Real Estate News

Is now the right time to sell a home in Wichita? It depends on the house.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Park Plaza Realty.

If you’re looking to sell your house in Wichita, now may be one of the best times to do it — given a few caveats.

Home sales at the end of 2018 actually took a slight dip from 2017 numbers, but it wasn’t because nobody was buying.

According to Stan Longhofer, director of the WSU Center for Real Estate, it was “purely due to a lack of inventory.”

Longhofer and local realtors agree: Wichita is in short supply of homes right now in the popular $100,000 to $250,000 range.

“As you start to get into higher price ranges, the supply does get a little more flush,” Longhofer said.

Especially if buyers are looking between $100,000 and $150,000, be ready to move fast, said Amanda Assaf, a realtor with Park Plaza Realty.

“If a house comes on the market in that price point that is nice, kept up really well and doesn’t have foundation issues, it’s going to go,” Assaf said. “They fly off the market if they’re in good shape. People like to buy houses that are ready to go.”

It’s a hot market right now, clearly, and there are no signs of it slowing anytime soon — or, at least, that’s what national expert Steve Murray, president of REAL Trends, told a gathering of Realtors from across the state at this week’s Kansas Association of Realtors Capitol Conference in Topeka.

The WSU Center for Real Estate produces an annual forecast for housing markets across the state, compiled with data from Realtors of South-Central Kansas, the South Central Kansas Multiple Listing Service, and the Kansas Association of Realtors.

Some of the notable predictions from the center’s 2019 forecast for Wichita:

  • Mortgage rates will continue to rise, “as the Federal Reserve continues to unwind its holdings of mortgage-backed securities.” A January 2019 forecast by the Mortgage Bankers Association predicts mortgage rates for 30-year conventional loans will increase to about 4.8% by the end of 2019, though earlier forecasts had predicted we would top 5% by the end of the year.
  • The supply of available homes in Wichita continues to decrease — there is currently less than a 3-months supply of homes in the Wichita market, while national inventories have recently risen well above a 4-months supply. The months-supply figure is a way to measure inventory in the real-estate world — it measures how many months it would take for the current supply of houses on the market to sell given the average rate of homes selling per month. A low months-supply figure means there is little supply on the market, and what is there is being rapidly bought up by Wichitans.
  • Because of the limited supply of available houses in Wichita, expect to pay more. The report predicted home prices will continue to increase in Wichita — 4.6 percent in 2019 — making for a total home price appreciation since 2013 of 16.4 percent on average.
  • New construction remains stagnant. Rising costs of new construction are pushing more buyers toward pre-existing homes in Wichita, and the new-construction market isn’t predicted to grow in 2019.

So what does all that mean for the average home-seller?

It means it’s a good time to be a “move-up buyer” in Wichita right now — if you can sell your current house to move up to something more expensive, where there are more homes available.

That doesn’t mean any old home will sell in Wichita, though — as home buyers are increasingly looking for homes that are move-in ready, which don’t require a ton of sweat equity, said Natalie Moyer, a Realtor with J.P. Weigand.

“These buyers, they’re picky — they’re not willing to take on projects,” Moyer said. “If it doesn’t look like Chip and Joanna (Gaines) have been at the house just last week, they’re not interested.

“I’m not finding anyone really interested in (fixer-uppers) except investors. The buyers want those houses to be in really tip-top shape and I blame HGTV for all of that.”

Many potential home buyers in Wichita are waiting it out now, “picky and patient,” Moyer said.

“They would like to buy now, but they don’t have to — they’ve had a lifestyle change in some way, shape or form — but they’re just sitting on the sideline,” Moyer said. “I also tell them when a house hits the market, if it’s one of those pretty little houses, we can’t just say, ‘Oh, let’s go see it this weekend.’ If it’s priced right and looks right, it’s going to be gone.”

The home-buying action has already started for 2019, well in advance of the traditionally popular springtime and summertime home-buying season.

“As the weather is warming up, we have people listing and buyers getting in touch — some people are trying to get into the homes before” the most popular buying times, Assaf said.

Assaf, who runs her real-estate business with her sister, Alyson, said they’ve also noticed an increase in first-time homebuyers in Wichita.

“Wichita’s a very unique place in that you can be in your early twenties and you can buy a home — that is really not the case in so many other cities,” she said. “That’s why it’s a great place for young couples and young people in general to buy.”

The WSU report also posits that people are being motivated to buy quickly, in an attempt to lock in a lower mortgage rate before it increases further.

New College Hill residents Julie Rogers and her husband certainly bought — and sold — quickly, though it wasn’t for want of a lower mortgage rate.

The Rogers listed, sold their Andover house, and bought a new College Hill pad in a span of four weeks in November and December.

“My biggest piece of advice is just to know what’s out there and know what things are going for in your price range,” Rogers said.

Matt Riedl covers arts and entertainment news for the Wichita Eagle and has done so since 2015. He maintains the Keeper of the Plans blog on Facebook, dedicated to keeping Wichitans abreast of all things fun.