How to Hurdle the Home Affordability Challenge


No, the situation isn’t desperate. But nonetheless, aspiring first-time homeowners, with the help of their realty agents, need to hurdle the challenge of rising prices and homes becoming less affordable for entry-level buyers. Besides the home affordability obstacle, first-time home buyers are also facing tougher qualification standards on mortgages and scarcity of sales-listed homes in the lower-priced ranges.

Records released recently by the Florida Realtors trade group show that 2014 April resale home inventory in Sarasota and Manatee counties in the $150,000–$200,000 range stood at only a 2.1-month supply. The level isn’t any better in the $250,000–$300,000 price range wherein the inventory was estimated at 2.8 months supply.

Work on the price range

How to Hurdle the Home Affordability Challenge

For a balanced home market, the historical benchmark is a six-month supply, representing the period it would take to consume the current housing stock if there were no additional listings. The slow pace of new listings coming in has helped push prices up in the Sarasota-Manatee home market during the 2014 first quarter. The median home price in the two counties rose by 11% to $200,000 from the same period in 2013.

An analyst at Coldwell Banker specializing in first-time buyers estimated that a few years ago, an entry level home buyer was in a position to purchase a residence worth $100,000. At current prices, that same home would be priced at $150,000, a level that is increasingly becoming out of reach of first-time buyers due to tougher lending standards coupled with sluggish income growth and a subdued labor market. Moreover, competition from cash offers are more pronounced at this lower-priced home market segment.

Go for fixer-uppers

With fiercer competition from cash buyers and fewer listings of lower-priced homes, one possible option for first-time buyers is to expand their choices to “fixer-uppers.” In some cases, an “as is” home for sale is priced some 25% below similar-sized residences in its immediate neighborhood.

What would be important in this case are the services of a realtor knowledgeable on home values in the various local communities a buyer might be interested in. Close networking with an expert local realtor will also enable a first-time home buyer to act quickly when an opportunity crops up.

It is likewise advantageous to have a realtor who can assist a buyer to zero in on communities with “as-is” sales-listed homes that could appreciate in value when fixed. A competent realty agent should likewise be able to give sound advice on the costs of upgrading a fixer-upper being considered for purchase.

Samplings in Sarasota

In Sarasota, there are a good number of homes for sale, which with some upgrades, could serve the needs and meet the budget of first-time home buyers.