In early June, real estate broker Tom McCormick rang up the listing agent for a three-bedroom, one-bath colonial-style home in Wauwatosa. The owner of Exit Realty Horizons in Milwaukee wanted to schedule a showing for his client, who was looking for a house. To McCormick’s surprise, he learned that he was far from the first broker to call about the property.
“I’ve got 25 showings for that house today,” said the listing agent. And the pace hardly slowed. McCormick performed a bleary-eyed 8:30 a.m. showing for his client, “and I was the third Realtor to show it that morning.” In short order, McCormick submitted an offer beating the listing price, but that was too little, too late. Somebody else had already secured a sale.
Agents’ heads were spinning earlier this summer, just like McCormick’s, at the news of lightning-fast home sales closing around the metro area. In a post-bubble market, it’s been common in recent years for a listing to remain active for about 100 days or much, much longer. Now, some were getting snatched up in under a week, which got agents buzzing about the return of a seller’s market after years of conditions favoring buyers.
With historically low interest rates and local inventory at low ebb – many sellers are sitting out of the market waiting for prices to rise – properties already dangling at the end of a hook are in high demand. Plus, the threat that prices could climb has created something of a get-it-now mentality among buyers. “You’ve got five years of pent-up demand,” says Tammy Maddente, executive vice president of First Weber Group’s North Shore office. And pricing hasn’t yet taken off, as it could. “These interest rates are not going to stay here forever.”
A couple of Maddente’s own listings incited feeding frenzies earlier this year, including an East Side home that attracted nine showings and three offers within a week. In a similar case, a Mequon listing weathered 20 showings during a handful of days and attracted a total of five offers. “It’s a return of the 2006 market where you really don’t have time to sleep on it,” she says. “When you know you’re in competition with four others, you’ve got to put your best foot forward.”
In these lightning sales, scales have tipped dramatically in favor of sellers entertaining numerous suitors. “We’re seeing a lot of cash offers right now,” says Tina Balaka, an agent with Shorewest Realtors. She notes that many owners welcome the certainty of an over-and-done cash deal rather than the unpredictability of a sale dependent upon financing.
Balaka’s own lightning sales have included a three-bedroom, two-bath ranch built in Pewaukee in the 1990s on a cul-de-sac, where the open-concept design was positioned in a “perfect scenario,” she says, for prevailing tastes.
Buyers, Balaka says, “want to see modern,” not fixer-uppers. The Pewaukee house, listed at $250,000, received an offer of $251,000 after Balaka showed it to just three potential buyers. The first to see the house was the one to submit the offer, and he was impatient for a response. “He wrote us that night and wanted us to respond within 12 hours,” Balaka says.
In McCormick’s case, he eventually found his client a house, the third they toured on their quest. He moved quickly and submitted an offer, which was accepted two days later, and just in time. The listing agent ran into three other agents wanting to write offers on the property when he went back to his office that day. He told McCormick to tell his client, “You’re lucky.”