Buyer beware: Boise housing is hot!

The shrinking real estate inventory is forcing prospective home buyers to make snap decisions.

zkyle@idahostatesman.comMay 17, 2013 

housing, new house, residential, market, offer

John Reusser finally found the perfect home for himself and his son, Sascha Katinka, 7, after looking for almost a year. “There was always something not quite right,” he says. When he found the right house, at the end of North 33rd Street, he and real estate agent Jill Giese put together an offer within 24 hours. He even wrote a letter to the seller telling them why he was the best choice among offers.

KATHERINE JONES — kjones@idahostatesman.com Buy Photo

— John Reusser would have preferred to take a few days to consider making an offer on a house in Boise's North End.

But nobody has that kind of time in the Boise housing market anymore.

So when Reusser toured a home on North 33rd Street on May 2 matching his wish list and price range around $175,000, he and his real estate agent made an offer that night at 11:30 p.m.

The house had been listed for one day. It received two other offers that day and two more the next.

A small housing inventory has made for an ultracompetitive market. There were 55 percent fewer active Ada County listings in April compared with April 2009, according to Intermountain Multiple Listing Service.

The average number of days on the market dropped from 94 to 55. But even the smaller number is misleadingly high, said Leah Morgan, a Coldwell Banker real estate agent in Boise. That's because homes awaiting approval for short sales - when lenders agree to accept less than homeowners owe on their mortgages - are often active listings for months, driving up the days-on-market average. Morgan said the real number for "nondistressed" homes under $300,000 is probably 10 days or less, and many homes receive offers in the first days after listing.

"That wasn't happening a few years ago," Morgan said. "Then, (buyers) had plenty of time to look at all homes on the market. Several thousand more homes were on the market. You had some choices."

Reusser had made several other full-price offers during his search. He knew he had to pounce.

"It's such a big decision on so many levels that it's a little spooky," Reusser said. "But if you find a place you like, or at least you like enough, right now you have to move on it and hope you get it. It's kind of a paradoxical decision. You have to make a quick decision on something that will affect you for years."

Janelle Smith told a similar house-hunting story. She and her husband, Robb Dye, scrambled to make quick offers before closing on a home on Palmatier Way in the Harris Ranch neighborhood.

The couple submitted an offer on another house the day before it was listed. They were outbid before nightfall.

"When you are in a situation where the market is so competitive, you get caught up in the frenzy of it," Smith said. "You feel like you have to make that decision. You can't really sit on it."

LATE-NIGHT OFFERS

House hunters enjoyed a buyer's market after the housing bubble burst in 2008.

Buyers were rewarded for patience in the following years as a glut of homes sat on the market with plummeting values. Properties distressed by foreclosure or short sale further depressed the market.

There were 4,931 Ada County homes on the market in April 2008, according to the listing service. That had shriveled to 1,866 in April 2013, in part because distressed properties dropped from 30 percent of the market in April 2012 to 17 percent last month.

Keller Williams estimated in April 2011 it would have taken 4.7 months to sell all of the homes for sale in Ada County if no additional homes were added to the inventory. It was 2.6 months last month.

The median Ada County home price increased 18 percent in that time to $187,000.

"Now I'm writing offers at 10:30 at night, because if you wait until morning, the house will be gone," Giese said. "That's how crazy it is."

SKIPPED SHOWERS

Real estate agents are running ragged trying to keep up with the new market.

Giese received word one recent morning that a couple she represented wanted to make an offer on a home they viewed an hour earlier. Knowing the home had already received two offers, Giese skipped her morning shower, headed to the office and pounded out the paperwork.

She had a brunch appointment with a friend. She met her clients at the restaurant. She hashed out the details with the couple as her friend waited at the next table.

Giese didn't skip showers two years ago.

The schedule contortions started after Boise switched to a seller's market within the last six months.

"I kind of wish Realtors would call a truce and say nobody works past 7, and nobody works on Sundays," Giese said. "Everything is happening so quickly right now. You have to be available all the time."

Giese tells her clients to line up preapproved financing and to make themselves available to view houses as soon as possible once new listings are posted.

Sometimes, Giese digs deeper into her bag of tricks.

Knowing Reusser's offer was similar to another for the home on North 33rd, Giese instructed her client to write a letter to the owner selling himself. In the letter, Reusser explained he is a single father of a 7-year old boy, that he's the director of the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline, that he's a North End native trying to come home, and that he always dreamed of living next to a park. He included a photo of himself and his son and dog.

He said he laid it on thick in the letter.

"'If I get the honor of having my offer accepted, I'll be a good steward of the property, a good neighbor,' etc., etc., etc.," Ruesser said. "I felt a little like a pitchman."

Zach Kyle: 377-6464

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