Heather Smith and her husband, Jay DeChesere, posted their three-bedroom, two-bathroom home in Wilmington’s Pine Valley area for sale online on a Sunday evening.
Within about two weeks, they had three offers.
The house was listed at $305,000, and the couple posted the home themselves on Zillow, Craigslist and Facebook. They accepted one of the three offers (amount undisclosed) and are now in the due diligence phase of the process.
“We were pleasantly surprised [to get offers] in two weeks,” Smith said.
For homes in the Wilmington area, especially in the city of Wilmington and in New Hanover County, the days on market (DOM) statistic has been decreasing in recent years, particularly for homes at certain price points in desirable areas.
From 2012 to 2017, the median DOM in New Hanover decreased from 49 days to 26 days, according to the Cape Fear Area Housing Economic Climate Report produced this year by Cape Fear Realtors (CFR) and the Wilmington-Cape Fear Home Builders Association.
DOM is frequently used as one of the signs of a housing market’s strength or weakness. It’s also one of the indicators of whether a market is a buyer’s or seller’s, said Clif Cheek, a Realtor and president of the Brunswick County Association of Realtors.
“A buyer’s market would typically see a higher days-on-market just due to there being more inventory, more things to choose from, and so buyers would typically be able to negotiate a better price,” he said.
Generally, once it takes about six months for homes to sell on average, that’s a balanced market, Cheek said.
“Once you see the days on market at less than six months, that typically means there’s less inventory … It’swidely considered at that point a seller’s market where you start to see the properties sell faster. They hit the market and sell quicker, and they also typically see a higher price than they would in a buyer’s market,” Cheek said.
It’s all about supply and demand, he said. And Realtors say inventory has been shrinking throughout the region.
In May, CFR statistics showed that the median days on market for New Hanover, Brunswick and Pender counties dropped five days, from 37 to 32, compared to the same month last year. In New Hanover alone, the DOM stayed the same from May 2017 to May 2018 at 21 days, according to CFR, but showed a 22 percent decrease between May 2016 and May 2017.
“Homes are selling a lot quicker now than they have in the past few years, and I think that’s just due to consumer confidence being higher, the real estate market being stronger and people looking to move to the area either for jobs or finally realizing their dreams of retirement,” Cheek said.
One of the challenges lies in dealing with the limited inventory that can come with fewer days on market.
Months of supply, an indicator that shows how many months it would take to sell all of the homes in a market’s current inventory, slipped dramatically in May this year compared to May 2017 in all three of the region’s counties. In New Hanover, the indicator dropped 17 percent, 27 percent in Brunswick and nearly 30 percent in Pender.
“We have a lot of buyers come in from other areas purchasing homes … It’s hard to get them in town to see a home. It may be gone by the time they’re able to schedule a trip,” Cheek said.
That complication is more commonplace in some areas of the region.
“I think in Wilmington it’s happened a lot more than it has in my marketplace down in Ocean Isle Beach. Wilmington is a stronger market due to the industry and jobs available there, and so properties go a lot quicker, which makes it tough because buyers need to be ready to go preview a home on a moment’s notice and go ahead and have their financing in place, be ready to make an offer and make it attractive for the sellers to work with them because it may be that they have multiple offers coming in,” Cheek said.
Buyers might not have as much time to evaluate properties in those cases, he said.
On the flip side, the longer a home sits on the market, the more a seller might have to consider a price reduction.
“Pricing a home properly at the beginning and using a Realtor to find out what that marketplace is and getting it listed properly is of extreme importance,” Cheek said. “Typically we see sellers that price a home properly end up getting more in the end for their homes.”
Smith said she and DeChesere were happy with all three of the offers that came in from their efforts. They decided to sell their house because they are building a new home on Whiskey Creek off Cabbage Inlet Lane that includes a large art studio for artist and architect DeChesere. They wanted to sell their home themselves, Smith said, to save money on commission fees and because their home has a lot of unique environmentally friendly features.
“It’s basically a green home with rainwater harvesting and solar panels and geothermal [HVAC system] … It’s just a unique home, and we thought we could better represent it,” Smith said.
Not every home sells as fast as Smith’s and DeChesere’s did. Cheek said some homeowners trying to sell older houses that haven’t been updated could run into challenges if buyers compare them to new homes on the market.
“Buyers are looking at new homes, new roofs, new HVAC, all the mechanicals of a home that is maybe a month old, and then they’ve got a home that’s 15 years old and that home may be in need of a new roof, in need of a new HVAC, in need of a new hot water heater,” Cheek said. “You’ve got a lot of other costs that you might have to be putting into that home to bring it up to current market standards … which is why it is best to talk with a Realtor and find out what those items are so that you’re getting the best advice in moving forward in selling your home.”
The longer a home stays on the market, the harder it might be to sell in certain cases.
Cheek said, “It’s just human nature to say, ‘Well, why hasn’t anybody purchased this? What’s wrong with it?”