Local realtors share insight on availability and climbing interest rates
By Catherine Kirk
The Bolivar Bullet
Mortgage rates have been spiking over seven percent for the first time in 20 years in some parts of the country. Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the U.S. housing market has been on a bit of a roller coaster ride with climbing and dropping interest rates.
While some realty experts have differing views on the current state of the housing market and exactly where mortgage rates will land this year, they all agree that people shouldn’t expect to see historic lows anytime soon.
In Bolivar County, where houses are seeing average interest rates anywhere between five and seven percent, realtors have shared some of their perspectives and thoughts on the state of the housing market.
Anita Griffith of Griffith Real Estate & Appraisal said the housing market would be good if there were more homes to sell.
“We are short on listings and we have been since the Covid situation began. We really haven’t picked up from then to the amount of listings we need. We know who’s got what listed and there’s just not enough listings overall,” she said. “In Cleveland, it used to be nothing for a group of realtors to have over a hundred houses listed for sale.”
Griffith said it is not as much a seller’s market as it was during the peak of the pandemic and during the time when interest rates were between 2 and 3 percent.
“(Interest rates) are double that now, or more. It’s made a big difference in what people will pay for houses. When interest rates were really low, people could pay top, top dollar for a home because they could afford the payments. But now that the payments are significantly higher, they’re getting a lot more cautious about what they spend,” she said.
In order for the market to get back to where it was three years ago, Griffith said it’s going to take some significant changes.
For anyone looking to purchase a home, Griffith said they need to be sure to work with a realtor that has the experience needed to advise them properly about what they’re doing, especially if they’re new to purchasing a house.
“Don’t go with one of the people you see on television. Go with a local lender and there are several that are very well trained and can get some good deals. There are different kinds of loans available out there now, which is an advantage,” she said.
On the flip side, Griffith said anyone looking to sell a house also needs to find a reputable broker to assist with market analysis to determine what the house should sell for.
“You overprice your house and you hurt yourself because the first few people who look at it aren’t going to pay that price and then you’ve lost some good prospects. If something is really overpriced, purchasers don’t tend to want to make that lower offer because they don’t want to insult the seller,” she said. “At the same time, they’re not going to pay that high asking price necessarily. You need a realtor that can give a seller a good opinion of what it will sell for. These realtors that have experience are going to look at what things have sold for recently and they’re going to look at the market and financing and lots of other things. They’re going to give the potential seller the best information on listing their house and the best way of marketing it.”
Libbi Logan of Partnership Properties said Bolivar County’s housing market is still holding strong.
“I think the housing market is still very strong. We’re seeing new buyers both locally and new people moving in from out of town. It is always encouraging when businesses are expanding and hiring people to move here from other areas,” she said, noting they are in a typical cycle for the local market.
“Our market rarely fluctuates with the same huge swings that the national market does. The last two years has been unusual because there was such a high demand with very few homes for sale, but I feel that we’re back to a somewhat normal pace in our market. I think it’s still really good, and it’s still really a seller’s market because there is unmet demand in a lot of price ranges,” she said.
Interest rates are higher than they were a year ago, but Logan said when looking at interest rates historically, the current rates are still fairly reasonable and it is a good time to buy a home.
“Our market is typically very steady. We generally see a very steady growth year after year, on average. I’ve been doing this 25 years and this feels like a very typical January. We saw a very typical fall, so there’s nothing extreme going on right now. The past two years were a little extreme, so I think people who have not been around the block maybe are feeling like the world’s falling apart. For those of us who have been through multiple economic cycles, this market is a more sustainable pace for our small town than the last two years,” she said.
Whether someone is looking to purchase or sell a home, Logan said it’s best to use a professional with good experience. For those looking to save money in the process, Logan said there are several ways to do just that.
“There are lots of ways to save money if you’re looking to buy as far as connecting with a great lender that has a program that’s going to be tailor made to you and you’re not going to get that with a big national lender. I can really look at what you’re trying to accomplish and point you to a lender that can help you do that,” she said. “If you’re selling, I can help you figure out what’s the best way to maximize the value of your house and market it properly. It may be home improvements, it may be staging, or increase of curb appeal. I also feel like lighting and listing photography can really make or break a house. I am really passionate about taking proper photos that highlight your home’s best features.”
Tracey Bell, managing broker for Tom Smith Land and Homes, said the housing market has seen interest rates rise over past two years, but she also hasn’t seen anything alarming.
“The housing market is still moving forward here in the Delta. Interest rates have gone up from the past two years but we are still at a 30-year average,” said Bell. “Everyone that I have spoken with in the real estate industry is all for buying the house now and refinancing when interest rates go down. With that being said, you should ask for a no-prepayment penalty.”