All in the Timing... of the Market. Or not.
It's been a while. We've been busy! You know about our new company, so SO happy about our move to Triplemint. I also chopped my hair. No, I didn't do it at home. I went to a professional. Shawn gave me a very nice trim, but I was happy the salons opened when they did. And... we moved! Yes, we took the plunge and are now homeowners ourselves. Ooooh, I understand the stress of the lending process in a whole new way. Now for the big confession: We moved to New Jersey. I know. We're such Harlem advocates, not only did we leave the hood, we left the city?! Don't worry, I'm not going anywhere. If anything, I'm digging my heels even deeper into my city. We just chose the commuter life. Suburbia has been in the works for quite awhile. There was a 2am admission, whispered over our sleeping baby (way back when he was tiny), in one of those rare moments when he actually slept, that he should have neighborhood friends on bikes and a yard. We had close to that in Harlem, but felt priced out of the amount of space we wanted. So the search for the new neighborhood began.
The new digs! Halloween decorations went up before we were out of boxes.
We researched everything within 45 minutes of the city. We targeted Summer 2020 to move, hoping to time the market. Yes, you are supposed to laugh at that. But at the time, it made sense! Two years before, we looked at our finances, set a goal, and thought that would be the best time to buy because it's an election year. Historically, that means buyers are hesitant, people don't know what will happen in the fall, there should be less buyers looking and the market should be slightly down. Big sigh. The pandemic hit, prices went down in New York while they skyrocketed in the suburbs.
So what to do? Many would say the smart thing would have been to figure out another year or two in Harlem, take advantage of record low rents, and save up for a bigger purchase down the road. But both Shawn and I cringed at the thought. We were in desperate need of more space. Shawn was doing Zoom conferences standing in our bedroom with a naked, potty-training toddler running through and a dog scratching at the door behind him. We would have had to move somewhere, to then move again later. With a toddler. And the anticipation of getting settled in a forever home was already built up. We saved, we hit our goals, we were ready.
As real estate agents, it killed us to not do the "smart thing". But I learned a valuable lesson: Even if you can't time the market, you can still be smart in the process and end up with a smart purchase. Prices went up, so we could afford less house. We had narrowed the search to about five towns. Which one would give us the most space for the money, had the lowest taxes, and was still in a good school zone? We focused our search on South Orange. We thought we could get more value out of a fixer-upper for a bit, but the ones we saw would have been too big a project. And all this while, every house we looked at had multiple offers after the first weekend of showings. Then we found the dream home. I knew from the pictures we were in trouble. I didn't say anything to Shawn and watched his face when we walked in. Oh, yeah. Trouble.
But we stayed smart. Ok, some of our conversations on what to offer were a little off the rails, but our actions were smart. We stayed on budget. We put together a very well-rounded offer, with a carefully crafted cover letter and many added assurances for the seller. We also found out that the seller was selling before they wanted to move, to use the money to finish building a new home. We offered to rent back to them so they wouldn't have to move until their new house was finished. Our offer was not the highest but it proved to be the smartest and therefore the best. We are so happy that we didn't force timing the market. The timing was right for us.
Shawn and Ollie trick-or-treating on our block
Now if you are a buyer in New York right now, you can time the market AND be smart in the process. Double win. But what if you're a seller? The market was down pre-pandemic, so you were waiting to sell, but now selling does not seem like it will be "smart" for some time. Yet this is your life and sometimes you can't time it. What do you do? I just put a property on the market the last week of October. We knew we had to price correctly to get a sale before the holidays or another lockdown. Pre-pandemic I thought the property value was $995,000. The market was a bit stale, there were lots of properties sitting, and no buyers. One might think it's gotta be much less now in a pandemic, gotta wait for awhile. But there are a lot of buyers out there at the moment, and if you look at the surrounding inventory of available properties, there is nothing like this unit—a condo with a park view on CPW. A lot of buyers plus a rare apartment, equals a higher price. I listed at just under $1.1M and I have a happy client with signed contracts 20 days later.
Smarts trump timing, every time. Of course, look at what the market is doing, it's part of the information you gather. But when planning for your home, timing should depend on your needs and your life. Don't force it, one way or the other.
Wanting to buy or sell, or both? We've got smart ways to do it. Interested in suburban living?! We also have a new wealth of knowledge there. Reach out. Happy weekend, NYC! Stay healthy and safe.