Seller’s market, meet buyer’s market — or at least, something a lot more like it.
Realty data in Grand Forks shows that, from 2015 to 2018, prices have stayed relatively flat and the amount of available housing — relative to buyers’ appetites — has increased. It comes after years of a much warmer market, say local Realtors, as well as long-held city hopes that housing in the area would become more affordable.
“I think most people that are in the industry anticipated a slowdown,” Mike Opp, a broker with Oxford Realty, said of the current market, especially following hotter home buying in the 2010s. “Some to varying extremes, I guess.”
It means inventory is catching up to activity, according to Jon Broden, a local realtor at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices.
“It’s not really into the territory of being a strong buyer’s market yet," he said. "It’s just into the territory of being a balanced market.”
Broden illustrated the change with a simple statistic: the total number of listings in the Grand Forks market divided by the number of purchases in a given month — for example, 20 homes bought in a month when there were 100 listings would mean about five months of inventory are available.
In Grand Forks, the annual average number has gone up significantly, from 3.1 in 2015 to 5.46 in 2018. Speaking Friday, Dec. 6, Broden said the year-to-date figure for 2019 is 5.29, which is expected to increase as home buying slows in winter months.
If that figure is under five months, Broden explained, it’s a seller’s market. If it’s more than six months, it’s a buyer’s market. Right now, that means things in Grand Forks are somewhere in between.
“Worst-case scenario, as it shows, a house could list today and be on the market for five months,” said Jodi Danzl, president of the Grand Forks Area Association of Realtors. "That’s kind of the norm.”
The shifts in real estate data come as the city strives to make homes more affordable within the community. Notably, Grand Forks moved to deferred special assessments on many newly built homes for three years — expected to benefit a final round of home building in 2019 — in a bid to generate more developer interest in building housing stock and drive down demand.
Grand Forks City Council President Dana Sande said he’s interested in working with city leaders to do further research on the home market, because he’s interested in striking a good balance with those kinds of policies.
“I’m still a little bit unsure what the goals of our City Council should be with relation to housing in our community. I’m sure people who are buying homes today are thankful the city implemented some of its policies, because I do believe the city is directly responsible for some of its lagging home prices,” Sande said. “So if you’re a buyer, you’re happy. If you’re selling your home, you’re not happy.”
Average sale prices in Grand Forks have been relatively flat during the past several years, too, hovering at between about $235,000 and $245,000 from 2015 to 2018, according to local Realtor data compiled by the state. While other markets have seen similar plateaus in pricing, there have been some communities where home prices are growing by comparative leaps and bounds — like Fargo, where average sale prices have jumped from about $215,000 to $258,000 during the same period, leapfrogging Grand Forks in the process.
There are several big trends affecting North Dakota’s housing stock. Jill Beck, the CEO of the North Dakota Association of Realtors, said that while the housing market on the western side of the state is much more beholden to changes in the oil economy, the entire state is watching the increasing entrance of millennials into the home-buying market, which she expects to accelerate in coming years. Realtors also are eyeing home-buyers’ reluctance to purchase a new home now, amid chatter about a potential recession in the near future that could lower prices.
That’s not to say every home is destined to sell more slowly — as with anything buyable, it’s all a matter of presentation and maybe a little luck.
“There are a lot more homes on the market right now. People are still buying, but it definitely is a buyers’ market right now. That’s kind of where we’re at,” said Ashley Cota, a realtor with Coldwell Banker Forks Real Estate. “One home can sell in a day, and one can be on the market for a while. It just really varies.”