I bought my first home in Salt Lake City last year. When I’d first decided to buy, I looked at the house hunting process through a pair of rose-and-HGTV-colored glasses. I thought I’d spend a few weeks browsing beautiful fixer-uppers in the city’s most established and up-and-coming neighborhoods, put in an offer on the home of my dreams, and then, presto, homeownership.
Here’s what I didn’t realize: Utah is the fastest-growing state in the nation, earning Salt Lake City a comfortable spot on the list of hottest U.S. real estate markets.
Naïve or not, I learned quickly if I liked a house, I had to act immediately. I put in same-day offers above asking price, offered to pay closing costs and added escalation clauses in case anyone came in with higher bids. Even with all of that, a cash buyer beat out my first offer. And my second. And my third.
My story isn’t unique. In fact, in today’s real-estate market, it’s the norm.
"You go to look at houses on Saturday, and on Sunday you get an email from the realtor that they have 10 offers lined up so get your best offer in on Monday at 9 a.m.," Jill Freshwater, 34, told NBC News of her home-buying experience in Dallas, Texas.
Inventory is low: The number of homes selling for less than $500,000 (the price point most first-time and millennial buyers are working with) is down 26 percent from last year. That means people aren’t hesitating to snap up a house when they find one. Homes are selling faster than they have in a decade, according to the National Association of Realtors.
For those of us who took high school economics, it’s no surprise that low supply and high demand are sending home prices soaring. Analysts from realtor.com determined the average home list price reached $260,000 in 2017, up 8 percent from last year.
If you think housing competition is fiercest in major cities, think again: The mini-metropolis is having a moment. Well-qualified buyers are flocking to mid-sized and smaller cities in pursuit of a slower pace and higher quality of life.
“Jobs and opportunities are increasingly growing in smaller markets away from the coasts. Mid-size cities like Salt Lake City, Portland, and Nashville are desirable places to live, with good employment opportunities and steady economic growth," said Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell. “The growth and demand for housing will drive up home prices in 2017, and these hot markets are experiencing change as more people discover them."
In other words: If you’re gearing up to buy a home in a hot market, best bring your A-game.