First Five Months is in the Books

After what seemed like a slow start to our spring market, real estate sales have taken off since the first of April. However, not all price points have seen the frenzy of activity that the lower price points have.

Real Estate Activity Begins at The Low-End Market First

A typical spring market leads first with activity in the lowest price points. First-time home buyers start their search early in the year when the winter weather first breaks. Savvy home sellers that get their homes on the market early, especially in a low inventory market will benefit from quick sales. In turn, they become move-up home buyers. In a perfect real estate economy, this “trickle up” economic process leads to more and more buying and selling activity until the market peaks as we move into the summer months. This is the point where sales begin to slow just a bit due to family vacations, summer activities and in Iowa… the summer heat.

Weather, Mortgage Interest Rates and Consumer Confidence

2018 has not necessarily been a typical year. First of all, winter lingered, and many would say overstayed its welcome. In the previous three years, the initial home buyer wave was out in full force as early as mid-January. This year the weather kept many of them inside as well as the entry level home sellers signs out of the yard until March. Mortgage Interest Rates have also been on the rise this year which marked the end of the record low rates in the 3% ranges. A bright spot over previous years has been the overall economy. Unemployment is at record lows and many employers have given raises or bonuses. The Federal tax reform that takes affect this year should be good for real estate sellers and buyers moving forward with many of the tax benefits being left alone due to local, state and national lobbying efforts.

Comparing 2018 to 2017 Through May

  • For sale home inventory levels are up over 6½% compared to the same time last year. This would make some think that more sellers are entering the market. We are actually slightly behind last year in the number of homes added to the market. The ever so small build up is a result of the later start of home buyers hitting the streets this year.
  • The number of homes in Pending status (offers accepted and working through the inspection/appraisal/underwriting process) is down around 10% from last year.
  • Closed sales are closely mirroring last year’s numbers, which at first glance would not make sense, if listing inventory is up and pending sales are down. What is happening is that the delayed start of the spring market has allowed lenders and appraisers to shorten the time from offer to closing, thereby keeping the pending transaction count lower as the time from offer acceptance to close shortens.
  • The overall price of homes for sale is up by only 2% over last year with the median list price of $295,000 (heavily influenced by new construction pricing), however buyers are spending more this year with the median sale price up over 9½% at $206,000 vs $187,250 the same time last year.
  • The Median Days on Market is down to 20 days.
  • At the current pace of sales, if no new inventory were added to the market, we would be out of homes to sell in just over 2 Months.
  • Not all home sales make it from offer acceptance to closing. Whether it is buyer financing, inspection issues or appraisals, 1 in 6 homes that go under contract fall through and come back on the market.

Looking Forward

Time will tell if we are on track to meet last year’s sale units. The rise in home prices as well as higher mortgage interest rates will be a true test of the strength of the local economy. Homes priced above the $400,000 mark so far in 2018 are not experiencing the same list price increases over 2017 and time on the market is slower compared to the under $400,000 price point.

Les Sulgrove is a Broker with VIA Group REALTORS and is a 25-year veteran selling real estate in Des Moines. Follow Les on Twitter @lessulgrove or on Facebook at You can also view this data along with more real estate market statistics at