.”

“Change is good,” she said before adding: “And we have a new best friend, Billie.”

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