When and Why Does Real Estate Sell?

Going back to the post I wrote on January 11th, just 12 days ago, there were 102 Active, single family detached home listings in all of Bellingham. At that same time, there were 82 Pending listings (under contract with buyers). That equated to a Pending percentage of 42%.

Today, just 12 days later, there are only 72 Active listings — a 30% drop — and 88 Pendings. The Pending percentage is now 55%.

With inventory declining so measurably over the past decade, prices increasing at a rate that at times has exceeded $1000 per week, how is it that the annual number of sales stays *basically* flat? What drives those sales?  Why doesn’t the number of sales track more consistently with a “hot” or “cold” market condition?

The reason, when I first learned it, was completely illuminating.

It’s because real estate doesn’t sell only when it’s a “hot” market. Conversely, it doesn’t sell when prices are a “bargain.”

Real estate sells… drumroll please!

Real estate sells when people’s lives change.

When we’re called to help someone buy or sell real estate, there’s a life change attached to it. Every time.

  • I inherited some money.
  • I just got a new job.
  • I just lost my job.
  • I’m getting transferred for work.
  • We just had a new baby and we need more room.
  • Our youngest just graduated and we don’t need so much house.
  • We’re getting divorced.
  • We just got married.
  • My parents moved into assisted living.
  • My parents are moving in with us.
  • My mom just passed away.
  • Our adult aged kids are moving back in with us.
  • We adopted some foster children.
  • We want a house for our kids to live in when they’re grown.
  • Our kids are in college here and rather than rent, we want to buy a second home.
  • I’m starting a home-based business.
  • I just closed my home-based business.
  • We’re ready to build our dream house.
  • We want a project.
  • We’re tired of all the projects.
  • We want to be closer to family.
  • We’re house rich and cash poor, and we want to travel more.
  • We’re selling everything and buying a Sprinter van.
  • We’ve been road-tripping in a Sprinter van, and we’re ready to settle in.

This list could go on and on. What they all have in common, though, is that life has taken a turn, whether by choice or by fate, and that change has triggered the person’s housing needs, desires, or abilities. Some form of that change underlies every purchase, and every sale.

Real estate is never *purely* financial, or purely logistical. As I’ve said since early in my career: “Real estate is 5% money, 5% property, and 90% emotion.”