Frankly Speaking
What’s Next, Sellers or Buyers Market?

Story by Frank Aazami (with David M. Brown)

Golf course communities, such as The Boulders in north Scottsdale, bring top prices for the customs built there. Photo courtesy Private Client Group, Russ Lyon Sotheby’s.

Globally, it’s been a sellers market for the last few years, characterized by critically low inventory and high demand. It’s now changing fast. Subsequently, all parties need to refocus, restrategize, so that sellers, buyers and, yes, agents, too, can achieve best-possible outcomes.

Of course, you’ll still get good money for your luxury Valley residence and in good time, especially if it was built top tier and in a premium guard/gated community such as Silverleaf, with its McDowell Sonoran Preserve accessibility, amenity-rich clubhouse and championship golf.

People have been moving to Arizona in record numbers since air-conditioning came to the Valley around 1947. Ironically, that pace only accelerated in the COVID era. That trend promises to continue as people move from colder, denser populated areas to open golf spaces and Arizona sun. According to the most recent Penske 12th annual list of the country’s top ten moving destinations, Phoenix is third. We are now an A-list state, thanks to a positive business and tax environment.

One effective tool to accurately gauge the short-term supply and demand trends is the Cromford® Market Index (CMI). An index score of around 100 represents a balanced market. Above 100 represents demand exceeding supply –– a sellers market. By contrast, a CMI below 100 represents supply exceeding demand –– a buyers market.

However, when looking at the algorithms trend line, we see a falling CMI reflecting what is now widely being reported: the rather sudden influx of new inventory even as demand attenuates.

We are descending Everest. “The Valley is projected to have peaked with some softening in Q3 of this year before essentially flattening for the next several years,” says Mike Balzotti, M.Ed., our wonderfully insightful Education | Marketing | Branding associate at Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty in Scottsdale.

Evidence for this comes from a “bank grade” tool for risk management, Collateral Analytics, which shows the following five-year forecast: It’s important to note that the “smart guys” are seeing price stability after some softening.

Buyers are not going to pay much more per square foot for existing homes –– unless they are exceptionally finished in terms of structure, craftsmanship, millwork and materials.

So, too, inflation is actually double digit, if the Fed revealed the true numbers, and mortgage interest rates are quickly rising as the historic tool to stem the tide.

That said, rates are still historically favorable, and many buyers in this niche pay cash for their homes. Those rising interest rates will be more of an issue in the newbuyer and move-up segments.

I am more concerned with what the stock and bond markets do. And, I’m also more concerned about local and national politics, tax laws, for example, what policies are in play, and geopolitical issues such as the war in Ukraine and its effect on gas and grain prices and the confidence the well-off have in buying real estate or laying low for a while.

A Needed Shift in Marketing Strategy

Luxury communities such as Silverleaf in north Scottsdale will continue to attract premium money, especially from those homes with the highest level of components and finishes. Photo Private Client Group, Russ Lyon Sotheby’s.

Balzotti notes: “More competition between sellers translates to more discriminating buyers, especially as interest rates rise, which diminishes buying power, and buyers become hyperconcerned about paying too much in a softening market.”

He adds: “I call it “Competitive Positioning” –– the proven formula whereby sellers can still get top dollar in the shortest amount of time. It simply means you’re positioning your listing as the next best one, all things considered. After all, a good working definition of residential real estate sales is, “It’s competition for the next best home in any given market segment that drives the price and shortens the market time.”

In any market, buyers always buy by comparison, he explains. But, in this one, they’re going to be looking even closer at details and comparing buying existing to building new. “So, there’s no better time to hire a market expert who’s versed in disclosing your property’s market value. In ultra-competitive pockets where multiple offers are received, we need to educate our clients to market dynamics in the various submarkets, noting factors such as the absorption rate, the number of months supply and the narrow list-to-sale-price specific to that submarket.”

Newbuilds and Shifting Priorities

A classic Aston Martin, 007, designer suits and a high-level media room: The best deserves company with the best. Photo Private Client Group, Russ Lyon Sotheby’s.

At the same time, we have been experiencing this dramatic shift in the market, we are noticing high-end luxury newbuilds in Scottsdale and Paradise Valley. While prices remain high, as the number of resale luxury homes for sale diminishes, builders and developers are realizing they can build exclusive homes in marquee communities for top dollar. One, in Paradise Valley, will feature over 30 $15-plus million homes all with proximity to the Ritz Carlton development.

A distinct advantage for these investor/developers bought the land years ago at the right time, while buyers today are paying as much as double for the land. Those long-sighted savvy buyers are saying, “Let’s go ahead and build now.”

These luxebuilds will carry innovative styling to meet the demands of deep-pocketed buyers; they’re tired of overpopularized styles. Remember Tuscanmania in the 1990s and into the new century? Everyone was building them, and some of us were wondering even then why an Italian countryside style was trending in the Arizona desert. Some of these are still on the market after extensive listing. Following this phase, we had more Contemporary. Now people are choosing blend styles such as Moditerranean.

The new luxury buyer wants what everyone else doesn’t have, something that sets them apart.

Just as importantly, today’s sophisticated buyers want the highest level of finishes, millwork, cabinetry and flooring –– the kind they have in their exotic vehicles and yachts and on boutique ships and concierge-level resorts. They don’t choose just better; they choose best. For them, luxury isn’t a price, it’s an experience. It’s not just listening to a tenor; it’s listening to Pavarotti next to an ancient Roman building on a summer evening in Italy.

They’re also demanding top-flight interiors and technologies, including one-off lighting, music, security, unseen cameras and vents: the highest level of aesthetics and experience. Because of the pandemic, they want privacy, a big yard and space between their home and the neighbors’ homes, guard-gated camera security and concierge management service. The builders are putting the upgrade options out there. These people want it all, and they’re paying in excess of $1,100 a square foot for it.

The successful seller in the current market should know where his or her competition is, and a knowledgeable Realtor®, with commensurate foot-on-the ground time, is an ideal partner, especially now. Sellers, for instance, need to realize the distinction between resell and never-lived-there. They can’t claim their 10-year-old occupied home is worth as much as a super-luxe one just out of the ground; that would be false and unrealistic. The savvy buyer distinguishes between the authentic and smoke-and-mirrors “improvements,” such as furnishings and artwork that belie what’s really there. Discerning buyers see through the smoke!

Just recently, we listed an uber-luxury home. Yes, it’s Tuscan, but it had been built years ago with exceptionally good finishes –– quality well ahead of the time. We’ll still get top dollar for it, because knowing buyers will recognize that exalted level, appreciate it and realize what its real-time replacement cost is.

The moral for sellers in this new day: Know the true value of your home. And the best folks to guide you are those who know the market best.

For more information or to schedule a personal tour, contact me, RLSIR Brand Ambassador, principal of the Private Client Group at Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty in Scottsdale,480.266.0240, frank@PCGagents.comPCGagents.com or text “SIRFAAZAMI” to 87778. We have a mobile download link for your Android, iPhone or iPad: Preview global listings anytime, anywhere, in 18 languages at app.sir.com/sirfrankaazami. Also see PrivateClientGroupAGENTS.com.

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