The early start of the Spring market has seen some of the most intense competition for homes this region has ever experienced. The combination of low inventory, low interest rates, and pent-up demand from a pandemic-interrupted 2020, created the perfect storm for a seller’s market.
Here are 10 updates from the local real estate scene:
Spring came early. The Spring market is a “thing” because families want to buy in the Spring, and move in the summer, so they are settled before the new school year in the fall. The 2021 market started warming up well ahead of the weather outside - it was already well underway before Superbowl Sunday this year!
There are way more buyers than sellers right now. Homes for sale, especially those listed by experienced realtors, are attracting unusual levels of buyer traffic. With Covid safety measures making it important for parties to distance from each other, it’s become common for available showing appointments to be booked up for days in a row, and for a (distanced) line of prospective buyers waiting for their turn to enter an open house.
Many homes are selling for over the asking price. Often, the list price is just the starting point for negotiations. Sale prices are often much higher, and can substantially exceed appraised values.
Cash offers have become much more common. As sellers are looking for certainty and finality, a cash or “no mortgage contingency” offer is viewed as stronger and “cleaner” than an offer with a mortgage contingency. For this reason, at lower price points, prospective homeowners often lose bidding wars to investors looking for properties to rent or flip.
Appraisals are still catching up with sale prices. The publicly-available data doesn’t tell the whole market value story because the MLS doesn’t show the final price of homes sales that haven’t closed yet. Now more than ever, it’s important to have an agent who is an expert in the neighborhoods you’re targeting. The best agents have been in all the recently sold homes, and they can best estimate what a house “should” go for.
Unrepresented buyers and sellers are at a disadvantage. As the seller typically pays the agent’s commissions, there's almost never a good reason to be an unrepresented buyer. It’s like turning down a good free lawyer on your day in court, and just hoping for the best! Plus, some properties are actually under contract by the time an unrepresented buyer sees them on syndicated websites like Zillow. Sellers need agents more than ever, too, because the “market price” for homes is changing so fast. FSBO sellers, trying to save on commissions, can end up netting less on the sale because they don’t know how to handle multiple offers, and because they don’t have an agent’s insight about local market changes that month, that week, or even that day. Agents who are experts in your neighborhood are worth every penny, and then some.
Some winning buyers are dropping contingencies. Contingencies are the “unless” clauses that give buyers a contractual right to back out of an agreement. For years, in our local market, it has become commonplace for strong offers to be free of home sale contingencies - that is, the offer to buy the new house is not contingent on the sale of the buyer’s old house. Now, in this ultra-competitive 2021 market, agents are helping clients with creative strategies to win bidding wars. Some buyers are dropping all contingencies to win homes, including inspection contingencies! Contingencies protect the buyer’s deposit money, so make sure you understand the implications before you waive them.
Some of the higher price points are the most competitive. While all budget levels are popular right now, recently we’ve seen some of the fiercest competition for houses $1M+ that we’ve seen in years.
“Done” and “new” command a real premium. People move to the neighborhoods in and around the Lower Merion School District for the schools, walkability, and easy commutes, and they usually just accept the fact that the local home inventory is mostly older. In the few cases where this great location is combined with new construction, those homes command a high premium. Buyers are likewise choosing to pay a premium for homes that have been renovated with new kitchens and bathrooms, luxurious bedroom suites, or finished basements. With interest rates so low, buyers are choosing a bigger mortgage over the inconvenience of living through a project.
Interest rates are still near historic lows, but have recently started to creep back up. One of our lenders, Tim Lowry, of Prosperity Mortgage, gave us the following March 26 interest rate update. See their website for details or email Tim.
The early months of 2020 were notable for a lack of inventory in the local real estate market, coupled with historically low mortgage interest rates. This confluence of conditions led to some seriously competitive situations, especially for homes with three characteristics: new construction (which is pretty rare, locally) or extensively renovated, at popular price points, in desirable and/or walkable neighborhoods. Now that we see a gradual easing of the Covid restrictions, the pent-up local demand has only intensified the competition. Homes that exhibit some or all of three of those characteristics are especially popular, and they trigger bidding wars if they show well, and, are properly priced and marketed by an experienced agent. If you're looking to buy a home in the Lower Merion School District, an agent like Cindy Ridgway can make all the difference between closing the deal and just missing out. Here are a few of the new local listings. It may be too late to buy a few of tehm, but it's always helpful to see what the market looks like.
There's no better illustration of how hot the market is than Narberth Borough. Narberth's walkable downtown, close-knit community, and easy commute make it a target neighborhood for many of today's buyers, especially those making the move out of Philly and NYC. With both small-town charm and inner-ring-suburb conveniences, this tiny Borough is an easy landing spot for urbanites looking for a little more breathing room. The pictured 2813 sq ft, 4 bed/3.1 bath, listed for $785K, was the subject of a bidding war its first weekend on the market, and reportedly went under contract for more well over $800K. This updated property has a beautiful backyard and is just blocks away from the type of downtown that tons of buyers have on their priority list. What makes a home like this especially attractive in today's market is how "done" it feels. Money is cheap these days, so buyers tend to pay up for a house that feels finished, rather than pay less and live through a project. This home also has an enclosed porch and a finished basement that add living space to the footprint. You may have missed this one, but you can still see all the details and photos at: 229 Forrest Ave, Narberth.
This Narberth Borough home also went under contract quickly after its weekend debut. If you're looking to be close to the downtown and train station, this one's location is even better than the last one, as it sits on Narberth south side, just a block's walk from everything. This 2270 sq ft, 5 bed/1.2 bath was listed quite a bit lower than the last one, at $525K. The homes were both built within a decade of each other at the beginning of the 1900s, and they both have some of that classic Main Line charm from that era, but a few key differences lead to the difference in price. This house has good bones, but it doesn't have the renovations and updates that made the other one feel so move-in-ready. Features here include a bay window in the dining room, nice-sized mud room, first floor powder room, and an "old-school" back staircase. See for yourself at: 213 Woodside Ave, Narberth.
It's almost impossible to scoop Cindy on info about a new property hitting the market in Narberth and "Near-berth". Her client had an offer in on this place fast, and made the offer strong enough to quickly take this one off the market. It's an 1876 sq ft, 2 bed/1.1 bath twin that was listed for $399,900 in Merion Station, just over Narberth Borough's southern border. The move-in-ready home is smartly laid out to maximize living space, with an enclosed front porch, finished basement, and seating area on the deck just off the kitchen. See what Cindy's client liked so much at: 509 Kenilworth Rd, Merion Station.
In a Wynnewood neighborhood just a few blocks north of Narberth Borough, is this 2537 sq ft, 4 bed/3.1 bath Tudor, listed for $829K. The almost-quarter-acre lot has a nice backyard with a deck. The updated kitchen has an adjacent dining room with french doors to the back deck. The third floor has a big bedroom with its own full bath. In the finished lower level, the space has been divided between a laundry area, an office, and a large entertaining space. This one is currently available for showings. See more at: 548 Manor Rd, Wynnewood.
Need a little more room to spread out? This 9217 sq ft, 6 bed/6.2 bath sits on half an acre in Merion Station, just down the street from the Bala Library. It's not a new listing, but it just had a price reduction to $1.375M. The entry foyer is massive with very high ceilings. There are two sinks and dishwashers, a double oven and a 6-burner range in the huge, modern white kitchen. One bedroom suite is on the first floor, with the master suite and four other bedrooms on the second. The master suite has two-walk-in closets, high ceilings, a loft, and a loaded bath. A spacious, finished, walkout lower level has a fireplace, big recreational area/media room, fitness room, and connects to a two-car garage. Plenty to see in this mansion of a house, at: 286 N Highland Ave, Merion Station.
If you have the budget, here's another big one, a 6653 sq ft, 5 bed/5.1 bath, just listed for $1.45M. This home is in the Radnor School District part of Bryn Mawr, on a .8 acre lot, in a cul-de-sac that backs up to a forest preserve. An expansive first floor includes both a gas and a wood-burning fireplace, a huge modern kitchen, and a beautiful walk-out back deck. The lower level has it all - a guest suite with a full kitchen and spa bathroom, a large entertaining space with a third fireplace, a second laundry room, and plenty of storage. 715 Sturbridge Dr, Bryn Mawr.
This one came back on the market after some of the Covid restrictions were lifted, and quickly went under contract. It's a 3488 sq ft, 4 bed/3.1 bath Cape, that was listed for $969,900. The three-quarter acre lot, with a backyard in-ground pool and poolhouse with a full bath, is in a Bryn Mawr neighborhood not far from Harriton High School. The white, updated, eat-in kitchen has granite and stainless, and a gas cooktop in the center island. The Cape style gives this home the first floor master that many buyers have a hard time finding in this area. See all the details and photos at: 805 Gatemore Rd, Bryn Mawr.
For years, Cindy Ridgway shared her tours of new listings in and around Lower Merion. However, just like most industries in the region, the local real estate scene has gone through quite a few recent changes. There are currently no in-person open houses and broker tours, and individual showings have a number of restrictions and guidelines. For that reason, we've started including both homes we've been in, and also some good market examples that we've only seen in photo and video.
Fortunately, many of the recently listed homes have "virtual" tours that let you see the property through a guided video walkthrough. These video tours do a pretty good job of showing the homes (scroll down and check out some of them), but nothing compares to seeing them in person. If you'd like to set up an in-person showing of any homes you see here, contact Cindy Ridgway to set it up for you.
You'll notice that many of these listed homes went quickly under agreement. (They are included here not because they are available, but to help give an overview of where the market stands.) That's not uncommon these days, especially in some very desirable neighborhoods and price points, and especially in the case of homes that are new or extensively renovated. Local inventory is very limited and interest rates are low. That makes it a competitive situation for buyers, who benefit from knowing as soon as a house hits the market, or even before, if their agent has a strong network of local sources. Sellers with strong agents can take advantage of their extensive network, and maximize home value by attracting and negotiating multiple offer situations.
If you need an agent in and around the Lower Merion School District, get Cindy on YOUR side. Not only does she have the most Narberth home sales over the last six years (Bright/Trend 2014-2019), she also wins awards every year for her sales volume in the Lower Merion area.
This Wynnewood home just hit the market this past weekend, and it's already listed as active under contract. It's a 3398 sq ft, 4 bed/2.1 bath, listed for $775K. It sits on a big, landscaped .44 acre tree-lined lot, with a porch and pergola out back. The three-year-old kitchen still looks and feels new, while most of the house has a more classic charm, with plaster walls, flagstone floors, arched doorways and a slate roof. You may be too late to get thsi one, but you can still see the photos and details at: 1442 Hillside Rd, Wynnewood.
Another one that went active under contract during its first weekend on the market is this 2200 sq ft, 4 bed/1.2 bath, listed for $499,900. What's not to like in this Havertown Colonial, with a covered front porch, fenced back yard and detached two-car garage? The home is very well-maintained, and features an updated custom kitchen, ventless gas fireplace, charming built-ins, and a great mudroom/laundry room. There's plenty of storage in the partially-finished basement and the walk-up attic that has plenty of renovation potential. It's a great house that moved quickly. See for yourself at: 536 Kathmere Rd, Havertown
This big Penn Valley home is still relatively new, listed just eight days ago (as of June 10), but unlike the first two, it made it through its first weekend on the market! It's a 6473 sq ft, 5 bed/4.2 bath, on a 1+ acre lot near Rolling Hill Park, listed for $1.449M. The first floor has a dramatic, high ceilinged entry foyer, formal dining and living rooms, an office, and a great room that opens to an updated eat-in kitchen. There's a loaded lower level, with a bedroom and bath, and plenty of living space. The home has a deck and walkout patio out back, and three-car attached garage. See more details, photos, and even a video tour of the home at: 111 Fairview Rd, Penn Valley.
This Penn Valley home isn't a new listing, but it is still available, and it just had a price reduction. It's a 2734 sq ft, 5 bed/4.1 bath ranch, now listed at $669K. The ranch style may work for buyers looking that first floor master. If not, the big lot may work for someone who wants to tear down and build new. It sits on a one-acre corner lot with a private driveway, an attached two-car garage, and a patio out back. A 2014 renovation included a new kitchen, a new lower level bedroom, and two new baths. See more pics and details at: 909 N Woodbine Ave, Penn Valley.
This Villanova home is coming to market this weekend. It's a 4 bed/3.1 bath French Colonial, with a half-acre lot in a quiet cul-de-sac, listed for $750K. Call Cindy if you want to learn more about this coming soon Villanova listing.
The next listing has been on the market for two weeks, and is listed for $900K. It's a 3073 sq ft, 5 bed/3.1 bath on a third of an acre backing up to the Cynwyd Trail. Recent upgrades include a new kitchen, powder room, Central AC, new hardwoods, and painting inside and out. It has a private driveway and a detached two-car garage. Additional photos and details can be found at: 308 Llandrillo Rd, Bala Cynwyd. You can take a video tour of the property here.
This 3826 sq ft, 4 bed, 2.2 bath Cape, on 3/4 of an acre in Villanova, is listed for $887,500. The home boasts some luxurious features, like a first-floor master suite with a huge walk-in closet and master bath, and an updated kitchen with a Viking cooktop and two SubZero refrigerators. There is plenty of room for storage with a big basement and a two car garage. See more details and photos, and a video tour at: 1621 Old Gulph Road, Villanova.
This new listing is a 2748 sq ft, 4 bed/2.1 bath Colonial in Gladwyne, for $745K. It sits on .7 acres, with a white picket fence, not far from Gladwyne's cute little downtown village. Interesting touches include exposed beams in the living room and eat-in kitchen, office built-ins, a big, heated sunroom with high ceilings, skylights and ceiling fan, french doors to the dining room, and multiple fireplaces. See more, and take the video tour at: 914 Black Rock Rd, Gladwyne.
This Penn Valley home is already listed as pending after only four days on the market. It's a 1604 sq ft, 3 bed/2.1 bath Ranch that was listed for $665K. It sits on almost an acre in the neighborhood between Penn Valley Elementary and Welsh Valley Middle School. You may have missed this one, but you can still check out the pics and details at: 231 Stacey Rd, Penn Valley.
This Merion Station home went fast, too, going active under contract, after 8 days on the market listed at $685K. The home is a 4222 sq ft, 4 bed 3.1 split-level near Waldron Mercy Academy, and not far from Narberth Borough. Someone else got to this one first, but you can still see it at: 506 Barbara Circle, Merion Station.
One that is still active after a week on the market is this 2932 sq ft, 5 bed/3 bath, listed for $749K. It has extensive gardens on the 3/4 acre lot just around the corner from Harriton High School. The first floor master is a sometimes elusive feature on the wish-list for buyers, as it's relatively uncommon in this area. Check it out at: 654 N. Ithan Ave, Bryn Mawr.