What to know if you're looking to buy in the red-hot Philly area housing market

ByNydia Han and Heather Grubola WPVI logo
Friday, June 11, 2021
What to know if you're looking to buy in this hot housing market
LOOKING TO BUY? "If you like to be mentally and emotionally tortured, it's for you. Otherwise, it's awful. It's terrible," said one homebuyer.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The pandemic real estate market is not for the faint of heart - just ask Tim and Alyssa Walter.

"If you like to be mentally and emotionally tortured, it's for you. Otherwise, it's awful. It's terrible," Alyssa said.

The housing market is red hot and the playbook has changed.

Historically low interest rates, combined with skyrocketing home prices and fewer houses available - especially in the suburbs - equals a real estate rush for potential buyers.

"I think fast food is a little bit slower than what the walkthrough of the housing market today is," Tim said.

Buyers used to have at least an hour at showings, but now they're given only minutes. Many homes have time limits for offers, and sometimes that window is only a few hours.

"We came in at like 4:30 p.m., they were going to be meeting the homeowners at 6 p.m.. And we literally had to walk through and make a decision," Alyssa said. "Yes, do we want it? No, do we not?"

The Walters lost six bids in the process.

Glen Russell of EXP Realty said that is not uncommon.

"There were two properties that are just local here. One of them had 64 showings and 20 offers, one of them had 21 showings and eight offers; both of them went for over $20,000 over asking price," Russell said.

Some Philadelphia numbers from Zillow show that from January 2020 to April 2021, the typical number of days for a home to go from listing to a pending sale went from 36 to seven.

In other words: homes are selling 81 percent faster.

The tight market isn't limited to Philadelphia. Sale prices are up across the region. According to Realtor.com, you can expect to pay:

-23 percent more in Montgomery County

-20 percent more in Chester County

-37 percent more in Delaware County

-32 percent more at the Jersey shore

-60 percent more in Monroe County in the Poconos

While you have to be aggressive, also keep in mind that getting pre-approved is just one step. You still have to be comfortable with your monthly payment.

"Number two, knowing that you're going to go over asking price," Russell said. "Number three, knowing that you're probably not getting inspections done."

And you may have to let the seller stay in the home for free while they make other arrangements.

One other word of caution from financial experts:

"Making the biggest purchase of your life under duress is rarely the recipe for success. If you find yourself in a situation where you're having to bid above asking price, or you're pushing beyond the limits of what your affordability ranges, and if you're tempted to do things like forego inspections, it might be better just to turn and walk away," said Greg McBride of Bankrate.com.

McBride said it may be better to stay put than buy in an overheated market.

Meantime, the Walters said they got lucky finally finding the house of their dreams in Birdsboro at a price they can handle.

"It was one of those like, 'God, it must have been what was supposed to happen and where we're supposed to be,'" Alyssa said.

Other home-buying resources:

Consumers Advocate

Nerd Wallet.com